The main objective of the encounter was for the ministers and delegates of 19 countries, eight cooperation agencies and international organizations to sign the Declaration of Panama, a document that also recalled that “disaster risk reduction is an obligation of the State and it is a priority for the Education Ministries and Secretariats of Latin America and the Caribbean”.
Another important result was the decision for member countries to create the Regional Thematic Platform for disaster risk management in the education sector, in conformity with the strategic guidelines laid down by the states.
The agreements of the Declaration of Panama are:
• To promote the incorporation of disaster risk reduction in the curriculum on all levels and in all modalities of education.
• To draft a Regional Thematic Platform for Risk Reduction in the Education Sector.
• To develop information systems which allow the implementation of education policies to reduce risk conditions ant to handle emergency and disaster situations.
• To implement a policy of ongoing evaluation and improvement of infrastructure and the development of new school buildings according to risk management standards.
• To strengthen ties of coordination and cooperation among Latin American and Caribbean Education Ministries and Secretariats on the issue of disaster risk management.
After Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the largest number of disaster situations caused by events of a natural origin in vulnerable contexts. According to assessments by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and other institutions, the disasters that occurred in the region between 1976 and 2004 caused losses worth over $1.5 billion, destroyed over 12,000 schools, caused over US$ 31 million in damages due to the use of schools as shelters and, on average, six weeks of lost classes following a disaster.
Due to the fact that these situations make the goals of the Education for All programme that UNESCO is promoting more difficult to achieve, disaster risk reduction strategies must be focused on education. It is through risk reduction training processes that educational communities can reduce their vulnerability in the face of such phenomena.
The Panama conference was attended by Maryann Hanson, Venezuelan People’s Power Minister for Education; Patrick Faber, Belize minister of education and youth; Panamanian Education Minister Lucy Molinar; Ecuadoran Education Minister Gloria Vidal; Guatemalan Education Minister Dennis Alonzo Mazariegos; Honduran Deputy Education Minister Juan Carlos Contreras, and Costa Rican Deputy Education Minister Silvia Viquez, among other high-ranking authorities in charge of risk reduction in the education sector.