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The Text of the Tampere Declaration

22 May 1991, Tampere, Finland


1. The group of experts in communications and disaster management participating in the Conference on Disaster Communications held at Tampere, Finland, from 20-22 May 1991, declare that there is an urgent need to improve international co-operation in communications and enhance national communications capabilities in order to reduce loss of life, damage to property and livelihoods, and damage to the environment caused by disasters. For the purpose of this Declaration disasters are viewed as extreme occurrences which outstrip the ability of an affected society to cope with them. Behind these events often lie chronic problems stemming from the interaction of natural, environmental and man-made factors. In this regard the Tampere Conference welcomes the proposal for a Pilot UN Centre for Urgent Environmental Assistance (Agenda Item No. 4) to be considered at the 16th Governing Council Session of the UN Environment Programme, Nairobi, 20 to 31 May 1991.

2. The Tampere Conference reiterates the primary responsibility of national authorities for disaster management and communications. The supportive role of international organizations in disaster management is highlighted. The Conference also recognizes the important role played by indigenous and international non-governmental organizations in disaster mitigation and relief.

3. The Tampere Conference recognizes that disasters have killed millions of people over the past twenty years alone and caused massive financial and other damage to people, property and the environment. Such disasters will continue to occur frequently around the globe, with particularly devastating consequences in the developing countries. Further efforts are required to prevent such disasters and alleviate their consequences.

4. The Tampere Conference stresses that improved flows of international information through telecommunication technologies, including satellite and broadcasting, can assist in the prediction, monitoring and early warning necessary to prevent some of the consequences and reduce the impact of such disasters once they have occurred. There is an urgent need to improve the nature, scope and quality of information being transmitted internationally, including its validity, significance, accuracy and timeliness.

5. The critical role of the mass media in providing public information services to communities at risk is recognized, as is their broader role in education and opinion-forming, particularly with regard to slow-onset disasters.

6. Terrestrial and satellite communications, including established international satellite networks, and remote-sensing technologies have played, and will continue to play, major roles in reducing the devastating effects of disasters by dramatically improving hazard identification and risk assessment, disaster preparedness, monitoring, early warning and onset and post-disaster relief operations. These facilities are, in practice, not universally accessible, particularly in developing countries where such disasters most frequently occur.

7. Communication links are almost always disabled and disrupted during the first hours of a major disaster. When disaster strikes, there is an urgency to establish effective and comprehensive communication links at the disaster site, between the site and the national systems for dealing with disaster response, and with the concerned international community.

8. The Tampere Conference endorses the Preamble and Major Needs identified and the Recommendations adopted at the UNDRO International Conference on Disaster Communications on 21 March 1990 and held in the context of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).

9. The Tampere Conference calls for the development of a convention on Disaster Communications as elaborated further below and to be negotiated not later than 1993. This Convention should be viewed in the context of a future comprehensive accord on disaster management.

10. The Tampere Conference recognizes the urgent communications needs generated by emergency disaster relief and the longer-term needs of disaster mitigation.

Communications in Disaster Relief

11. Present limitations to disaster communications include:

12. In order to overcome these barriers a convention on Disaster Communications should, at a minimum:

(h) establish appropriate further rules relating to matters as: (i) establish the basis for an appropriate tariff structure for domestic and international communications carriers, including waiver of charges where appropriate, and the necessary philosophy and approach to payment for communications services required in disaster relief efforts.

Communications in Disaster Mitigation

13. Effective early warning systems and comprehensive data bases are limited by the unequal access to communications technology, software and expertise.

14. The proposed Convention should, at a minimum, establish mechanisms for international co-operation in the use of terrestrial and satellite telecommunications technologies in the prediction, monitoring and early warning of disasters, especially the early dissemination of information to those in the at-risk communities.

The Way Forward

15. The Tampere Conference recommends that no later than 1993 an intergovernmental conference be convened under the auspices of UNDRO to prepare for the negotiation of an International Convention on Disaster Communications to establish appropriate mechanisms to improve international co-operation. This conference should be complementary to envisaged intergovernmental action to facilitate the use of communications equipment for disaster relief and to the global meeting of IDNDR National Committees proposed for 1993.

16. To carry through the above suggestions--the enhancement and improvement of disaster communication--will require a realistic financial commitment from the international community, including governments, international organizations, donor organizations, non- governmental organizations and the private sector.

17. The proposed Convention should take account of existing provisions and proposals, including Resolution No. 209 (Mob-87) of the World Administrative Radio Conference for the Mobile Services, Geneva, 1987, on the Study and Implementation of a Global Land and Maritime Distress and Safety System.

18. The development of the proposed Convention on Disaster Communication should be coordinated by UNDRO, in co-operation with the ITU and other relevant organizations, including international terrestrial and satellite telecommunications operating organizations.

19. Recognizing that the development of such a Convention will take time, the Tampere Conference calls upon all States to consider urgent measures to give effect to the provisions of this Declaration on an interim unilateral or bilateral basis for general humanitarian reasons.

20. The Tampere Conference recommends that, consistent with the goals and objectives of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, the UN Disaster Relief Co-ordinator should take the appropriate steps to implement the intent of this Declaration with the support of, and in consultation with, other concerned bodies of the UN system, international terrestrial and satellite telecommunications operating organizations and non-governmental organizations.

21. The Tampere Conference recommends that this Declaration be circulated to governments, intergovernmental organizations and non- governmental organizations, and in appropriate international fora, such as the November 1991 International Red Cross Conference and the June 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, and be considered in the relevant activities of concerned organizations and institutions at the international, regional and national levels.

22. The Tampere Conference expresses its gratitude to the Government of Finland and the City of Tampere for hosting the Conference; to the International Institute of Communications for convening it; to the Aamuhleti Group Ltd. and The Annenberg Washington Program in Communications Policy Studies of Northwestern University for their support; to UNDRO, the ITU, UNHCR, WMO, WHO and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for their support; to the Finnish Post and Telecommunications, the Center for Public Service Communications, and the Centre for International Environmental Law for their assistance; and to all those present for their participation.