The venue is the International Conference Centre, Geneva where the Third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place. This segment of the programme was to train about 40 media and national platform representatives from Africa and Middle East Countries. Luckily Nigeria is also represented.
On the other hand Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head UNISDR urged the participants to play their roles in reducing the risk in disasters. She said the danger of inaction on the part of policy makers as well as those that could spread the information on DRR would be worst on our communities.
Richard Meares with wide experience from Reuters anchored the sessions where information officers and the journalists spoke frankly with sincerity about the seeming frosty relationship between them when it comes to information gathering and dissemination. While we discussed and deliberated on what constitute news and how the relationship should be defined, there were unclear issues on how best to influence not manipulate media reporting. Ethical issues were also raised but answer to the real question could not be answer. The question is why should media ignore most stories from organisations’ perspective? Must organisation cough out monetary resources in the name of adverts to get public adequately informed on potential hazards?
As a participant, I can say that it is quite exciting to have highly skilled resource persons as well as speakers addressing us on various topics from media coverage, media relations, crisis management and the new thinking on Disaster Risk Reduction.
As a participant I have healthy interaction, mutual exchange of experiences and expertise with other participants during the programme. We also have the additional opportunity of attending the Third Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction which was meant for high level delegations from multilateral, multinational organisations and government institutions across the globe.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, after declaring the main conference open, also addressed us at a Press Conference with other journalists that came to cover the Conference.
Other side attraction was the launching of a guide for journalists covering disaster risk reduction by Tim Sebastian of British Broadcasting Corporation who encourage every journalist or PR person to have the book. It is indeed must-read book. Because I still enjoy reading it now.
The most touching moment was when Ban Ki-moon disclosed that: “This conference’s aim is to reduce risk of disasters, through technology, knowledge and economic tools. But for many of us, this mission is also deeply personal. The United Nations is the global first responder to disasters and crises.
“As Secretary-General, I have seen the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, the destruction from the epic floods in Pakistan…the horrific impact of earthquakes in Haiti, Western China and Chile. I have looked in the eyes of those who have lost loved ones. I have listened to those who have seen the world they know disappear in a flash. And I have struggled to answer their simple, one-word question: Why? Just recently I was in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The hand of man was responsible for that catastrophe twenty-five years ago. But the earthquake and tsunami in Japan gave us the disaster in Fukushima with all its echoes of Chernobyl and a grave warning to the future.
“As we have learned again and again, no country or city – rich or poor — is immune.”
While I observe that most of the discussions centred on natural disasters, there are some countries that are so blessed and have never witnessed or recorded such natural catastrophes yet the dangerous antics of undesirable elements as well as ineptitude leadership in such nations are major resons for unwarranted human-induced disasters like wars, conflicts and diseases.
We must invest wisely today for better future through public awareness and empowerment of the people. The job is for all of us the journalists, PR people and all human. Disaster risk reduction is everyone’s business.