Edited Version of January 24, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation

"The World Congress on Disaster Reduction"

Walter Hays, Ph. D.
American Society of Civil Engineers

Avagene Moore - Moderator
EIIP Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the January 24, 2001 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our discussion today focuses on the status and plans for the upcoming World Congress on Disaster Reduction. I will be your moderator for the session today.

It is indeed a pleasure to introduce our special guest, Dr. Walter Hays. Dr. Hays is an engineering seismologist and serves as Senior Program Manager for Sustainable Built Environment in the Technical and International Programs Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers, located in ASCE's World Headquarters in Reston, Virginia.

Dr. Hays is leading a global effort to convene a major upcoming event, the World Congress on Disaster Reduction. As he will explain, this is envisioned as a recurring global forum having activities that focus the goals and objectives of communities around the world on achieving a sustainable built environment and improving disaster technical assistance. Please help me welcome Dr. Walter Hays as he shares with us the plans and vision for the effort now underway. I now turn the floor to you, Walt.


Walter Hays: The concept of the World Congress on Disaster Reduction was born on June 24, 1999. The World Congress on Disaster Reduction is more than a meeting. It is a mechanism to build upon the accomplishments of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). It will also build upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Project Impact, and the Public Private Partnership 2000. In addition, it will build upon new initiatives such as the World Bank's ProVention Consortium and the United Nations' International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has provided leadership for The World Congress on Disaster Reduction since July 22, 1999. Plans for a Pre-World Congress Summit Meeting on 18-22 August 2001 and a World Congress Meeting in 2002 are now being implemented.


The goal of the World Congress on Disaster Reduction is to provide global leadership and professional education for the construction of buildings and infrastructure that are resilient to the disaster agents generated in natural and environmental hazards. The natural hazards include earthquakes, severe windstorms, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, wildfires, tsunamis, and droughts. Environmental hazards includes those triggered by natural and technological events, which have the potential for releasing toxic materials into the air, water, and soil.

The Pre-Congress Summit Meeting is a one-time event involving 150 of the world's experts in disaster reduction. It will be held at ASCE's World Headquarters, Reston, Virginia, on August 18-22, 2001. The goal of the Pre-World Congress Summit Meeting is to generate ideas for a series of regional forums and projects and to develop the final program for the World Congress Meeting in 2002.

The World Congress Meeting is a recurring event every 5 years, beginning in 2002, which focuses on disaster reduction. It will involve at least 1,000 of the world's experts (i.e., the Alliance of 1,000 for the World Congress) and many more via the Internet. ASCE will promote the implementation of five strategies of The World Congress on Disaster Reduction as a mechanism to promote sustainable development throughout the world.


Five strategies are:

1. Creation of the Alliance of 1,000: A diverse group of professionals representing public and private sector organizations throughout the world, started in February 2000. Members of the Alliance of 1,000 are "Watchmen" and "Watchwomen" for their country and organization. They are already working together to improve the capacity for sustainability and disaster technical assistance. They have the knowledge and personal influence to contribute to ongoing activities that ultimately will make communities and people throughout the world more resilient to natural and environmental disasters.

2. Creation of the Global Blueprints for Change: The Global Blueprints for Change are a coordinated set of 30 monographs encompassing three themes and thirty topics on all aspects of disaster reduction in the framework of sustainability of the built environment to natural and environmental hazards. Each one is tailored for specific regions of the world's seven geographic regions. The first of two editions of the Global Blueprints for change will be published in August 2001; the second edition in 2002. They will be updated at five-year intervals thereafter, or in accordance with need dictated by the nature and location of future disasters.

3. Development of Information and Human Resource Databases: Information and human resource databases will be developed in conjunction with the creation of then Alliance of 1,000 and the Global blueprints for Change.

4. Creation of Regional Forums and Projects: Regional forums and projects will be conducted annually beginning in 2001-2002. Local organizations in a region, working together, will host the forums, with support from counterparts in other geographic regions. The forums and projects will extend the dialogue on critical issues identified in the Global 'Blueprints for Change and expand the networking. The regional forums and projects are part of the long-term process that will ultimately lead to regional Centers of Excellence on /Sustainable Development.

5. Creation of Regional Centers of Excellence on Sustainable Development: These Centers are the institutional mechanisms for implementing and institutionalizing the vision of the World Congress on Disaster Reduction as a global rallying point for sustainable development and disaster technical assistance.

The Global Blueprints for Change are a "seedbed" for strategies on how to develop human, technical, and political capacity on local, regional, and global scales. The strategies are needed for three contexts. They are: 1) living with natural and environmental hazards, 2) building to withstand the disaster agents of natural and environmental hazards, and 3) learning from and sharing knowledge gained from natural and environmental hazards.


When created, the Regional Centers of Excellence on Sustainable Development will provide leadership on a variety of topics. The full range of topics encompasses technical, economic, social, and political solutions to reduce physical, social, enterprise, and environmental vulnerabilities in communities throughout the world.


I will answer questions now.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Avagene Moore: Thank you for the overview, Walt. I am sure everyone here will be monitoring the progress of the World Congress. On behalf of the EIIP, Amy and I are pleased to be part of the number who are working with you on this effort. We invite your questions or comments now.


Amy Sebring: Is ISDR (the successor arrangement to IDNDR) participating in the World Congress planning? Is the World Bank's ProVention initiative participating?

