Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World Tsunami Awareness Day
5 November 2018
The exponential urbanization of coastal areas and development of tourism in regions exposed to tsunamis and other coastal hazards are putting millions of people at risk around the world. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the economic impact of tsunamis is devastating: approximately $10 billion for the five countries most affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives) and more than $360 billion for Japan following the 2011 tsunami.
In accordance with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, we commit to reducing, by 2030, the direct losses from disasters as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), which is the central theme of this third World Tsunami Awareness Day.
It is the most vulnerable coastal communities – whose incomes depend on tourism, fishing and aquaculture – who are the most severely affected by such disasters. It is our absolute responsibility to promote and integrate disaster risk management approaches in these areas, and raise the populations’ awareness of these risks, in order to build resilience.
The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has extensive experience in organizing training and awareness-raising activities in the four ocean basins, through education, organizing regular tsunami emergency and evacuation drills at the regional and local levels. This is in addition to the considerable scientific and technical efforts made for the maintenance and coordination of regional tsunami warning systems.
Despite significant progress, we continue to face major challenges, as demonstrated by the tsunami that hit the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia on 28 September 2018. In collaboration with the Indonesian authorities, IOC will coordinate field research by international assessment teams to learn more about the nature and impact of the phenomenon and propose recommendations for strengthening the early warning systems.
I call upon all Member States, international organizations and civil society to uphold the message of this World Tsunami Awareness Day, and to join forces today to find, together, solutions that will save lives tomorrow.