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GDIN 1999 Report

a) Background: The 1999 GDIN Conference in Mexico City went extremely well. In advance of the Conference, the Mexican and US Governments agreed that the US Delegation would in cooperation with the rapporteurs and other participants, coordinate a final report to be reviewed by the entire conference on the last day. This same procedure was used on the last day of the Washington Conference. This report was not a US document; instead, it was intended to be a report that contained comments by all delegations that chose to make remarks -- and thus is supposed to be a mandate for action from the conference. With a few modifications that are mentioned below, the document presented in the last day stood as presented. This is was considered a main goal of the conference and is intended to be a model procedure for future conferences. The report was presented as a power point slide presentation, but here it is reported in text format, pending further editing that will allow us to post images.

We welcome comments by other delegations as well that will be added as footnotes. In addition, we anticipate that the reports of the rapporteurs will also be posted.

(b) Comments from the floor on the presentation:

  • Some were of the view that GDIN might be a funding source or technology transfer source in order to bolster capacity building in connectivity poor nations. The US Delegation agreed that the Working Groups should be staffed with experts who could make technical proposals that facilitate the efforts of donors, but GDIN should be neither a source of funding nor a tech transfer organization. GDIN does need to reconcile the relative technological levels of disaster prone nations, as demonstrated by the experience of Honduras during Hurricane Mitch, and by the experience by the US Department of State when it used remote sensing technology to rescue refugees off of a volcano in Zaire a few years ago -- both points discussed in the conference.
  • One delegate felt that GDIN should deal with humanitarian emergencies. The response was that under the advise of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator during the 1998 Conference in Washington, the 1998 Conference participants decided to stick with natural and technological disaster for now, those disasters being less politically sensitive.
  • Many wanted more participation in GDIN and lamented poor Latin American participation, though over 130 experts attended from over 18 nations, some as far apart as Bangladesh, South Africa and Australia. Representation from Central American countries impacted by Hurricane Mitch was greatly missed. Perhaps they could not attend, due to resource limitation.
  • All agreed that working groups needed to use the power of the Internet for consensus building, though the conference also agreed that the world is not well connected and that the working groups need to take this into consideration.
  • All also agreed that the working groups should look for connectivity solutions using appropriate technology and compatible equipment.
  • A Mexican academic suggested GDIN foster procedures to help nations raise the consciousness of the need for prevention. In a similar fashion, another delegation said that GDIN needed to foster ways of moving essential information to the general public. All agreed.
  • Alert Net felt GDIN should not be considered an US-UN system, but instead a worldwide effort. The project is in fact intended to be a partnership between the UN, governments, the Red Cross, IO's, NGO's, Industry and academia. AlertNet (an NGO associated with Reuters news Service) also recommended that GDIN begin posting real disaster information on the web site in advance of Turkey. The US Delegation agreed to consider doing this, though a number of technical and financial considerations will need to be met.
  • The delegation from the Organization of American States OAS suggested a working group be formed that defines user needs and priorities in different regions. This is in fact being handled in existing working groups.
  • Alta Haggarty, Coordinator of ReliefWeb, liked the concept of GDIN. She hoped that ReliefWeb would greatly benefit from GDIN. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator had already endorsed GDIN in 1998 at the Washington Conference and did so again in a speech made on his behalf by his personal representatives, Gerhard Putman-Cramer, on the first day of the conference.
  • Mexico concluded with a statement of their satisfaction with the conference and cooperation from the US Government.
  • The South African delegation also indicated an interest in collaborating on an African GDIN forum in September, 1999 in Nairobi being coordinated by the US Government.
  • The US Delegation thanked the Mexican government for their professionalism, as well as the delegates from Australia, Austria representing the European Community, Italy, the European Space Agency, Turkey, Canada, the UNOCHA.

Report of the 2nd International GDIN Conference Mexico City, Mexico, May 14, 1999

Mexico City Deliverables

  • Agree on GDIN vision.
  • Agree to form Working Groups, identify regional initiatives, consider pilot projects, and suggest the time, venue, and purpose of upcoming conferences.
  • Continue dialogue toward international GDIN partnerships.
  • Agree to work to enhance the sharing of disaster-related information, including remote sensing data from multiple sources.
  • Agree to maintain a web site, database and list server for GDIN conference development, to facilitate communications among participants.
  • Agree to complete a strategic plan for GDIN in 2000.
  • Rapporteur Reports will be posted on the web site.
GDIN Vision

"A robust, integrated, virtual network for cooperative exchange of timely, relevant information used during all phases of emergency management to save lives and reduce economic loss." This network is the basis for an international partnership that;

  1. facilitates the sharing of disaster related information.
  2. takes advantage of new technologies such as recent advances in remote sensing and GIS technology, and the growth of Internet connectivity.
  3. includes all sectors: governments, private sector industry, international organizations, volunteer agencies and appropriate NGOs, regional cooperative efforts, and academia.
  4. GDIN is also an effort to get the right information to the right people in the right form at the right time.

