United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged seismic engineers meeting in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to use their expertise to help reduce the human consequences of earthquakes and to raise public awareness about ways national, global and regional responses to natural disasters can be improved.
“As earthquake engineers, you are instrumental in bringing scientific knowledge to bear on this global challenge,” said Mr. Annan in a statement delivered by Salvàno Briceño, Director of the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), in Skopje at the opening of the International Conference on Earthquake Engineering in the 21st Century.
“You provide crucial technical knowledge and analysis, in order to help the world understand the costs and benefits of disaster reduction,” he said, adding: “Your profession is also essential in establishing the design and quality standards for public infrastructure and urban development, and to ensure the integrity of much private housing.”
Mr. Annan urged the Conference to explore ways to ensure broad adherence to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted by the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held in Kobe, Japan, just one month the devastating earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people and left up to 5 million in need of basic services in a dozen Indian Ocean nations.
Hyogo calls for a global commitment to speeding up disaster response times, as well as the setting of guidelines for disaster prevention and developing people-centered early warning systems that provide timely information easily understood by at-risk populations.
“As we already have good information about where seismic risks are around the world, I would particularly welcome your views on improved means of using that knowledge to create wider public awareness about protective measures that can be implemented locally,” Mr. Annan said.
He also asked the engineers to suggest ways the UN system could boost its support for the Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, and how the ISDR might be strengthened to build national and regional disaster reduction capabilities.