The precursor work of the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) towards the establishment of the Inter-Agency Task Force Working Group on Wildland Fire within the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
On 11 October 2000 the first UN inter-agency platform for wildland fires has been created under the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). This decision was made at the second meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction (IATF). The IATF is a constituent element of the ISDR and serves, among other, as the main forum within the UN system for devising strategies and policies for the reduction of natural hazards in accordance with the framework laid down in resolutions of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and of the UN General Assembly. The Working Group on Wildland Fire is one of four working Groups of the IATF and is coordinated by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC).
This report highlights the activities of the GFMC and the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire which have preceded this initiative during the last decade and in particular during the period 1998-2000.
The report contains a list of major events. In order to keep this document reasonably short some of these events are not explained in detail because they are self-explaining steps (milestones) on the way towards the formation of a global consortium of UN agencies and non-UN groups working on regional to global projects and programmes to address vegetation fires. International cooperation in mutual assistance during extreme fire emergencies at regional to global levels is underway.
2. Introduction: Precursor activities during the IDNDR
In response to the problems arising from forest fires in the region of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) the Joint ECE/FAO/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training established the Team of Specialists on Forest Fire in the early 1980s. The team’s main task is to provide a link in communication and cooperation between fire scientists, managers and policy makers. The main activities embrace (1) the production of International Forest Fire News (IFFN); (2) organization of international seminars; and (3) promotion of synergistic collaboration between governments, international institutions, non-government institutions, and individuals, especially in science and technology transfer, and policy development.
Recognizing that there is no similar regional activity elsewhere within the UN system the Team of Specialists on Forest Fire from the very beginning envisaged and implemented global information exchange by producing IFFN with a global scope and distribution (since 1988).
In response to the global escalation of wildfires and the problems related to the application of fire in land-use systems and land-use change, especially during the El Niño episode 1997-98, the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) was established as a contribution of the German government to the UN International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The GFMC is hosted by the Fire Ecology Research Group (Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, c/o Freiburg University, Germany). The GFMC head is also in charge of coordination (leader) of the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire (since 1993). Consequently the work of the Team merged with the activity of the GFMC.
Since 1998 the GFMC has extended its activities with the overall objective to create regional to global synergies in developing policies, programmes and projects to address fire in the different sectors of the UN system and the civil society. In the following an overview is given on the major projects which were initiated, coordinated or supported by the GFMC
3. Establishment of operations of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
Following the recommendations of the UN-ECE/FAO/ILO Seminar Forest, Fire and Global Change (Russia 1996)  and the ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests  and considering the events of 1997-98 in SE Asia and other parts of the world the team strongly underscored the need to establish an institution which at that time was preliminarily designated as a Global Fire Monitoring Facility. It was envisaged that this facility would process and publicly provide all fire and fire-related information which would assist governments, international organizations, the science community, and the management levels concerned to understand fire and to respond appropriately.
On the base of these recommendations the Government of Germany through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, in June 1998 provided initial funding for the establishment of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). In the foundation stage it was envisaged that the GFMC may facilitate the formation of a mechanism that would support the UN in assisting countries in wildland fire emergency situations, particularly through collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-UNEP/OCHA). The GFMC was inaugurated at the FAO Meeting on Public Policies Affecting Forest Fires (Rome, October 1998).
The GFMC fire documentation, information and monitoring system is accessible through the Internet . The daily to periodically updated national to global products of the GFMC are generated by numerous institutions worldwide. The information and data are systematically collected, interpreted and finally displayed on the internet.
The GFMC supports the international community of decision makers and scientists by providing global coverage of
Early warning of fire danger and near-real time monitoring of wildland fires
Interpretation, synthesis and archive of wildland fire data through a global network of information providers
Support of government or projects in developing national fire management programmes, with emphasis on fire prevention and community-based (integrated) fire management
Consultative support of international organizations and the United Nations through the coordination of Inter-Agency Task Force Working Group on Wildland Fire within the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
Emergency hotline and liaison capabilities for providing assistance for rapid assessment of wildland fire emergencies in collaboration with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Joint UNEP Environment Unit, Emergency Services Branch.
