UNISDR Director Mr. Adam Boulokos speaking on ICTs and the Sendai Framework at the Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (Photo: ITU/R. Moodady)
By Berta Acero
KUWAIT CITY, 26 January 2015 - The "2nd Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-2016): SAVING LIVES" opened here today to discuss strategies on how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) can help reduce mortality from disasters, a key target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted by the international community in March 2015.
“This Forum is all about bringing thought-leaders under one roof to find a way of mobilizing new technologies to not only save lives, but improve people’s lives,” said International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General, Mr Houlin Zhao, during the Opening.
“ITU’s vision to provide first responders, Governments, entities involved in disaster management and victims with appropriate, timely and reliable telecommunications resources will continue to grow,” he said.
Delegates at GET-16 include government ministers, and representatives from regulatory authorities, disaster management agencies, stakeholders, academics, private sector, United Nations entities and non-governmental organizations, will explore the critical role of information and communication technology in disaster risk reduction from the policy, legal, technical and regulatory point of view over three days.
“We need to shift from a passive approach to a more proactive one in order to become resilient”, said Eng. Hameed H. Al-Qattan, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Communications in Kuwait. “When a disaster strikes it is particularly difficult for people living in rural and remote areas, where access to information and technology is a challenge. Therefore, it is important to strengthen early warning systems and awareness raising in order to reduce the loss in human lives,” he said.
Experiences from all over the world have proven that disaster prevention and preparedness, enabled by communication and space technologies, can be far more effective and less costly than ever before.
“ICTs are key to support effective measures in all phases of the disaster risk reduction cycle, providing risk information for a successful disaster risk management and enabling decision makers to fully understand the risk and disseminate timely risk information to at-risk communities”, Mr. Adam Bouloukos, Director of UNISDR said.
During the past decade, there has been a growing recognition of the contribution that ICTs and robotics can provide to disaster risk reduction, including satellite-based data, geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. These technologies have positively impacted the various phases of disaster management, providing relevant information about risk and vulnerability and ensuring that reliable information is available to support the right decisions.
Extreme weather events and other disaster events are taking an increasing toll, in both human and economic terms. Economic losses from disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and flooding are now reaching an average of US$250 billion to US$300 billion each year for all hazards, according to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) 2015 produced by UNISDR.
In this context, data and statistics are important in understanding the impacts and costs of disasters but even more important is to be able to provide access to reliable, accurate and real-time information before, during and after disasters strike. “This is a particular challenge for Least Developed Countries (LCDs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and landlocked countries which are most vulnerable and have the biggest need for telecommunication improvements”, Mr. Bouloukos said.
The Sendai Framework, the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, highlights the use of “information and communications technology innovations to enhance measurement tools and the collection, analysis and dissemination of data” in order to achieve an effective understanding of disaster risks.
“ICTs will play a leading role in the implementation of the Sendai Framework. We hope that from this international conference we will get concrete actions that will help countries build resilience and deepen connectivity”, concluded Mr. Bouloukos.
The GET-2016 is organized by the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) and hosted by the Government of Kuwait.