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Managing information efficiently – a key to reduce disaster risk and build resilience

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New Delhi, 17 April 2014 – Brought together by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), more than 30 experts on disaster management drawn from across South and South-West Asia adopted an action plan to fill the gap in information supply chains and enhance the capacity of Governments to use information more efficiently in reducing disaster risk and building resilience in the subregion.

“Bridging the ‘information deficit’ is a prerequisite in disaster risk management. Those countries that have better information infrastructure and efficient early warning systems in place are well prepared and more resilient,” stated Dr. Shamika Sirimanne, Director, ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, ESCAP in her opening remarks. “South-South and regional cooperation are important enabling mechanisms for sharing risk information and building capacity,” said Dr. Sirimanne.

H.E. Dr. Seyed Hamid Pourmohammadi, Deputy Vice President, Vice Presidency for Strategic Planning and Supervision, Islamic Republic of Iran who inaugurated the meeting described how Iran had put in place a comprehensive framework for disaster risk management with well-organized databases, information systems and national spatial data infrastructure. He said, “The trend in number of casualties and damages due to natural hazards has been on the increase… The establishment of the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management in Tehran, following an ESCAP Resolution adopted in May 2011, is an effort to harness the region’s vast reservoir of information and knowledge and to fill the existing capacity gaps in access to and use of information more efficiently for disaster risk management”.,

India has adopted a holistic approach that encompasses all facets of disaster risk management including capacity building, risk assessment and early warning, community preparedness, response as well as post-disaster reconstruction, stated H.E. Dr Shailesh Nayak, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Earth Sciences. He added, “The building of effective resilience to natural hazards therefore needs to be addressed at three levels - global or earth system; social system comprising infrastructure, industry and governance structure; and human system or people. We need to link the earth system with the social and human systems to attain resilience… In this connection, there is a strong need to coordinate among all countries in the region to build observational systems and standards for database, update, data exchange and networking”.

Disaster risk in South and South-West Asia is not only disproportionately high, but is also compounded by the seismic and hydro-meteorological hazards such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, drought and tsunami that can strike many countries at a time.

The shared disaster risk cannot be mitigated unless an uninterrupted flow of information and knowledge occurs, coupled with effective collaboration and partnership mechanisms among countries. “While the subregion is endowed with various cooperation frameworks such as BIMSTEC, ECO and SAARC in the area of disaster risk management, increasingly high disaster risk and low capacity continue to be a major constraining factor. As the subregion has the highest mortality risk of all subregions in Asia-Pacific and the shared economic costs of disasters is rising, solutions should be evolved jointly, based on this shared vulnerability,” underscored Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director, ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office, stressing the value of sharing information and good practices and harnessing regional cooperation in this area.

The Expert Group Meeting, which concludes today, brought together experts from all South and South-West Asian countries, along with representatives from intergovernmental organizations and the UN system agencies to review, discuss and adopt the programme of work that the Asian and Pacific centre for the development of disaster information management has proposed to embark upon towards enhancing the capacity to manage disaster information in South and South-West Asia. The EGM was organized jointly by the ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division of ESCAP and the ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office, based in New Delhi.