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Press Release


  May 17, 2006

While extraordinary hurricanes such as Mitch, Ivan and Katrina are constant reminders of the devastation wreaked by tropical storms, much more attention should be paid to earthquakes, floods, mudslides, volcanoes and drought conditions that cause major disruption, said the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert A. Ramdin.

Speaking at a meeting of the OAS Joint Consultative Organ on Natural Disaster Reduction and Risk Management, Ambassador Ramdin said that experts recognize droughts, floods, changing rain patterns and rising sea levels among serious threats to development in the world's poorest countries. He noted that concern is also increasing over the effects of global warming on glaciers and the polar ice caps that raise sea levels “enough to damage many low-lying islands and cities.”

The Joint Consultative Organ is chaired by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the OAS Gordon Shirley and Chile’s Ambassador Esteban Tomic.

Ramdin cited Jeffrey Sachs, the renowned development economist, who identified natural upheavals among three major factors impeding the hemisphere’s economic development and growth. The Assistant Secretary General called on member states to “proactively seek the adoption of measures to prevent and mitigate the disastrous effects of natural upheavals.” He pointed to OAS resolutions encouraging the formulation and sharing of individual country disaster preparedness, response and mitigation plans to facilitate more effective support from the international community.

He noted a proposal to amend the statutes of the Inter-American Emergency Aid Fund and of the Inter-American Committee for Natural Disaster Reduction to create a single, permanent inter-American Committee on natural and other disasters that will also respond to the Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance. “The creation of this committee will consolidate and focus the efforts of the OAS related to matters of natural and other disasters,” Ramdin stated.

Underscoring the importance of coordination with other agencies, Ramdin commended the inclusion of the Inter-American Defense Board, the Inter-American Commission of Women and the Pan American Development Foundation on the new committee. He also highlighted the importance of collaborating with sub-regional organizations such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency, the Central American Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters and the Andean Committee for Disaster Prevention and Assistance.

Reference: E-119/06