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Germany’s Global Fire Monitoring Centre Receives
United Nations Sasakawa Award For Disaster Reduction

7 October 2002

The United Nations has awarded the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction to the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), Fire Ecology Research Group, Max Planck Institute of Freiburg University, Germany, for its outstanding work in the field of wildfire prevention.

The award will be presented to the GFMC at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction on 10 October 2001. The ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. in room XVI.

The main activities of the GFMC are the application of early warning systems for wildland fires, especially as part of its activities in the assistance to developing countries in building capacity in fire prevention and fire management systems.

Since its creation in 1998, the GFMC has been working with the international community to reduce the socio-economic impact of wildfires worldwide through the introduction of scientific and technical innovations for improved forecasting and early warning systems. The GFMC has also contributed to increased awareness on wildfire reduction mechanisms through the organization of international seminars and “National Round-Tables on Fire Management”. The involvement of local communities in the implementation of GFMC’s fire management projects, in particular former fire-fighters, have been significant for their success in the field.

The GFMC played a major role in mitigating the smoke crisis in South East Asia in the late nineties, and recently supported the Government of Ethiopia in managing a large scale fire disaster. Its echo with national governments, in particular in developing countries, is gaining weight, leading sometimes, as in the case of Indonesia, to the creation of governmental institutions such as the Indonesian Research Institute for Climate, Environment and Society. The GFMC has also contributed to setting up a Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) approach in involving commercial enterprises and suppliers in disaster management, thereby widening the range of actors involved in disaster management, in particular wildfire reduction.

Dr. Johann Goldammer, Director of the GFMC and leader of the UN’s Team of Specialists on Forest Fires, will receive the award on behalf of the GFMC from pupils of the International School of Geneva who are currently learning about natural disasters. A debate in the presence of disaster reduction specialists from Costa Rica, France and Nepal among others countries will also take place in the presence of students in the field.

The Jury also selected the Institute of Volcanology (PHIVOLCS) in Manila, the Philippines, as well as Mr. Brian Ward, one of the founding fathers of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) in Bangkok, Thailand, and Professor Isaac Nyambok, from Nairobi, Kenya, as recipients of Certificates of Distinction, thereby paying tribute to their active involvement and contribution to disaster reduction in their respective fields of activity. The National Society of Earthquake Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal, the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia (ONEMI), from Chile, the Comisión Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO), Tegucigalpa, Honduras as well as the Nyos-Monoun Degassing Programme Advisory Committee, from Yaoundé, Cameroon were also selected by the Jury to receive a Certificate of Merit.

Every year, on the second Wednesday of October, the international community celebrates the International Day for Disaster Reduction through events worldwide destined to give concrete examples on the measures which can be taken to reduce the negative impacts of natural disasters on vulnerable communities. The celebration of the Day is the culmination of the World Disaster Reduction Campaign the UN organizes on a different theme every year. This year, the campaign’s theme is “Countering Disasters; Targeting Vulnerability”, with three sub-themes, namely “The Role of Science and Technology in Disaster Reduction”, “Building Disaster Resistant Infrastructures”, and “Mobilizing Local Communities in Reducing Disasters”.

The field of Natural Disaster Reduction encompasses all the measures which can be taken before disaster strikes. These range from disaster prevention (avoiding the disaster all together) to disaster mitigation (alleviating the impacts of the disaster) to disaster preparedness (the last step of preparatory measures before disasters strike).

As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s message on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, “..peoples of the world have begun to demand longer-term solutions in the wake of disasters affecting their communities rather than rely solely on humanitarian assistance. A large number of UN agencies and organizations such as WMO, UNDP, UNEP, WHO, PAHO (Pan American Health Organization - WHO) UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and others, together with regional organizations and major NGOs are committed to collaborate within the ISDR framework and join forces to bring together the multiple facets of disaster reduction. In addition, the international community needs to bring people and their expertise together and thus enable solutions to be found, especially for those most in need.”

Many countries around the world, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, local community groups and UN agencies participate actively in the 2001 ISDR awareness raising campaign. In Tonga, for example, events during an entire week have been organized to inform the population on how to better protect itself from natural disasters. In France, pupils, nationwide, are participating in a risk mapping context organized by the UN, an exercise destined to identify vulnerable communities. In India, Thailand and many counties in Central and Latin America, exhibits, seminars and children’s activities have been organized so as to highlight disaster reduction.

For more information on the above, please contact the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat, Ms Nicole Appel, Public Awareness Officer, tel 4122 917 97 06, fax 4122 917 98 90, email: appeln@un.org www.unisdr.org For more information on GFMC,
please visit http://www.ruf.uni-freiburg.de/fireglobe/