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International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning

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Second International Conference on Early Warning (EWC-II)
 Primary outcome  documents
 Conference report
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Summary of the Second International Conference
on Early Warning (EWC II)

The impacts across the globe of extreme natural events such as floods and droughts and storms are enormous, and are a serious handicap to the advancement of struggling developing societies. Too often, those at risk do not have proper early warning of the events and are not well equipped to respond to warning information that is available.

Against this background, the Second International Conference on Early Warning (EWC II) was organized in Bonn, Germany, from 16-18 October 2003, in order to stimulate an enhanced awareness and commitment by policy makers to reduce the negative impact of disasters through better early warning systems. It aimed to build on the solid background of knowledge generated by the first Early Warning Conference (EWC’98), held in Potsdam, Germany.

It is widely recognized that disaster reduction measures have to be integrated into sustainable development policies and plans of action, across the social, economic and environmental dimensions, and at all levels of society. Early warnings have repeatedly been identified as an essential element of disaster reduction strategies and of other critical development agendas.

The high level of interest in the Conference, which was held in the Internationales Kongresszentrum Bundeshaus, Bonn, was demonstrated by active participation of government ministers and officials from thirteen countries, representatives of UN and other multilateral organizations, development assistance agencies, technical and research institutions and non-governmental organizations – over 400 participants in all.

The event provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between the different constituencies concerned with early warning - policy makers, local authorities managers, scientists and NGO activists. On everyone’s mind was the pressing question of how to more effectively translate the accepted principles on early warning that were set out at the Potsdam conference into action-oriented modalities, and how to integrate early warning into public policy as a core component of local, national, regional and international disaster reduction strategies.

The conference deliberations were structured to provide for interaction and the generation of practical guidance and recommendations for future action. Sessions were held on good practices in early warning and on emerging issues. Panel discussions looked at solutions for integrating early warning into public policy; at linking new technologies and low-technology solutions for early warning systems; at the responsibilities of policy makers in the context of early warning and urban risks; and at early warning as a decision tool for emergency management. Additional sessions were also held to discuss flooding, the use of hazard maps for effective early warning, integrated approaches to reduce societal vulnerability to droughts, the implementation of trans-boundary early warning systems for floods, and new technologies and scientific networks.

Many valuable, well-informed recommendations were made, and these were collated and distilled into the conference outcome document “Effective Early Warning to Reduce Disasters: The Need for More Coherent International Action.” As is indicated by the title of this document, a key recommendation was that a more sustained international effort was required. There was a sense that insufficient progress had been made in implementing early warning systems since the Potsdam conference and that this was partly a result of inadequate dialogue and activity at the international level. Participants strongly voiced the need to maintain the momentum initiated in Potsdam and Bonn, in order to facilitate, sustain and further nurture efforts by all to make early warnings more effective.

Of course this is not an easy task. Fostering international efforts, getting people to work together who are not accustomed to, raising political awareness, developing good supporting information, and building enduring commitment are long term efforts. Encouragingly, the Government of Germany expressed its interest to support such efforts under the auspices of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), and this has led to the establishment of the early warning platform.

Little can be achieved toward these ends without the motivation and input of the many institutions, agencies, regional, national and international involved in this field. The main benefit of the EWC II has been the commitment and interest of the wide array of participants to participate in future sustained efforts to strengthen early warning systems where they are most needed.