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Disasters continue to ravage the world with increasing frequency and severity. There are the natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, floods, drought, etc., and the man-made ones such as technological disasters (Bhopal and Chernobyl); and political disasters that may trigger civil wars with unprecedented scope for destruction. And that is not all, for we have a mix between naturally occurring hazards and man-made disasters, causing pollution, deforestation, desertification, and global warming, with potentially more calamitous consequences to our small planet.

Natural hazards are inevitable natural phenomena, and their transition into disasters is often a result of the organization and behavior of our society. Disasters do not have to cause such considerable loss of life and property as well as social dislocation. Some disasters can at best be prevented, and the impact of others largely mitigated or reduced. Communications of all sorts, especially specialized application of telecommunications and associated information technologies in remote sensing, radar and telemetry, broadcasting and other media, meteorology as well as communications for disaster logistics management, early warning systems, and public education on disasters all have a pivotal role in reducing loss of life and property arising from disasters.

Concerted effort by the international community is of crucial importance in harnessing the power of communications for disaster mitigation. Efforts already undertaken under the auspices of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), in particular through The Annenberg Washington Program, theTampere Declaration on Disaster Communications, and the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World as well as the Roundtable, The Media, Scientific Information and Disasters, are concrete actions toward ensuring that humanity is served by the communications technologies and services now at our disposal. It is our common responsibility to reduce disasters and the aggregate of their direct and collateral damage. We now have the means to do so.

The International Telecommunication Union will cooperate actively with all national and international actors and agencies concerned in order to fully exploit the telecommunication potential to avert disasters and to save life and property.

Pekka Tarjanne
International Telecommunication Union