UN: ISDR and the International Fire Community – Transition from the IDNDR Programme to the first Biennium of the ISDR (IFFN No. 22 – April 2000)


ISDR and the International Fire Community
Transition from the IDNDR Programme to the first Biennium of the ISDR

(IFFN No. 22 – April 2000, p. 104-106)

On 11 December 1987 at its 42nd session, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated the 1990’s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The basic idea behind this proclamation of the Decade was and still remains to be the unacceptable and rising levels of losses which disasters continue to incur on the one hand, and the existence, on the other hand, of a wealth of scientific and engineering know-how which could be effectively used to reduce losses resulting from disasters.

The UN World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction which was part of a mid-term review of Decade activities, was held in Yokohama (Japan), 23-27 May 1994. The UN-FAO/ECE/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire used the opportunity to express its views on global fire to the IDNDR. A brief report to the UN World Conference has been published in IFFN No.11.

In 1997 close links were established between the IDNDR Secretariat in Geneva and UN Fire Team through the Fire Ecology Research Group and the Global Fire Monitoring Center. In July 1997 the UN Fire Team was entrusted with the formation of a Working Group “Fire and Related Environmental Hazards” of the IDNDR Early Warning Programme. The recommendations of the report which was submitted to IDNDR in 1997 were incorporated into the Report of the UN Secretary General “Improved effectiveness of early-warning systems with regard to natural and similar disasters”. The IDNDR Fire Working Group contributed to the International IDNDR Conference on Early Warning Systems for the Reduction of Natural Disasters.

During the second half of the IDNDR the Fire Working Group activities and the work of the UN-ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire were closely linked to a series a projects and programmes. The last summary update of joint activities were published in IFFN No. 19. Between 1997 and the end of IDNDR in 1999 the following activities were accomplished:

International Science and Policy Support during the 1997-98 Fire and Smoke Episode

The team supported the governments of the ASEAN region with advice on measures to be taken to mitigate the consequences of the ongoing and to prevent future negative impacts of fire application and land-use fires on the environment, ecosystems and human health. Several conferences and strategic planning meetings were supported, notably:

  • UNEP Meeting “Coordination UN Response to Indonesian Fires” (Geneva, 20-21 April 1998)
  • Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Transboundary Pollution, Germany-Singapore Environmental Technology Agency (Singapore, 27-28 May 1998)
  • WMO Workshop on Regional Transboundary Smoke and Haze in South-East Asia (Singapore, 2-5 June 1998)
  • WHO Workshop for the preparation of the “Health Guidelines for Vegetation Fire Events” (Lima, Peru, 6-9 October 1998) and production of the guidelines (publ. in Singapore, December 1999)
  • International Cross-Sectoral Forum on Forest Fire Management in South East Asia” (Jakarta, Indonesia, 7-8 December 1998) and the World Bank Workshop on Fire Hazards, Transboundary Haze and Sustainable Forestry in East Asia and the Pacific in South East Asia (Surabaya, Indonesia, 9-12 December 1998)

Implications of the 1997-98 Fire Episode: Collaboration with Agencies and Programmes of the UN and other International Organizations

  • Establishment of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (Freiburg/Germany, June 1998)
  • UNESCO, the World Bank, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) are official co-sponsors of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (Dezember 1998 – July 1999)
  • Support of the FAO Consultation “Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires” (26-28 October 1998) in preparation of the FAO Conference of the Forest Ministers and the “Rome Declaration on Forestry” (9 March 1999)
  • Support of the UNESCO Conference Fires in Mediterranean Forests: Prevention, Suppression, Soil Erosion, Reforestation (Athens, Greece, 3-6 February 1999)
  • Organization of the international Workshop Fire on Ice (Khabarovsk, Russian Federation, August 1999) addressing the relationship between climate change, permafrost, forest and fire.
  • Begin of the revision of the FAO Multilingual Wildland Fire Management Glossary

Final Phase of IDNDR and Transition to the ISDR

  • Participation at the final event of the IDNDR, the Programme Forum (Geneva, 5-9 July 1999). Launch of the proposal on the Creation of an Interagency Task Force on Fire (ITFF) under the umbrella of the ISDR and the UN Interagency Task Force.

Support of the Establishment and Member of the World Bank ProVention Consortium

  • Preparation of the World Bank ProVention Consortium (Consortium for Natural and Technical Catastrophes), Paris (1-2 June 1999) and Washington (2-4 February 2000). The GFMC is Associate Member of the ProVention Consortium.

Support of the Establishment and Cooperating Institution of the World Institute for Disaster Risk Management (DRM)

  • The GFMC and the UN Fire Team supported the launching of the DRM, a joint venture of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, Swiss Re, the World Bank, and Virginia Tech (Alexandria/Washington, 29 February 2000)

Support of the Establishment and Cooperating Institution of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)

  • Ongoing participation in the CEOS Disaster Management Support Group (DMSP) since 1998
  • Active participation in establishing the Global Observation of the Forest Cover (GOFC) Fire subgroup (Ispra, Italy, 3-5 November 1999)

Establishment of a Wildfire Subgroup within the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG)

  • First preparatory meeting at the INSARAG Europe-Africa Conference (Neuhausen/Stuttgart, Germany, 9-11 December 1999)
  • Second preparatory meeting of INSARAG Subgroup Wildfire at BALTEX FIRE 2000 (Kuopio, Finland, 5-9 June 2000)
  • Preparation of the INSARAG Europe-Africa Conference (Tunisia, 16-19 November 2000)

Other new Initiatives by the UNECE/IDNDR Fire Group

The Baltic Focus

  • First Baltic Conference on Forest Fires (Radom-Katowice, Poland, 5-8 May 1998)
  • Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange 2000 – BALTEX FIRE 2000 (Kuopio, Finland, 5-9 June 2000)

(Editor IFFN)


Documents on these activities can be found at the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC).

IFFN No. 22

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