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Annan Calls For Global Warning System


At Small Islands Conference, Annan Calls For Global Warning System For Natural Disasters

Having toured some of the countries hardest-hit by the powerful and fatal December tsunami, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called today for a worldwide warning system for several natural disasters, as well as for rising sea levels likely to be caused by global warming.

“We need a global warning system – and one that covers not just tsunamis, but all other threats, such as storm surges and cyclones. In such an endeavour, no part of the world should be ignored,” he told cabinet ministers and other senior officials meeting in Mauritius for the 10-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) on sustainability for small island nations.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that “if the sea level rises in the Maldives, for example, a large proportion of the land mass could disappear over the next 30 years, and be completely submerged by 2100.”

Mr. Annan said, “We must also be ready to take decisive measures to address climate change. It is no longer so hard to imagine what might happen from the rising sea levels that the world's top scientists are telling us will accompany global warming. Who can claim that we are doing enough?”

In tackling their problems, some small island states have carved out market niches in tourism and information technologies, he said, but “on the whole, implementation of what was agreed and promised at Barbados remains disappointing at best,” while new challenges to survival have emerged.

Among the new problems, “the AIDS epidemic has made deep inroads, especially in the Caribbean, which now ranks second to sub-Saharan Africa in the proportion of its adult population infected,” he said.

The UN would continue to help keep the problems of small islands high on the international agenda, Mr. Annan.

In that regard, the report issued last month by the 16 members he appointed to the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change gave a new vision of collective security that “places great emphasis on prevention and on building up the capacities of states to address threats and fulfil their responsibilities,” the Secretary-General said.

“The Panel has stated clearly that addressing development challenges such as extreme poverty, climate change and the spread of infectious diseases, such as AIDS and malaria, is indispensable for our collective security. It has stressed the devastating impact that terrorism, conflict and organized crime have on development. And it has given us both wide-ranging policy recommendations and suggestions for significant changes in our multilateral institutions, including the United Nations,” Mr. Annan said.

At a separate meeting organized by the Seychelles and the United Kingdom to consider threats to reefs and other protected areas, he said despite the progress made under the Law of the Sea Convention and other treaties, “this common heritage of all humankind continues to face profound pressures.”

Although coral reefs make up less than 0.5 per cent of the ocean floor, more than 90 per cent of marine species are directly or indirectly dependent on them and they provide human communities with $30 billion per year in nutrition, livelihoods and economic growth, he said.

“For small islands and low-lying areas, reefs are nature’s crucial defences against aggressive and destructive seas,” Mr. Annan said, adding, “We need early warning systems. But reducing vulnerability must begin with conserving coral reefs and mangroves.”

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