Walter Hays: ISDR is the United Nations' follow up to the IDNDR. ISDR focuses on all disasters. ISDR and all other programs, including the World Congress, will focus on social, technical, administrative, political, legal, and economic solutions. The principle is that the STAPLE factors must be integrated to solve the problem of disaster resilience.


Bill Gross: What about the sociological impact of all this, especially in the lesser developed world? Consider Brasilia, the city build from the ground up with no slums. Slums grew almost immediately. How will we account for human nature in planning for disasters? It's even a problem in coastal areas in the US.

Walter Hays: The sociological problems are the toughest to solve --- especially the eradication of poverty. Many do not yet have the STAPLE capacity. That is what the Blueprints for Change are about.


Avagene Moore: Walt, what do you mean by STAPLE? Can you clarify before we go on to the next question?

Walter Hays: STAPLE is the acronym for Social, Technical, Administrative, Political, and Economic factors in every community.


Cam King: Walter - could you provide a little more information about the "Centres" you are proposing. Have locations been chosen? Are you open for suggestions? If so to whom should they be addressed, etc. Manitoba has a major Institute for Sustainable Development and might be interested.

Walter Hays: The Centres do not exist today. They will be existing institutions that have expertise and interest in at least 1 of the 30 topics starting with the Aug.18 summit meetings and the forum that will be the venue to express interest from existing institutions.


Avagene Moore: Walt, you mentioned doing some of your work via the Internet in relation to the World Congress. How do you plan to use the Net to tie people into the process?

Walter Hays: Linked Web sites will provide the means to network effectively.


Elaine Sudanowicz: I have read the CIA 2015 Report that aired on Nightline last week. I am very concerned about the world's natural resources and development as it relates to lack of water distribution and greater use by more developed countries. Will there be a special forum addressing these issues for Blueprint for Change? Drought and water development issues are a 21st century problem that demands attention now to mitigate future human disasters and war.

Walter Hays: Water has not been fully developed yet. But EPA is coming aboard in about 2 weeks and it will be fully developed. It is on the agenda.

Elaine Sudanowicz: It appears it may all relate back to water use and development. I recommend reading the CIA 2015 Report. It is on the web.

Nita Archer: Selling & buying water rights - big business nowadays.


Roger Kershaw: Will one of the goals of your organization be to establish standardized building/fire codes, and inspection processes, internationally? I ask because even in the states, there are so many different ones used. How can designers come up with solutions, when there are so many different rules to follow?

Walter Hays: The ISO (International Standards Organization) standards is one of the way to develop consensus. One of the blueprints will deal with this topic; it's called the "Next Generation of Codes and Standards."


Ilan Kelman: It worries me that STAPLE does not include Environment. Could we perhaps incorporate it? Also, your initial remarks mentioned "construction of buildings and infrastructure" but the concept seems to go far beyond that. Why was construction given such prominence?

Walter Hays: The E in STAPLE really includes education and environment and ecology and other aspects. Living with disasters is the prominent theme that has the most blueprints. Construction is in the "Building to Withstand" theme, which has the second most number of topics.

Final Question:

Isabel McCurdy: How does one participate? Membership required?

Walter Hays: Please go to the Web site. No membership is required. Participation is welcomed and encouraged. See the Contact page.


Avagene Moore: Thank you so much for being with us today, Walt. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some announcements. Amy, thanks for graciously helping with Walt's responses via the phone.

Amy Sebring: Avagene, one more thing from Walter. He was recently featured on Robert Schuler's Hour of Power talking about the World Congress and it will be broadcast this Sunday. Check you local listings.

Justin Walker: El Salvador and the ongoing Galapagos emergency clearly illustrate once again that the world cannot respond effectively within 24 hours to any major emergency or disaster. Having researched in detail the international responses to every major disaster since Dec. 1988 I know this to be the case. Could we have your thoughts please on what sort of international response mechanisms and protocols should be in place especially as OCHA, INSARAG and other international agencies repeatedly fail?

[Per Dr. Hays, response aspects will also be addressed.]

Avagene Moore: A text transcript of today's session will be posted later this afternoon --- you can access from the Transcripts link on our homepage. A reformatted transcript in both html and in Word will be available by Friday or Monday for download. If you are not currently subscribed to get our program announcements, and would like to, please go to <http://mail.wces.net:81/guest/RemoteListSummary/EIIP>. Amy, will you please tell us about next week's session and our Pledgers?

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. First, we have a new Honor Roll member that fulfilled 12 months of pledges during December. Drum roll please!!! Roger Kershaw! Way to go <Roger! For the complete list of Honor Roll members so far, and more information about pledging, please see <http://www.emforum.org/eiip/pledge.htm>.

Roger Kershaw: Thank you Avagene and Amy for a year of enjoyable education.

Amy Sebring: Next week is a Tech Arena session on the Responder Assets Management System -- RAMS for short. Our guest will be Scott McKenney with the RAMS Project Office, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "RAMS provides integrated planning, training, logistics, and operations support for police, fire, medical, and other emergency management responders." An earlier version was used for last year's Super Bowl event, and previously for the Olympics in Atlanta. The final version is due to be completed during June this year, however, an early RAMS tool is being offered commercially just this month. Please join us next week for a preview. Back to you, Ava.

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. We also have a new Partner who formally joined the EIIP this week. We welcome Valencia Community College of Florida. Mr. Randy D. Olson, Program Director for Fire Science, is the EIIP Point of Contact there. If interested in becoming an official Partner, see <http://www.emforum.org/partners/criteria.htm>. Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now. Please help us thank Dr. Hays for his presentation.