UNDRR ROAMC: How disaster preparedness makes the difference when disaster hits

When COVID began to infiltrate the Caribbean, the World Food Programme (WFP) quickly contacted governments to find how to best help funnel cash to people left struggling to feed their families as jobs began to melt away.

For Dominica, helping rapidly digitalize the country's largely paper-based data collection and payment systems was the speediest and most effective solution, says Regis Chapman, head of office for WFP in Barbados.

Within weeks, WFP helped Dominica implement systems to more efficiently collect and analyze the data needed to determine who was eligible for payments to help ride out the pandemic.

By printing scannable QR codes on payment envelopes and asking people to sign digitally to confirm receipt, Dominica quickly created a visualization dashboard to show where and when funds were distributed.

“We're now looking at developing an information management system to better manage data on all their social protection programs, not just the public assistance program," says Chapman.

“The socio-economic aspect of COVID has been devastating. The lowest income groups are the people who are most affected and we’ve seen huge spikes in food insecurity.”

WFP’s shock responsive social protection program is one of the many in the Caribbean supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) which has provided $183 million in aid to the region - excluding Haiti - since 1994.

Through its DIPECHO disaster preparedness program, $50 million of those funds have targeted disaster risk reduction and community resilience programs.

Now as middle-income Caribbean countries compete with other parts of the world for increasingly tight donor funding, it is more important than ever to show how projects support communities and protect lives and livelihoods, say experts.

BLUEPRINTS

Presenting evidence of successful schemes also helps create templates that can be used in other parts of the world, says Saskia Carusi, external relations officer for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean (UNDRR).

“It’s important to show how successful projects are from an accountability point of view," says Panama-based Carusi.

"But for ECHO, it’s important to show evidence that projects save lives and make a difference, and that there are still needs in the region."

The best evidence should be a combination of quantitative data showing how losses are reduced by disaster risk reduction projects, alongside qualitative examples of how schemes work on the ground, says Carusi.

Evidence should also examine whether localized, pilot projects can be rolled out in neighboring communities or even scaled up to a national level, she says.

With EU funding, UNDRR has created the dipecholac.net platform where organizations can highlight their Caribbean projects and show how they relate to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

It now wants organizations to upload videos, documents and infographics to the site that show how Caribbean projects have been adapted to make a difference during the pandemic and other emergencies.

For the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the pandemic has underscored the importance of preparing Caribbean communities to deal with multiple hazards, says Marisa Clarke-Marshall, IFRC coordinator, partnerships and planning.

During the crisis, Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) trained by the Red Cross with ECHO funding to deal with hazards such as hurricanes, have rapidly adapted to help communities cope with COVID, she says.

Trained primarily to conduct initial damage assessments, give first aid and coordinate immediate response, CDRTs have helped identify those most in need in their communities, and deliver cash vouchers and hygiene kits.

The CDRT project has attracted attention from major donors keen to set up similar teams elsewhere, while an ECHO-funded tool to assess risk and vulnerabilities is now used globally, she says.

HIGH-LEVEL IMPACT

Events such as November’s UNDRR co-organized VII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean provide an opportunity for both governments, multilaterals and non-profits to show which projects best helped tackle COVID while continuing to ramp up preparedness.

For UNDRR, its projects to boost Caribbean business resilience reaped dividends during the pandemic as companies adapted their continuity plans that were primarily designed to tackle climate-related crises, says Carusi.

Its EU-funded project to increase preparedness and disaster risk reduction through the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative is now generating interest from other countries in Latin America, says Carusi.

"UNDRR’s work on policy and advocacy in the long run has a higher impact," says Carusi.

For WFP, EU funding is supporting its work with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA) to pre-position generators, prefabricated units and other gear to help countries better prepare, save lives and reduce losses.

"A lot of what we're looking at is how do we help government systems to become more resilient," says Chapman.

"One of the region's prime ministers recently said, everybody says the Caribbean is so resilient, it's that we have to be. You have to stand up when you're knocked down and start all over again because what other choice do you have."

