By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Meeting on regional co-op for building resilience to disasters opens in Tehran

November 5, 2018

TEHRAN — An Expert Consultation Meeting on Regional Cooperation for Building Resilience to Slow-Onset Disasters, Including Sand and Dust Storms and Information Management for Cross-Border Disaster in Asia and the Pacific opened in Tehran on Monday.

The two-day event is co-organized by Planning and Management Organization, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM).  

The key objectives of the meeting are reviewing the draft cross-border disaster atlas that serves as the first component of APDIM’s database repository, agreeing on the elements for an information sharing and capacity development framework for decision-making support on slow-onset disasters, including sand and dust storms, and setting up the partnership network for implementation through APDIM’s programme of work .

Disaster risk reduction pivotal to achieve SDGs 

In her opening speech at the meeting UN resident coordinator and UNDP representative Ugochi Daniels explained that disasters continue to impose heavy loses and damages on nations and people and impeded social and economic development at a global scale.

“Disaster risk reduction is pivotal to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs),” Daniels highlighted.

“Iran is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and exposed to various types of natural hazards; earthquakes, drought, floods and sand and dust storms are the most frequent natural disasters which the country faces.

Iran has gained valuable experience and developed considerable knowledge on disaster risk reduction and management, she said, adding that effective response to major disasters such as Kermanshah earthquake in 2017 and many other disasters are testimony to Iran’s capacity to respond to natural hazards and disasters. 

Daniels went on to say that under the current UN Development Framework for Iran for 2017-20121 the United Nations has been supporting the government’s effort in developing and implementing national and regional initiatives aimed at sand and dust storms to control and investing in disaster risk reduction and effective disaster and emergency preparedness response. 

“The Department of environment, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) organized an International Conference on Combating Sand and Dust Storms in Tehran in July 2017 and a high-level dialogue on sand and dust storms wan convened during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on July 16, 2018.

“This dialogue focused on action-oriented recommendations and challenges faced by affected countries and discussed ways to improve policy coordination at the global level to address those challenges in the context of sustainable development goals.

On September 24, 2018 establishing a UN coalition on combatting sand and dust storms for enhancing collaboration, exchange of information, knowledge and good practices, advocacy and communication amongst various actors including UN entities, governments, academia, and the private sectors at the regional and national levels was proposed, she added. 

“The establishment of APDIM based on ESCAP Resolution 71/11 and with the generous support of the government of Iran is a great achievement and an important step towards enhancing disaster risk reduction and resilience building in the region.

Disaster information management is critical in all aspects and areas of disaster risk reduction and resilience building. Holding this meeting in Tehran is also a valuable opportunity to discuss ways and means for expanding regional cooperation in this regard.

She concluded that the UN Country team in Iran stands ready to engage in and support all types of cooperation within the scope of APDIM’s programmes as well as through other regional and multilateral cooperation mechanisms to reduce the risk and negative impact of disasters in the region. 

Global solidarity a must to tackle environmental challenges 

Naser Moqaddasi, Chief of Center for International Affairs and Conventions at Department of Environment, in his opening speech explained that the prospect of resolving the challenges and environmental problems that threaten the future of human life require interaction, co-operation, bringing together ideas, and moving from divergence toward convergence and solidarity.

“We believe that this global solidarity has never been necessary like today,” he highlighted.

“Although the origin of most of the current environmental challenges is natural, it seems to be in many cases due to unreasonable, unstable, and sometimes selfish exploitation of nature.

“The Middle East and North Africa region with an area of 7.3 million square kilometers, ranging from 20 to 40 degrees north latitude as the world's dry belt, is the place of emerging the great challenge of dust storms.

“The region has the largest deserts in the world in both hemispheres, and despite the fact that more than 6.2% of the world's population is located in this area, only 1.4% of the Earth's renewable water resources are gathered here. This means that about 200 million people in this area, directly or indirectly, are affected by water scarcity and dust storms.

“Large parts of Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, and other countries in the region are affected by dust storm damages.

“Statistical surveys show that the largest amount of dust that affects Iran comes from neighboring countries. The insecurity in these countries, and in particular the devastating phenomenon of terrorism, has severely hampered the implementation of joint plans to curb this phenomenon among the countries of the region.

Moqaddasi went on to regret that according to the report by the Ministry of Health, the average annual PM2.5 concentrations of particles observed in these cities are estimated to be 2 to 6 times the standard amounts and that the phenomenon of dusts in only five of the most affected countries since March 2018 has caused a premature death of 1,717 people.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is fully prepared to contribute to a wide range of bilateral, multilateral, regional and international cooperation, in order to root out and identify the phenomenon of dust, identify its destructive effects in the region, and formulate concrete solutions by providing Immediate, medium-term and long-term measures to deal with dust storms, he concluded. 

Serious, cross-sectoral solution needed to address sand and dust storms 

Ali Mohammad Mousavi, Director General for International Environmental and Sustainable Development Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also said that given that the regional risks and vulnerabilities reach beyond national borders, their efficient management naturally requires regional cooperation and measures facilitated by all relevant and necessary information aggregated and utilized in a practical manner by a center which is fed and owned by all regional stakeholders with view to contributing and addressing the region’s exposure to variety of risks. 

Sand and dust storm is a transboundary phenomenon that requires far more serious, multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary, and cross-sectoral solution and goes beyond the capacity of an individual country and needs to be coordinated among all parties concerned, he added.

Mousavi went on to say that APDIM is expected to work towards establishing mechanisms for creating regional networks and platforms to share information to promote best practices, devising guidelines and setting up necessary infrastructure to assist adaptation and mitigation measures for countries affected by sand and dust storms. 

APDIM a starting point for South-South Cooperation

Hamid Pourmohammadi, Chairman of APDIM’s Governing Council and Deputy Vice President at Budget and Planning Organization, also highlighted that APDIM is considered as an appropriate starting point for the promotion of development in the context of South-South Cooperation. 

The center has the potential to bear fruitful results by setting up an integrated network of disaster-related information management and data processing in order to better monitor, prepare, mitigate, build resilience, and recover in the face of natural hazards, Pourmohammadi said. 

Iran, in line with APDIM program of work expresses its readiness to take measures and initiatives through regional cooperation to bridge the existing gaps between information management and capacity building in the field of disaster risk reduction, he stated. 

MQ/MG

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