Zhang Monan

Essential emergency response

By Zhang Monan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-15 07:57
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Unified global disaster relief mechanism should be created to coordinate and fund warning system and rescue work

The devastation caused by the disastrous 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Japan and the potential risks from radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant once again highlight the urgent need to establish a global disaster emergency relief mechanism.

The frequent incidence of natural disasters worldwide, with many engendered by greenhouse gas emissions, environmental deterioration and ecological retrogression, as the result of the increased use of carbon-intensive energy, has heightened people's awareness of the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the global economy and security.

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According to a report released by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in January 2010, a total of 3,852 major natural disasters occurred worldwide from 2000 to 2009, resulting in more than 780,000 deaths and direct economic losses of $960 billion. Asian countries were the hardest hit.

The impact of both geological and climate calamities always go far beyond the directly affected regions. The epicenter of the latest earthquake was located near the east coast of Honshu, Japan's pivotal industrial belt where its iron, petroleum, manufacturing and nuclear industries are located and is thus expected to have enormous repercussions on the world's third largest economy. As a major world exporter, Japan's slowed production and exports of iron, metal materials as well as auto engines and some key industrial products will affect the nascent global economic recovery.

In the face of the common threats posed by climate change, shortages of resources and the frequent financial, energy and food crises, no individual nation, no matter how developed or powerful, can remain immune. That makes it essential to establish a global emergency and relief system to increase the world's capability to tackle natural disasters.

Currently, a number of international organizations and programs deal with issues related to natural disasters, such as the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Tsunami Society and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Despite their important role in disaster relief efforts, there are some outstanding problems that need resolving, such as the need for better coordination and distribution of resources, and how to mobilize global efforts to tackle a natural disaster in an individual nation or region.

To help overcome these problems, a global disaster emergency and relief agency should be established. As a move to this end, the UN can establish a global disaster emergency center in charge of policy and coordination among world members to alleviate the threats of major natural disasters.

Another option is that the world's current disaster relief resources be merged to realize information sharing among all countries so that the negative effects of any natural disasters can be reduced to a minimum.

The establishment of a global disaster surveillance and warning system is the key to improving the capability of individual nations in disaster prevention and risk control. Compared with developing countries, the developed countries enjoy more mature and advanced management expertise in this regard.

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