The United Nations announced it would set up a global system to predict disasters, but differences remained on whose technology would be used amid a rush of offers after Asia’s tsunami tragedy. UN agencies in a joint statement at a global conference in Kobe, Japan said the world body’s experts would create a system to reduce the risk of disasters amid outrage that Indian Ocean nations had no warning when their coasts were battered last month.
“The new program will bring safety, security and peace of mind. Millions of people worldwide owe their lives and livelihood to effective early warning systems,” said Salvano Briceno, director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. But the announcement was largely symbolic, with an official at the UN science agency UNESCO, which is spearheading the warning system project, acknowledging that more focused talks were needed. “Right now we have several proposals which are completely uncoordinated by different countries. What we need to do is coordinate them,” said Patricio Bernal, head of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. He said his group would hold two meetings within 60 days, with one in Paris in March and the other yet to be organized, in hopes of picking a tsunami system with which to move forward. Bernal hoped a decision could be finalized at a meeting of his commission in July so work could begin and the system could be running by mid-2006, the target date set by UNESCO.
The Kobe conference is also expected to issue a set of goals to be met by 2015 to reduce the risks of all natural disasters, with UN relief chief Jan Egeland pushing the countries to set a faster timeframe.