The wrap up of “Public Awareness as a cornerstone of Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable development” 4th International Conference Discussion
“Sendai Framework for DRR, Safety Culture, Innovation and Information Technologies”
13-14, December, 2016, Yerevan, Armenia
After 28 years of Spitak Earthquake, the World still continues to analyze the lessons of devastating earthquake
On 13 December, already traditional 4th conference titled “Public Awareness as a cornerstone of Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable development” took place in Yerevan, organized by RA Ministry of Emergency Situations, under the umbrella of UNISDR and with the support of International Organizations. The Headline for the 4th Conference was “Sendai Framework for DRR, Safety Culture, Innovation and Information Technologies”
Nikolay Grigoryan, RA MES Deputy Head of Rescue Service, General-Mayor, was supervising the event.
International Organizations leadership, such as UN Agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, UNDPI, UNOCHA, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNESCO, FAO), ICRC, USAID, JICA, Oxfam, World Vision Armenia, OSCE, Armenian Red Cross Society, Aarhus Centers, NGOs, Youth organization, as well as ambassadors in Armenia, experts from UK, Japan, France, Switzerland, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia, Russia, representatives of World leading News Agencies, journalism and educational centers, RA Ministries, Regional Administrations and National Assembly attended the event.
The Conference aimed at popularizing UN strategies, which are Sendai Framework for Action, Climate Change and Adaptation and Sustainable Development Projects, to highlight the best practices of their interrelationship and implementation, emphasize the role of Public Awareness, new information technologies and knowledge in establishing prevention and security culture, and engaging all the DRR Actors.
As an outcome of the Conference, a package of recommendations on Crisis Communication and Public Awareness was developed to submit to 2017 Global Platform (May 2017, Mexico).
RA ES Deputy Minister, Haykaram Mkhitaryan, welcomed the participants of the Conference by the name of the Minister A. Yeritsyan, wishing the 4th Conference to have its significant input both in Armenia and in the World, in the process of “Sendai”, “Paris” and “Sustainable Development” ideas dissemination, popularization and implementation, as well as in the process of involvement of all the actors:
“We can see, how the number of disaster is increasing year by year, and more tragic are their consequences. In developed countries financial loses increase, but in the developing countries, making little investments, pay by human lives”, deputy Minister said.
H. Mkhitaryan mentioned, that Spitak earthquake is one of the most studied earthquakes in the World, and it became the impulse, which united the World against the disasters.
“Lessons of Spitak are in the base of our development and policies today as well.
The main reasons of the tragedy 28 years ago were the non-preparedness and incompetence. Today we have political will, Ministry containing all the necessary and important services, joint crisis communication system, DRR National Platform, Disaster Response Plans with the precise action plans and delegated responsibilities, DRR Strategy”, H. Mkhitaryan added.
H. Mkhitaryan mentioned as well, that the developments of recent 25 years; from responding culture by DRR to prevention culture, always emphasize the role and place for Public Awareness in DRR and Community and State Sustainable Development processes.
“After the adoption of Sendai Plan of Action 2015-2030, number of measures are being implemented to bring this program to life. Under the light of Sendai, we’ve assessed our needs and capacities and developed new DRM strategy and Actions. We understand clearly, that only aware and prepared population can build resilient, safe and sustainably developing country”, Mkhitaryan said.
H. Mkhitaryan emphasized the importance of Public Awareness and mentioned, that the 4th Conference is dedicated to the issues of Public Awareness. He added, that the packages of the suggestions with the first 2 conferences were presented in Sendai, and that’s why, the UN leadership persuades Armenia to continue its leading role in this filed.
“Last year we discussed the role of the Mass Media, the problems and solutions, which are common for all the corners of our Planet. This year, local and international experts, taking into consideration the lessons learnt and the best practice, will sum up and develop suggestion packages with detailed road map to submit at DRM Global Platform in Mexico next year. I hope this Conference will have its input in International Developments and in our country as well, in the process of Emergency Communication Management, and all the partners and Media involvement efficiency raising. The most important is the realizing, that after Spitak, the way to reach sustainable development should pass through Paris and Sendai. I wish interesting and productive work to all of us”, concluded H. Mkhitaryan.
In his welcoming speech, N. Grigoryan made a historical overview on the previous Yerevan Conferences, and mentioned, that suggestion packages were developed as a result of them, which were presented at important international events and initiatives. In March 2015 Sendai Conference, which was attended by representatives of 189 countries, 49 inter-governmental and 188 NGOs and more than 200 media organizations, Armenian experience and Yerevan suggestions were presented.
