From left: Vice-President of the National Assembly of Panama, Rony Araúz, with Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström
GENEVA, 9 February 2012
- The dynamic new Vice-President of the National Assembly of Panama, Rony Araúz, is emerging as a leading advocate of disaster risk reduction in Central America following a career monitoring the passage of hazardous materials through the Panama Canal.
He spent ten years working for the Emergency and Contingency Management Division of the Panama Canal Authority and now sees the introduction of a model Disaster Risk Management Law in Panama as key to re-assuring people concerned about the passage of hazardous materials, including shipments of nuclear waste, through the country.
Working with UNISDR, Vice-President Araúz wants to convene a meeting of representatives from all countries in Central America to discuss issues of common concern in a region which has suffered floods, tropical storms, earthquakes and the fall-out from oil spills in the past.
"We have zero options if we don't work together in all regions in the near future. Climate change is bringing a lot of problems. About 10% of our population of three million people lives in areas which are prone to flooding. They are poor people who do not have any other options," he said.
The holder of two Masters Degrees in the management of hazardous materials has also spent two years on the country's Environment Commission during which time he promoted new laws on response to accidents with hazardous materials; and on the recycling of tires in a country which lacks any facility to do so.
He is currently studying disaster management legislation from countries as far afield as the Philippines as well as regional neighbors Costa Rica and Colombia.
"We are very enthusiastic to ensure that our new model law will also include provision for disaster risk reduction to be on the school curriculum. We need to sensitize people to environmental issues like protecting mangroves and how this can help us to reduce the risk of coastal flooding."
In the short-term his goal is to organize a meeting of Panama's parliamentarians to raise awareness of the international blueprint for disaster risk reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters
and to debate how it can be best applied in the country.