THE United Nations has set up an advisory group that harnesses technology to combat natural and man-made disasters in 55 countries across Europe and Central Asia.  The UK has two members – one of them a professor at the University of Huddersfield, which is home to the Global Disaster Resilience Centre (GDRC).

Now, the University has hosted the latest meeting of the UN’s European Science and Technology Advisory Group (E-STAG).  Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga, who is co-director of the GDRC, is one UK members of E-STAG, alongside Professor Mark Pelling of King’s College, London.

The two UK experts were among the 15 members of E-STAG, from countries that include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK, who attended the Huddersfield meeting.  It took place over two days in the Phidias Lab – equipped with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment – at the University’s new Barbara Hepworth Building.

E-STAG members were welcomed by the University of Huddersfield’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor Andrew Ball.

He pledged: “Through our experts at the Global Disaster Resilience Centre and our other internationally-recognised research centres and institutes, we will continue to promote the role of science and technology in tackling some of society’s greatest challenges.”

Professor Ball said that these challenges included E-STAG’s “vital efforts” to support implementation of the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction, as well as related challenges around climate change, sustainable development and urbanisation.

E-STAG was established in 2018 by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.  The aim was to address the need for better inclusion of the science and technology communities in disaster risk reduction efforts, as called by the Sendai Framework.

Professor Amaratunga and her GDRC co-director Professor Richard Haigh have a long-standing partnership with UNDRR, with roles that include membership of the steering committee for Making Cities Resilient Campaign and leading an appointment as UNDRR Resilient Cities Advocates.

“Finding a way forward when bringing together different approaches, expertise and cultures is always a challenge, but we have succeeded in agreeing on an ambitious work plan for 2020-2021.”

E-STAG advisory group member Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga 

Professor Amaratunga stated that she was pleased with the outcomes of the meeting.

“The group is now on track to address two important aspects for improving disaster risk reduction in Europe by promoting evidence-based policies and increasing awareness, with a focus on local level and cities’ resilience,” continued Professor Amaratunga.

“We will also be addressing cross-cutting issues, including an assessment of national disaster reduction strategies, the contribution to a regional assessment report, and support for European Commission initiatives.”