[Source: UNDRR]

Electricity Grid Resilience

The nation’s grid delivers electricity that is essential for modern life. However, the grid faces risks from events that can damage electrical infrastructure (such as power lines) and communications systems, resulting in power outages. These outages can threaten the nation’s economic and national security.

They can also disproportionately affect low-income groups, in part because such groups have fewer resources to invest in backup generators and other measures to minimize the impact of outages.Even though most of the electricity grid is owned and operated by private industry, the federal government plays a key role in enhancing grid resilience.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for coordinating the overall federal effort to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors.
• The Department of Energy (DOE) leads federal efforts to support electricity grid resilience, including research and technology development by national laboratories.
• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviews and approves standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the federally designated U.S. electric reliability organization.

Key Issues
The electricity grid faces multiple risks that can cause widespread power outages.
Risks:
- Extreme weather and climate change
- Cyber- and physical attacks
- Electromagnetic events

In addition to the risks described in the prior page, the electric utility industry faces complex challenges and transformations, including:
• aging infrastructure;
• adoption of new technologies, such as information and communication systems
to improve the grid’s efficiency; and
• a changing mix of power generation. The traditional model of large, centralized power generators is evolving as retiring generators are replaced with variable wind and solar generators, smaller and more flexible natural gas generators, and nontraditional resources. Such resources include demand-response activities which encourage consumers to reduce their demand for electricity when the cost to generate electricity are high, and various technologies (e.g., solar panels) that generate electricity at or near where it will be used—known as “distributed generation.”

Key Opportunities
Agencies have implemented several of GAO’s recommendations for improving electricity grid resilience. For example, in March 2016, we recommended that DHS designate roles and responsibilities within the department for addressing electromagnetic risks, which DHS did in 2017. However, as of September 2021, agencies had not yet implemented a number of GAO recommendations that represent key opportunities to mitigate risks in the following areas:

- Extreme weather and climate change - Prioritize efforts and target resources effectively. Enhance grid resilience efforts. Better manage climate-related risks
- Cyberattacks - Assess all cybersecurity risks. Address risks to distribution systems Consider changes to current standards. Evaluate potential risks of a coordinated attack

Early warning systems saving lives during Nepal’s monsoon

For days leading up to the disaster, Mr. Harisaran Shrestha had been listening to warnings about floods in the Melamchi, a river that flows through the foothills of the Himalayas in central Nepal. At least one local FM radio was repeatedly broadcasting notices about the possible release of water from the reservoir of a nearby drinking-water project and urging the public to avoid river banks and to refrain from activities like fishing, sand mining, and gravel collecting.

The local police and representatives were also issuing similar warnings around the town via microphones and loudspeakers.

Owing to these forewarnings, when the flood eventually hit his hometown, Melamchi Bazar, northeast of Kathmandu in Sindhupalchowk district, in June 2021, Mr. Shrestha was better prepared to react to the deluge. “As soon as it became apparent that the flood was going to sweep the entire town, I used my bus to ferry women, children, and disabled people in the neighbourhood to a safer location,” said Mr. Shrestha.

On June 15, just an hour after the final warning from the radio and police announcement on loudspeaker, massive floods near the confluence of the Melachmi River and the Indrawati River swept through the settlements near Shrestha’s hometown, killing at least five people and destroying property worth millions of rupees. At least a dozen people remain missing more than two months after one of the worst disasters in the town's history.

Despite saving many lives, Mr. Shrestha could not save his belongings because he had underestimated the scale of the disaster. “Our home was at a considerable distance from the river. It never occurred to me that the swollen river’s waters would reach this far,” Mr. Shrestha recalled in an interview.

Now displaced by the flood, Mr. Shrestha, 38, has been living with a family of six in a temporary shelter. The river, which has changed its course, now runs through his home and farmland.

“The river took everything. Thankfully, all of us are safe,” said Mr. Shrestha.

Mr. Dev Raj Subedi, the manager of Radio Melamchi, which issued the flood warnings, said that the alerts had proved effective in saving hundreds of lives, although only a few households managed to save some of their possessions--those they could carry with them. Radio Melamchi has been ritually providing flood-related warnings to the municipality’s estimated 50,000 inhabitants for the last few years, especially after the Melamchi Drinking Water Project gathered momentum in the 2010s.