The GFMC is acting as affiliated partner of the
World Conservation Union (IUCN)
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO)
World Bank, Disaster Management Facility (DMF) and the ProVention Consortium on Natural and Technological Disasters
International Disaster Risk Management Institute (DRM)
German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
Furthermore the GFMC serves as coordinating or facilitating unit of the
Biomass Burning Experiment (BIBEX) of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project, and
the Forest Fire Research Groups of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA).
From the beginning of the UN International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and particularly at and after the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction (Yokohama, Japan, 1994) and the closing event of the IDNDR, the Geneva Forum (1999), the GFMC formulated programmatic visions to cope with disaster fires at national, regional and international scales.
After the formation of the Working Group Fire and Related Environmental Hazards within the IDNDR Early Warning Programme the GFMC contributed to the IDNDR Early Warning Conference 98 (EWC98, Potsdam, Germany). The report of the IDNDR fire group  was published at the occasion of the Potsdam conference. The GFMC was also represented at the IDNDR Scientific and Technical Council (STC) meeting in Washington (1998). At the closing event of the IDNDR, the Programme Forum convened in Geneva, 5-9 July 1999, the Team contributed jointly with the IUCN to the thematic session “Disaster Reduction and Preparedness through Protection of Natural Resources” .
Following a proposal of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) the ISDR Inter-Agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction (IATF) at its second meeting on 11 October 2000 agreed to establish the Working Group Wildland Fire.
The GFMC is coordinator of the Working Group. Details of the working mode and the terms of reference of the Working Group are prepared in early 2001.
5. Support of other sectoral UN activities and other international consortia
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Several members of the GFMC and the ECE/FAO Fire Team (Finland, Germany, Spain, Turkey) participated at the FAO Expert Meeting “Public Policies Affecting Forest Fire” (FAO, Rome, October 1998) . The GFMC contributed the forest fire analysis of the temperate-boreal zone of Europe-Asia . The expert meeting was followed by the FAO meeting of the ministers of forestry which released the “Rome Declaration on Forestry” (March 1999).
After the FAO ministerial meeting the GFMC was tasked by the FAO to update/revise the multilingual FAO “Wildland Fire Management Terminology”; the base document (English) has been finalized in 2000. Jointly with an FAO consultant the GFMC is currently finalizing the FAO Special Report on Forest Fires within the Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2000). The report attempts to provide a global analysis on the state of forest fires and the measures taken by the governments (draft is due in December 2000). Starting in December 2000 the GFMC has been entrusted by the FAO to establish and maintain the national reports and statistics on forest fires in the FRA 2000 homepage of the FAO. The GFMC also coordinates the preparation of the FAO Guidelines for Fire Management in Boreal, Northern Temperate and Southern Temperate Forests. The guidelines will follows the approach taken by the ITTO in developing the ITTO Guidelines for Fire Management in Tropical Forests.
An International Expert Meeting on Forest Fire Management, organised by FAO in cooperation with the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 7 to 9 March 2001. The main objective of the meeting was to examine the need and capacity of concerned member countries in predicting, preventing, managing and fighting forest fires and propose an action plan to enhance international cooperation in fire management, including mutual assistance in fire emergencies. The GFMC represented the WGWF and called for cooperation with the ISDR/WGWF. The Expert Meeting requested FAO, ITTO and collaborating agencies, to “Participate in the existing initiatives and mechanisms such as the Interagency Task Force Working Group on Wildland Fire of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR); the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG); the Joint United Nations OCHA/UNEP Environment Unit, the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC), and actively support the development of their programmes, and facilitate linkages within the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF)” .
United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)
The UNFF has been established in accordance with ECOSOC resolution E/2000/L.32* (18 October 2000) as a subsidiary body of ECOSOC. The objective of the international arrangement on forests is “to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.” The arrangement should “provide a coherent, transparent and participatory global framework for policy implementation, coordination and development” and promote the implementation of forest-related decisions of the international forest regime. In carrying out principal functions of the arrangement, the work should be based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21. An Eight-Country Initiative called for an International Expert Consultation, held in Bonn, Germany from 27 November to 1 December 2000. The expert consultation was an informal forum at the expert level to exchange views and information among participants in their personal capacity. On behalf of the ISDR/WGWF the GFMC presented the views and highlighted the needs for cooperation between UNFF and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) in the field of forest fire protection. The report of the expert consultation recommended areas of priorities to be identified by UNFF in which forest fires were included. Discussions were held with various partners to establish close links between UNFF / CPF and the Working Group on Wildland Fire (Appendix: Fig.1).
