Honduras and Colombia Share Knowledge to Reduce Disaster Risks

April 6, 2015


Honduran and Colombian authorities participated in an exchange of knowledge and experience about incorporating disaster risk management and environmental considerations into broad development and territorial planning processes at the national, regional, and local levels. These processes included organizational, normative, and methodological practices.


Honduras is among the countries most affected by climate change and disasters triggered by natural events. Its high vulnerability to hurricanes  floods and landslides poses significant development challenges and undermines efforts to reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity. For example, in 1998, Hurricane Mitch  affected 90 percent of the country and led to over 5,700 deaths, 8,000 missing and nearly half a million displaced individuals. Economic damages amounted to 81 percent of GDP. Rapid and unplanned urbanization and progressive environmental degradation further aggravate disaster vulnerability. In light of this, the Honduran government has been taking important steps towards adopting a more proactive disaster risk management (DRM) approach. However, national authorities identified the need to increase their knowledge and capacity on how to incorporate risk reduction and prevention aspects into overall development, territorial, and environmental planning.


Responding to the Honduran government’s expression of interest in learning more about the mainstreaming of disaster risk considerations into planning processes, the World Bank organized an experience exchange with representatives from national and municipal authorities in Colombia. As it accumulated a wealth of know-how on integrating risk reduction measures and environmental concerns into development and land use planning over the past decades, Colombia has established itself as a role model in implementing a comprehensive DRM strategy, including technical assistance to municipalities.

The Knowledge Exchange on Incorporation of Disaster Risk Management into Territorial Planning between Honduras and Colombia under the Honduras Disaster Risk Management Project was designed to provide ample opportunities for Honduran participants to learn from good practices and lessons learned at the national, regional, and local levels in Colombia. The knowledge exchange directly complemented the implementation of the project components to strengthen national-level, municipal, and community-level DRM capacities. The project, became effective in March 2013 and is scheduled to close in April 2019. The central activity of the knowledge exchange was a study visit to Colombia in May 2014, including various site visits, complemented by preparatory sessions via videoconference and a final workshop in Honduras to consolidate recommendations and next steps.


The experience exchange strengthened the institutional capacity of Honduran authorities for mainstreaming disaster risk considerations into development planning processes with a focus on land use planning at the municipal level. Specifically, the following results were achieved:

  • Exchange participants reported a substantial increase in their knowledge and skills on how to consolidate policy and institutional frameworks with an integral emphasis on natural hazards and on methodologies and instruments to promote the effective incorporation of DRM considerations into territorial planning practices at all administrative levels (90 percent of participants). 
  • Participants also confirmed that the exchange helped to improve inter-institutional communication and coordination with other national entities responsible for DRM, territorial planning and environmental management and strengthened teamwork within their institutions and in collaboration with other agencies (90 percent of participants). 
  • Increased awareness of the importance of recognizing and integrating disaster risk as a determinant in development planning processes with a focus on land use planning (80 percent of participants).
  • Authorities agreed upon a Strategic Action Plan to continue improving DRM in Honduras. This plan includes, among others, recommendations and next steps to help define better institutional responsibilities, formulate guidelines and tools for resilient development planning, and implement a national strategy to enhance technical assistance to municipalities.

Bank Group Contribution

The Bank team facilitated this exchange between Honduras and Colombia based on a long-standing engagement in the area of DRM in both countries. This engagement  has included policy development and investment lending projects and technical assistance. The exchange was made possible thanks to a grant in the amount of US$48,000 from the South-South Experience Exchange Facility, which was complemented with supervision budget from the Honduras Disaster Risk Management Project to fund World Bank staff’s time and travel dedicated to the preparation and implementation of exchange activities. In addition, the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin Sustainable Development Adaptable Lending Program funded the participation of two Argentine representatives in the exchange activities.


Representatives from the following Colombian entities readily shared their knowledge from more than 15 years of experience with implementing consolidated policy and planning frameworks that mainstream DRM: National Planning Department (DNP); Ministry of Housing, Cities, and Territory (MVCT); Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS); National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD); Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC); Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM); Colombian Geological Survey (SGC); Municipality of Manizales; Regional Autonomous Corporation of Caldas (CORPOCALDAS); Institute of Environmental Studies of Manizales (IDEA); and the Manizales Program for the Protection of Hillsides; Honduran National DRM Agency (COPECO); Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, the Interior and Decentralization (SDHJGD); Ministry of Natural Resources (SERNA); Honduran Association of Municipalities (AMHON). In addition, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) financed the participation of two additional Honduran representatives.

Moving Forward 

During the final workshop, participants agreed on a Strategic Action Plan for Honduras that outlines a series of next steps for the short, medium, and long-term to facilitate mainstreaming of DRM into development and territorial planning. Honduran counterparts are committed to implementing this roadmap and the Bank will support their efforts as part of regular supervision of the Honduras Disaster Risk Management Project.


Manuel Sanchez, Project Coordinator, Honduran Disaster Risk Management Agency (COPECO), participated in the exchange and summarized the experience as "very productive for us and very interesting because it allows us to compare how they are addressing the issue of integrated disaster risk management in Colombia versus how we have been working on the issue in our country."

Arlette Morales, Director of Prevention Management, COPECO, who also participated in the exchange affirms that thanks to “our nationwide presence, we can replicate some of the practices that we have learned. It is important that countries that share similar characteristics be able to share best practices and also those that have not been so good because you also learn from failure."

of participants reported a substantial increase in their knowledge and skills on how to consolidate policy and institutional frameworks with an integral emphasis on natural hazards.