Colombia is one of the countries most exposed to natural disasters. Regularly recurring disasters such as floods and landslides cause an estimated USD 200 million in damages on an annual basis. During the 2010/11 ‘La Niña’ phenomenon, damages were as high as USD 6.3 billion. As much as 80 percent of the population is exposed to two or more types of natural hazards, including many of the poorest in society. Decades of armed conflict, unplanned urbanisation, the rise of natural hazards that trigger technological accidents, and a recent flood of migrants all contribute to increasing social vulnerability and a changing risk landscape.

In 2012, Colombia launched ambitious reforms to improve its disaster risk management framework and ultimately strengthen the country’s resilience to disasters and interconnected risks. Colombia recognised the need to establish a comprehensive, multi-hazard risk management structure. It aims to mainstream disaster risk management across critical sectors at national and subnational level, and its objectives align well to the principles set out in the OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Critical Risks.

This OECD Risk Governance Scan provides the first assessment of progress, identifying gaps and recommendations to further strengthen Colombia’s disaster risk management system. It is part of a series of OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies, including similar studies on France, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Mexico. It was prepared under the auspices of the OECD’s High Level Risk Forum, which promotes an integrated, whole-of-government approach to disaster risk management and governance. The Forum brings together policy makers from governments, practitioners from the private sector and civil society, and experts from think tanks and academia, to identify and share good risk governance and management practices. The work of the Forum is underpinned by the OECD Recommendation of the Council on the Governance of Critical Risks, which forms the analytical framework for the present report.

Colombia’s National Unit for Disaster Risk Management provides strategic guidance and coordination of disaster risk management actions across government ministries. Under its stewardship, stakeholders have shown strong commitment to the reform agenda and made substantial progress in setting disaster risk management objectives.

The Scan finds that, while Colombia has gained much ground in understanding the risks faced by its communities and economic activities, more granular knowledge and risk assessments could be developed at sub-national levels and leveraged in the risk management decisions of municipalities. To prevent risk exposure from increasing, the country also needs to address land-use issues in disaster prone areas. There are untapped opportunities for Colombia to use the disaster recovery and reconstruction phases to incorporate resilience measures and change path dependencies that perpetuate disaster risk exposures.

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