“We issued the warning as soon as a government official informed us about the flood upstream. The warning proved especially helpful in the town area, whose inhabitants had the means to access the warning. That was one of the reasons there were no deaths in the town area,” shared Mr. Subedi.

Melamchi’s case is the latest example of how the growing use of mass media and early warning systems through data collected from meteorological and hydrological stations and rainfall-runoff model is proving effective in saving lives in Nepal, which is highly susceptible to disasters, owing to its topography and its hundreds of big and small rivers.

Every year, floods and landslides wreak havoc in Nepal, leading to huge numbers of casualties and untold destruction of property. Hill settlements are particularly vulnerable to landslides and flash floods, while riverine floods routinely deluge the lowland areas bordering India.

Every year during the rainy season, hundreds of families lose their house, agricultural yield, and means of livelihood, pushing them further into poverty.

Between 13 April to 16 October in 2020, floods and landslides killed at least 337 Nepalis, wiped out thousands of houses, and destroyed property worth billions of rupees, according to an estimate by Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs. More than 100 people remain missing on account of those floods.

Numerous factors including the 2015 earthquake, infrastructural projects and climate change have contributed to increasing disasters, according to experts. For instance, Sindhupalchowk district, the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled Nepal in 2015, has seen a marked increase in landslides and floods following the tragedy that killed over 9,000 people.

Mr. Bikram Shrestha Zoowa, a senior Divisional Hydrologist at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, in Kathmandu, said that climate-induced hazards and unplanned development are emerging as challenges in recent decades.

Examples include recent disasters such as the Setigandaki flood in Kaski, Jure landslide-Sindhupalchowk in 2014, a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in Tibet immediately above the Bhotekoshi River in Sindhupalchowk in 2016; a dry landslide in the Kaligandaki Corridor after the 2015 earthquake, another GLOF in Barun valley obstructing the flow of Arun River in 2017, and numerous climate-induced landslides during the 2020 monsoon and this year, said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

“Human interventions such as road construction in hill slopes without considering geological studies are certainly the causes of the region’s geological fragility, which results in small and big landslides in hilly regions. This is the man-made effect in addition to earthquakes responsible for hazards.”

According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming averaged over the next 20 years. In 2019, a landmark report

by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an intergovernmental center based in Nepal, warned that a two-degree temperature rise could melt half of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, destabilising Asia’s rivers.

In recent years, to minimise loss of life and property, an increasing number of communities vulnerable to disasters have begun to integrate social media platforms--such as Facebook and Twitter--and other technologies to provide early warnings. And as with Radio Melamchi, more than 500 FM radio stations across Nepal are being used to disseminate news and timely warnings. Many other local bodies are integrating SMS text messages to provide real-time alerts for people living in disaster-prone zones.

In Kailali, a western Nepal district bordering India’s Uttar Pradesh, flood warnings through SMS alerts and phone calls have proven effective in saving lives in settlements spread along the Karnali River Basin.

“When massive floods hit our village in 2016, most of the villagers with mobile phones had received SMS alerts three hours before the disaster. Those three hours gave us ample time to save not just our lives, but also our livestock and essentials like some grains and documents,” said Ms. Sajita Tharu of Laxmipur village in Kailali district. “Thankfully, we have not faced that kind of flood in recent years but we continue to receive alerts if water rises above the danger level. That allows us to remain mentally prepared and save essentials in case the flood hits us.”

As part of the community-based early warning approach, residents living in catchment areas constantly pass on information about the water level in their area to residents of villages downstream. The community groups also get constant flood alerts from the Department of Hydrology’s regional station. The alerts--including text messages, phone calls, and information from weatherboards--are widely circulated by the members of the Community Disaster Management Committees, which were formed by programs designed to enhance the communities’ flood resilience. Most members of these user committees are women, as many working-age men migrate to India or other countries in search of jobs.