“The first Conference was organized in 2013, at 25th year of Spitak Earthquake, based on the lessons learnt. This lessons we repeat and fill on our skin till now.
The Spitak earthquake changed the mind of international community, and the World understood, that strategies and policies should be developed and new structures should be established. The most important lesson of Spitak is: everything starts with the awareness, which is knowledge, experience, skills and capacity. And it’s not accidental, that public awareness is in the base of all our policies and strategies: Hyogo, Sendai, Climate Change and Adaptation and Sustainable Development projects”, N. Grigoryan said.
Presenting the goals and targets of the 4th Conference, N. Grigoryan, made a historical overview on 12 capitals of historical Armenia, emphasizing, that many communities, cities and churches were destroyed not by the enemy armies, but as a result of earthquakes.
“I mentioned this data, not for frightening, but only to remind, that the earthquakes have the law of repeating, The only way to live with them and other nature phenomena, is the awareness, making the knowledge a skill and capacity, uniting the efforts and the potential of the person, the community, the state and intergovernmental organizations”, concluded N. Grigoryan,
After N. Grigoryan speech, all the participants observed a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of Spitak Earthquake.
Welcoming the participants of the event and emphasizing the importance of Yerevan Conferences, Ms Madhavi Ariyabandu, Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia and South Caucasus UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) mentioned, that the title of the 4th Conference, is very important topic in DRR field.
“Using new information technologies make possible the reduction of social infrastructure and human loses. It’s very important for the message to reach to the appropriate group of the society in such a way, which will provide the person with the opportunity to take correct steps to save himself and his loved ones. I hope this Conference will become the continuation for the discussions of topics, which we started three years ago. We have to remind, that under the light of Sendai, the interests of all the groups of the society should be taken into consideration, women, children, elderly, socially vulnerable and persons with special needs. Individual approach should be provided to each of them. Thus, I hope during these discussions we will come to efficient conclusions.
Every county has the point of its special attention. It means, that every state should adopt its unique approach. The education should start from the schools, and Mass Media must be actively involved. The dissemination of International experience should get serious attention. I have to mention, that we appreciate Armenia’s efforts and the dissemination of Armenian experience in the fields of DRR and DRM”, concluded M. Ariyabandu.
UNICEF Armenia representative Tanya Radochay mentioned, that the World today moves not as much towards eliminating the consequences of disasters, but Disaster Risk Reduction. Armenia is in a disaster prone zone, and, using Armenian experience, a serious progress can be achieved, buy sharing that experience with other countries.
“This country implements serious work to present its experience to the World. When we talk about awareness raising, that is the key to solve any problem. We appreciate Armenia’s leading position in this field. You make huge efforts to present your lessons learnt to the World. Thank you for that. UNICEF is involved in this and many other events in local and community levels. We try to raise the awareness of the teachers and parents as well. However, we shouldn’t be satisfied with this progress. We have to move forward. As there are many seismically vulnerable schools in Armenia, UNICEF, with the Government of Armenia, do everything to reduce their number and increasing the seismic resilience of many educational institutions. This is a serious task for the RA Government. We are happy to support the Government, to ensure safe education for children. Perhaps, we all know, that not the earthquakes take lives, but the building, which cannot resist the shocks”, T. Radochai added.
Mrs. Radochai pointed out number of disastrous threats as well. According to her, the contamination is very urgent issue requiring attention. UNICEF has published a report recently related to this issue. It involves issues regarding children as well. She insisted, that soil contamination should be taken into consideration, which is a result of mining activities.
At the Conference foreign and Armenian experts, Mass Media representatives and leaders of different organizations gave reports, presenting their experience and skills on Disaster Risk Reduction, Public Awareness Strategies, national plans to resist disasters, disaster prevention and elimination of consequences.
On the 1st Day of the Conference reports on the following reports were presented:
Ms Madhavi Ariyabandu, Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia and South Caucasus UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
“The 3rd UN international Conference on DRR. Wrap up and results: Sendai Framework for Action”
During her speach Mrs. Ariyabandu pointed out the commitments suggested at Sendai Conference, its role and importance, and the high level participation. The speaker presented 4 priorities and 7 targets of Sendai, which have precise time table of implementation. She emphasized the differences between Hyogo and Sendai Frameworks, particularly paying attention to the fact, that the focus of Sendai is the Disaster Risk Management, and not the management of disaster consequences and loses, as it was in Hyogo.
Disaster Risk Management focuses on sustainability and resilience. She clearified, that according to SFA, all the levels should be in the focus: national, local and community, as well all the stakeholders should be involved, particularly the private sector.
