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date: 12 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

Along with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is among the geographic regions most exposed and vulnerable to the occurrence of disasters. The vulnerability is explained by geography and climate, but also by prevailing poverty and inequality. Year after year, multiple disasters such as landslides, hurricanes, floods, rains, droughts, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, among others, threaten the region. Natural disasters reveal the deficiencies of infrastructure and essential services. In particular, they highlight the lack of an institutional framework for effective governance with clearly defined goals of how to prevent, respond to, and reconstruct after a natural catastrophe.

One of the priorities of governments in the region is to achieve resilience—that is, to strengthen the capacity to resist, adapt, and recover from the effects of natural disasters. To be able to accomplish this, governments need to prepare before a natural disaster strikes. Therefore, disaster risk management is critical. A fundamental element in the strategy of increasing resilience is good planning in general—that is, to reduce inequality, manage urbanization, and invest in necessary infrastructure such as energy, sewage, and water management. Because climate change increases the risk of disasters, it is generally understood that good governance practices can prevent further global warming. Governments might achieve this, for example, by investing in renewable energy and financing other environmentally friendly initiatives.

Unfortunately, most current governance models in Latin America and the Caribbean are characterized by bureaucratic structures that are fragmented into different sectors and whose actors do not have much interaction between them. With technical assistance from organizations, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean are learning how to develop plans that encourage the collaboration of multiple sectors (e.g., transportation, housing) and improve the working relationships between various institutions (e.g. local associations, NGOs, private and public organizations). To be adequately prepared for a disaster, it is necessary to establish a network of actors that can engage quickly in decision-making and coordinate effectively between local, regional, and national levels.

Keywords: disasters, climate change, natural hazards management, governments, planning, disaster risk reduction, emergency response, post-disaster recovery

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