Ms. Manakala Kumari Chaudhari, the deputy mayor of Rajapur Municipality in far-western Nepal, said that the timely early warning system in his area has been instrumental in saving lives and properties. As soon as the water level rises above the danger level upstream, several people who own mobile phones in his municipality--a delta created by the Karnali River--receive warnings.

“Save for some exceptions, most locals respond to warnings and take the required safety measures. The timely alerts also provide ample time for all stakeholders to make the necessary preparations for disasters,” said Ms. Chaudhari.

Such timely warnings are critical because they provide enough time to save lives. The area is susceptible to constant floods from big rivers like the Karnali and Babai and from small streams, which are usually dry in other seasons.

In preparation for the seasonal floods, communities in western Nepal have also built community shelters, animal sheds to shelter their livestock and grain-storage facilities to save grains.

Since Nepal adopted federalism in 2015, there have been efforts at all three levels of government to embrace disaster-resilience policies. The central government, the provincial government, as well as many local governments have adopted policies related to disaster risk reduction. Recently, under the Home Ministry, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority prepared the National Monsoon Early Preparedness and Response Work Plan

2021. However, questions remain around the implementation of these policies and the authorities’ ability to handle large-scale disasters, especially owing to their lack of resources. Moreover, growing landslides along newly constructed highways, hydropower projects and other infrastructures-- many of which were cleared after proper Environment Impact Assessment--- have reinforced the need for better policies to promote resilient infrastructure.

But overall, the early warning systems seem to be reducing the impacts of floods in many parts of Nepal. Mr. Shrestha Zoowa, the hydrologist, said that early warning systems have proven effective in saving hundreds of lives every year, especially in vulnerable settlements along big rivers such as the Karnali, Babai, Narayani, and Koshi. The data gathered from weather stations, rainfall-runoff models are disseminated in form of daily bulletins through various media platforms, while the weather forecast relies on the Weather Research and Forecasting model, an advanced numerical weather prediction framework designed for operational forecasting and atmospheric research needs.

In recent years, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has been working with various non-governmental organizations in developing disaster information management systems and online databases to provide real-time information to augment its early warning systems.

The Disaster Risk Reduction Portal and Nepal Government GeoPortal, among other platforms, provide information gathered from various hydro-meteorological stations in Rasuwa, Solukhumbu, Kaski, Dolpa, Humla, Dolakha, Jumla, Sankhuwasabha and Manang districts.

“For most flood events, we have effective plans, technologies, and historical information to issue timely and reliable warnings to vulnerable settlements. But we lack an effective early warning system for flash floods in the hills and for settlements along small rivers, which are highly unpredictable,” said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

Nepal also needs to do more to ensure that people respond to early warnings. Although many local communities are making good use of weather forecasts and flood alerts, some are unable to take advantage of the information, often because they lack the economic means and/or technical knowledge to know what to do. Often the warning messages come with technical jargon and they may not effectively relay the impact information of the disaster relevant to people’s day to day life and experience. “The early warning systems have become much better over the years but there is still a lot to be done,” said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

Asia-Pacific needs to tackle overlapping crises

The Asia-Pacific region needs to step up efforts to prepare for and tackle complex, overlapping crises in order to increase the resilience of its people as well as its economies, with climate change threatening to dwarf the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, a key meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has heard.

“Notwithstanding the progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection - with far fewer people dying as a result of natural disasters - the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

“Tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to disease, which exacerbates poverty,” she told the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Since the start of the pandemic, the region has been hit by multiple natural and biological disasters. At the same time, climate change has continued to warm the world, exacerbating the impacts of many of these disasters. The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021, which was launched during ESCAP’s Disaster Reslience Week, shows that the pandemic, combined with the persistent reality of climate change, has reshaped and expanded the disaster “riskscape” in Asia and the Pacific.

Resilience in Asia-PacificThe triple threat of disease, disaster and climate change is causing not only considerable human hardship but also significant economic losses. Currently, the annual average disaster-related losses are $780 billion. This could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario. Choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective at an annual cost of $270 billion, said the report.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas urged great ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate climate change adaptation.

