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The ITU/ESCAP Regional Workshop on Disaster Communications
Summary and Recommendations
The ITU/ESCAP Regional Workshop on Disaster Communications was held on 12-15 December 2006, at the United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting was attended by 135 participants from government, non-governmental organizations, and companies from 32 countries. Representatives of ITU, ESCAP, ISDR, OCHA, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, WFP APT, PIFS, and PITA, and WMO also participated in the meeting, as did representatives of IFRC, TSF, ABU, and APSCC. The objectives of the meeting were to:
- To update on-going activities related to disaster communications through country presentations and/or reports;
- To identify suitable technologies, features and technical options for disaster communications;
- To enhance institutional and human capacity on utilizing telecommunications for disaster management through case studies, lessons learned, and experiences from other countries;
- To promote the importance of the Tampere Convention; and,
- To explore possible regional cooperation mechanisms for sharing information and practices, and for international response to major disasters.
The participants expressed their appreciation to ITU and ESCAP for their roles in organizing, supporting, and hosting the meeting. They also expressed their appreciation to the providers of financial support for the meeting, namely the Governments of Australia and China, Ericsson & RS.
The workshop included 57 presentations in ten symposium-discussion sessions, plus two workshop sessions. Participants discussed the situations, concerns, and offers of cooperation from Asian countries, Pacific countries, international, intergovernmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations in a wide range of aspects of disaster risk assessment, planning, mitigation, early warning, response, and reconstruction. Many organizations have made progress toward developing policies, programmes, and procedures in disaster management, but no organization had fully completed its task to its satisfaction. Participants noted that there is a need to have a complete understanding of all the options, officially agreed-to standards, and procedures involved in comprehensive disaster communications. Common issues included inadequate or incomplete funding, other resources (including personnel), and results from their efforts to date.
The meeting agreed that, no matter what may be done at the national or local level, international cooperation at subregional, regional and/or global scales, at technical, policy, institutional, or programmatic levels can strengthen the ability of all (public or private) stakeholders to improve the lives and security of peoples and communities, with respect to disasters.
The meeting further agreed that a formalized international cooperative mechanism/institution in disaster management communications could help all stakeholders to make improved progress in serving their stakeholders in this arena. They agreed that benefits from an effective regional cooperation organization would far outweigh the fair costs of participation.
A consensus was reached that everyone currently active in the broadest aspects of disaster management communications should be made to feel welcome to positively contribute within the umbrella of such a mechanism/institution.
Several companies, organizations and governmental bodies offered specific and general support toward such an end. All participants offered to help as their resources might permit, and hoped to gain capacity from shared resources under such an umbrella.
The meeting expressed its hope that ITU, ESCAP, and others could help support the establishment of such an organization, including supporting a virtual working environment such as a Wiki and/or Web forum.
The meeting adopted the following seven recommendations.
- A cooperation platform should be formalized shortly after the workshop involving the different players in providing telecommunications and ICTs for disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region. Players include member states as well as related regional organizations such as ABU, APT, PIFS, PITA, SOPAC, in addition to UN and its agencies, inter alia ESCAP, ITU, UNICEF, WFP, and WMO, NGOs, and industry representatives.
- This cooperation platform should not rely solely on physical meetings but adopt electronic working methods.
The meeting welcomed NECTEC/INET's offer to help putting together the web-based tool for the group's online discussions.
- The first task of this cooperation platform will be to document existing resources in support of telecommunications and ICT for disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region, considering among others:
a. The experience reported by the various countries in this workshop;
b. The experience reported by different UN agencies in organizing disaster preparedness and relief operations;
c. The experience reported by various NGOs in organizing disaster preparedness and relief operations;
d. Already available resources on the Internet;
e. A inventory of active governmental authorities in disaster management, and in disaster communications management.
- This platform will support efforts by OCHA, ITU and others for promoting the adoption of the Tampere Convention.
- It was recognized that many countries need and will benefit from assistance in organizing their National Disaster Communications Plans. This platform will endeavor to provide tools to assist in this direction.
- Telecommunication is recognized as a key component to facilitate disaster management. Robust infrastructures should build upon already existing systems, such as over-the-air radio and TV broadcasts, internet, amateur radio, and land, satellite and mobile communications. Backup communications components should also be considered. These dimensions should be fully integrated into the National Disaster Communications Plans.