Mr. Hitoshi Baba, JICA, Senior Consultant
“Japan efforts on DRR in the context of Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction”
Mr. Baba presented the geographical features of Japan, the types of natural and men-made disasters, and brought some statistics, emphasizing that the earthquake is the most frequent disaster in Japan. He presented Japanese system of public awareness and related legal field, mentioning, that every community in Japan has a distinct mechanism for assessing different types of loses. It helps to understand, how much investment is needed for future and possible risks. The speaker presented JICA’s target points, mention, that, unlike other international donors, JICA focuses more on risk reduction, than in elimination of consequences, directed to the establishment of resilient society. To achieve the goal, risk literacy should be shaped.
Mr. Jair Torres, DRR Consultant Cross Cutting Thematic Unit on DRR, UNESCO
“UNESCO’s mandate on DRR experiences and approaches“.
The speaker mentioned particularly, that for implementation of DRR strategy its necessary to raise the level of education and literacy.
“Our organization tries to strengthen the links and cooperation between international scientific network and the experts developing different policies in the field, aimed at building member states capacities in DRR”, said Jair Torres.
Ms Tatiana Ten, Emergency /DRR specialist /UNICEF/, “The Sendai Framework for DRR and Children to the participants”
The speaker mentioned, that the UNICEF is actively involved in the regional DRR activities, and is particularly focused in 2 processes. The first one: children capacity building, which suppose schools resilience building and the second: local and community life development, which contributes mainly to children capacity building. She mentioned Armenia’s experience as an example, emphasizing, that the country implements schools safety and resilience building projects in a very impressive way. and UNICEF actively cooperates with the Ministries of Emergency Situations and Education and Science.
Ms Tatiana Ten, presented also the specific characters of guidelines and methods for strengthening children’s capacities at schools, developed by UNICEF:
“DRR topics are included in educational projects. Number of text materials and interactive tools, not only in printed versions, but also cartoons and videos, which are created for different age groups, and also for children with special needs. Our experience has proved, that children are capable to participate and have a significant input in DRR. They can inform adults and share their experience”.
At the end of her speech, Ms Ten showed short videos on how children in Armenia get education in this field and play their role in DRR.
Mr. Nikolay Grigoryan, SFA National focal Point, Deputy Head of Rescue Service, RA MES, Major-General
“Armenian Practice. Sendai Framework as a Guide for National Resilience Comprehensive Strategy of RA”
N. Grigoryan mentioned, that having learned the lessons of Spitak Earthquake, Armenia has recorded significant achievements: ES powerful system is operating, a serious step forward is done towards improving public awareness: TV programs, newspapers, websites, etc..
“We have involves the Press Officers from all the ministries/institutions, regional administrations, as well as of private sector and international organizations. We plan to involve all the schools and industrial enterprises. Due to the active cooperation with all the diplomatic corps, MES created an “Emergency Network”, where all the stakeholders form state bodies to private sector are included. We’ve developed a crisis communication plan in case of strong earthquakes, where the role, responsibility, jurisdiction, information content and awareness time, speakers and cooperation format of every organization is provided. It aims at ensuring effective crisis communication, inform the population, as well as work with the population. Learning from Japanese experience, we plan to implement public campaigns, and with the help of American experience, we’ve already created Interagency Information Center, which allows the state agencies to speak with one voice”, Mr. said.
The speaker expressed hope also, that due to the cooperation with the international partners, it will be possible to have much more achievements in Armenia.
Mr. Amir Azizi, Chair of Asian Safe Community Network /ASCN/
“Mashhad, community, which contributed in DRR”
Mr. Azizi presented the Iran National and Mashhad city Emergency Situations systems features and recent achievements related to latest IT usage. Mashhad, as Yerevan, is in Seismic active zone and long history of earthquakes. The speaker mentioned floods, which are very frequent in Mashhad in recent years, and presented the scale of investments done to resist the disasters.
Mettew John Masn, Coordinator for Fire-Rescue Service and Response Recourses
“UK National and Local risks”
The speaker presented UK experience of Emergency resistance and the role of latest technologies. He said, that risks assessment is being implemented, where all the consequences are being considered. He presented the UK legal field of Emergency Response, where the law adopted 2004 regulated the role distribution of different stakeholders. He mentioned, that there is a national network, which pass the risk assessment and processed data to the local level, to so called local network.
Dominic Maxwell-Batten, Emergency Planning Officer, Devon County Council, Response Resourcing Manager, Fire and Rescue Service,
“UK Experience of Stakeholders Engagement”
The speaker presented, who are the main stakeholders in ES field in UK, and they exchange resources and capacities. He presented as well risk assessment mechanisms in UK, and the relevant legal field. Risk assessment process is being implemented in national level, and the government is obliged to deliver it to the stakeholders. It means, that all should be aware and informed.
