Panama – October 12-14, 2011 – The RET co-organised the International Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Education Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean, which led to the signature of the “Panama Declaration” that calls for strengthening the Right to Education in emergency and disaster situations.
The RET co-organised, along with UNICEF, UNESCO, UNISDR (United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction), World Vision, INEE (Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies), Save the Children, USAID/OFDA (Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance), and IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), the International Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Education Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was attended by ministers of education and respective delegations from across the region, including from Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.
At the end of the conference, ministers and organization representatives signed the “Panama Declaration” that calls for strengthening the Right to Education in emergency and disaster situations, fostering the inclusion of risk management in the school curriculum and teacher skills development. The 27 signatories also recalled that “education in disaster situations constitutes an obligation of States and therefore a priority for the Ministries and Secretariats of Education in Latin America and the Caribbean”. The Panama Declaration sets the ground for establishing a Regional Thematic Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Education Sector and for implementing a policy for evaluation and improvement of existing school infrastructures.
According to UNISDR’s Global Assessment Report 2011, the population living in flood-prone river basins increased by 11% over the last 30 years, and those living in cyclone-exposed zones by 192%. Furthermore, Latin America and the Caribbean is the second region with the largest number of natural disasters after Asia. International organizations estimate that every year over 100 million young people and children are affected by disasters. In Colombia, youth are also affected by the protracted armed conflict and drug trafficking. Considering that young people is the largest group affected by disasters and armed conflict, the RET staff works every day to make schools a safer place and prevent interruptions in education. Protecting young people from child labour, trafficking and gang recruitment is a priority before, during and after an emergency. The RET also encourages young people to step up and guarantee their right to participate and access the information they need in order to protect their communities as well as themselves to reduce the exposure to risks arising from emergencies.