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NZ wants more intrntl focus on disaster prevention

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Roy Geddes at UNESCO General Conference in Paris

Media Release, 12 October, Paris

New Zealand wants more international focus on disaster prevention

Emeritus Professor Roy Geddes, the Natural Sciences Commissioner for UNESCO in New Zealand told an international meeting in France today that UNESCO needs to put more effort into developing the science of disaster prediction, warning and education.

Professor Geddes was responding to a proposal that UNESCO should intensify its efforts to assist in post-disaster situation. This is inappropriate, he said. UNESCO is not an aid agency and the support it can provide in post-disaster situations is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars usually required for reconstruction following major world disasters. UNESCO is much better to focus its scarce resources on supporting scientists as they attempt to improve prediction and warning strategies.

He applauded the efforts of UNESCO in promoting the establishment of a tsunami early warning system for countries in the Indian Ocean region, similar to the one available for some countries in the Pacific. However, he pointed out that even many high risk areas in the Pacific do not have tsunami warning systems and this must be a priority for the region.

The problem was further underlined by the announcement this week from NZAid director, Peter Adams, that New Zealand’s disaster aid budget is nearly exhausted, following donations for earthquake relief in Pakistan and India, and to Guatemala and El Salvador, which have been devastated by floods. With so many demands for post-disaster relief, it is important that UNESCO focus its efforts on reducing the impact of these disasters, especially through better information systems and education.

About UNESCO: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a United Nations agency working for world peace and international understanding through education, natural and social sciences, culture and communications. There are 192 member countries and 6 associate members. New Zealand has been a member since its formation in 1945. This year, UNESCO celebrates its 60th Anniversary.


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