By David Singh
GENEVA, 23 February 2012
- A Business Forum featured for the first time at today's opening in Geneva of the biennial Private Public Partnership event, PPP Days 2012.
"This is an opportunity for national and regional governments to present their projects to the business community," said Geoffrey Hamilton, Chief, Partnerships and Cooperation Section, Economic Cooperation and Integration Division of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as he opened the special session on Japan and the role of PPPs in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and post disaster reconstruction.
PPP Days 2012, jointly hosted by the UNECE, World Bank Institute, and Asian Development Bank is the global meeting place for public sector practitioners. Since 2006, PPP Days has become the place for practitioners to network and learn from peers and counterparts from other countries.
In the keynote address, UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, said "Private sector involvement in risk reduction is far too small. By 2015 and in the lead-up to determine a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action [the 10 year international blueprint for disaster risk reduction], I would like to see the private sector step up in both the discussions and the contributions. The knowledge and evidence to reduce disaster risks are here -- the question is what is the PPP doing?"
At the opening session, Japan's Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva, Kenichi Suganuma, said that the outcome of "today's discussions must be used in future reconstruction plans, stressing that private sector knowledge and initiatives help national efforts and stimulate the economy". He recalled that during the relief period following the Great East Japan earthquake last year, over 44,000 convenience stores became community lifelines "as important as electricity and water services".
Ambassador Suganuma highlighted the amendment of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was passed in May last year which now enables use of private sector expertise and capital instead of government expenditure to facilitate the restoration of public infrastructure and services after disasters.
Sandra Wu Wen-Hsiu, President and CEO of Kokusai Kyogo Holding Co, Ltd., and member of UNISDR's Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), said her company, which provides engineering and consulting services has "been involved with government infrastructure projects from our beginnings 65 years ago, and this of course includes disaster preparedness planning."
Explaining how that worked she said that during a disaster, "Many of you in the public sector might think that the amount of time necessary to meet procurement regulations makes it all but impossible to call upon the private sector in a timely manner when a disaster occurs. In Japan, we have gotten around this through a system called emergency agreements, where services to be provided are agreed upon prior to the occurrence of an emergency. These are standing agreements that kick in when there is a disaster."
Peter Williams, Chief Technology Officer for the IBM programme, "Big Green Innovations", and also a member of the PSAG, highlighted floods as a major issue for IBM. "For any given flood prone location, how can we create a global community platform that enables better understanding of the complex causes behind the risk of flood impact -- the better to support the decisions, and also the education and communication, needed to mitigate that risk before, during and after the flood itself?" he asked.
IBM is working on a Global Flood Model (GFM) which will assess flood risks and devise long-term mitigation strategies such as land use changes and infrastructure improvements, according to Williams. This model, due to be launched in March, will "comprise an integrated set of modules, each composed of models and data. For each module there are two core elements: a specification, and a live 'reference version' (a worked example). Users will be able to work with the reference version, or substitute their own models and data."
The business model is derived from open source software and the specifications and reference version of the GFM will be licensed free for non-profit usage. The GFM is proposed by Willis Ltd, the UK Met Office, Esri, Deltares and IBM who are all committing substantial pro-bono resources to the initiative. They are looking for donor funding "to confirm the feasibility of the concept, to create the GFM organization, and to commence the process of building the GFM."