16 January 2013, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - The Arab countries part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have specific requirements in the area of emergency management and disaster risk reduction, including geographic information and satellite analysis. This is what emerged from discussions held in Riyadh in conjunction with the UNISDR-GCC Training Workshop on reducing and managing disaster risk (13-16 January 2013).

The event marked the first substantial step by Arab states in the region towards an organized approach to disaster risk reduction and the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. In his opening, GCC’s Secretary-General, Dr. Abdul-Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, emphasized the need for a regional culture of safety and outlined five strategic targets for the Gulf Region: protecting the security and stability of GCC countries; maintaining sustainable economic growth; achieving comprehensive human development; increasing capacity to deal with crises and disasters; and enhancing regional and international cooperation.

UNITAR was requested to deliver a UNOSAT training module illustrating the advantages and limitations of satellite analysis for risk reduction, preparedness, and response. The lecture was part of the 3-day agenda of the Training Workshop, jointly organised by GCC and the UNISDR Regional Office for Arab States. Amjad Abbashar, Head of the UNISDR regional Office based in Cairo, said, “it was useful to have the recognised satellite analysis specialists of the UN directly involved in the workshop so that countries can become aware of the potential of this technology. The participation of UNOSAT will help Gulf countries to clarify their needs and utilize satellite based technology to strengthen their disaster reduction and emergency preparedness efforts”.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has also established a GCC Emergency Management Centre. The Centre and UNOSAT are already in contact to discuss capacity development and technical assistance measures.  The Centre’s Director, Dr. Hamza,  said, "the GCC Disaster Management Centre will work towards strengthening Gulf Capacities in DRR. It is important to promote the use and transfer of advanced technologies and knowledge to address disaster risk reduction and emergencies".

Vast land extensions, changing vulnerability, and the challenge of territorial planning in a fast moving socio-economic reality make the Gulf Region an excellent case in point for UNOSAT’s competency in strategic territorial planning. Francesco Pisano, who took part in the event as Director of Research, Technology Applications and Knowledge Services at UNITAR, said, “This is the beginning of a dialogue with the Gulf countries that we want to pursue in the near future together with the GCC and its Emergency Management Centre. We believe that the regional dimension is central to effective DRR and UNOSAT has accumulated both operational and methodological experience that we are ready to share with countries engaged in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action”.

Read about the event on the ISDR website.

Image 1 - Participants in the training came from all Gulf countries (photo GCC)

Image 2- The head of the UNISDR Cairo Regional Office, Amjad Abbashar, with UITAR's Francesco Pisano

Image 3 - The Director (left) and Deputy-Director (right) of the GCC Emergency Management Centre.