By María Mercedes Martínez
At its forty-second regular session, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from June 3-5, 2012, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted a new plan of action on disaster management, which highlights the importance of legal preparedness for international disaster cooperation. In Resolution AG/RES.2750 (XLII-O/12), the member states endorsed the “Inter-American Plan for Disaster Prevention and Response and the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance” to be implemented on a voluntary basis by the member states.
The Inter-American Plan aims to support the strengthening of mechanisms and measures for disaster risk reduction and response among Member States, taking into account the Hyogo Framework for Action. It also aims to support the development and enforcement of the national systems on emergency preparedness and response and the facilitation of international humanitarian assistance. In order to achieve these objectives, the Inter-American Plan establishes, as one of its activities, the promotion of the IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme as a contribution to the development of internal legal frameworks, national and regional facilities on humanitarian assistance procedures and national customs procedures related to the provision of goods among member states. Hence, the diffusion of the Disaster Law Programme at the national level is one of the recommendations proposed to achieve the purpose of the Plan.
The Plan also emphasizes some of the recommendations of the IDRL Guidelines such as “encourag[ing] member states to take into consideration the standards and guides of international humanitarian assistance in the formulation of national procedures of response coordination and in the development of national legal regulations.” It stresses the importance of designating “national operative focal points to facilitate the request of international assistance” and “(…) the coordination of actions within the national jurisdiction in order to avoid the duplication of actions (…).” In addition, the Plan promotes the compilation of national legislation to complete the planned “Regional Legal Compendium of Regulatory Instruments for the Management of International Humanitarian Assistance in Emergencies” (RLC), as approved at the 4th Regional Meeting on Enhancing International Humanitarian Partnerships in Quito.
“We are very glad to see OAS member states making this commitment to improve their legal preparedness for disasters,” observed Xavier Castellanos, Director of the IFRC’s Zone Office in the Americas, “This plan is very timely, and National Societies across the region would be enthusiastic in supporting their governments in carrying it out.”