World Health Organization (WHO)
Recognizing that smoke originating from land-use fires and wildfires is cause of acute and long-term respiratory health problems and requires the development of a comprehensive strategy based on broad international consensus, the GFMC in 1998 began to cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO). In November 1998 the WHO convened a meeting in Peru aimed to prepare the Health Guidelines for Vegetation Fire Events The GFMC chaired the meeting and co-edited and co-authored the Health Guideline Document and a comprehensive set of background documents on behalf of UNEP, WHO, and WMO [7, 8, 9]. The guidelines are designed to support decision makers in preparedness and management of health problems arising from wildland fire smoke pollution.
United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO)
The work of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) was supported by participation at the UNESCO International Scientific Conference on Fires in the Mediterranean Forests . One of the two declarations released by the conference explicitly recommended to cooperate with the GFMC by stating :
The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) was established in 1998 and is currently co-sponsored, among others, by UNESCO, the IDNDR and several international fire research programmes, and cooperates with UN-ECE/FAO and FAO Silva Mediterranea. The overall goal of the GFMC is to facilitate information exchange and decision support at an international level by providing near real-time fire monitoring, archive data and other relevant information. Mediterranean countries are urged to actively contribute to continuously improve the information and data flow to the GFMC in order to create a most complete fire information system, to share expertise and to contribute to common international action programmes in fire management and policy development.
In December 1998 the Director General of UNESCO had formally declared the partnership with the GFMC.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
In 1998 the GFMC contributed the UNEP meeting “Coordination UN Response to Indonesian Fires”. In 1999-2000 the GFMC jointly with the IUCN cooperated with UNEP to prepare a request for funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for a multinational network of Integrated Forest Fire Management (Community-Based Fire Management) projects. It is envisaged to establish partnerships between regions, such as the Baltic Region, the Mediterranean Region, ASEAN, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), or the Organization of American States (OAS). The project proposal is currently on hold.
The joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Emergency Services Branch, is the key link to the emergency management assistance to countries affected by extreme wildland fire situations (cf. para 7).
United Nations University Research and Training Center (UNU-RTC)
The GFMC has supported a feasibility study on the establishment of the UNU Research and Training Center on Environment and Human Security. The study recommends the establishment of this facility in Bonn, Germany. Among the environmental hazards to be addressed by the UNU-RTC, the theme vegetation fires has been prioritized. The GFMC is available to further support this UNU concept as the academic and training element in the UN family concerned with fire.
Other International Consortia outside the UN System
The GFMC furthermore supported the establishment and is affiliated member of the ProVention Consortium on Natural and Technological Disasters at the World Bank Disaster Management Facility (DMF); the GFMC participated at the foundation meetings in Paris (June 1999) and Washington (February 2000).
The GFMC is an affiliated institution and covers the wildland fire disaster component of the World Institute for Disaster Risk Management (DRM), a consortium of the Swiss Federal Institutes for Technology, Virginia Polytech, Swiss Reinsurance, and the World Bank.
6. Regional activities in fire management cooperation
Within the ECE region the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and the GFMC regularly organizes regional seminars and conferences on forest fire issues. The last three conferences focused on the northern (temperate-boreal) forests:
Forest, Fire, and Global Change (Russian Federation 1996)
The First Baltic Conference on Forest Fires (Poland 1998)
The Baltic Exercise on Fire Information and Resources Exchange – BALTEX FIRE 2000 (Finland 2000)
The next conference will be focusing on:
Forest Fire in the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and adjoining Regions of the Near East and Central Asia (2002)
It is planned to organize this conference under co-sponsorship of the ISDR Interagency Task Force for Disaster and its Working Group Wildland Fire.
