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November 10, 1999


Organization of American States Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria, addressing the first meeting of the Inter-American Committee for Reduction of Natural Disasters (CIRDN) on Wednesday, called for support and coordination structures to aid countries affected by natural disasters.

Also attending the meeting at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., were Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Enrique Iglesias and Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Sir George Alleyne, as well as representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

According to the OAS Secretary General the hemisphere was blazing a trail as it responded to enormous challenges from nature. He described the Inter-American Committee as "the first and only regional policy forum dedicated to reducing natural disasters in the context of development for the people."

Mr. Gaviria said past expressions of international solidarity with affected communities had sometimes been limited or bogged down by lack of coordination of effort. He stressed, however, that "we should concentrate on devising and proposing mechanisms for coordination and cooperation in the area of preparation and emergency care for more effective and faster international and local assistance to the neediest."

The Secretary General therefore proposed to set up a working group to draft a full and in-depth report for the executive bodies. The report would include a proposal to organize an emergency aid coordination scheme. PAHO is to chair the proposed working group which would involve active participation by multilateral, hemispheric and international agencies as well as major government and non-governmental organizations engaged in the disaster management.

The Inter-American Committee for Reduction of Natural Disasters was established during the OAS General Assembly session—held in Guatemala City last June—with a mission to strengthen OAS disaster planning and management activities to better deal with natural disasters affecting the Hemisphere.