That reducing vulnerability and increasing capacities to face the risk of disaster is a responsibility for all was the message given by representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at the 4th Inter-American Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility.
The International Federation attended the conference at the invitation of the Inter-American Bank of Development to share its experience of risk reduction and building safer, healthier communities in the Americas. Entitled ‘A good business for all’, the conference was held in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, from 10 to 12 December.
Dr. Luiz Hernández, President of the Brazilian Red Cross, and Dr. Raymond Forde, Vice President of the International Federation for the Americas, took part in the plenary session ‘Corporate Social Responsibility, Civil Society and Social Development’. This was attended by business players, government delegates, international organizations and academic institutions.
The International Federation’s message was simple: the participation of companies is crucial in facing the increased risks of disasters in the world. Reducing vulnerability and increasing capacities to face this risk is a responsibility for all. In Latin America civil society, the Red Cross and companies can do this together.
“Communities are not alone in disaster prevention,” explained Dr. Forde.
“Alliances among local associations, government institutions, the private sector, international and humanitarian organizations contribute significantly to the disaster reduction processes. The synergy and complementary work among these actors add greater value to the efforts towards creating safer and healthier communities.”
The Americas have always been prone to disasters. Their impact on lives and the destruction they cause reflects the poverty and vulnerability affecting thousands of people in the region.
The essence of disaster risk reduction work is to ensure that rural and urban populations are aware of the threats and particularly of their capacities and the resources available to help them face up to them.
“Every year, studies by internationally renowned organizations confirm that the Americas remains the most inequitable region in the world,” continued Dr. Forde. “This aggravates other conditions that also expose the population to disasters, such as rapid demographic growth, unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation and climatic change.”
The long-term challenge is to revert this situation but other actions can be taken in the short and medium term that could at least contribute to reducing disaster-related vulnerabilities.
Private sector companies work in communities and become part of them.
Their activities have an impact on the population. Companies that focus on community risk management reduce the risk of disasters paralysing their operations or disrupting their workforce.
“It is also essential that companies revise their productive processes, their goods and services,” continued Dr. Forde. “And that they ensure they do have a positive impact and reduce risks for communities facing potential disasters.”
All participants agreed that the reduction of risks in the face of disasters may benefit the implementation and sustainability of social projects and that the adoption of political, social and economic decisions without adequate technical direction may put communities at risk and, in the medium and long term, compromise their development.
The 5th Inter-American Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility will be celebrated next year as an initiative of the Inter-American Development Bank to develop effective and sustainable principles on corporate responsibility.