A century of managing risk and strengthening societies in Latin America

The Latin American continent with a population of 600 million people offers immense opportunities for economic development –but growth goes hand in hand with risk preparedness, as large regions are regularly exposed to natural catastrophes.

Swiss Re’s engagement in Latin America began in the early 20th century, as reinsurers sought to spread their risk internationally across different regions and risk categories. When Swiss Re director Plinio Pessina came back from a trip there in the late 1930s he said “This is a region that will merit special attention!”

For exactly a century Swiss Re has played a vital role in helping to maintain efficient, fair and stable insurance markets in Latin America, which, in turn, have aided the economic development of the region. On numerous occasions, the company has provided funds that have contributed to recovery and reconstruction efforts following natural catastrophes. And we are proud to continue to play our part in protecting Latin America’s unique cultures and societies.

Our ongoing commitment to the region takes many forms, one of which is our participation in the World Economic Forum’s summit on Latin America in Rio 27 –29 April, where we focus on disaster risk management, and discuss solutions for how governments and re/insurers can work together to develop effective risk strategies. In the wake of the devastating floods outside of Rio earlier this year, we examined flood risk in Brazil. We noted that although the country has traditionally been regarded as a safe zone in terms of natural disasters, flood risk is now on the rise.

In this context, integrated financial risk management approaches are becoming more and more important to the public sector. Both Swiss Re and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) strongly believe that new forms of public-private partnerships are being established that can help countries to take active steps to mitigate risk and better absorb the financial consequences of catastrophic events. It is therefore our pleasure to offer a special edition of IDB's technical note on “Natural Disasters Financial Risk Management”, which when paired with Swiss Re’s publication on public-private partnerships “Closing the Financial Gap”, provides concrete guidance to making societies more resilient in the face of disaster.

Besides our many business activities, Swiss Re is also involved in humanitarian projects in Latin and Central America: We collaborate with organisations like the Red Cross and the Swiss Development Agency to advise and support some of the more vulnerable communities on steps to take to become more resilient to shocks and disasters.

Risk transfer is an essential element of growth and progress, and re/insurance has an important role to play in the creation of stable and sustainable societies. As we embark on our second century in Latin America, the ability to make a difference has never seemed more promising.

Published 27 April 2011

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