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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Director-General opens the first Global Meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Groups for Tsunami Warning Systems

Director-General opens the first Global Meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Groups for Tsunami Warning Systems
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

On 24 March 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura opened the first Global Meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Groups for Tsunami Warning Systems (GLOBAL TWS)*.

Mr Javier Valladeres, Chair of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) also addressed the opening session. The meeting was organized as a follow up to the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission‘s (IOC) 41st Executive Council to harmonize regional Intergovernmental Coordination Groups (ICGs) structures to create efficiency and facilitate exchange of knowledge and information among the ICGs.

The Director-General welcomed the participants to UNESCO Headquarters, noting that “this meeting marks an important milestone in our collective efforts to establish a global early warning system for tsunamis”. Mr Matsuura underscored the remarkable progress that has been made over the past four years, following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, a time at which the international community was inadequately prepared for a disaster of such magnitude. He noted how the disaster “demonstrated the urgent need for a global strategy to protect the world against tsunamis”.

Mr Matsuura went on to highlight that UNESCO’s IOC had been coordinating since 1965 the only operational tsunami warning system, built for the Pacific, and that UNESCO had consistently argued that such a system should be extended to other oceans where there is a risk of tsunamis. The Director-General recalled that following the Indian Ocean tragedy, UNESCO’s call for a global warning strategy had been heard, and Member States had established new tsunami warning systems for the Indian Ocean, for the Caribbean and for the North Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas.

Mr Matsuura noted that the new systems built upon the experience of the experience of the Pacific and adopted a comprehensive approach, based on three mutually dependent components: the assessment of tsunami hazards, the detection/warning system and the adoption of preparedness measures. He went on to underscore that the new systems required “the direct and sustained involvement of all Member States, who participate both independently and as part of a regional system” and “careful coordination and harmonization across all four systems” and that “global coverage can only be ensured by agreeing and following common standards and procedures and meeting common requirement”.

The Director-General emphasized that while national governments had the primary responsibility for defining and implementing national preparedness procedures, “UNESCO has an important role to play, by working with Member States to strengthen national preparedness through the development of education and communication plans that are both scientifically based and culturally-sensitive”.

In conclusion Mr Matsuura underlined the importance of investing in tsunami warning systems even in times of economic crisis, noting that “the costs of not acting is far, far greater than the investment needed to protect people and assets from the impact of national hazards.” The Director-General concluded his remarks by noting that the meeting was an occasion to plan for the future, and that “now was the time to ensure that the necessary frameworks are in place to ensure effective coordination and sustainability”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 046-2009
  • 25-03-2009
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