AG/RES. 2372 (XXXVIII-O/08) Coordination of Volunteers in the Hemisphere in Response to Natural Disasters and the Fight Against Hunger and Poverty - White Helmets Initiative

June 3, 2008

(Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 3, 2008) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

HAVING SEEN the Report of the General Secretariat on the White Helmets Initiative (CP/CG-1738/08), resolutions AG/RES. 1351 (XXV-O/95), AG/RES. 1403 (XXVI-O/96), AG/RES. 1463 (XXVII-O/97), AG/RES. 2018 (XXXIV-O/04), and AG/RES. 2165 (XXXVI-O/06), and declarations AG/DEC. 45 (XXXV-O/05) and AG/DEC. 55 (XXXVII-O/07);

RECALLING that, in the Plan of Action of the First Summit of the Americas (Miami, 1994), the Heads of State and Government committed to creating, organizing, and financing White Helmets volunteers corps at the national and hemispheric levels and invited the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to participate and help train them;

RECALLING ALSO that, in the Declaration of Mar del Plata of the Fourth Summit of the Americas (Argentina, 2005), the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to fight poverty, inequality, hunger, and social exclusion; noted with concern the increased intensity of natural and man-made disasters and their devastating impact on human lives, infrastructure, and economies in the Hemisphere; and called for action at the national, regional, and international levels to strengthen disaster management programs;

REAFFIRMING the need to develop networks, cooperation mechanisms, experience-sharing, and mutual assistance among member states and subregional, regional and international agencies, and the importance of participation by the community and its organizations in the diagnostic assessment of their problems and in preparing tools for disaster prevention and response;

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT that the principal objectives of the White Helmets Initiative are to fight hunger and poverty, prevent, mitigate and respond to the impacts of natural disasters, and reduce vulnerabilities; and that actions undertaken by White Helmets volunteers include, inter alia: responding to emergencies, promoting health and education and access to safe drinking water, facilitating transportation, logistics, and operations in the event of disasters, distributing food, and monitoring food aid;

UNDERSCORING that the development of the White Helmets Initiative has contributed to efforts to alleviate critical situations of hunger and poverty in the Hemisphere, wherever they may occur, and has assisted populations affected by natural and other disasters, by promoting an effective and appropriate transition from emergency aid to rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development, in the context of the purposes and principles established in the Charter of the Organization of American States, while also preserving the nonpolitical, neutral, and impartial nature of humanitarian aid;

EMPHASIZING that White Helmets Initiative projects in the Hemisphere led to the organization of the Regional Humanitarian Volunteer Corps Network, which now has 13 National Focal Points, as well as to partnerships with well known international and regional agencies, such as PAHO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS);

BEARING IN MIND that, in 2007, the Initiative provided humanitarian responses to countries in the Hemisphere hit by natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Dean, Félix, and Noel in Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, respectively; flooding in Bolivia; the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador; and the major earthquake in Pisco, Peru;

HAVING SEEN the report on the Inter-American Emergency Aid Fund (CP/doc.4290/08 corr. 2); and

CONSIDERING that the Report of the First Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction (IACNDR) (CP/CSH-926/07) points out that over the past 30 years, disasters have affected some four million people per year, killing 5,000 of them and causing US$3.2 billion in material damages,


1. To reaffirm its support for the White Helmets Initiative as one of the valuable mechanisms in the Hemisphere for disaster prevention, mitigation, and response and for fighting hunger and poverty.

2. To urge the General Secretariat to continue its support for the development of the White Helmets Initiative.

3. To underscore the execution of 38 projects under White Helmets Initiative agreements with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); and to recognize the participation of 115 international and national volunteer experts, as well as 1,350 volunteers and technical staff from 13 countries who either took part in or received training during those activities, as mentioned in the General Secretariat’s report (CP/CG-1738/08).

4. To encourage participating regional organizations to reach a consensus and obtain the resources needed to arrive at a new agreement that would permit new activities designed to consolidate local volunteer corps, risk management, and efforts to fight hunger and poverty in the Hemisphere.

5. To welcome the Cooperation Agreement between the OAS General Secretariat and the World Food Programme on food security in the region, which recognizes the White Helmets Initiative as one of the key operational mechanisms, and the signing of the Agreement with the Pan American Health Organization, which points to the White Helmets and their volunteer network as one of PAHO’s providers of logistics and training.

6. To urge other agencies and institutions to enter into partnerships and working agreements with the White Helmets Initiative.
7. To invite those member states that so wish to designate focal points for the White Helmets Initiative and to help strengthen local volunteer corps with a view to enhancing their coordination with the Regional Humanitarian Volunteer Corps Network in the Hemisphere.

8. To instruct the General Secretariat to consider the advisability and feasibility of using a technical team belonging to the Regional Humanitarian Volunteer Corps Network of the White Helmets Initiative as a rapid response mechanism allowing the Organization to go to the scene of a disaster, at the request of the state affected, to coordinate aid and interact with the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as appropriate, as well as with specialized and local teams.

9. To express its interest in greater coordination of actions between the White Helmets Initiative and the organs, agencies, entities, and mechanisms of the OAS competent in the field of responses to natural disasters and the fight against hunger and poverty, as well as other relevant international agencies.

10. To instruct the Permanent Council to foster discussion of the need to update existing regulatory and coordination mechanisms and to adapt them to the new circumstances and complexities of disasters, to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015; and to the principles of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

11. To urge member states to promote debate on disaster prevention management, to facilitate analysis of possible mechanisms for working together with regional agencies, and to include participation by the community and its organizations in the diagnostic assessment of their problems and, above all, in developing prevention and response tools.

12. To urge member states to allocate resources to domestic disaster reduction management and to enhance cooperation with regional agencies where appropriate.

13. To request the General Secretariat to report to the General Assembly at its fortieth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.