The fifth ECO international conference on disaster risk management

Type: Meeting or Conference

Organizer(s): Economic Cooperation Organization

Date: 10-11 Nov 2010

Location: Astana (Kazakhstan)


  • Description

  • ‍Conference themes:

    - Regional launch of the Making Cities Resilient: 'My city is getting ready' world disaster reduction campaign and the 1 Million safe schools and hospitals initiative - make a pledge, save a life.

    - Current initiatives/activities on promoting school and hospital safety in ECO region - Reports by the relevant agencies/institutions: status of current levels of national investments in disaster risk reduction in general and in school and hospital safety in particular; estimating gaps for requirements of additional resources for school and hospital safety assessment.

    - Safer Cities and Seismic Risk Reduction: Safe Cities Campaign, self selection of cities for developing safe city infrastructure.

    Background information on the region’s risk profile

    The countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) region have a history of devastating disasters that have caused economic and human losses across the region. Almost all types of natural and technological hazards are present, including earthquakes, floods, landslides, mudslides, debris flows, avalanches, droughts and extreme temperatures.

    Earthquakes are the most dangerous hazard, causing destruction to human life, buildings and infrastructure alike, while also triggering secondary events such as landslides, mudslides and avalanches. This mountainous region provides compelling evidence of the destructive power of such secondary events: landslides, mudslides and debris flows caused most casualties during the earthquakes in Armenia (1988 Spitak), Azerbaijan (2000 Baku), Kazakhstan (1887, 1889, and 1911 Almaty), Kyrgyzstan (1992 Jalal-Abad), Tajikistan (1949 Khait, 1989 Gissar), Turkmenistan (1948 Ashgabat) and Uzbekistan (1966 Tashkent) to name a few.

    Climate change is expected to exacerbate disasters associated with hydro-meteorological hazards. The region is also exposed to epidemics such as bacterial infections and technological disasters including dam collapse and hazardous material release. Often these disasters transcend national borders and overwhelm the capacities of individual countries to manage them. Most countries in the region have limited financial resources and physical resilience. Furthermore, the level of preparedness and prevention varies from country to country and regional cooperation does not exist to the extent necessary. Because of this high vulnerability and the relatively small size of most of the countries, it will be more efficient and economically prudent for the countries, which traditionally have long historical links, to cooperate in the areas of climate related disaster risk assessment, common adaptation strategies, early warning, and disaster preparedness and prevention.

    Of most concern is the condition of public facilities, namely, of school and hospital buildings. School safety was given special attention at the Second Session of the Global Platform in Geneva in June 2009 attended by most of ECO member-countries (namely, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey). Moreover, it has been included by UNISDR secretariat in its Strategic Objectives (SO-3) for the coming years. In particular, it has been proposed to conduct physical assessment of ALL school buildings in the region and to provide their rough cost estimation by the end of 2011 and to finalize school retrofitting and reconstruction by the end of 2015.

    This initiative will build upon the good practices of Uzbekistan on school safety assessment and retrofitting program. This national program was announced by the Government of Uzbekistan in 2004 and successfully ended in December 2009. Almost 10,000 schools have been physically assessed, followed by retrofitting, reconstruction or, in some cases, demolition of dangerous school buildings. What is more important, Uzbekistan experience can be replicated in other countries of ECO region – at least in the countries of the former Soviet Union - as the types of buildings and building codes have been the same in all republics of the former USSR.

    The key objective facing all countries of ECO region is to accelerate implementation of HFA to halve the loss of lives from disasters by 2015. This can be achieved through increased investments, safer schools and hospitals and adapting to climate related risk.

    Hence, the ECO secretariat and the co–sponsors request participation in the Conference of focal points from Ministries of Emergency Situations/Economy/Finance/Planning/ Education/Health, and Urban Development to:
    a) provide information on the extent of investment in DRR in national budgets;
    b) identify and assess all unsafe schools and hospitals in all major cities and propose and agree on a program of action to make all schools safe by 2015
    c) assess the resilience status of major cities and their preparedness to disasters.

    General Information on the ECO region

    The ECO region comprising Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, is highly exposed to natural hazards. Seven of these countries have been listed as hotspots by the World Bank (Natural Disaster Hotspots 2005). Various disasters cause considerable human and material losses in the region. Earthquakes, floods, landslides, drought, cyclones, sandstorms and cold winters are the most frequent hazards, which result in the major losses of the life and property at the regional and national levels. These also severely impact the economies of these low and middle income countries.

    The ECO Secretariat considers the disaster risk management as an important priority. The 10th Summit of the ECO which was held in Tehran on March, 2009, emphasized the need for regional cooperation in management of natural disasters and called for effective programs, projects and initiatives for immediate response, emergency relief and rehabilitation.

    The ECO guided by instructions of the Heads of States of the member-countries, has pursued implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction with a set of coordinated actions, in particular through an annual International Conference. ECO annual conferences on disaster risk management started in collaboration with UNISDR Liaison Office to ECO in Tehran since 2007 and represent an important forum for discussion of disaster risk reduction in the ECO region. The milestone for such conferences was the workshop held in June, 2006 in Istanbul- Turkey, where the issue of school safety was main subject of the discussion. In 2007 and 2008, these conferences were held respectively, in Islamabad- Pakistan (8-10 November 2007), Tehran- Iran (7-8 October 2008) and Dushanbe-Tajikistan (7-8 October 2009).

    Since 2007, as a result of the MOU signed between ECO and UNISDR in May 2007, ECO annual conferences on disaster risk management have been held jointly UNISDR secretariat. Moreover, considering the implied organizational and financial requirements, the Government of Kazakhstan requested UNISDR secretariat Sub-Regional Office for Central Asia and Caucasus (Dushanbe) for relevant assistance for the fifth conference in Astana. UNISDR, through its presence in Central Asia (since August 2004) and its regional mandate, is providing technical, financial and organizational assistance.

    Taking into account that the utmost significance of the Conference topic – Promotion of Schools and Hospitals Safety – unanimously voted by the participants of the Fourth ECO Conference in Dushanbe, UNISDR has agreed to look into the possibility to provide the necessary assistance. Substantial financial contributions are also made by the ECO Secretariat and interested donors.

    The main objective of the conference will be to review achievements and assess the current level of national investments in disaster risk reduction in general and in school and hospital safety in particular; and to estimate gaps and requirements for additional resources for school and hospital safety assessment.

    The proposed conference presents an excellent opportunity for participating government representatives and experts to discuss the schools and hospitals safety issues among a wider group of stakeholders representing a region with similar hazards and capacities.

    It is expected that the conference will help promote the sense of urgency and realization of the importance of safety and resilience of public infrastructure among the governments of the organization. Such understanding would help inclusion of school safety in the list of priorities in the policies and strategies of the countries of ECO.