International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. ITU helps governments and the private sector in three core sectors: radiocommunication, standardization and development. ITU also organizes TELECOM events and was the lead organizing agency of the World Summit on the Information Society.
ITU is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and its membership includes 193 Member States and more than 700 private-sector entities and academic institutions.
Disaster Reduction Goal
ITU’s goal in disaster reduction is to strengthen emergency communications for disaster prevention and mitigation.
All the elements of ITU’s work are centered on the goal of putting every human being within easy and affordable reach of information and communication and to contribute significantly towards economic and social development of all people. ITU develops the standards used to create infrastructure to deliver telecommunications services on a worldwide basis, manages the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits to help bring wireless services to every corner of the world, and provides support to countries as they pursue telecommunication development strategies.
As the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for telecommunications/ICTs, ITU is committed to working with other organizations in combating climate change. ITU continues to play a leading role in developing an integrated approach to examining the relationship between ICTs and climate change, focusing on such key issues in the global framework as technology, climate data collection and monitoring, adaptation and mitigation.
Policies and Programmes in DRR
One of ITU’s objectives within the purview of the Telecommunication Development Sector is to support the implementation of global, regional and other relevant initiatives and projects. This includes initiatives and projects relating to:
• Underserved areas;
• Indigenous communities and small island developing states;
• Least developed countries;
• Landlocked developing countries;
• Highly indebted poor countries;
• Countries recovering from conflicts;
• Countries and territories under occupation;
• Regions with special needs;
• Conditions that pose severe threats to the environment, such as natural disasters.
These initiatives and projects facilitate the deployment and operation of telecommunication/ICT networks and services with a view to fostering their secure, sustainable and affordable access and use at national, regional and global levels.
ITU assists countries in drafting and adopting appropriate ICT policies, regulations and guidelines that facilitate the use of ICT for disaster risk reduction to include Geographical Information and Remote Sensing Systems, which are critical for disaster preparedness and early warning.
At the global level, ITU promotes and provides assistance to stakeholders in the ratification and implementation of the Tampere Convention on the provision of telecommunication resources for disaster mitigation and relief operations. The treaty provides the legal framework for the use of telecommunications in international humanitarian assistance, reduces regulatory barriers, and protects providers of telecommunication assistance while safeguarding the interests of the host country.
Government Ministries for Telecommunications and Telecommunications Regulatory Agencies
Making disaster risk reduction a policy priority, institutional strengthening (HFA 1)
ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau works globally with Governments on the establishment of regulatory frameworks that require operators to include disaster reduction features in their licensing regime.
Risk assessment and early warning systems (HFA 2)
Assist countries in designing and implementing early warning systems.
Education, information and public awareness (HFA 3)
Design and develop guidelines, publications and websites that are used to train and raise awareness on disaster risk reduction issues. International, regional and international workshops are also held for these purposes.
Reducing underlying risk factors (HFA 4)
Development and implementation of technical cooperation to assist developing countries to use ICTs to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
ITU Study Groups develop technical and spectrum specifications that provide best practices in this area to include: resilient telecommunications installations that allow the installation and deployment of rugged telecom network plants and a Handbook on Outside Plant Installations, prioritization of calls, inter-operability of networks, and harmonization of frequency bands.
Preparedness for effective response (HFA 5)
The Telecommunication Development Sector has published guidelines and best practice books on disaster management through the use of information and communication technologies. It has also designed and run national, regional, and international training and awareness raising events on enhancing preparedness for effective response. Over 20 partnership agreements were negotiated and signed, resulting in equipment and financial resources being contributed to the ITU’s ongoing effort to contribute to disaster risk reduction.
Radiocommunications Sector, ITU-R, has developed a number of guidelines (known as Recommendations), used to identity appropriate systems for public protection and disaster relief, and requirements for disaster communications related to amateur and amateur-satellite services, including the use of transportable fixed radiocommunications equipment for relief operations.
The Telecommunications Standardization Sector has produced technical standards that provide call preference schemes for the PSTN and for systems based on Internet Protocol. It is also developing message broadcasting specification using IP technologies, and is paying special attention to support of emergency and alert services in Next Generation Networks. ITU-T has approved a telecommunication security architectural framework which is applicable to TDR/EW systems (ITU-T Rec.X.805), and a Supplement on emergency services for third-generation mobile networks. ITU-T has prepared an Action Plan to accelerate the standardization work of the technical groups in support for Telecommunications for Disaster Relief and Early Warning, and has appointed one of the groups to act as focal point for the activities. These are instrumental specifications that will be used as a basis for implementation by manufacturers and telecom network operators of facilities supporting emergency communications.
Disaster Risk Reduction Focal Point(s)
Mrs. Gisa Fuatai Purcell , Head, LSE Division, BDT / PKM (Fuatai.Purcell@itu.int), +41 22 730 6132