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No time for doubt: Tackling urban risk

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A glance at urban interventions by Red Cross Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) is responding to urban plight in the Americas Zone through the Secretariat’s launch of urban risk, migration, climate change and violence as thematic focus areas for integrated zone programming over the next four-year planning period, from 2012 to 2015.

This publication endeavours to complement and inform the on-going internal process of identifying and defining common strategies for urban interventions to operate and manage urban risk in the Americas. It also aims to better capture and reflect National Red Cross Society experiences and practices of urbanbased programming in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Part one presents case studies from Colombia, Nicaragua and Jamaica, providing snapshots of how three National Red Cross Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean are intervening in volatile urban settings. The case studies are accompanied by stories from the project beneficiaries in the field, giving voice to some of the most vulnerable urban dwellers in the cities of Cali, Managua and Kingston.

These case studies and beneficiary stories are followed by a global analysis from an urban risk perspective and a set of conclusions and recommendations in the search to support IFRC and its member National Societies to define future urban risk entry points and projects.

The second part of the publication provides reflections on urban risk focusing on Panama and Peru in addition to operational experiences and learnings from Paraguay.

This document is aimed at an internal audience, including but not limited to programme managers, coordinators, implementers and advisers at local branch, national, regional and zone levels to support Red Cross Red Crescent engagement and strategic dialogue with policy and decision makers, as well as with donors, opinion shapers and leaders. Although there is an awareness of urban-based problems and an on-going debate on approach at the National Society level, there is a need for a systematic approach to the process and intervention in addition to clear guidance on synergies, programming and project design and development.

The case studies represent a limited sample of Red Cross-inspired urban work in the LAC region. They are examples of projects and processes being carried out in larger urban centres and dealing with diverse risk issues that exist in many urban areas in general. Although the case studies cover major topics of concern from an urban risk perspective, they do not intend to be representative of the wide range of ongoing efforts in the LAC region in towns and cities. This document is to be considered in conjunction with other existing and forthcoming documents stemming from the current urban risk process initiated by IFRC in the Americas Zone and the range of activities and efforts that over the years have contributed to capture learning in the urban risk field.

The Central American urban risk project is implemented within the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme for the Americas and financed by the European Union Disaster Preparedness Programme (EU-DIPECHO). It attempts to develop a conceptual and methodological framework for addressing urban disaster risk and is complemented by a study which systematizes the already existing knowledge framework of urban disaster risk in the Americas. A range of consultations by the DRR programme have taken place with members of academia, NGOs, UN agencies and international corporations. These consultations, along with the integrated neighbourhood approach from the post-Haiti response operation and the Red Cross Red Crescent recovery strategy, play an important role in the continued process of forging an approach to urban risk.

A further development is the IFRC and Colombian Red Cross dialogue with the Government of Colombia and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) about an urban risk project to develop guidelines on standards, regulations and rights of homeowners and on land rights in urban areas after disasters. In addition, the project promotes promote the incorporation of risk management into development plans and urban risk awareness among decision makers and the public.

Various initiatives have been implemented over the years in the Americas with funding from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Norwegian Agency for International Assistance (NORAD), and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). As early as 2005, IFRC and Red Cross Societies in the Americas collaborated with the ProVention Consortium and the Organization for American States (OAS) to develop community-based Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) tool-kits for semi-urban communities.