By María Mercedes Martínez
On March 28-30, representatives of 29 countries and regional organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean met in Panama City for the 5th “Regional Meeting on Enhancing International Humanitarian Partnership” (EIHP). Begun in 2007 by the Government of Mexico and UN OCHA, the EIHP has become an important annual forum with a rotating chairmanship designed for dialogue on problems in disaster response and on developing innovative approaches for the Americas region.
One key idea that has emerged from the EIHP process has been the development of a regional compendium of laws and regulations related to international disaster assistance. In 2010, with assistance from the IFRC and UN OCHA, a committee of governments developed a comprehensive questionnaire for use by states to provide national legal information to be included in this compendium. This questionnaire draws significantly on the IDRL Guidelines and covers a full range of regulatory issues that commonly arise in international operations. This methodology was endorsed by the EIHP in 2011.
At the Panama event, the Government of Mexico shared its experience in completing the questionnaire, which involved an exhaustive process of consultation and discussion across agencies and levels of government. This process not only gathered previously dispersed information about relevant rules, it also exposed gap areas where the government felt that its regulatory framework should be strengthened. Mexico pledged to develop guidance materials based on its experience as a reference for countries still completing the compendium questionnaire.
EIHP participants adopted a regional plan of action to guide their work over the next year, incorporating aspects of the IFRC’s plan for support to National Societies and governments on disaster law, including with respect to:
- developing national guidelines, protocols and norms for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance.
- organizing a meeting in Panama to consult on the Model Act for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance.
- developing a desk study at the regional level in addition to two in-country studies on legislation and Disaster Risk Reduction, in order to identify how legislation allows communities to reduce their own disaster risks.
“If I should recommend one action within the Plan of Action, it will be the revision of your national legislation on disaster with regards to the IDRL Guidelines” affirmed Reina Gallego from CAPRADE, in her intervention on how regional and sub-regional intergovernmental organizations contribute to coordination among the sub-regions.
The governments and sub-regional organizations agreed to meet again in 2013 in the Caribbean, in order to discuss the goals and objectives set in 2012 towards effective humanitarian partnership in the region.