Improving Disaster Risk Management in Honduras. Incorporating risk management into land use planning: A study tour with Colombi

Key Contact
Enrique Pantoja
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 47,469
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


Honduras sought to minimize the adverse impacts of natural disasters by including disaster risk management (DRM) and environmental considerations into overall development and land use planning at the national, regional, and local levels. A study tour in Colombia, combined with two workshops in Honduras, led officials to develop an Action Plan that outlines immediate and long-term steps to better define institutional responsibilities and enhance technical assistance to municipalities to achieve resilient development planning.


Honduras seeks to reduce the loss of lives and property caused by disasters such as hurricanes, floods and landslides by effectively incorporating disaster risk reduction and prevention aspects into broader development, territorial, and environmental planning at the local and watershed levels to prevent the establishment of human settlements, productive activities, and infrastructure in at-risk areas.

Honduras is among the countries most affected by climate change and disasters triggered by natural events. Expected annual loss from future disasters is almost 30 percent of capital investment/costs. Its high vulnerability to hurricanes, floods and landslides poses significant development challenges and undermines efforts to reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity. In light of this, Honduras has taken important steps towards adopting a more proactive DRM approach. Importantly, it established a formal national disaster risk management system (SINAGER) in 2009 to develop capacities for risk reduction, preparedness, response, and recovery from disasters.  Also, the 2010-2038 Vision of the Nation and its 2010-2022 National Plan include provisions to further strengthen DRM planning. However, national agencies identified the need to increase their knowledge and capacity on how to integrate DRM and environmental considerations into development and land use planning at all territorial levels. 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.


The knowledge exchange included preparatory workshops, a study tour to Colombia, and a final workshop in Honduras. Colombia has more than 15 years of experience with consolidated policy and planning frameworks that mainstream DRM and environmental concerns across watershed and municipal boundaries.

The preparatory workshops in February and March 2014 included videoconferencing with Colombia to introduce participants, share foundational information on policy and institutional framework, determine the details of the upcoming visit and align expectations on purpose and outcome of the visit.

During the study tour in May 2014, Honduran participants met with the Colombian entities that led the development of the policy frameworks and instruments for regional and municipal governments in land use planning. They then visited the municipalities of Bogota and Manizales, which have implemented the approach.

The activities were originally planned with participants from the Honduran Disaster Risk Management Agency (COPECO), Ministry of Environment (SERNA) and the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation (SEPLAN) and other institutions involved in DRM, such as the Honduran Association of Municipalities (AMHON. When the exchange was prepared in December 2013, COPECO, SERNA and SEPLAN were responsible for DRM and territorial planning. However, the reelected government administration that took office January 2014 embarked upon a lengthy reorganization process that also affected the responsibilities for land use planning, so the government of Honduras nominated only 10 staff from COPECO, which was not affected by the broader reorganization.

The final workshop in Honduras helped systematize the learning experience, included wide participation from COPECO; the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, Government and Decentralization (SDHJGD) that is now responsible for land use policies; SERNA and AMHON, and allowed for a detailed discussion about lessons learned in Columbia and how they might apply to the Honduras context.


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.

Lessons Learned

  • While the exchange used a mix of different learning formats (lectures and Q&A session, semi-structured peer-to-peer learning, site visits, etc.), more interactive sessions and site visits during the first few days in Bogota could have enriched the learning experience.   
  • A clear regulatory framework (high-level and binding) can help determine responsibilities in resilient development policies, create a common vision of problems and strategies, and support interagency work.
  • Institutional reorganization by government following national elections affected the participation of key stakeholders; be prepared to modify the exchange approach in response to shifts in the political landscape.
  • Decentralization processes are vital. Local governments should be responsible for land management and be the principle actor in DRM; the regional government should serve as a coordinator and intermediary between the national level and the municipalities; and the national level government should continue to promote policy and establish strategic direction.
  • Strategies to offer technical assistance in DRM should be based on an understanding of the technical, institutional and financial capacities of local actors.

World Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank Group brokered the exchange based on a long-standing engagement in the area of DRM in both Colombia and Honduras using a grant of US$46K from the South-South Experience Exchange Facility to fund exchange activity, travel and accommodations of participants. The supervision budget from the Honduras Disaster Risk Management Project funded Bank staff time and travel. In addition, the Matanza-Riachuelo Basin Sustainable Development Adaptable Lending Program funded the participation of two Argentine representatives in the exchange activities.


World Bank Group

Colombian National Planning Department
Disaster Risk Management Unit under the Presidency
Ministry of Housing, Cities and Territory
Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
Colombia Presidential Agency of International Cooperation
Colombia Geological Survey (SGC)
Colombia Institute of Hydrology Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM)
Municipalities of Manizales and Bogota
Regional Autonomous Corporation of Caldas (CORPOCALDAS)
Institute of Environmental Studies of Manizales (IDEA)
Manizales Program for the Protection of Hillsides

Moving Forward

COPECO is assuming an increasingly more important role as the lead organization in DRM in Honduras and it is essential that it coordinate closely with the entities responsible for land use planning and environmental management. COPECO should maintain its coordination role in DRM policy at the national level, and in turn serve as an interlocutor between all levels of government in the country for the topic. This requires working together with entities responsible for land use and environmental planning, primarily with the Department of Land Management, Bureaus of Watershed, SDHJGD, SERNA and the Association of Municipalities.

Honduran counterparts are committed to implementing the roadmap set out in the Strategic Action Plan and the Bank will support their efforts as part of regular supervision of the Honduras Disaster Risk Management Project. After the study visit to Manizales (Colombia), the Honduras team has shown a particular interest in learning about the city’s management of risk and information at a very detailed level and its incorporation into the decision-making process. Informal relationship has been creating between COPECO, and the IDEA and CORPOCALDAS in Colombia to gain a deeper knowledge from the experience of inventorying housing in high-risk areas, as well as good working practices with the community level through the “Guardians of the Hillside Program”.  

On the other hand, Colombia has a strong capacity to provide knowledge and experience in DRM both in terms of institutional frameworks as well as technical capabilities, many of which have been strengthened with the support of Bank.


Territorial Planning Specialist, COPECO – Jose Ismael Hernandez
Director of Center for DRM Research and Training, COPECO – Dolan Castro
General Director, COPECO

Manual H. Sanchez, Project Coordinator, COPECO: “The experience has been 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.”

Director for Territorial Planning, SDHJGD – Jose Reyes Chirinos: “The exchange has been very interesting and very positive for me. It has allowed us to identify the progress made in terms of disaster risk analysis, classification of risks, and the approach to disaster risk management in Colombia.”
Director of Center for DRM Research and Training, COPECO – Dolan Castro: “The way [the Colombians] adopt methodological tools, generate techno-scientific knowledge, but more than simple generate it, the Municipalities actually use this knowledge and make decisions based on scientific tools – these really are valuable lessons learnt that we have taken with us.”

Director of Prevention Management, COPECO -- Arlette Morales: “The advantage we have as COPECO is 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.”

Titles/Names of Colombian participants:
Colombian National Planning Department: Lucy E. Gonzales (DRM Coordinator);
Disaster Risk Management Unit: Martha Cecilia Ochoa (DRM Specialist) and Benjamín Collantes (Legal Advisor)
Ministry of Housing, Cities and Territory: Diana Cuadros and Jesús Delgado (Territorial Planning Specialist)
Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development: Néstor Garzón, Claudia M. Álvarez, Claudia Pineda (Environmental Planning Specialist)
Colombia Geological Survey (SGC): Jaime Raigoza (Seismic Network Coordinator)
Municipalities of Manizales: Oscar Eduardo Toro (DRM Local Coordinator); José Fernando Olarte John Jairo Chisco (CORPOCALDAS); Dora Catalina Suarez (IDEA); Bernardo Mejía (Manizales Program for the Protection of Hillsides)

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