The international conference on ‘Hopefor’ initiative on improving the effectiveness and co-ordination of military and civil defence assets for natural disaster response, which started yesterday in Doha and which will conclude tomorrow, constitutes an essential platform for experience and knowledge exchange among the participants from different countries and organisations around the world.
Hopefor stands for humanitarian operation force.
“We often resort to military and civil defence assets to support relief efforts to respond to natural disasters. Experience has shown that these assets make an important contribution in the aftermath of a disaster and save the lives of millions of people,” said Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi, Assistant Foreign Minister for follow up affairs at the conference opening yesterday.
He said: “It is expected that natural disasters will occur frequently with greater magnitude due in part to climate change. This development raises the question of how to strengthen the capacity of local, national, regional and international instiutions for preparedness and response to natural disasters. The multiplicity of these natural disasters, put additional burden on the humanitarian response systems.”
He further explained that the initiative was first announced by HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar in June 2010 in New York to develop an effective co-ordinated use of military and civil defence assets in dealing with natural disasters.
Al-Rumaihi anticipated that the participants would actively “discuss the concept and options of the Hopefor initiative and take the steps necessary for their implementation, which will take shape in the recommendations to be issued by the Ministerial Meeting of the Conference. The State of Qatar will submit these recommendations to the General Assembly of the United Nations in its current session”.
“There are still various shortcomings in co-ordination of efforts. There is also a need to enhance the efficiency of military and civil defence capabilities to face humanitarian disasters in afflicted areas. Consequently, Qatar, Turkey and the Dominican Republic have backed this conference to resolve the challenges of a better disaster management process.”
Rudolph Muller, Chief of Emergency Services Branch, Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at the UN stressed that enhancing dialogue between diversity of effort groups enable us to be better and hence more effective in tackling natural disasters.
However, Ambassador Toni Frisch, Chair of the Consultative group on military and civil defence assets (MCDA) sees that there are several questions regarding the effective use of MCDA in relief efforts for natural disasters that remained unanswered so far. Therefore, there is a need to be aware of a response based on the actual assessment of the situation. Military personnel need to be more experienced, certified and maintain active coordination to better sustain their efforts in this area.
Captain Kahmis al-Murikhi, Search and Rescue team, Qatar, explained the role of the team in humanitarian relief and rescue efforts in Sumatra earthquake 2009. He noted that the challenges were mainly shortage in equipments, inadequate preparations, absence of pre-co-ordination among rescue teams, unavailability of information due to the non existence of a timely data base and weak means of communications. He suggested that these shortcomings should be resolved especially regarding information and equipment to achieve better results and save more lives.
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