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Disaster response 'must be more targeted'

17.11.2011 - 16:44

The EU must “train for what it has the capacity to face” in relation to global disasters, rather than for the “unthinkable” according to Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

She was speaking in Brussels following a meeting with W. Craig Fugate, Administrator of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at which both parties discussed co-operation between both parties in relation to disaster response, and committed to continue joint co-operation on disaster risk reduction, and resilience and response to disasters.

According to Georgieva, it is “very clear, and very obvious” that co-operation between the European Commission and FEMA is a necessity.

She said that there are three main ways in which both parties can benefit from mutual co-operation. The first, is a more practical response to the increased threat of so-called mega-disasters. “We must train for what we have the capacity to face, rather than for the unthinkable, what we don’t have the capacity to face. Unfortunately, mega-disasters are here to stay, so we have an incentive to deal with it.”

She also said that preparedness, and the “financial instruments that bring results”, are much needed assets in disaster response, adding that with the upcoming finacial perspectives, it is important that the such programmes are funded, managed, and show results that “the taxpayer expects...how can we ensure the resilience of every investment we make?”

Finally, she said, proper insurance mechanisms need to be in place: “In the US, you pay a lot more if you build something where you shouldn’t. In Europe this is not the case.”

Fugate added that co-operation between the two parties is an important step in responding to global crises and disasters. Like the commissioner, he acknowledged a possible shortfall in future funding, but suggested that mutual assistance, and the swapping of technical and other expertise, is one way to maximise joint efforts at disaster response, including through improved communications and the better understanding of how citizens receive their information through social media.

“When we try to take care of everybody,” he said, referring to uncoordinated responses, “we fail everybody. We have to deal with the most vulnerable. Disaster response, both domestically and globally should be targeted in a smarter, more cost-effective way. That way, he said, “we can drive down loss of life,” but, “unless elected officials spend more money, we cannot drive down costs.”