Days before the devastating earthquake and tsunamis hit Japan, the United Nations and GVF, the non-profit association of the global satellite industry, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate more effective use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to support the humanitarian community before, during, and after disasters.
During a meeting held in New York City on 15 March, the Secretary General of GVF and the United Nations Secretariat, acting through the Technical Coordination and Partnerships Unit (TCPU) of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reached a landmark agreement to co-ordinate satellite-based support for humanitarian organisations.
Central to the agreement is implementation of the "GVF Disaster Preparedness Registry", an online platform that will facilitate humanitarian organisations' efforts to sustainably leverage satellite-based systems, services, and personnel for relief efforts, as well as for medium and long-term development programs that are conducted following disasters.
"This agreement will enable us to exchange vital information on new and existing technologies and applications that can improve the overall effectiveness of emergency telecommunications services delivered by the humanitarian community," said Chιrif Ghaly, Chief of UN-OCHA's TCPU.
"We are committed to expanding our work with the humanitarian community through this agreement, which builds upon 15 years of collaboration between GVF and UN-OCHA," said David Hartshorn, Secretary General of GVF. "The satellite industry has already begun confirming their participation in the Disaster Preparedness Registry, which will be available for use in the coming weeks.
The Disaster Preparedness Registry, which is also being launched in co-ordination with non-government organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholder groups, will enable first responders to more effectively draw upon rapidly deployable communications solutions, as well as systems and services that are already operating in close proximity to disasters.
UN-OCHA and GVF's collaboration will be conducted with continuing involvement of the UN Working group on Emergency Telecommunication (WGET). Mr. Hartshorn and Mr. Birnbaum were GVF's representatives during signing of the MoU, which took place during a WGET meeting held on 7-8 March at UNICEF's offices in New York City.