Challenges in developing comprehensive and multisectoral risk management for Central America

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The Coordinating Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) is a regional, intergovernmental organization and a specialized secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SICA). It was created in 1987 by legislation in the countries of Central America. Its mandate is to promote activities, projects, and programs that will reduce the disaster risk that causes human and economic losses. The Center promotes and coordinates international cooperation and the exchange of information, experience, and technical and scientific advice on disaster prevention, mitigation, and response.

Mr. Iván Morales was recently named Executive Director of the Center. He takes leadership at a time when there is much to do and building a policy for disaster risk management in Central America is an imperative. In this interview, Mr. Morales talks about challenges in developing comprehensive and multisectoral risk management for Central America.

1. CEPREDENAC recently marked its 20th anniversary, so it is a good time to take stock of its accomplishments. Tell us about some of its achievements and about commitments or goals that have either been met or that go unfulfilled.

One of the greatest achievements of CEPREDENAC in these two decades is to have attained legitimacy in the region as an organization that is expert in the field of disaster management and risk reduction. This was clear during the Mitch + 10 Forum. The number of institutions and individuals who were interested in participating in this event reinforces the legitimacy of CEPREDENAC and its Secretariat. This has come about not because of a mandate but rather because of the conviction of the actors working in disaster management and risk reduction in Central America.
An unmet goal relates to the involvement of some politicians at different geopolitical levels. There is still a lack of will regarding disaster management and risk reduction on the part of authorities at departmental, provincial, and municipal levels, and even in some national ministries.

2. During your tenure, what would be the most important contribution to advancing comprehensive and multi-sectoral risk management in Central America?

The most important contribution is the Central American policy for comprehensive disaster risk management, as mandated by the Thirty-fourth Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of Member States of the Central American Integration System (SICA). This policy will guide action and coordination processes among institutions, facilitating connections between policy decisions and corresponding implementation mechanisms and instruments. It will have a comprehensive focus (multi-sectoral and territorial), which will connect risk management with economic management, management of social cohesion, and environmental management.

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Mr. Iván Morales, the current Executive Secretary of CEPREDENAC, has worked for 20 years in managerial and technical positions related to sustainable development, disaster management, risk management, and local and regional development. Over the past 15 years he has worked in country and regional offices of the United Nations and in international cooperation projects with government programs.

3. How do you see the role of international cooperation in this issue of risk management? How can we create synergies and greater impact in reducing vulnerability, building capacity, and, above all, reducing disaster risk?

The Central American policy for comprehensive disaster risk management provides a framework for strengthening relationships in this area. These are in line with commitments made in the Millennium Development Goals and the Hyogo Framework for Action.
International cooperation, by providing technical and financial support, is important for developing the policy and the partnerships necessary to implement the policy.

4. Besides the usual difficulties, the region is now facing new challenges, such as the international economic crisis and complex political situations like that of Honduras. In this context, how do you view the work of SICA, and how can CEPREDENAC contribute to the regional integration process?

The economic and complex political crises are beyond the mandate of CEPREDENAC. Obviously these issues affect the work performed by our specialized SICA body, but CEPREDENAC is not in a decision-making role.
In terms of integration, the second mandate of our institution is to integrate our region into processes of managing and reducing disaster risk. In practice, this is done through five program areas: scientific and technical programs, training and education, institutional strengthening, land management, and preparedness and response.

5. The health sector has been one of the most active on issues of risk and disaster management, but more coordination and collaboration are still needed between CEPREDENAC and actors in this sector. What concrete actions should be taken to increase cooperation and have a greater shared impact in the region?

There has been friction between health ministries and the authorities of national CEPREDENAC systems, for example, on the issue of emergency operations centers (EOCs). However, these conflicts happen less frequently, and we envision work between partners which will benefit the region in the area of disaster risk reduction. This is part of what the Central American policy for integrated risk management is trying to achieve.

For more information about CEPREDENAC please visit: www.sica.int/cepredenac.

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