Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (left) presents the Damir Cemerin Award to Erkan Samiloglu of Turkey's Ministry of Youth and Sports, watched by Mahmut Baş of fellow laureate the Directorate of Earthquake and Ground Research, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (centre right), and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak (Photo: AFAD)
By Jonathan Fowler
ISTANBUL, Turkey, 27 March 2017 – Turkey’s efforts to curb the threat of earthquakes and harness the power of youth to tackle hazards have been honoured with a pan-European award for innovative approaches to reducing disaster risk.
Turkey’s Directorate General for Education, Culture and Research at the Ministry of Youth and Sport received the Damir Cemerin Award for Local Change for its newly-formed Youth Volunteer Platform – Disaster and Emergency Volunteers.
Its fellow laureate was the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Directorate of Earthquake and Ground Research, a key player in the megacity’s drive to reduce risk.
“This award is a reminder to us all that disasters are felt most at the local level. That’s where the frontline of disaster risk is,” said Mr. Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, as he presented the awards.
“It reminds us too that increasing disaster risk reduction strategies at the local level is a key target for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan adopted in 2015 to reduce disaster losses by 2030. In fact, this particular target has a deadline of 2020 and Istanbul seems to have plenty to offer that is worth replicating in other cities and towns.”
The winners received the award at the three-day European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction. Laureates are chosen in the country at the helm of the continent-wide European Forum, which is currently chaired by Turkey.
The Youth Volunteer Platform brings together partners such as state bodies, local governments, universities and non-profit organisations. It aims to scale up public awareness of risks, mobilise response and rescue teams if disaster strikes, and speed recovery thanks to sport and other activities.
“Volunteers are vital to ensuring better preparedness for disaster response as called for in the Sendai Framework,” Mr. Glasser underlined.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Directorate of Earthquake and Ground Research, meanwhile, received the award for its data-crunching work on social vulnerability, part of the Megacity Indicator System for Disaster Risk Management, or MegaIST for short. The programme is a spin-off from a 2007-2012 project between Istanbul-based Bogazici University’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI) and Germany’s Karlsruhe University Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM).
MegaIST is a tool to communicate risk and promote discussion about local-level risk, and thereby enable disaster risk managers and decision-makers to develop appropriate strategies.
“This important programme further enhances Turkey’s reputation as a world leader in earthquake-resistant infrastructure and its impressive track record on safe schools and hospitals,” said Mr. Glasser.
Turkey is a leading light of disaster risk reduction.
It shifted wholeheartedly in the aftermath of the 1999 Marmara Earthquake from disaster response to a risk-focused approach now epitomised by the Sendai Framework, for example by retrofitting schools and hospitals to make them safe havens, and is a driving force in international efforts on that front.
The Damir Cemerin Award is named after one of the founders of the European Forum, which was set up in 2009. He died in 2013 after long service in support of disaster risk reduction in his homeland Croatia and globally.