“The law in Great Britain requires, that all the stakeholders should act jointly, bit not separated. It supposed close cooperation with local bodies”, emphasized D. Maxwell-Batten
He mentioned as well, that flooding is the most dangerous risks in UK. There 3 types of them: river, snow melting and flooding, as a result of tides. UK is getting prepared to this disaster continuously. Huge work is being done in the communities to strengthen local capacities, and in this field, the speaker, as a guarantee for success, pointed out not the dictating of the requirements by the state bodies, but revealing their requirements.
Mr. Kei Oharu, Senior Correspondent, Current affairs Division NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation
"To Save Lives Though Information. NHK's Disaster Reporting After March 11th 2011"
Mr.. Oharu, presented the geographical features of Japan, different types of natural and man-made disasters, some statistics, emphasizing, that the earthquakes are the most frequent disaster in Japan. He mentioned, how important are the public awareness and warning issues in Japan, becoming the an separate part of Japanese everyday life.
Mr. Jonathan Fowler, Public Information Officer, UNISDR,
Communicating the messages of the Sendai Framework: how UNISDR uses awareness to reduce disaster risk"
The speaker mentioned, that the UN focuses on raising SFA awareness among the population. It is being implemented in different ways, and the Social Media has a crucial role here.
“We are taking one of the 7 targets of SFA and organize public campaigns, then passing to the other targets. SFA is not separated and independent project, it is connected to the Agendas of Sustainable Development and Climate Change and Adaptation projects, as 17 goals of Sustainable Development are related to DRR”, said J. Fowler.
Mr, Amjad (Faruq) Bhati, Community development policy institute, Islamabad, Policy Senior Consultant
“Public Awareness in DRR: some ideas for implementation”
Mr. Bhati presented Pakistani experience in public awareness, describing the country’s geographical position and the most frequent disasters. He mentioned, that any delivered information should be presented in a plain and understandable way, and the idea, that the disaster is not a destiny should be passed. By his words, Risk and Crisis communication strategy should be developed, based on the Sendai Framework for Action.
“Our information might not be clear to everyone, considering, that different groups receive them. Women, children, elderly must be informed different ways. Thus, we should consider the audience, while delivering messages”, Mr. Bhati mentioned.
He emphasized the leading role of Armenia in public awareness field, mentioning, that the country can become a uniting center for all the stakeholders of the World, with its rich experience. He suggested to create an international knowledge-based forum, where the latest technologies used in DRR might be presented.
2nd Day: Round table – discussion with the participation of International and Armenian IT sphere
At the round table the experts presented reports on the creation of popular and interesting Depositary of DRM public awareness, crisis communication, best projects, innovations and new solutions using IT.
Haik Chobanian, Deputy head of Union of Information technologies enterprises, chaired the session.
During the discussions, the experts presented, how due to the IT innovative solutions it became possible to reach serious results in crisis management, communication, monitoring, forecast, danger assessment and risk revealing and assessment, warning, awareness, learning and other fields.
Thus, IT allows to create databases with high effectiveness, which ensure the smooth exchange of reserve and statistic data between different agencies.
Innovative solutions were presented, which can foster the process of awareness, warning and learning of different layers of population (children, elderly, people with special needs).
One of the examples of innovation in Emergency Management field, was the possibility “emergency” radio circle creation in a radius of 3 km in disaster zone, for lack of electricity and communication means. Due to this innovative solution, those, who are in a this radio zone, can communicate with each other, by text and audiovisual messages. The system allows for about 200 people to connect with the managing station located in disaster zone and with each other.
New mechanisms of using mobile applications and danger mapping were also presented, allowing people to participate in risk revealing and reduction process.
Round table-discussion was followed by the process of suggestions development to be presented in Global Platform, Mexico, May, 2017. The conference participants divided into 3 groups. After the discussions, every working group presented a final report, with constructive suggestions on the steps to be done after the Conference.
The best ways for public awareness may be the following:
The creation of International Portal, which is one of the best sources of experience and practice for DRR and public awareness. For that purpose, the Government of Armenia should segregate the main actors, who has experience in DRR sphere. It should also establish connection to the countries which have experience in DRR sphere, then wrap up and summarize the outcomes.
