Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Key Facts
  • Countries in the region are generally middle income yet have high levels of income inequality. This causes significant pockets of vulnerability.
  • Approximately 100 natural disasters occur in the region annually. Of these, 80 per cent are weather related.
  • Six significant hurricanes and three major earthquakes have occurred in the region in the last three years.
  • Following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, the Regional Office deployed 25 per cent of its 24 staff for more than 300 combined staff days.


The Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) is based in Panama. It covers 35 countries and 23 territories and provides surge support to all countries in the region, including those with OCHA country offices (Haiti and Colombia). Despite two decades of continued democratic development and the existence of several middle-income countries, the region continues to exhibit high levels of
vulnerability due to an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

ROLAC’s response capacity is greatly enhanced by its network of national disaster-response advisers (NDRAs) who work in seven of the most disaster-prone countries: Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. NDRAs support Resident Coordinators (RCs) and the United Nations system in-country by improving emergency response and disaster-preparedness capacity.

ROLAC provides RCs with in-country training and advice on the disaster response and preparedness tools and services at their disposal. It also supports the creation and continuous training of United Nations Emergency Technical Teams, which comprise emergency specialists from United Nations agencies who support national authorities during a crisis.

At the regional level, ROLAC facilitates the work of the Regional Risk and Emergency Disaster Task Force (REDLAC), which is comparable to a regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee structure. REDLAC promotes coherence for inter-agency preparedness and response measures from the regional to the country level. The active participation of regional cluster leads in REDLAC ensures a coordinated inter-agency approach to implementing and further developing the cluster system. This work benefited the response to the disasters in Chile and Haiti in 2010.

ROLAC staff members are deployable to any emergency in the region within 24 hours. Continued training ensures that 80 per cent of ROLAC staff members, international or national, can be deployed. Immediately following the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, ROLAC staff members were deployed and led the initial OCHA response with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team. Following the Chile earthquake in February 2010, ROLAC immediately deployed four staff to support in-country international partners.

ROLAC has forged networks and partnerships with the disaster-management community throughout the region, advocating humanitarian issues through the capacity-building of governments, United Nations and NGO counterparts, and improving understanding of the respective roles of the international humanitarian system and actors. Since 2007, ROLAC has also facilitated the organization of annual Regional Humanitarian Partnership meetings with the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. These meetings bring together key stakeholders to exchange best practices and promote coordinated approaches to disaster response and preparedness.

In 2011, ROLAC will continue maintaining a highly flexible workforce. Through training, it will increase the number of staff members deployable to any emergency in the region from 80 to 100 per cent. The office will develop a more standardized approach and strategy towards supporting governments and authorities, enabling them to play a more active role as partners in international assistance. ROLAC will also enhance the use of innovation and modern technology to promote capacity-building among stakeholders and partners in the region.