ITU Activities in Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Relief
Disasters disrupt national economies, severely weaken the poor and vulnerable and are recognized as major impediments to sustainable development and reduction of poverty especially in poor countries. The impact is even worse for those living in remote and isolated areas with no access to basic information and communication facilities that are essential to providing vital alerting information.
In order to mitigate the impact of disasters, timely dissemination of authoritative information before, during, and after disasters is critical. ITU’s activities in the field of radiocommunications make invaluable contribution to disaster management as they facilitate the prediction, detection, and alerting through the coordinated and effective use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the establishment of radio standards and guidelines concerning the usage of radiocommunication systems.
ITU’s telecommunication technical standards also play a strategic role in ensuring global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunications networks for monitoring and management at the onset and during emergency and disaster situations. A number of Recommendations have been developed for call priority schemes that ensure that relief workers can get communication lines when they need to, whether using traditional or next generation communications networks. Complementary to the need to provide call priority during emergencies is the ability to deliver warnings to users, and standards are fundamental to ensure that warnings are timely delivered uncorrupted from the source to the end users – no matter how they can be reached.
The development arm of the ITU considers emergency telecommunications an integral part of its development agenda. For this reason, a lot of effort is directed at mainstreaming disaster management in telecommunications/information and communication technology projects and activities as part of disaster preparedness. This includes infrastructure development, and the establishment of enabling policy, legal and regulatory frameworks. In the immediate aftermath of disasters, ITU deploys temporary telecommunications/ICT solutions to assist countries affected by disasters. This includes the provision of basic telecommunications and telemedicine applications via satellites. Reconstruction and rehabilitation of telecommunications/ICT networks is an important part of disaster management. After providing assistance for disaster relief and response, ITU undertakes assessment missions to affected countries aimed at determining the magnitude of damages to the network through the use of geographical information systems. On the basis of its findings, ITU and the host country embark on the resuscitation of the infrastructure while ensuring that disaster resilient features are integrated to reduce network vulnerability in the event of disasters striking in the future.
The Tampere Convention
When disaster strikes communications links are often disrupted. But for disaster relief workers these links are essential to answer critical questions such as how many people have been injured or died, where they are located and the medical help needed.
Even though telecommunications can save lives in disaster situations, regulatory barriers can make it difficult to use the necessary equipment. However, ITU was a driving force in drafting and promoting the Tampere Convention. It allows relief workers to make full use of life-saving communication tools. The Tampere Convention calls on States to waive regulatory barriers that impede the use of telecommunications. These barriers include licensing requirements to use frequencies, restrictions on importing equipment and limits on the movement of humanitarian teams.