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GDIN 2000 Report

Report on GDIN2000, April 26-29, 2000, Ankara Turkey

See also Official Turkish Government Web Site on GDIN.

Report of the GDIN Secretariat

Success in Ankara, thanks to great organization from the Turkish Government:
At a Meeting at METU (Middle East Technical University), in Ankara Turkey, April 28, 2000, 212 representatives from 32 nations attended. Also attending were: 29 experts from academia, 40 from industry, 13 from the NGO community, 18 from the UN system, OECD, the World Bank, the EC and the NATO Science Committee.(1) These representatives adopted the Ankara Declaration on a Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) and elected various individuals and organizations to posts. It was agreed that GDIN is an informal International Partnership to facilitate the flow of information in the right format, at the right time to disaster managers at any stage of a disaster.

The Ankara Declaration:
The Ankara Declaration covers principles and organizational arrangements. For questions, contact Dr. Albert Simard, Natural Resources, Canada. (alsimard@NRCan.gc.ca), who acted as lead of the Drafting Committee. 

 This is an informal document that does not obligate governments or participating organizations; but it does provide a foundation upon which to build the future of the GDIN partnership. In particular it sets the stage for the development of Regional Disaster Information Networks and standards and procedures for sharing information. In addition, it offers a flexible procedure for amending the Declaration at and between conferences.

Dr. Albert Simard of Natural Resources, Canada, has been leading the project's efforts on policy statements since 1997, when he drafted the first such document. In addition to the Ankara Declaration, Dr. Simard was asked, as chairman of the Policy Committee and Drafting Committee, to draft a strategy document for consideration in Australia in 2001. Such a document would examine the future of GDIN, and would likely take into account suggestions from the participants on any needed structural changes, services, membership, etc. GDIN participants should send their comments on proposed changes (with rationale) to Dr. Simard.

The Ankara Declaration also identifies responsibilities and organizational relationships of various GDIN positions. Key positions were also filled; though the selections will be reviewed at the next GDIN conference in Australia in March, 2001. Those wishing to compete for these positions in 2001 should contact the Executive Director: Larry Roeder, at executivedirector@gdin.org

Positions filled were:

1. Larry Roeder, a the Policy Advisor on Disaster Management at the US Department of State. was elected Executive Director of GDIN. This appointment coordinates the other positions. Email: secretariat@gdin.org

2. Karen Robbins, President of a non-profit entity known as AmTech, was elected GDIN Fund Director and AmTech, was elected as the Secretariat. Email is: krobbins@amtech-usa.org.

3. Alta Haggarty of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was elected to coordinate a new Working Group that will develop the Information Facilitator function, a key GDIN function over the next year, though GDIN would still work to facilitate information flow during the 2000-2001 timeframe. Email is: haggarty@un.org.

4. AmTech was also elected to manage the web. The site administrator is Chris Gianuario. Email is: cgianuario@amtech-usa.org.  This was changed to the GDIN Secretariat in 2006 at secretariat@gdin.org

5. The Chairmen of the various Working Groups were also confirmed. (see below)

A GDIN FUND (gdinfund@gdin.org) was also established in order to pay for GDIN services, which have been either pro-bono or subsidized up to now. The core budget is projected at one and a half million US dollars for the first year, though this may be adjusted. Participants in GDIN are not required to contribute to the fund; but for those who do, a minimum 5% cash or in-kind contribution to the core budget enables the donor to sit on the Board of Directors of the Funding Committee. Contributions to off-budget items such as pilot projects do not count. The US Government is currently providing in-kind support at around 10%. Details on how to make a contribution will be posted on this web site during the Summer. All details on the fund, which is to be managed as a Trust, will also be posted on the web site, for reasons of transparency. Although a fund was established, the conference also agreed that GDIN should not be seen as a "donor" in disaster relief, rather a facilitator and stimulant for donor action. For questions on the fund, contact gdinfund@gdin.org

GDIN Industry Technology Conference Endorsed: The Conference also endorsed as an official GDIN event, a US Government-sponsored industry technology Conference scheduled for October, 2000 in Hawaii.

Internet Domain and the GDIN website: In addition, the conference also asked that GDIN be given the URL www.gdin.org. This topic was under discussion as the URL was then used by a national authority.  That entity then agreed to sell the url to GDIN.  The Conference endorsed the web site, which is a portal to GDIN activities and other disaster resources, not a disaster information repository in its own right, though it will likly contain useful databases.

Australia was endorsed as the host of the GDIN2001 Conference. Details will be posted on the GDIN website. During the year, the GDIN Conference Committee (Mexico, Australia, the US and Turkey, plus some GDIN staff) will explore a venue for 2002. GDIN participants are encouraged to propose venues and possible hosts and topics of discussion.

Regional initiatives were launched in Asia-Pacific, the Mediterranean and Africa led by the European Commission, the United States, Australia, Nigeria and Kenya. These are studies to see how a GDIN might be of value in those regions, perhaps through the development of regional disaster information networks (RDINs).

Bilateral and NDIN News:
It was also announced that during the conference the President of the United States signed an Executive Order establishing a US GDIN which may be a model for other governments wanting a national disaster information network (NDIN). GDIN was originally envisaged as a linkage of national or regional systems. The Russian and United States delegations also announced in a press conference joint cooperation on GDIN and an intent to report joint progress at the Australian Conference in March 2001. This could be a model for other bilateral initiatives of values to GDIN.

