Early warning for all

The success of early warning systems in saving lives and livelihoods needs to 'travel the last mile' to the world's most exposed and vulnerable communities (Photo: UNISDR)
By Andy McElroy

CANCUN, Mexico, 24 May 2017 – Advances in early warning systems and disaster risk awareness have saved tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

However, care must be taken to ensure that all people and sectors benefit and that the development of such systems does not create new divides between haves and have-nots.

Mr. David Edgar Tonoyan, Minister of Emergency Situations, Armenia, told the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that increased cooperation and investment could combine to ensure an inclusive approach that benefits all stakeholders.

“We are living in a world of science, innovation and technology, which offers great opportunities to understand what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow in terms of disaster risk,” the Minister said.

“Multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information are very important components for effective disaster risk management.”

Minister Tonoyan was delivering the Chair’s opening remarks at the ‘Special Session: Availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information’. The session summarized the outcomes of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning Conference held earlier at the Global Platform.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that climate change and rising temperatures were accompanied by more intense and extreme weather events. He cited recent floods in Peru, Colombia and Canada as examples.

“All of these events undermine sustainable development,” he said. “We need national hazard centers to address meteorological, hydrological, oceanic, air quality, seismic and volcanic risk all together.

“We need scientists, operational players, government authorities, public-private partnerships, those who communicate with the general public and local communities. It means jumping out of the comfort zones of our own expertise and thinking out of the box. By working together we can learn together.”

Mr. Elliot Jacks of the US National Weather Service said ‘it was travelling the last mile that really matters’ so that timely, meaningful, and actionable warnings reach and are then used by exposed and vulnerable communities.

Ms. Molly Nielson, Principal Disaster Management Officer, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa, said the Pacific Island nation was developing a multi-hazard warning system that also drew on traditional knowledge. It forms part of a comprehensive disaster risk management programme that has been rolled out in 362 villages.

The session also heard that to be effective, early warning systems need to be grounded in the experiences of people who are most at risk. The inclusion of women, youth, and other vulnerable groups is essential in all aspects of decision making and design.

Target (g) of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year global agreement adopted in 2015, seeks to ‘substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030’.

Minister Tonoyan was supported by two co-chairs: Mr. Gautier Mignot, Director, Sustainable Development, Ministry of Interior, France, and Ms. Sharon Baghwan Rolls, Coordinator of the FemLINKPACIFIC, Fiji.

France, along with the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), WMO, and UNISDR, launched the Climate Risk Early Warning System (CREWS) Initiative in 2015. It aims to finance weather stations, radar facilities, and early warning systems in poor and vulnerable countries where weather data is unreliable or lacking.

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015.
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