The creation of Hackathon, which aims to take the data from different official sources and to present it in one “language”. The problem is that different organizations talk about the same thing through different languages. The information database should be presented in an available language and in this process the Hackathon may serve as a great mechanism. Now that function assumed UNDP international organization. Up to the presentation of suggestions to the Global Platform one may contribute to the formation of Hackathon through the international initiatives. This process may well serve not only for enhancing the public awareness but also for collection of data.
Actions directed to enhance public awareness
- Creation of “Emergency Network”: to involve the PR specialists of State Governmental and municipal bodies (Ministries, State Agencies, Regional Administrations, Municipalities), Non-governmental and international organizations, the objects having special and main importance and the media as well. Afterwards expand the “Emergency Network” by involving all the educational establishments and communities, objects and organizations.
- The organization of a Campaign: To organize a big public campaign on DRR and all Nation exercise with scenario of earthquake and its secondary consequences: all participate in it – from the child of a kid garden up to president of the state.
- Organization of exercises
- To create an available website/ to upload videos, audios …
- To create web-based TV and upload the video clips, movies of all States.
- Classes for reporters/journalists
- To create virtual games, cartoons, colorful books on DRR
- To note the story of a survivor of the disaster
- Usage of modern/newest IT: to use newest IT in all initiatives including the public awareness.
- To include DRR themes in curriculum.
- To "Translate” the information received from other country, in order to make it available to the Government / to develop an integrated methodology in the national and local levels.
- To organize public education through different educational programs.
- To create resource-centers for Media
- To input DRR education creativity.
- To create regional educational center for civil servants.
- Organization of games and festivals.
- The involvement of business.
- The foundation of disaster museum.
- To organize “Tell to your grandfather” competition. The child informs to other age groups.
- To spread the information in the places available to elders – gardens, social service centers, newspapers, TV.
- Creation of a network consisting of Emergency reporters and organizations.
- Creation of voluntary network.
During the formation of suggestions package of the conference it was also discussed the issues concerning the creation of International Working Group, the idea which had already been drawn during the 3rd international conference. According to discussion the working group will propel the agenda of information and communication in order to effectively reduce disaster risks.
The International Working Group will assume the following commitments.
(Recommended, not compulsory list of issues that need to be investigated by the International Working Group)
(i) How to develop public information in terms of DRR, including crisis communication, the awareness guidelines and criteria for member states based on current best practices, suitable in terms of cultural appropriateness, consistent with communication technology advances and knowledge transfer continuity in order to be confident that the guidelines and criteria will stay up-to-day.
(ii) How to develop indicators of public awareness that will support the Sendai DRR program.
(iii) How to establish the International Association of Emergency Channel, including public authorities, the media and other people, responsible for information flow.
(iv) How to promote and influence the inclusion of DRR in education institutions at all levels (kindergartens, schools, universities, graduate programs and professional schools). How to develop risk information and awareness-raising courses on DRR and capacity building of the main figures in these fields.
(v) How to connect the education to information and communication research institutions in the field of DRR in order to improve the knowledge about the best practices and new trends.
(vi) How to develop criteria, thematic studies and examples to help the public distinguish between DRR information.
(vii) How to encourage the media to be more actively involved in the dissemination of DRR education and information, for example through the educational resource-centers for journalists.
(viii) How to encourage ES Ministries and departments to strengthen their information and communication management capacities.
ix) How to invite governments and international organizations to develop a Public Information plans, to conduct crisis communication exercises and to organize a national public-awareness campaigns at least once a year.
(x) How to invite governments and other stakeholders to strengthen their cooperation in terms of applying common approaches of information and communication for effective DRR. To promote a common approach in DRR related public awareness and educational materials.
The Working Group will operate within the existing capacity of the responsible agencies, with the support of partners, if necessary.
The working group should develop global, regional/country level work planning actions involving various agencies and prepare joint annual work plans, with the schedule and budget for common actions, events, publications etc.
The Working Group should submit reports on its activities during the annual and semi-annual meetings.
The head of the working group should ensure open and transparent activity for the group. He is primarily responsible for directing the actions of the group according to working plan and for meetings with partners, for which Secretariat of the Working Group should provide necessary logistical support. The group may assist in mobilizing technical and financial resources to effectively implement working plans.
After the discussion of suggestions package the main spokesmen of the conference made their final speeches and remarks.
"Public Awareness, as a cornerstone of DRR and sustainable development" international conference started in 2013, in the eve of the 25th anniversary of Spitak earthquake, and is held for the 4th year in a row. In 2013 the conference was entitled "The officials, international organizations, media executives and journalists together for resilient planet Earth," In 2014 - "Public awareness is an essential prerequisite for disaster risk reduction", and in 2015 - "The media, public awareness and Sendai DRR program".