The Second International Conference on Early Warning (EWC-II) took place in Bonn, Germany, from 16-18 October 2003, at the Internationales Kongresszentrum Bundeshaus
It was hosted by the Government of Germany and supported by the UN Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Over 300 participants attended, including ministers and government officials, representatives of UN and other multilateral organizations, assistance agencies, technical and research institutions and non-governmental organizations.
EWC-II built on regional consultations and workshops undertaken between May and July 2003, and served as a follow-up to the International Conference on Early Warning Systems for Natural Disaster Reduction, held in 1998 (EWC’98).
Participants at EWC-II heard statements from high-level officials, and attended a number of presentations on good practices in early warning and on emerging issues. Panel discussions were held on solutions for integrating early warning into public policy, new technologies and low-technology solutions for early warning systems, the responsibilities of policy makers in the context of early warning and urban risks, and early warning as a decision tool for emergency management.
Additional sessions were also held to discuss flooding, the use of hazard maps for effective early warning, integrated approaches to reduce societal vulnerability to droughts, integrating early warning into public policy processes, the implemention of transboundary early warning systems for floods, and new technologies and scientific networks.
Three working groups discussed elements of a future international early warning programme, on the basis of which two conference documents were drafted. One includes specific recommendations from EWC-II, and the other is the Conference Statement. The drafts were to be left open for comment for a week following the conclusion of the Conference.
Early Warning Systems For Geological Hazards: This session was chaired by Alberto Maturana, National Emergency Office, Chile.
Charley Douglas, World Organization of Volcanic Observatories, Vanuatu, described mapping, monitoring and emergency response with regard to volcanic activity in Vanuatu. He highlighted administrative arrangements and noted that the local population considers monitoring and response measures an obstacle to development, and is therefore reluctant to participate in the process.
Achmad Djumarma Wirakusumah, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Indonesia, explained that the early warning system for volcanic eruptions in Indonesia includes geological mapping, volcanic activity monitoring, awareness-raising and equipment installation.
Dario Tedesco, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(UN-OCHA), described the response to the 2002 eruption of the Nyiragongo Volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He highlighted the spontaneity of the population’s evacuation and return, the unexpected seismic and gas activity, and UN-OCHA’s response. He called for cooperation in prevention, assessment and mitigation through funds and cooperation in low- and high-technology projects.
In the ensuing discussion, participants emphasized the gap between scientific knowledge and policy making, loss of credibility of the scientific community as a result of false alarms, and the debate over responsibility for directing the public in times of crisis.
A Brief History Of Un Disaster Reduction Initiatives On Early Warning
In recent years, disaster reduction has become an increasingly important issue in the international arena.
Disasters caused by the impacts of
natural and technological hazards on vulnerable human beings represent a growing concern, due to factors such as global population growth and urbanization, a rising proportion of poor and the onset of global environmental changes, including climate change, desertification and loss of biodiversity.
The prevalent view is that disasters are increasing in number and intensity. Most policy makers and academics acknowledge that vulnerability due to poor planning, poverty and other factors contributes as much to the magnitude of disasters as do the natural hazards themselves.
Action to reduce exposure to risk from hazards is now considered necessary in order to safeguard sustainable development efforts and human lives. The development of early warning systems is a key step towards reducing this risk
(Earth Negotiations Bulletin Vol. 26 No. 01 Monday, 20 October 2003)