Thirty years ago today, GeoHazards International first opened its doors. It’s extraordinary to reflect on the journey and accomplishments since then. Supporters like you have been a part of this.
The motivation behind our founding remains pressing, and if anything, is even more urgent. Disaster risk is growing faster than it's being tackled and we now face a climate crisis. Addressing the inequities of disaster impacts still defines who we are.
The world needs a paradigm shift, with much more emphasis on proactive measures rather than simply being reactive. Our founder Brian Tucker was championing such an approach 30 years ago. One that focuses on saving lives when it's most effective—before disaster strikes.
“Mitigation is the best work. It may not get the funding and attention it deserves, but let us keep our shoulders to the wheel and keep at it.”
- Hari Kumar, GHI Regional Coordinator for South Asia
What have we learned?
Emphasize people and their networks. Who makes decisions, who is influential? Which sources do people trust? What local networks and strengths can be leveraged? They need to be a key part of any effort. Ultimately, it's people who determine if a solution can be trusted and will be used in the long run.
Answering call-in questions about earthquakes and landslides on a popular local radio show (Deputy Mayor of Amargadhi Municipality at left), Nepal.
Engage diverse voices. Who should be part of discussions from the beginning and throughout, while decisions are made? How do needs differ in the community? These questions are important to ask from the beginning, because disasters are not the same for everyone. We know from experience that solutions endure and multiply when communities own the process.
Disaster-themed slam contest for youth, Haiti. Nearly half of Haiti's population is under the age of 20, their networks often overlooked.
Embed “learn by doing” into everything. The opportunity to apply new skills can build local knowledge and the experience of collaborating on challenges. A first step is to understand not only vulnerabilities and constraints, but also local strengths. In most communities where we work, adaptation is a practiced art and improvisation is an asset.
Carpenters and welders “learn by doing” to precisely mass produce school Earthquake Desks, designed to withstand falling debris from above, Bhutan. Photo credit: Ido Bruno.
Build a team across disciplines, with local, national, and international experts. Together, they can envision a different future and solve problems creatively. This is collaboration at its best. Local experts know their community well, and outside technical advisors bring practical experience from tackling similar challenges.
Government officials and technical experts review landslide hazard maps for enforcing new site development regulations, Aizawl, India.
Keep learning. Are there more effective ways to explain risk and motivate action? Our learning continues, and we continue to advance our practice. For example, advancing the use of scenarios so that they lead to new policy and resilience efforts is the topic of a current research project.
Comprehensive training, including materials developed in Braille, for earthquake and fire safety at Muenseling Institute for the Visually Impaired, Bhutan.
Cultivate trust. Resilience is local and a long-term process. It requires steady action on the ground. Our team members, native to places where we work, invest in local relationships that have transformed our impact.
Our path forward
I am inspired and energized by our team, now working in six countries. Their diverse perspectives—geographic, linguistic, cultural, and by education and work experience—is our greatest strength.
Our aim is a vibrant future for all, in which people are protected and prepared ahead of natural hazard events and climate impacts. Please join me in raising a toast today to our team, and to you, who make this work possible.
Veronica Cedillos, President & CEO
Bhutan · Dominican Republic · Haiti · India · Nepal · U.S.A.
P.S. Our plenary session at the 2021 Natural Hazards Center Workshop, "Sustainability—Harnessing Local Capacity and Context to Advance Risk Reduction Efforts," is on YouTube. Hear from eight of our staff members about their work in Haiti, Nepal, Dominican Republic, India, and Bhutan.