Timetable for a Global Tsunami Early Warning SystemTechnical experts from the Member States of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and especially those from the Indian Ocean region, will meet in Paris from March 3 to 8 to produce a draft work plan and timetable for the establishment of the Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System for the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia region.
The meeting will be opened by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who is requesting the active participation of technical experts from all of the Indian Ocean countries as well as IOC focal points in all of UNESCO’s Member States, “in order to coordinate and, if possible, harmonise the many initiatives advanced by different organizations and countries” following the December 26 catastrophe.
The participants will examine the various requirements for a warning and mitigation system, from the technology needed to organizational aspects such as procedures for information exchange and the setting up of national tsunami warning centres. They will also prepare plans for sensitizing local populations about the risk of tsunamis.
The meeting will also work on a draft design plan for a global tsunami warning system, of which the Indian Ocean system would be one component. To this end, preliminary proposals will be presented for the Caribbean and Mediterranean regions along with the Atlantic and South West Pacific. “It is UNESCO’s clear vision that all regional tsunami warning systems should come under the umbrella of the global system,” Mr Matsuura declared.
It is the first of two meetings scheduled in the coming weeks to finalize the plans the tsunami alert system. The second, which is due to be held in early April (date to be set), will seek to reach agreement with the Indian Ocean countries on policy issues related to the establishment of a tsunami alert system for the region.
The work plan, based on the results of both meetings will be presented to the IOC General Assembly in June this year for discussion and eventual adoption.
“If this timetable is respected, and I am confident that it will, a preliminary system should be in place in the Indian Ocean by June 2006,” Mr Matsuura said. “The aim is to have the global system in place by June 2007.”
Regarding the tsunami-related international response, the Director-General stressed “the importance for UNESCO of working within UN-wide processes of collaboration, in particular with such key partners as the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment program (UNEP).
The recent World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, the Director-General stated, “calls on the international community and international organizations to pursue an integrated multi-hazard approach for sustainable development to reduce the incidence and severity of disasters”. This includes proposals concerning tsunami early warning systems but also other UNESCO-led initiatives such as an international flood initiative, a “Coalition on Education” aimed at integrating diaster reduction education into school programmes and making school buildings safer; an open alliance to support earthquakle risk reduction and disaster management planning in megacities.
In the countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsuinami, the Director-General said that “we are witnessing a progressive shift from humanitarian emergency initiatives towards longer-term recovery and reconstruction efforts.” UNESCO, he said,hopes to ensure that “education, culture, environmental concerns and media development will be integrated into the reconstruction processes, especially in the most affected countries and communities.”
A B-roll and photographs are available.