The BALTEX FIRE 2000 meeting for the first time provided a forum for fire scientists, managers and policy makers in which a multilateral prescribed burning and fire suppression exercise allowed to exchange information, personnel and material. BALTEX FIRE 2000 recommended a follow-up regional fire management programme aimed to contributed to the Baltic 21 Action Programme on Forests. This programme is in line with:
The UN Conference on Environment and Development UNCED (Rio 1992): Forest Principles and the Agenda 21, Chapter 11 on “Combating Deforestation and other”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Forest (IPF, 1995-1997); and
The Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Strasbourg 1990, Helsinki 1993, Lisbon 1998)
The Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) Project ENVRUS-9701 “Improvement in Forest Fire Response System, Russia” is an example for technology transfer between EU member states and the Russian Federation. The overall goal of the project is to support the establishment of a fire management information system that will enable conservation aims to be achieved in the implementation of sustainable forest management objectives. The project is technically and scientifically supported by a European consortium of three consulting companies which have included a number of European scientists. The GFMC has a project backstopping function and publishes the TACIS Project Newsletter on the GFMC Website .
NATO and Partners
After initial talks between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia about new mechanisms in East-West cooperation in science in 1993  a new initiative has been established within the NATO Science Programme. The NATO-Russia Joint Scientific and Technological Cooperation Committee under the auspices of the Scientific and Environmental Affairs Division of the NATO has organized a targeted program of cooperative research. The cooperative activity was be initiated with three seminars one of which was entitled Forecasting and Prevention of Catastrophes, Safety in Natural and Industrial Aspects. The seminar took place on 30-31 October 2000 in Moscow at the Russian Academy of Sciences and agreed on a scope statement defining the research area and outlining the range of potential collaborative research activities. The scope statement will be forwarded to the NATO-Russia Advisory Panel to provide the basis for solicitation of research proposals to be funded by NATO and member country government agencies. The concept paper Implications of Global Change on Forest Fires was introduced by the GFMC as an invited partner. Both sides, the representatives of the science community of NATO member states and Russia, agreed that priority must be given to address the problems proposed by the GFMC. The GFMC envisages to call for a NATO Workshop on Advanced Fire Management Strategies in the Boreal Forest to be convened in Russia in the near future (2001 or 2002).
Currently the GFMC prepares a regional Subsaharan Africa fire management initiative which builds on previous activities within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. A comprehensive survey of the countries South of the Sahara is underway and will be included in a Handbook for Forest Fire Management in Subsahara Africa in early 2001 . The project is funded by the German Foreign Office, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) forms a political and geographic entity which seeks intra-regional and international cooperation in solving transboundary fire and fire-generated smoke pollution problems. ASEAN has appreciated inputs by ECE member countries to overcome the past and future environmental and humanitarian crises caused by indiscriminate burning of forests and other vegetation.
The GFMC contributed to the “Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Transboundary Pollution” (Singapore, May 1998) which was organized by the Germany-Singapore Environmental Technology Agency (GSETA). The ECE experience in transboundary air pollution was presented by various speakers. The team leader reported about common transboundary issues related to fire and haze in the ECE and the ASEAN region .
As a consequence of the South East Asian fire and smoke-haze pollution episode of 1997-98 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also called for a Workshop on Regional Transboundary Smoke and Haze in South-East Asia which followed the GSETA meeting on 2-5 June 1998, Singapore. The workshop was one element of WMO’s efforts to enhance the capacity and capability of National Hydrometeorological and Meteorological Services (NMHSs) in South-East Asia to monitor and model smoke and haze episodes and the long range transport of anthropogenic pollutants, and to improve the NMHS’s abilities to advise, alert, and generally manage these pollution events. It involved a review and discussion of regional plans such as the WMO Program to Address ASEAN Regional Transboundary Smoke (WMO-PARTS). Through the participation of the GFMC the expertise gained from research and development in the fire sector in the SE Asian region was contributed . At a later stage of the SE Asian fire crisis the GFMC reviewed fire management guidelines at the International Cross-Sectoral Forum on Forest Fire Management in South East Asia, Jakarta, Indonesia, 7-8 December 1998 .
Furthermore the GFMC assisted the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to design a regional cooperation project “Strengthening ASEAN´s Capacity to Prevent and Mitigate Transboundary Atmospheric Pollution Resulting from Forest Fires” (RETA 5778-REG).
During the report period the GFMC continued to support a broad range of bi- and multilateral scientific, technical fire management and fire policy development programmes in all continents. Most of the projects are long-term oriented, thus some of them go back to the early 1990s or even the 1980s. With the begin of the technical cooperation with Indonesia the GFMC developed the concept of Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) which, among other, is based on a Community-Based Fire Management (CBFM) element. The IFFM Indonesia project is sponsored by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GTZ) with a lifetime of nine years (1994-2003) and a total funding of ca. DM 20 million.
