Conference: Efforts to increase the region’s capability to respond to Natural Disasters

On December 5, 2018 the conference: “Efforts to increase the region’s capability to respond to natural disasters” was carried out at the premises of the Inter-American Defense Board. Its overall objective was to better know capabilities, human and material resources of some hemispheric countries in rapid response to natural disasters in order to help building such capabilities in the less resilient countries of the hemisphere to respond to events of this nature. This is in line with the OAS mandate to support the region’s efforts to increase disaster response and mitigation as part of hemispheric action to address such challenges.
Delegations from OAS and IADB Member Countries, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations (NGO), and members of US bilateral embassies, among others, participated in the conference. The event was also attended by the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction (CIRDN), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the National Risk Management Unit Disasters of Colombia (UNGRD), as well as other experts in the field.
Prominent speakers included: Dr. Mark Hamilton, a member of the Inter-American Defense College (IADC), who presented the theme “A multidimensional view of natural disasters and their relationship to other threats in the Americas” General de Brigada Juan Carlos German Soto, Head of the Guatemalan Military Delegation to the OAS with: “Lessons learned in the face of the natural disaster represented by the El Fuego volcano eruption in Guatemala”. Similarly, the General de Brigada Luis Cardozo Emilio Santamaría, commander of the Command of Engineers of the National Army of Colombia, exposed: “Organization, capabilities, and potential of the Battalion of Attention to Natural Disasters of the Colombian Army”. And, finally, Dr. Eduardo José González, National Director of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD), closed the conference with the lecture “Organization of the U NGRD of Colombia, experiences, skills and potential”.
From this conference, the following conclusions were drawn: the need to have a look beyond the immediate response; to have a broader vision, that is: to have a strategic vision focused on national security (state), society (community) and public (individual). In other words, this all comes down to “multidimensional security”.
Still in this context, about the lessons learned, it was reaffirmed the importance of hemispheric countries to have necessary equipment to manage eventual emergency situations in the area of natural disasters. Disasters and difficult situations end up painfully uniting the country suffering such a scourge. It is also important to have compatible communication equipment between the different units providing humanitarian assistance to ensure effective coordination in dealing with a natural disaster. Another relevant aspect is the need to expand supplies of first aid kits and oxygen tanks to meet this type of emergency.
With respect to the Disaster Battalion of Colombia, it was observed that training and certification are vital for a country’s response capability in situations of natural disasters. Learning through experience and uniting different organisms under the guidance of a single institution ensures greater resilience, responsiveness and mitigation in the event of natural disasters. The School of Military Engineers of the National Army of Colombia offers Masters Courses in Risk Management and Development, as well as in Disaster Risk Management and Advanced Canine Guide.
Finally, it was seen that the law, created in Colombia, related to the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, ensured the provision of resources at the municipal, departmental and national levels, as well as financial, preventive and corrective protection for the disaster parents. It is vital to ensure an integrated system of national policies and projects that ensure response, mitigation and resilience functionality in the humanitarian assistance of natural disasters. Likewise, the pre-approved credits that Colombia has are important when it is necessary to use them in cases where the disaster exceeds the country’s disaster response capability. Early warning systems for disaster prevention are imperative to save the people’s lives in the midst of catastrophes and, finally, the fact of overcoming the leading role of institutions, working as teamwork within the UNGRD, guarantees a better work of response and attention to natural disasters.