Children representatives of the Voces movement with Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR.
By Richard Waddington
GUAYAQUIL, 28 May 2014
- Nearly 60 children and young people from across Latin America and the Caribbean made a strong and colourful claim on Tuesday for their voices to be heard in campaigns to reduce risks of natural disasters and other pressing environmental and social issues.
On the opening day of the 4th Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, the young people shared their experiences of working in their vulnerable communities to raise awareness about disaster prevention and resilience.
“I did not know anything about disaster prevention. Some who were ignorant like me paid for it with their lives,” said Déborah Gonzalez from Peru, who introduced the work of a project there for school children.The project’s motto is “más preparados vivimos seguros” (we live safer by being more prepared).
All the groups attending the three-day Guayaquil conference form part of two regional organizations that aim is to educate children and young people in disaster prevention and responses and give them a greater say in programmes to promote resilience within communities.
The Voces movement is made up of more than 2,000 children from 15 countries, who took part in projects supported by UNICEF, Plan International, RET-Protecting Through Education, Save the Children and World Vision. It aims to generate a proposal on disaster reduction to take to the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, next March, where a new framework should be agreed to replace the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action. The Guayaquil conference is one of a long series of regional meetings to lay the groundwork for the UN meeting.
The other organization is CORELAC – the Coalition for Resilience in Children and Young People in Latin America and the Caribbean. Formed in 2011 by six regional and international organizations, it is committed to promoting and guaranteeing the rights of children and young people. UNISDR is one of the organizations backing it along with several of those involved in VOCES. Again the aim is to promote and make more visible the role of children and young people in issues surrounding disaster reduction, adaptation to climate change and social risks.
Guayaquil was the first regional platform on disaster reduction to make space for the young to express their views. Beyond demanding greater involvement in disaster prevention, the young people issued a strong condemnation of discrimination against people with physical disabilities. Involving them in resilience programmes sends a strong message to society about inclusion and reinforces the self-confidence of those with disabilities, said Miguelina de Jesus Susana from the Dominican Republic.
“It is very important for us to be taking part here,” said Warren de Silva e Silva, who introduced a project from the Amazon region of Brazil.
The two groups presented Margareta Wahlström, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), with a declaration and a 100-metre-long “Quipu”. The latter is a long cord to which ribbons and drawings are attached carrying messages. It was the method used by the Incas to preserve their knowledge and traditions.
The portion presented to Ms Wahlström is only a minute part of the full Quipu, which will be travelling to Japan for next year’s conference. On it are inscribed the wishes and dreams of the 18,700 children and young people who have contributed to it. “This is not a decoration, it is a communiqué that will be going to Japan,” said a spokesman for Voces.
The young people also presented Ms Wahlström with the initial draft of a declaration, accompanied by colourful drawings, which will also be going to Japan. The declaration, which will be published in a couple of weeks, demands the right of young people to participate in disaster risk reduction activities and programmes, expresses their right to health, their concerns about social risks, particularly drugs and violence, and the environment, and calls attention to the problems of those with physical disabilities.