Countries of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia Agree to Work Together for Disaster Early Warning

Three more countries sign agreement to support a regional early warning system for tsunamis, cyclones and other hazards

Three more countries officially signed on to the Regional, Integrated, Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), an agreement for countries in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia to work together in supporting a regional early warning system for tsunamis, cyclones and other hazards.

In a signing ceremony hosted by Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer, Representatives of the Governments of Bangladesh, Philippines, and Timor-Leste signed the RIMES Cooperation Agreement in Incheon Korea today at the sidelines of the 66th Commission session of ESCAP.

This was another milestone for RIMES, as the three new countries joined Cambodia, Comoros, Lao PDR, Maldives, and Seychelles in committing to sustain RIMES in the long-term. RIMES is an important ESCAP-supported initiative under the Tsunami Regional Trust Fund that countries in the region are taking to address disaster and climate threats.

“RIMES is one initiative that ESCAP has been proud to support through this Fund,” said Dr. Heyzer in her opening statement. “I would like to commend the countries that have had the vision and initiative to push this work forward.”

When a country signs the RIMES Cooperation Agreement it commits to collectively own, manage, maintain and fund the RIMES regional early warning centre and to exchange observation and monitoring data.

“We are pleased to see RIMES evolving from a Fund-supported project into an autonomous international organization,” said H.E. Mr. Panich Vikitsreth, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Thailand at the signing ceremony. “In our view, RIMES provides an inspiring example of how regional cooperation networking can lead to cost-effective solution for each participating country.”

In his statement, Mr. Ali Shareef, Deputy Director General, Maldives Meteorological Service, Government of Maldives, the current secretariat of RIMES, said that Maldives “is committed to assist RIMES in meeting member States’ needs, demands, and expectations by working closely with member States, other countries in the region, donors, international organizations, and UN institutions.”
RIMES evolved from the efforts of 26 countries in the region to establish a regional tsunami early warning system within a multi-hazard framework, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. ESCAP supported these efforts through the Tsunami Regional Trust Fund, which was established in 2005 with an aim to build and enhance tsunami early warning capabilities in accordance with the needs of Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian countries.

The Fund is a resource mechanism to narrow the capacity gaps in the region, through building institutional, technical, system-wide and other types of capacity for the development of early warning systems for tsunamis in a multi-hazard context. As of the end of 2009, the Fund had received about US$ 12.7 million in contributions from the Government of Thailand, as foundation donor (US$ 10 million), the Government of Sweden (approximately US$ 2.6 million), and the Governments of Turkey and Nepal.