|IDNDR - Informs - Number 09-10, Special Edition, 1996 (IDNDR)|
|IDNDR Partners in action|
The Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) has been based in Panama since January 1966. It is funded by the Central American governments with the support of Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden. In May 1996, the Center the First Workshop on the Results of the Assessment of National Organizations for Emergency Management in Central America. The Panama City meeting brought together representatives of CEPREDENAC member nations and international organizations such as PAHO/WHO, OFDA-USAID and the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.
The objective of the workshop was to set up a forum for the review and discussion of common problems in disaster management, such as the legal, institutional, financial and planning situation of the organizations entrusted with emergency management. Working guidelines were established to facilitate the exchange of experiences as well as cooperation among countries in disaster prevention, as means of strengthening the planning and response capacity of national emergency organizations.
From a practical point of view, the workshop provided an X-ray of each country's awareness of its vulnerability to natural hazards, the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats.
A glance at some of the discussions indicates that disaster prevention is still considered unimportant in the subregion, a subject alien to the culture and awareness of citizens which generates little interest among those who have decision-making powers over public and private investment. Most of the efforts by countries in the region focus on improving emergency response capacity. However, the financial support required by the bodies in charge of disaster management still has not materialized fully. Legislation on risks and disasters in Central America is outdated and deals with emergency management rather than prevention or mitigation, although Central American countries are introducing reforms.
Participants underscored their conviction that natural disasters demand joint efforts by all countries in the subregion as the only way to confront successfully such events in the future. There is also a need for increased awareness of the risks involved among all political and technical levels of government, the private sector and the population at large. Priority must also be given to the use of regional, national and local media to help develop this awareness of the need for prevention. It was also considered of key importance to maintain fluid communications among state authorities, the private sector, planners and all those in charge of making decisions concerning public and private investment in each country.
For more information, contact:
The author: Sergio Paniagua, Board Member, CEPREDENAC, Costa Rica.
Fax: (506) 234-2347.
E-mail: spaniagu @ cariari.ucr.ac.cr
Rolando Durán, Executive Secretary, CEPREDENAC, Panama
Fax: (507) 236-1341.