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Colombia Presented National Experiences in Disaster Risk Management at the OAS

  June 24, 2014

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Permanent Mission of Colombia organized today at the headquarters of the hemispheric institution an event during which the Director General of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management of Colombia, Carlos Iván Márquez, presented to the delegates of the OAS member states the experiences, progress, challenges and lessons learned by the country in recent years in the field of disaster risk management.

Introducing the event, the Executive Secretary for Integral Development (SEDI) of the OAS, Sherry Tross, highlighted the importance of disaster management for the OAS, an issue that has become increasingly important in the international context. Recalling the adoption of the Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance, adopted in Santiago, Chile in 1991, Executive Secretary Tross said "there are important hemispheric tools that facilitate our ability to act, prepare for and mitigate disasters" and highlighted the role of Colombia as a" pioneer and leader in promoting the institutionalization of the subject of disaster risk within the Organization."

The Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Ambassador Andrés González Díaz, said that Colombia’s objective in sharing its experiences is to identify "how to face the challenge of the great consequences of climate change, whose effects vary among the countries in the region," as well as the possible avenues of cooperation leading to better preparation. Ambassador González recalled that institutionality and international collaboration are key elements in mitigation and response, because "if we have good public policies agreed with the community, there will be a greater chance for effective response." Finally he noted the relevance of the topic in the context of the debate opened by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza at the multilateral institution on the redefinition of priorities, called "Strategic Vision of the OAS," because in his opinion disaster mitigation "should be one of the basic and fundamental tasks of the Organization, which is why we seek today to discuss what we need to do to expand and strengthen the work of the hemispheric institution in this area."

The General Director of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management of Colombia, as the keynote speaker, explained in his address the main aspects of his country's experience in disaster management. "Colombia has gone through difficult times of disasters, but it has been able to respond and learn from its experiences to design a national plan in this area." In that regard, he stressed the role of international cooperation strategies developed in his country, seeking to expand risk management policies to make them more effective, as well as the adoption of Law 1523, passed by the Colombian Congress in April 2012 and through which national policy is adopted in the matter and which established the National System for Disaster Risk Management.

Márquez explained that the National Plan of risk management "is an essential development policy to ensure sustainability, territorial security and the collective rights and interests" of Colombians, and to improve the quality of life of people and communities at risk. Such management, he continued, is intrinsically associated with the planning of safe development with a sustainable environmental land management and effective citizen participation.

He added that the National Plan, effective until 2025, seeks to "guide the policies of the state and of civil society in the knowledge of risk reduction and disaster management. In pursuance of the National Policy on Risk Management, the aim is to contribute "to the safety, welfare, quality of life of the people and to the country’s sustainable development."

Pablo González, OAS Principal Specialist and Chief of Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change Program, spoke about the evolution of the institutionalization of disaster risk management within the Inter-American agenda, with special emphasis on the Inter-American Plan for Disaster Prevention and Response and the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, which was approved by the OAS General Assembly in Cochabamba in June 2012, and that represents "a consensus of where we are on the subject" and a compilation of the concrete proposals on risk management and the coordination of international humanitarian assistance.

The OAS specialist moderated an exchange between the authorities and specialists from international organizations dealing with the issue of disasters. The dialogue was attended by the Disaster Risk Management Specialist of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Sergio Lacambra; the Senior Urban Specialist from the World Bank, Eric Dickson; and the Director of the Department of Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Relief of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Ciro Ugarte. The experts presented their perspectives on issues related to the political will needed to push through risk management initiatives, generating indicators that show the impact of risk, the responsiveness of hospitals at risk, generating a civic culture of awareness of the impact of risks, and the possibility of continuing with further discussion of the topic within the OAS framework.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-268/14