HEMISPHERIC ACTION PLAN FOR VULNERABILITY REDUCTION IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR TO SOCIO-NATURAL DISASTERS
The Hemispheric Action Plan for Vulnerability Reduction in the Education Sector to Socio-Natural Disasters supports the design and implementation of activities that focus on the reduction of natural disaster vulnerability in the education sector. It has been designed for presentation to the government and non-governmental organizations of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Taking into account previous actions in the Education Sector and the Plans of Action from the Summit of the Americas of Santa Cruz (1996 ) and Santiago (1998) the Plan has been prepared for use by public and private sector groups throughout the Americas. The Plan is the result of a broad process of consultation and consensus-building, including the Hemispheric Conference for the Mitigation of Risks of Socio-Natural Disasters in the Education Sector in Caracas, Venezuela from September 15 to 17, 1997. The Plan is also part of follow-up activities to the Sustainable Development Summit Plan of Action (Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, December, 1996), and is the product of previous activities in the sector which include the OAS-ECHO program on the Reduction of Vulnerability in the Education Sector to Natural Disasters in Central America and the Caribbean.
The Hemispheric Action Plan covers three thematic areas: Physical Infrastructure, Academic Aspects and Public Participation. Physical Infrastructure looks at reducing the vulnerability of education infrastructure to natural hazards and making these buildings safer through improved planning processes, design, construction, retrofitting, repair, and maintenance. Academic Aspects focuses on certificate or degree granting programs at the basic, university and professional level in various disciplines, adapting the program according to the various types of vulnerability in each country. Public Participation channels disaster reduction through ministries of education and other institutions, to provide specific input to specialized organizational plans for emergency preparedness and response especially in the areas of training, counseling, and community level operational support.
Figure 1: The Relationship between the Physical Infrastructure, Academic and Public Participation Aspects of Disaster Reduction and Education
Figure 1 gives a pictorial representation of the ways in which the three thematic areas interface. The interface between Academic Aspects and Physical Infrastructure addresses curriculum for school building design and construction, training of education officials and teachers in building maintenance, and professional degree programs. The interface between Public Participation Physical Infrastructure represents the participation of community members in school building location, design, maintenance, construction, and retrofitting. The relationship between Public Participation and Academic Aspects, where the inter-relationship is greatest, deals with school-community outreach; community involvement in curriculum development; and presentation through volunteer programs.
During the week of October 19, 1998, a virtual conference was held to promote the implementation of the Hemispheric Plan. The main objective of the Virtual Conference was to propose, define and promote a set of activities to be presented at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels for implementation by the public and private sectors. The presentations at the Virtual Conference and the work that has followed demonstrate interest in pursuing activities in the three thematic areas in order to implement the Hemispheric Action Plan. The presentations at the conference also indicated that there is no political or technical body in existence with a mandate to facilitate the three themes addressed by the Hemispheric Action Plan, and that the Plan reflects the needs and ideas of the conference participants. Based on the results of the conference, the Plan provides a previously lacking holistic view and international perspective on the areas of Physical Infrastructure, Academic Aspects and Public Participation for disaster reduction in the education sector. In consideration of these findings, the OSDE Natural Hazard Project has been supporting and initiating several activities to further progress on the implementation of the Hemispheric Action Plan.
During the virtual conference it was proposed that a permanent forum be established to discuss issues related to disaster curriculum development through the use of virtual forums and regional meetings. These meetings would serve to further the development of disaster curriculum in the hemisphere, as well as to strengthen the Academic Aspects portion of the Hemispheric Action Plan. On March 2, 1999, a live virtual chat session was held to 'brainstorm' around the format and content of the Regional Meetings and to identify an organizing committee. The Regional Meetings would build on local and national experiences which are currently isolated, helping to coordinate efforts, promote regional action, and encourage an inter-regional exchange of knowledge, information and experience.
Also during the virtual conference submissions were presented around the use of newspaper advertisements (among other medium) to sensitize populations to the importance of disaster related activities. Based on these ideas, the OAS is coordinating the preparation and dissemination of a newspaper supplement that outlines basic guidelines for school building reconstruction.
The next steps in the implementation of the Hemispheric Action Plan include the establishment of an Executive Pro-Tempera Committee for the Implementation of the Plan. This committee will work at the international, national and regional level to solidify the objectives, structure and composition of the plan and will establish themes for the Working Groups of the Executive Pro-Tempera Committee. These groups will review, modify, update and add to the Hemispheric Plan the experiences that have been useful in practice and that are considered beneficial in the continuous search for solutions to the problems of the education sector. The committee will also work to establish ties with the Social Investment Fund (SIF) to facilitate plan implementation; present the plan at upper level sectoral and political meetings; and establish ties with the countries in order to implement the Plan as a response to El Niņo. A general executive summary of the Plan and executive summaries of the thematic areas also needs to be written.