Information Facilitator:
The proposed structure and function of an information facilitator was also discussed in detail and will be the subject of a Working Group coordinated by Alta Haggarty of ReliefWeb. The concept was proposed specifically to help disaster managers get the right information in the right format, even in situations where the Internet is not an option. It is also designed to help disaster managers on the ground give "information providers" a work requirement statement clear enough so that they can respond in a timely manner with the right information. The concept is to provide an active human expert interface and MOU system to augment traditional passive web structures, though automatic features would also be possible. While the concept was agreeable to most of the conference, and there was support for GDIN to facilitate the flow of information this year in some manner, especially as a disaster season is about to occur, this specific proposal will need study in order to fully appreciate resource requirements and how the MOU system might operate. For example, do the experts sit in an office or are they on-call volunteers? What are the obligations under an MOUs system? What parts of this function might be automated? These factors and how the idea links to more traditional web structures will be explored by the working group.  This was turned over to David Baxa in 2006.  

Future Pilot Projects and the Role of Industry: Pilot Projects from any sector of society, academia, industry, etc, were seen as an important element of GDIN, but participants made it clear in off floor remarks that they did not want these to be blatant attempts by industry to sell products.

While the end result of a pilot project might expect to benefit a firm, the project's main goal must be the substantiation or examination of GDIN standards and procedures. The Industry and Pilot Project Working Groups both felt this way and intended to develop internal rules to prevent abuse. For questions Paul Bourget at DOD was the original chair person. .

Several firms displayed their wares in booths at the conference, and also participated in numerous panels, to include a workshop dedicated to developing a strategy for engaging industry in a useful partnership, chaired by David Baxa, who was commended for his impartiality. This partnership was considered essential by most participants; though the consensus also was that work shops and plenary sessions should not be used for purely commercial purposes. GDIN participants interested in industry strategy should contact David Baxa at david.baxa@vistait.com. Preliminary counting indicates forty experts attended from industry.

NGO's, Small Communities and Academic Centers also all played major roles, in particular for illustrating the essential added value of those sectors of society to the success of a GDIN. Of special note in these subjects were the leadership roles provided by Mario Aquilar of Mexico, Dr. Joanna Papoulia, Center for Marine Research, Athens, Professor Louise Comfort of University of Pittsburgh, Patricia Jocius of San Mateo, California, Russell Coile of Pacific Grove, California, John Owen-Davies of the UK, Professor Tom Austin of Iowa State, and many others. Preliminary counting indicates that 29 experts attended from academia, three from local and province level governments, 13 from the NGO community and 4 from the Red Cross. Tom Austin is already planning a GDIN International Academic Conference in 2000 in order to strengthen this sector's participation.

Working Groups:

Existing Working Groups were confirmed and new ones developed. Each was given  given its own page on the GDIN web site. Each Chairperson was also asked to develop terms of reference, to provide a list of participants and to work with the Executive Director on work requirements over the year.

As identified at the Ankara Conference, these are the current working groups. Participants are encouraged to join them. An additional working group that would examine how GDIN might be of value in tracking infectious diseases has also been proposed, but not yet formed.

1. Academia: Al Austin, Iowa State University

2. Capacity Building: Mario Aquilar, Embassy of Mexico, Washignton, DC.

3. GIS/Remote Sensing: Jean Yeves Bourchardy UNHCR.

4. Industry: David Baxa, Vista Technologies

5. Information Facilitator Definition: Alta Haggarty, UN OCHA,

6. NGO's: Patricia Jocius, San Mateo, California and John Owen-Davies, Reuters, UK.

7. Pilot Projects: Paul Bourget, US DOD

8. Policy: Dr. Albert Simard, Natural Resources, Canada 

9. Regional Initiatives • Africa: Col B. Wendo, National Disaster Operations Center, Nairobi, Kenya and Kenneth Nsor and Olowu Oluremi, National Emergency Management Agency, Nigeria. • Asia-Pacific: Jonathan Abrahams, Emergency Management, Australia,). • Mediterranian Initiative: Dr. Anver Ghazi, European Commission,, and Lori Dando and Dr. Fernando Echavarria, US Department of State

10. Small Communities: Dr Russell C. Coile, Pacific Grove, California

11. Standards: Dennis King, UNICEF, and Jean Yeves Bouchardy UNHCR

12. Telecommunications: Hans Zimmermann, UN OCHA, Chairman of the UN Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications.

13. Infectious Diseases: Coordinators being chosen. First meeting will be held in late June.

Commendations: Dr. Albert Simard of Natural Resources, Canada was commended on several occasions for coordinating the development of the Ankara Declaration. Dr. Polat Gulkan and Dr. Hussein Guler of Turkey were praised on many occasions for managing the conference, which was considered a significant success. Vice President of the United States Albert Gore thanked the gov't of Mexico, Turkey and Australia for making these gatherings possible. Australia drew much praise for their efforts to develop an effective Asia-Pacific partnership in support of GDIN. The major contribution of Larry Roeder, who worked tirelessly during the past year in developing the agenda and arrangements, was also widely acknowledged. Jill Brachhausen of AmTech was commended for her work in developing the GDIN web site and for her technical advice during the conference.