“If we fail with the climate change mitigation, the impact is going to be felt for centuries or even millennia, so the scale of the problem we are talking about when it comes to climate change, the scale is much bigger,” Prof. Taalas told ESCAP’s Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the increasing severity of the physical impacts of climate change because of record concentrations of greenhouse gases. This includes long-term melting of glaciers, snow and ice cover, sea level rise and ocean acidification, which will last for centuries or even thousands of years, Prof. Taalas said in a video address.

“Heatwaves, drought, forest fires, flooding, landslides and tropical storms are becoming more intense, as a result. Last year was the warmest year on record in Asia and we have also seen record breaking flooding, especially in East Asia” Prof. Taalas said.

The ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction is charged with addressing the following issues: (a) emergence of cascading risks and extension of the disaster risk-scape; (b) scaling-up multisectoral cooperation frameworks to manage cascading risks; and (c) status of regional co-operation efforts.

WMO was represented in several expert group meetings, panel discussions and side events. WMO and ESCAP have a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to build resilience to climate and disaster risks and the promotion of impact-based early warning services and systems. The two organizations have a long history of cooperation by jointly establishing the Typhoon Committee.

Prof. Taalas stressed the importance of building capacity in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to adapt to climate change and build resilience, in particular through investments in early warning services.

However, major gaps in observing systems in many parts of the world, including islands and least developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, have a negative impact on the quality of early warning services. WMO’s new initiative, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) seeks to close these gaps and leverage sustainable financing.

Alliance for National & Community Resilience Awards First Resilience Designation to Martinsville, Virginia

The Alliance for National & Community Resilience (ANCR) issued its first community resilience designation to Martinsville, Virginia, at a meeting of the City Council. Martinsville was selected as the initial pilot city for ANCR’s Community Resilience Benchmarks (CRB) for buildings and housing. The city was awarded an Essential designation for its building-related activities and an Enhanced designation for its housing-related initiatives.
“We were particularly impressed with the involvement of city staff and their transparency and thoroughness as we worked through the benchmarking process. Their commitment to the process will be invaluable in supporting improvements in the CRB process and help enhance the resilience of other communities,” said Evan Reis, ANCR Board Chair and Executive Director of the U.S. Resiliency Council.
The benchmarking process was led by Kris Bridges, Martinsville’s Building Official and Mark McCaskill, Martinsville’s Community Development Director. Jeremy Sigmon of Planet Sigmon served as the community’s ANCR Mentor, guiding them through the benchmarking process.
“The Martinsville City Council commends the work of our Inspections and Community Development Departments for their work with ANCR in improving the city’s resiliency and setting the standard for other communities to follow,” said Kathy Lawson, Mayor, Martinsville, Virginia. “The City of Martinsville is committed to the development of benchmarks such as the CRB as having the proper protocols in place will not only give us the needed information to maintain critical facilities and infrastructure during disaster events, but also allow us to reap the financial benefits, improve resiliency across our community and show our commitment to our community and citizens.”
Based on the feedback from Martinsville, ANCR will finalize its benchmarking process and begin work on developing additional benchmarks. The Buildings and Housing Benchmarks represent the first two benchmarks developed under the CRB. ANCR identified 19 community functions covering the social, organizational and infrastructural aspects of communities that influence their resilience and is developing benchmarks for each of them. The Water Benchmark was completed in 2020 and is currently being piloted along with the Buildings and Housing Benchmark in Oakland Park, Florida.

