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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Director-General announces the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) will be up and running by the end of July 2006

In his address to the 39th session of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Executive Council, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, announced that the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) is now operational.

Eighteen months after the tsunami of December 2004, the entire Indian Ocean region is covered by an alert system capable of receiving and distributing tsunami advisories around the clock. “By the end of July 2006,” the Director-General said, “this initial system will be capable of […] improved and faster detection of strong, tsunamogenic earthquakes; increased precision in the location of the epi-centres and hypocentres of earthquakes […]; confirmation of the presence of a tsunami wave in the ocean after a strong earthquake; issuing a ‘tsunami watch’, ‘regional watch’ or a ‘global tsunami ocean warning’; and calling off ‘tsunami watches’ and ‘regional ‘tsunami watches.” (SEE UNESCOPress n°2006-69)

During his speech to the Members of the IOC Executive Council, meeting for the annual session, Mr Matsuura welcomed these results and invited Member States and local authorities confronted with the threat of tsunamis to continue their mobilization. “We are,” stated the Director-General, “still faced with two major challenges. First, we need to ensure that everything that has been done to date – and, more importantly, all that needs to be done from now on – is seamlessly integrated into the internationally coordinated efforts under the governance provided by the IOC. We cannot afford the risk of having a disparate array of national systems, with little or no coordination. The open and free exchange of data, and the full interoperability of national systems, is absolutely crucial for success. Second, we need to ensure that the investments in detection networks, essential for having the “upstream flow” of data needed to issue an early warning, are accompanied by a parallel long-term investment securing the “downstream flow” of information, from the warning centres to populations and communities at risk.”

Continuing his intervention Mr Matsuura underscored the major role played by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which was recognized not only within the United Nations family but also by the international community. He expressed his determination to continue the activities undertaken to enable the IOC to accomplish its mission despite budgetary difficulties. On this occasion he also highlighted the actions he took to better integrate the functioning of the IOC and highlighted the importance, to mitigate the lack of resources, of intersectoral work which should concentrate all the necessary energies on carefully established priorities. In this regard Mr Matsuura recalled the reexamination of programmes II and III currently underway with the aim of elaborating a prospective strategic framework for UNESCO’s programmes in the fields of science, in light of the Organization’s overall mandate, national and regional priorities and current international needs. He was firm on the participation of the IOC in this global reexamination.

The Director-General concluded his speech by expressing his satisfaction with the work of the IOC, which is one of two flagship programmes of the Organization ensuring important visibility. On this occasion, Mr Matsuura, expressed his special thanks to Mr Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary of the IOC and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO and announced his decision to prolong his mandate until 2009.

A question and answer session followed the speech of the Director-General, during which several members of the Council expressed their wish that the IOC receive supplemental human and financial resource in order to allow it to satisfy the needs of its ever expanding mission. They also discussed issues related to future strategic priorities.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info n°103-2006
  • 29-06-2006
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