On the first anniversary of the South Asian tsunami, the Pacific Center for Disaster Reduction was officially unveiled yesterday at an opening ceremony in Taipei.
The PCDR - an integrated platform designed to upgrade disaster reduction strategies - is a joint project under the auspices of the Democratic Pacific Union, numerous domestic disaster prevention and relief organizations and the National Applied Research Laboratory.
The DPU stressed that under the goals of "mitigating potential risks, advancing early warning systems, promoting regional collaboration and enhancing disaster reduction capabilities," the PCDR would serve as a platform for 26 DPU member countries to share information and hopefully significantly reduce the chance of tragedy resulting from natural disasters.
The 26 DPU members include Taiwan, Canada, United States, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, and New Zealand.
Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), also the chair of the DPU, said at the ceremony that the South Asian tsunami highlighted the need for all of humanity to come together to face contemporary ecological problems. She said that man's determination will not always conquer nature but at least dealing with disasters helps us all to learn some humility and how to respect nature, treasure resources, love all people and develop technology at the same time.
Lu emphasized that Taiwan could share not only its wealth, but also its technology and research skills with other member nations.
She said that because Taiwan experiences annual earthquakes and typhoons it has accumulated valuable experience in disaster prevention and relief.
In addition to conveying a great respect to Taiwan for showing sympathy, solidarity and generosity towards Indonesia after the tsunami, the Representative of Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei Ferry Yahya said that Taiwanese knowledge (through the platform of the PCDR) could greatly help those of his countrymen who are desperate for humanitarian aid.
According to the United Nations Development Program's recently published global report entitled "Reducing Disaster Risk - A Challenge for Development," the four main types of natural disasters - earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts - have killed over 1.5 million people around the world over the past 20 years, or over 184 people every day. The report also showed that economic losses caused by natural disasters dramatically increased between the 1960's and 1990's. Natural disasters respectively caused economic losses of US$75.5 billion during the 1960's, US$138.4 billion during the 1970's, US$213.9 billion during the 1980's and USC 659.9 billion during the 1990's.
Furthermore, according to the report, approximately 75 percent of the world's total population is exposed periodically to the four main types of natural disasters. However, if disaster prevention and relief work was better promoted and carried out, the probability of people dying because of natural disasters could be decreased by 4,000 percent it was contended.