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OAS Hosts Hemispheric Dialogue on Disaster Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change

  November 25, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS) today hosted at its headquarters in Washington DC, the Third Hemispheric Meeting of the Inter-American Network for Disaster Mitigation (INDM), gathered under the theme “Integrating Disaster Risk Management and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Development Agenda,” with the objective of sharing among member states experiences and practices to address the impact of natural phenomena and other types of emergencies.

The event, coordinated by the Department of Sustainable Development of the OAS, looks to promote opportunities for horizontal cooperation and greater collaboration between OAS member states and the agencies of the Inter-American System and that of the United Nations. The debates were divided in three discussion panels, made up of various specialists on the management, mitigation and prevention of risks, especially those associated with natural phenomena.

The first discussion panel focused on “Risk Management, and Physical and Environmental Planning,” and was moderated by Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of the Coordinating Unit of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Jackson highlighted that the hemisphere is perhaps the most exposed to disasters in the world, and emphasized that these disasters can weaken sustainable development plans.

The panelists Joanna Raynold, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Physical Development of Saint Lucia; Maria del Pilar Cornejo Gunauer, National Secretary for Risk Management of Ecuador; Lidier Esquivel Valverde, Chief of the Risk Research and Analysis Unit of the National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Response of Costa Rica; and the Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States, Timothy Manning; agreed that better planning of disaster management would contribute to increasing the resiliency of the region and should include the participation of the entire community.

The panel on “Risk Management in Tourism” was moderated by the Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Gail Henry, who listed the challenges facing developing countries, especially those of the Caribbean, for many of which tourism represents the main source of income, reaching as much as 75% of GDP.

The participants Althea Heron, of the Ministry of Tourism of Jamaica; Luis Ernesto Gutiérrez, Deputy Director for Destination Management of the Secretariat of Tourism of Mexico; Alberto Bisbal Sanz, Secretary of the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers of the National System for Disaster Risk Management of Peru; and José Raúl Perales, Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector of the Department of Homeland Security of the United States, concluded that it is of vital importance to work together with the private sector in the search for creative solutions in plans of prevention and mitigation, given that the industry shares experiences and learning with an approach different than that of governments. They also agreed that any plan developed with this objective should include the participation of local communities and tourists themselves, who should have access to enough information so that early alert systems in case of disasters are effective.

The third panel discussed the "Community –centered Early Warning Systems" was moderated by Roy Barbosa, Executive Secretary of the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America, and was attended by the Director of Mitigation of the Executive Secretariat the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala, Andrés Abelino Casasola; Inventory Officer of the National Emergency Management Organization of Saint Lucia, Ivaline Joseph; Director of the Integrated Public Alert and Warming System (IPAWS) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of USA, Antwane Johnson; and the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of National Emergency Paraguay, Joaquín Roa Burgos.

The panelists emphasized the need to strengthen the budgets of countries to prevent emergencies, and agreed that should raise awareness among governments of the region to know which is better and less expensive to invest in prevention than act after disasters happen. They also said that countries need to have risk management offices within each ministry to monitor all emergencies, and disseminate knowledge and operation of early warning systems among citizens. Furthermore, they proposed to periodic testing of early warning systems among communities so that they are prepared to deploy when needed.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-515/14