- Ensure that the "physical" and "content" aspects of disaster communications are both encompassed
คำแนะนำที่ 6 กับ 7 มาจากคณะผู้แทนไทย
คำแนะนำที่ 6 นั้นกล่าวถึงการสื่อสารทุกช่องทาง เพื่อให้เข้าถึงประชาชนในเขตที่คาดว่าจะเกิดภัยพิบัติ ตลอดจนแผนจัดการภัยพิบัติแห่งชาติ ซึ่งเป็นเรื่องที่ต้องเตรียมการล่วงหน้า และปฏิบัติอย่างจริงจัง
ส่วนคำแนะนำที่ 7 ชี้ให้เห็นว่านอกจากระบบสื่อสารในช่วงที่เกิดภัยพิบัติ (physical) แล้ว ยังมีเรื่องของข้อความ (content) ซึ่งแก่นแท้ของการสื่อสารในช่วงที่เกิดภัยพิบัตินั้น ไม่ใช่เพียงความสามารถที่จะสื่อสารได้ หากแต่เป็นความหมายของข้อความที่สื่อออกไป ซึ่งจะต้องมีลักษณะที่ชัดเจน ไม่กำกวม เข้าใจตรงกันทั้งผู้ส่งและผู้รับ และเมื่อส่งออกไปแล้ว สามารถรับได้อย่างถูกต้อง เป็นได้มากกว่าการสื่อสารด้วยเสียง หรือภาพ เพื่อประโยชน์ของผู้ประสบภัย
TECHNOLOGIES / NATURAL DISASTERS
Call to improve aid relief efforts
The government has been urged to put into place a "meaningful and unambiguous" disaster communication system so that relief efforts could be precise and effective.
Trin Tantsetthi, a member of the Campaign for Open Source in Thailand (COST) and CEO of Internet Thailand Plc, said the essence of disaster communications was to have meaningful ways of communication; not only an ability to communicate in the event of a disaster but also unambiguous communications.
"To achieve that goal, we need collaboration of two layers: physical and logical," Mr Trin said at a recent regional workshop on disaster communications, jointly organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) in Bangkok.
"The physical layer is where the most appropriated or multiple technologies are deployed in the field to ensure smooth relief operations for the benefit of disaster victims," said Mr Trin.
"The logical layer is to make sure that collaboration is done in an effective manner, insightful, and that pledges and demands do match and are delivered in a timely manner," he said.
He also called on the government to consider having effective disaster communications as a national agenda.
Meanwhile, Smith Dharmasaroja, chairman of the National Disaster Warning Centre, conceded Thailand might have good data on disaster but its system of disaster communications was still far from perfect.
"Currently, Thailand still relies on broadcast system, which is not enough for mitigation and evacuation. The centre has designed a multi-purpose communications gear to send SMS, fax, and internet messages via the satellite system, but this government seems not to be interested to pursue the plan," said Mr Smith.
He said the warning centre was internationally praised but not nationally admired. "If being set up as a legal entity, the centre will be able to function properly integrating technicians and personnel from related agencies including irrigation, meteorological and disaster relief departments."
The centre has finished installing 80 tsunami early-warning towers in six southern provinces along the Andaman coastline. The installation of another 48 towers in provinces along coastal provinces in the Gulf of Thailand should be finished by February.
The last phase to be carried out in disaster-prone areas in the remaining 57 provinces faced uncertainty as Deputy Prime Ministers M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula and Kosit Panpiemras remained silent on Mr Smith's request to go ahead with the available budget for the installations.
Mr Smith said that without a warning system, many provinces, which remained unprepared, would suffer severe flooding as well as human casualties.
The three-day regional workshop aimed at providing guidance on technical, policy and institutional issues in the development of networks, systems and possible regional cooperation mechanisms for communications supporting disaster management with emphasis on emergency situations for the countries in Asia and the Pacific, especially the least developed countries, developing countries, as well as small developing islands.
The participants, including Thailand, were also urged to ratify the Tampere Convention on Disaster Communications, which called on signatories to end excessive import duties and to minimise administrative and political barriers that could prevent or delay the swift provision across national borders of emergency telecommunications that might be used in locating disaster victims or assisting in the movement of food, medicine and other vital supplies.