Unofficial GDIN Group to Support GDIN Conferences

  • This was an organization chart which will be posted at a later date. One box on top has the words "Conferences supported by Host Organization" Below are three boxes which say (1) Project, Regional Initiatives, (2) Working Groups of experts, (3) Secretariat, Web Page, List Server, database.

International GDIN Group

  • This group may incorporate experts of the working groups and conferences.
  • U.S. will maintain, on an interim basis, a web page, database and list server to link all these experts and facilitate interaction for conference preparation.

Possible Model for A GDIN Secretariat

  • In this model, the Secretariat manages a cooperative network designed to augment the NDIN's and RDIN's by bringing together the comparative strengths of a global Group. Conference discussions included addressing the UN as a possible candidate to serve in this role. A Working Group will further develop options including this model and others.
  • Note: at this point in the power point was a chart which will be reproduced at a later date. Imagine an oval in the center of which is the Word Secretariat. Surrounding the oral are the words: UN, Governments, IOs, NGO/Voluntary Agencies, Industry, Academia, Regional Cooperative Efforts

GDIN Conferences Build the Umbrella

  • GDIN Conferences seek to establish informal consensus. They consist of the expert groups, plus senior management representatives from the referred sectors.
  • Mexico City has set the example. Many of the presentations resulted from working groups or individual efforts.
  • Acting together on the last day, we are achieving a consensus on the week's work. This could be a model for all conferences.
GDIN Working Group Process

  • Working Groups seek to develop common views on any major GDIN issues and may meet on the internet.
  • Working Groups should report to the Conferences, which endorse a broader informal consensus and also explain the Conference process.
  • Consensus agreements impose no legal obligations on the partners. (Formal consensus requires approval by participating governments.)
  • GDIN will take advantage of existing working groups, where possible and appropriate.
Working Group Formation

Five Working Groups will address the issues identified in Mexico City:

  • Policy
  • Outreach /User Need Identification and Partnering
  • Technology / Systems Engineering
  • Pilot Projects / Demonstrations / Validations
  • Capacity building to suggest solutions to the lack of connectivity that can be used as a basis for programs by donor organizations.
Details of Working Groups (see working group pages)

  1. Policy
    • Strategic Planning
    • Handling Economically Sensitive Information
    • Identify Resource Requirements and Sources
    • Propose prioritization of natural disasters to the conference
    • Develop Public Information Sharing Policy, i.e. security and medical

  2. Outreach /User Need Identification and Partnering
    • Identify and develop partnerships for regional and national disaster networks. The working group will identify regional and national initiatives with a goal of developing partnerships. The results will be reported at GDIN conferences.
    • Developing linkages amongst the referred sectors (see chart)
    • Identify ways for GDIN to effectively support small communities

  3. Technology / Systems Engineering
    • Facilitate the Distribution of Remote Sensing and GIS data from multiple sources
    • Improve the use in natural disasters of products from Remote Sensing data.
    • Developing Standards and Harmonization
    • Define Emergency Telecommunications and Connectivity requirements

  4. Pilot Projects / Demonstrations / Validations
    • Consider developing a prototype web page with linkages to disaster research projects
    • Other pilot projects
  5. Capacity Building
    • Suggesting solutions to the lack of connectivity that can be used as a basis for programs by donor organizations.

Plans for GDIN Conference in Turkey

The 3rd International GDIN Conference shall be in Turkey in April, 2000, and may want to focus on:

  • further develop partnerships in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe
  • working group reports
  • pilot projects, and may include other hazards pertinent to the region, such as oil spills
  • identify ways to stimulate capacity building
  • integrating the private sector and all other referred sectors into GDIN
  • reports on regional disaster information network initiatives
  • Draft strategic plan will be presented.
Plans for 2001 Conference in Australia

The 4th International GDIN Conference will be in Australia in first half of 2001, and may want to focus on:

  • Asia-Pacific region
  • reports of working groups, pilot projects and regional initiatives
  • Definition of how GDIN will operate, to include:
  • operational procedures
  • funding sources, identify ways to stimulate capacity building
  • a Secretariat
  • future role of conferences and working groups

Our Motto

"Getting the right information to the right people in the right form at the right time."


This international report was edited by Jim Ellickson, U.S. / NOAA and Fernando Echavarria, U.S. / Dept. of State with the help of the delegations from Australia, Pacific Grove, California, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, Austria, the European Union, the European Space Agency, the United Nations and many others. Signed: Larry Winter Roeder, Jr, Chief of United States Delegation to the 1999 International GDIN Conference, Mexico City, Mexico, May, 1999