A special focus has been developed by the GFMC to assist nations in developing long-term fire management strategies. So far the GFMC has initiated National Round Tables on Fire and facilitated long-term programmes in Indonesia (1992), Namibia (1999) and Ethiopia (2000).
Fundamental research in fire ecology and atmospheric chemistry
During the 1990s the research conducted under the scientific framework of the Biomass Burning Experiment (BIBEX) of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project, and an increasing number of other projects have provided a sound base for understanding the implications of wildland fires on ecosystems, planetary-scale processes (biogeochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, climatology) and humanity. It is felt, however, that only a marginally small amount of fundamental knowledge has found its way to the level of application, especially in the disadvantaged countries of the developing world. A major objective of the work of the GFMC therefore is the science and technology transfer (see para. 6).
Remote sensing of wildland fires
Advanced sensor technologies and operational systems of dedicated fire satellites are required to improve the spatio-temporal coverage and information content for research and disaster management purposes. A prototype improved high temperature event (HTE) sensor, the Bi-spectral IR Detection (BIRD) small satellite mission is currently developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt – DLR) in co-operation with the GFMC. The development of the Innovative Infrared Sensor System FOCUS, to be flown as an early external payload of the International Space Station (ISS) is another joint DLR-GFMC project.
Most significant is the cooperation of the GFMC with the work of the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). The GFMC provides inputs into the Disaster Management Support Group (DMSG) and the Global Observation of the Forest Cover (GOFC) Fire Implementation Team. A major synthesis publication on the state of the art and the future requirements of satellite remote sensing of vegetation fires and fire effects is currently prepared by GOFC and the GFMC .
Most significant is the cooperation of the GFMC with the work of the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). The GFMC provides inputs into the Disaster Management Support Group (DMSG) and the Global Observation of the Forest Cover (GOFC) Fire Groups. A major synthesis publication on the state of the art and the future requirements of satellite remote sensing of vegetation fires and fire effects is currently prepared by GOFC and the GFMC .
The GFMC is currently investigating to test the application of the Charter on Cooperation to Achieve the Coordinated Use of Space Facilities in the Event of Natural or Technological Disasters in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), the French Centre National dÉtudes Spatiales (CNES) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
9. International wildland fire emergency assistance
Until recently the mandate of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) of the United Nations has focussed to the “classical” SAR cases such as saving lives after earthquakes. However, experience has shown that secondary effects of natural and technogenic disasters require additional specialist advice in conjunction with SAR response and other humanitarian aid missions. The INSARAG family offers an appropriate structure.
At a regional INSARAG Europe-Africa meeting in December 1999 (Germany) a first proposal was elaborated to establish an INSARAG Fire Group consisting of three elements:
Hazardous Materials (Hazmat)
At a meeting at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in January 2000 it was agreed that the original mandate of INSARAG which in addition to search and rescue would also covers wider aspects of disaster/emergency response. This could include a variety of natural and human-made disasters, including wildland fires. INSARAG would assist in strengthening OCHA’s role by:
Governmental experts advisory support in case of a major emergency
Advisory experts to be provided out of the INSARAG family covering many fields of disaster relief
At the 5th INSARAG Regional Europe-Africa Conference (Hammamet, Tunisia, November 2000) the establishment of the Working Group Fire was formally decided. The terms of reference of the group include:
Implementation of fire and HAZMAT topics into the INSARAG Guidelines as required
Establishment of a database of human resources, equipment, information sources, evaluation of missions
Facilitation of continuous exchange of information through the Internet, initially utilizing the OCHA Relief Web and other homepages and networks such as GFMC
Support the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Emergency Services Branch, by providing expertise and knowledge of its members
Between December 1999 and the Hammamet Regional INSARAG Conference the GFMC facilitated the work of the provisional Fire Group, including its participation at BALTEX FIRE 2000. The GFMC favours the establishment of an international INSARAG Working Group on Wildland Fire for all INSARAG regions.
In view of recent experiences, in particular the large forest fires in Indonesia (1997-98), the Russian Federation (1998) and Ethiopia (2000), the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Emergency Services Branch, and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) recognized the need for improved cooperation in early warning, information dissemination and response to wildland fire emergencies. In February 2001 it was agreed between the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Emergency Services Branch, and the GFMC to elaborate details for a cooperative agreement. In April 2001 both institutions signed Interface Procedures that regulate of communication flows and information sharing between both institutions.
