Disaster risk management is highly relevant for achieving sustainable development in Central America, a region prone to multiple natural hazards and with high levels of vulnerability. Experiences and observations made in the frame of SDC's regional programme for natural disaster reduction constitute the basis to identify strategic principles and concrete methods to improve risk governance and create long term capacities for disaster risk management. The analysis focuses on three questions: 1) What is the most useful combination of intervention levels (from local to national and regional)?; 2) What are the benefits and limitations of an integrated risk and disaster management model?; 3) What made some of the specific interventions being highly effective?
1) A combination of measures at the local and the national level was most effective. Isolated measures at the national level, especially in training and education, have tended to centre on concepts and produced little concrete skills, whereas initiatives at the local level (e.g. hazard mapping and training of municipal staff) have proved to be difficult to capitalize and have even faced legitimacy issues. In cases where national government institutions were little involved, the training of national professionals at an intermediate level, especially at universities, showed good results.
2) The integrated model for the promotion of risk and disaster management at the local level, adopted by SDC and other actors, involves awareness building, local organization, training of local technicians, installation of tools and equipment, as well as concrete risk reduction meas-ures (prevention and preparedness measures). An appropriate legal and institutional framework as well as a widespread understanding and consensus about the model have proved to make it easier to promote more effective and efficient actions. However, the fact that national institutions usually work in a specific sector (e.g. hazard analysis, public roads, disaster response, etc.) limit the degree of integrity within a single project. It's through the allocation of resources to different sectors that integrity can be achieved in that case.
3) Hazard maps, as an example of a specific intervention promoted by foreign donors, are often either highly technical or not technical at all. Best effectiveness was reached in combining scientific approaches with community knowledge. Similarly, effectiveness was increased in the educational sector by incorporating local case studies into general courses.
It is to be concluded that best results are obtained when actions at the local and the national level were combined: The promotion of a national consensus model for integrated risk and disaster management at all levels sets the basis for projects with national counterpart institutions, concentrated in selected sectors and with a strong emphasis on the implementation of simple, application-oriented and scientifically sound methodologies at the local level.