Iran will host the first regional seismic risk reduction center

Three and half year after the Bam earthquake of 26 December 2003 which killed more than 26,000 people, Iran will host a specialized Regional Collaborative Center on seismic risk reduction.

The creation of the Center was decided following the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Kobe, Japan, in January 2005 and will be launched in Teheran, on 9 May 2007 in presence of officials of the Iranian Government, diplomatic missions and representatives of some regional and international organizations, including UN agencies present in Iran.

Prior to launching the Center in Tehran, Mr. Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the Minister of Interior of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Mr. Salvano Briceño, Director of UN/ISDR will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on mutual cooperation on disaster risk reduction.

The Center will focus on Asia and the Pacific Region but will also promote collaboration on seismic risk reduction with other regions. The Center among other functions will enhance the exchange of information, knowledge and expertise, research and training on seismic risk reduction among governments and institutions of the region.

The South, West and Central Asia are among the most earthquake-prone regions in the world. Earthquakes represent 73 per cent of the death tolls and 51 per cent of economic damages caused by disasters due to natural hazards. The region also suffers from other types of natural hazards such as floods, drought and landslides.

"Although earthquake can not be prevented, says Salvano Briceño, Director of the UN/ISDR secretariat, negative impacts of earthquake can be minimized by reducing risks and vulnerability through effective use of expertise and information technology. The region has a lot of knowledge and experience in seismic risk assessment that can be shared and can contribute to reduce the vulnerabilities of many populations."

The Center will encourage regional and inter-regional networking and partnerships and will assist governments to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action, a 10 years plan approved in Kobe, Japan by 168 governments in 2005 to make nations and communities more resilient to disasters. It will provide training, enhance awareness among authorities, managers and experts and improve the capacities of the region to deal with disasters. The training will help building a culture of safety, improving construction standards and the quality of urban planning, developing appropriate early warning systems and enhancing disaster management.

"Disasters do not recognize conventional borders and there is a need for such mechanisms for regional cooperation on disaster risk reduction more than ever, says Mostafa Mohaghegh, UN/ISDR Regional Coordinator for West Asia and North Africa in UN/ISDR, who was coordinating international assistance during Bam emergency operations. Such Center can contribute to longer term disaster risk reduction and prevention effectively, in addition to emergency response to disasters."

The Government of Iran has provided all the necessary resources for the establishment of the Center, and UN/ISDR and other relevant regional and international organizations will support the Center through various ways and means.

"The development of the Asian Center is taking place in Iran considering the valuable experience and capacities that Iran has gained through its disaster management and risk reduction over decades, explained Salvano Briceño. We hope that the Center will be fully operational as soon as possible and based on a comprehensive plan of action which will be developed jointly by the Government of Iran and the UN/ISDR secretariat."

The launch of the Asian Center on Seismic Risk Reduction is coinciding with the 5th International Conference on Seismology and Earthquake Engineering (SEE5) in Tehran, 13-16 May 2007 which is another important event in the field of seismic risk reduction that will contribute to the expansion and promotion of the Center's activities.

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