By Dialogo February 02, 2010 The search for strategies to confront alarming levels of crime and prepare for natural disasters are two priority topics for the Central American Integration System (SICA) in the next five months. Since the members are convinced that both ordinary and organized crime lead to instability in the region, the topic of security was proposed by Panama, the country that holds the SICA’s rotating presidency and so sets the agenda for the period, AFP was told by the General Secretary of the joint body, Juan Daniel Alemán. “The topic of security is a topic that extends beyond the borders of the Central American isthmus, with gangs, drug trafficking, juvenile delinquency, and (the circulation) of small arms and light weapons,” in Alemán’s judgment. According to the SICA General Secretary, the member countries should be focused, on the basis of a “Democratic Security” treaty, on “preventing, fighting, and suppressing crime, as well as on rehabilitation in the framework of a culture of the rule of law.” In order to address the different effects of insecurity among Central America’s more than forty million inhabitants, the SICA believes it useful to establish a “Central American crime watch” in order to have sufficient tools to be able to make timely decisions. One of the topics of greatest concern in the region is that of gangs, which have become involved with organized crime and have acquired heavy weapons. In Mexico and Central America, principally in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, there are between 90,000 and 100,000 active gang members, the majority of them marginalized young people, many deported from the United States, according to official estimates. A study conducted by experts from the Salvadoran National Public Safety Council determined that in 2008 the economic cost of violence in Central America was 6.506 billion dollars, the equivalent of 7.7 % of the region’s GDP. With regard to disaster preparedness, the second of the Central American priorities, the aim is to establish an early-warning system that will make it possible to confront the natural phenomena that, year after year, claim lives and leave behind economic losses in the millions of dollars. According to Alemán, “anticipating” disasters in a region considered highly vulnerable requires strengthening an “early-warning” system at the Coordinating Center for Natural-Disaster Preparedness in Central America (CEPREDENAC). “What we have to do is increase the abilities of CEPREDENAC in technology and in these early warnings so that we can predict natural phenomena better and be more proactive than reactive,” he emphasized. With slightly more than 520,000 square kilometers and forty million inhabitants, Central America is located in the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” exposing it to frequent earthquakes and hurricanes, the latter especially in the Caribbean region.
Phil Keoghan Source = e-Travel Blackboard: D.M The host of long running reality TV show The Amazing Race has been appointed as Christchurch and Canterbury’s newest ambassador set to woo Australians to the “heart of the south island”. Visiting Sydney last Friday, Phil Keoghan was the ideal choice to promote the destination; after all it is his birthplace and having spent his high school years in Canterbury, he still fondly refers to it as his home region. “Australian travellers have had a love affair with New Zealand for a long time but my opportunity is to share the great experiences they can have in and around Christchurch and Canterbury region – the heart of the south island,” Mr Keoghan said.“I’ve travelled to over 100 countries and the best travel experiences are going to places with people that you love, and incredible landscapes make the experience even better.”With one million Australians visiting Christchurch and Canterbury in 2009, Mr Keoghan told guests, “If you haven’t been to the south island, you haven’t been to New Zealand”. Christchurch is gearing for a ground-breaking ski season this year, and with 18 ski areas in the region plus 95 flight direct connections, Australians are encouraged to try the Kiwi slopes.“The Amazing Race has taken me all over the world to some amazing places but there is still nothing like New Zealand. Of course Canterbury has a special place in my heart. I still get excited every time I fly into Christchurch and see the snow-capped Southern Alps, the patchwork of the Canterbury Plains, and the beautiful, unspoiled coastline,” Keoghan said.“Each time I visit I am reminded just how special this place is, but what really gives Canterbury its charm are the people who live there. To me, that’s what really determines one holiday from another and I’m very excited about sharing some of my home-grown knowledge of what Canterbury has to offer to our visitors.”Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Christine Prince said the new ambassador role is expected to drive more Australians to the region, which offers great diversity for first timers or repeat visitors.“Last year we saw one million Australians heading to New Zealand but we think we have only just begun to grow the opportunity to visit Christchurch and the Canterbury region. And with the airlines on board as well providing great access and terrific fares, we expect to see an increase in visitors from the Australian travel market.” Ms Prince said.“Phil is everything we could possibly hope for in an ambassador – he hosts a program which brings to life a range of exciting experiences – similar to those that Australian travellers can look forward to enjoying in our region. Phil also embodies the can-do attitude and fun, friendly nature of Canterbury. He loves his home and he’s prepared to tell the world about it.”For more information, visit www.christchurchnz.com