United Nations, Thailand agree to expanded scope for disaster preparedness fund

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and H. E. Mr Kasit Piromya, Minster of Foreign Affairs for the Government of Thailand today signed an agreement expanding the reach of a regional tsunami trust fund, to now also include support for disaster preparedness across Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean states vulnerable to flooding, storm surges, cyclones and other coastal hazards.

“The Tsunami Regional Trust Fund has served its purpose well, especially with the establishment of a regional early warning service,” said Dr. Heyzer in remarks at a signing ceremony held at ESCAP headquarters. “It is now time to step forward in expanding this Fund to target disaster preparedness to counter all coastal disasters threatening our communities.”

Recognizing the critical role played by the Fund’s founding donor state, H. E. Mr. Kasit Piromya, Thailand’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, said that “Thailand’s contribution to the Fund is part of our comprehensive efforts to enhance regional and international disaster management.”

Sweden, a significant donor to the Tsunami Trust Fund, strongly supported transforming the nature of the Fund’s work, some five years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. “Sweden welcomes the decision to broaden the scope of the Fund to include overall disaster and climate preparedness,” said Ambassador Lennart Linner of Sweden, “We look forward to continued fruitful cooperation with the partners of the new, ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund.”

One major result of the fund is the establishment of the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), which provides early warning services to 26 members for tsunamis and extreme weather events. With an initial investment of US$ 4.5 million from the fund and annual costs of around US$2.5 million, RIMES, through the establishment of pooled early warning systems that complement existing national systems, has already enabled significant collective savings.

The fund was established in 2005, with generous support from Thailand and Sweden, following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 which killed at least 200,000 people. Contributions to the fund have also been accepted from the Governments of Turkey, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Netherlands.

Since 2005, the fund has supported projects resulting in improved risk knowledge, monitoring and warning services, communication and community preparedness. ESCAP, Thailand and Sweden recently agreed to expand the core areas of support of the fund to include climate and disaster preparedness in light of the increased number of extreme weather events, as well as the continuing need in the region to strengthen early warning systems, changing its name to the ESCAP Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness in Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian Countries.