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Including everyone in disaster risk reduction in Colombia


Prevention | Colombia | PUBLISHED ON August 1st 2022

Participants in the National Forum on Disaster Risk Management and Preparedness. | © J. M. Vargas / HI

In June 2022, the National Forum on Inclusive Disaster Risk Management and Preparedness put issues concerning ethnicity, gener and disability at the center of risk management.

The event was organized by HI and the Lutheran World Federation, within the framework of the project "Inclusive preparation and protection against disasters in Colombia", funded by ECHO (European Union). It allowed participants to share experiences in risk management at community, municipal, departmental and national levels.

A coordinated response to risks is essential

The departments of Cauca and Guaviare in Colombia face daily risks of disasters, including torrential flooding, earthquakes linked to volcanic activity, landslides, and forest fires. Additionally, communities live in a context of underlying armed conflict. Emergency preparedness is therefore essential to respond in an organized manner that includes all populations.
The National Forum on Inclusive Disaster Risk Management and Preparedness was attended by farming, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. Government institutions, such as the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management, the Presidential Council for Persons with Disabilities or the Government of Cauca were also present, as well as international organizations such as UN Women. All of them are key actors in the preparation and implementation of a multi-level action plan.

Recognizing the expertise of persons with disabilities

Community leaders share their perspectives on approaches concerning ethnicity, disability and gender with inclusive disaster risk management. "It is fundamental to consider the rights of persons with and recognize their knowledge and their voice in the decision-making process. In the municipality of Corinto, trainings led by persons with disabilities for families, relief organizations and the community in disability risk management have had a significant impact. The population has begun to organize itself for emergencies, and we are now the center of attention at the departmental level because of our performance," said Marlen Molina, municipal referent for disability in Corinto, Cauca.


Essential measures

The project carried out assessments for various stakeholders to better understand the risks faced by communities. During the forum, participants highlighted the essential aspects of inclusive risk management: putting the most vulnerable people at the center of the response, knowing the territory, conducting population surveys, respecting the different forms of organization, and implementing action plans for prevention and early response at various levels.

These conclusions will allow the communities to make autonomous decisions adapted to each situation. To close the forum, Arturo Bureo, head of operations for HI in Colombia, underlined the opportunity that this event represented. Thanks to the presence of governmental agencies, international organizations and associations of persons with disability, inclusion-focused reference documents can now be created. These documents should underline the need to include issues regarding ethnicity, disability and gender, in order to propose inclusive and comprehensive risk management plans on a national level.

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