This new development represents an initiative which would support Decision 21/17 o the 21st Session of the UNEP Governing Council (UNEP/GC21/L.6) in which it was recommended to enhance long-term strategic cooperation between ISDR and the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit.
10. Disaster management networks and use of advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The GFMC is in close contact with numerous providers of data and information which is needed to compile and analyze the wildland fire situation at national to global scales. Various information networks are linked with the GFMC. The GFMC has also been used in providing near-real time situation reports during fire crises, most prominently during its involvement in assessing of and responding to the large fire emergency in Ethiopia, February to April 2000 .
The GFMC is observing the development of upcoming networks such as the Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN international). GDIN international is a concept for reducing the impact of natural and technological disasters through better application of information technology to disaster management.
The Workshop on Natural and Technological Hazards Research in the European Union: Contribution to a Mediterranean Disaster Information Network (MEDIN), held at the European Commission in Brussels in November 2000, elaborated a regional initiative which is carefully being observed by the GFMC. MEDIN is an initiative to promote the sharing of disaster related information, data, research results, knowledge and expertise with the GDIN-International partners and shareholders.
The GFMC is available to share its expertise with GDIN international and MEDIN.
11. Organizational and scientific setting of the GFMC in Germany
The GFMC is established at the Fire Ecology Research Group, a subdivision of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, Biogeochemistry Department. The location of the GFMC is the University of Freiburg where a basic course on fire ecology and fire management is offered at the Faculty of Forest Science . The GFMC supervises and acts as examiner (referee) for doctoral dissertations in a number of universities worldwide.
In Germany the head of the GFMC serves as a member in the Board of Directors of the German Committee on Disaster Reduction (within the ISDR) and its Scientific and Operational Advisory Boards (http://www.dkkv.org/). The GFMC is also member of the German Research Network for Natural Disasters and coordinates the Forest Fire Cluster (http://dfnk.gfz-potsdam.de/).
The GFMC through its head is full member of the Scientific Council of the Siberian Centre for Ecological Research of Boreal Forests and the International Laboratory of Forest Fire Ecology (Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation).
The GFMC and its precursor host facility, the Fire Ecology Research Group, convened a number of international conferences on wildland fire ecology, strategic science planning and policy development.
The El Niño of 1997-98, its resulting circum-global climate extremes, and the associated fire and smoke episode have revealed the need to address vegetation fires at international or truly global scale. Much of the work of the Fire Ecology Research Group, jointly with the partners of the ECE/FAO Fire Team and the GFMC network, during the recent years has been devoted to create interdisciplinary and international synergies to achieve this goal.
One of the strategies of the GFMC was the systematic cooperation with international agencies, programmes and consortia by establishing links to focal points within these different groups. It seems that in the year 2000, right at the beginning of the work of the ISDR, this community, jointly with the civil society including the academia, is ready to collaborate.
Through the ISDR Interagency Working Group on Wildland Fire it is envisaged to establish interagency and intersectoral forum of UN agencies and programmes, mechanisms of information and task sharing in the field of reducing the negative impacts of fire on the environment and humanity. The Working group will be supported by a Consultative Group consisting of representatives of the civil society, including the academia, non-government organizations, and the industry active in relevant fields or potentially to be involved.
The terms of reference of the Working Group yet has to be determined at its constituting meeting. However, taking into consideration earlier international conference resolutions there is a strong feeling that the Working Group will give priority to:
Establishment of internationally agreeable criteria for fire damage assessment and procedures for a Global Vegetation Fire Inventory i.a.w. with the requirements of the Conventions on Climate and Biodiversity as well as the overall scope of work of the UN agencies and programmes; and
Development of a scheme for the establishment and operational procedures of a global network of regional to national focal points for wildland fire early warning, monitoring and impact assessment, with the objective to enhance the capabilities of the existing Global Fire Monitoring system.
Johann G. Goldammer Global Fire Monitoring Center Fire Ecology Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry c/o Freiburg University, P.O.Box, D-79085 Freiburg, GERMANY
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Fig.1. Draft structure of international fire management working programme between the ISDR and United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) in conjunction with other UN and non-UN programmes.