Digital regulators need to collaborate to “build forward better” after COVID

​​​​​​​​Bold regulatory approaches are needed to guide ground-breaking technology uptake, foster collaboration, and drive digital transformation in the post-COVID world, according to participants at the latest Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-21) organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The meetings brought together regulators from around the world to tackle the persistent, growing, global digital divide. In part, this involved adopting new guidelines for inclusive information and communication technology (ICT) regulation to “build forward better" and drive post-COVID recovery.
“Following the global social and economic disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, regulators have a unique opportunity to rethink and reshape policy principles and regulatory best practices to build ubiquitous, open and resilient digital infrastructure," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
Focus on holistic digital transformation
COVID-19 has prompted countries to seek more holistic, future-ready agendas for digital transformation. Accordingly, regulators discussed the need for collaborative leadership to ensure trust in the digital space; sufficient connectivity and regulatory enablers; financing to ensure affordable connectivity, meaningful access, and widespread use; safe digital inclusion; and partnerships for digital transformation.
“Effective regulation matters not just in times of crisis," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. “To build forward better in the post-COVID digital world, we need agile and ground-breaking approaches and tools for digital regulation to accelerate the sustainable and inclusive growth of ICTs. Connectivity, access and use are ultimately at the heart of the digital transformation. Along with fit-for-purpose regulatory approaches, these are the predominant enablers of competitiveness and key to the future prosperity of people, communities, countries and regions everywhere."
New GSR-21 Best Practice Guidelines
Innovative tools and approaches are outlined in the newly released GSR-21 Best Practice Guidelines: Regulatory uplift for financing digital infrastructure, access and use. ​
Approaches to ICT regulation need to be globally consistent yet flexible, allowing each national framework to be tailored to meet local needs, regulators taking part in GSR-21 agreed.
Mercy Wanjau, Acting Director-General of the Communications Authority of Kenya and Chair of GSR-21, said: “The regulatory Best Practice Guidelines crafted and adopted by regulators and policy makers at GSR have been guiding all of us through challenges and new endeavours. I call upon regulators everywhere to leverage the GSR-21 Guidelines in adopting and implementing globally agreeable approaches that are relevant to their national circumstances and leverage collaboration across the board."
The guidelines emphasise the need for a collaborative, whole-of-government approach to regulation, focusing particularly on the role of effective and agile financing, prototyping regulatory patterns and approaches, and transformational leadership, to drive faster and more inclusive connectivity and ensure safe digital inclusion for all in the wake of the pandemic.
Key recommendations include:
- Alternative mechanisms for funding and financing digital infrastructures across economic sectors. Regulators should encourage investment and help to create competitive markets for future-proof broadband and digital services. Investment is also needed in non-commercial areas to make digital services available and affordable for all, while ensuring that basic regulatory needs are met.
- Promotion of local innovation ecosystems that enable the development of emerging technologies and business models. Regulators must create a safe space for digital innovation and experimentation. New approaches to regulation should protect consumers while encouraging market growth and ensuring resilience in future networks and services.
- Spectrum innovation and efficient use. New approaches may be needed to enhance regulatory foresight, harness data to target interventions, and create space for regulators and industry to experiment together. Spectrum innovation is just one such example.
- Ambitious yet executable regulatory roadmaps. The proposed best practices from GSR 21, if widely adopted, could help countries leapfrog ahead in economic development, maximize the benefits of ICT uptake, and ensure that these immense opportunities reach everyone.
In addition to the GSR-21 Best Practice Guidelines, GSR-21 saw the release of several new publications and platforms​:  Financing Universal Access to Digital Technologies and Services, Econometric Modelling in the context of COVID-19, collaborative case studies, and ICT Regulatory Tracker 2020​.

IAEA and FAO Help Burkina Faso and Algeria to Enhance Food Safety & Security

The IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) cooperate in supporting food safety and food quality programmes around the world to address food hazards, food fraud and advise countries on food irradiation. Among the beneficiaries of this programme have been Burkina Faso and Algeria. To celebrate World Food Safety Day, we are drawing attention to the importance of nuclear techniques in monitoring food safety. “Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow” – this year’s theme – recognizes how safe food contributes to a healthy life, economy, planet and future.
Enhanced food safety capabilities in Burkina Faso
Tiny but oil- and vitamin-rich sesame seeds have become a staple of Burkina Faso’s economy – creating jobs and generating income. After cotton, the edible seeds that grow in pods have become the West African country’s second most exported agricultural product. This sprouting success in the last decade has been sustained with the help of Burkina Faso’s National Public Health Laboratory (LNSP), supported by the IAEA and FAO, through their Joint Cenre on Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
Enhancing food safety analytical capabilities in Algeria
Laboratories in Algeria have received the support to enhance their analytical capabilities for the detection of chemical hazards, including antimicrobial and pesticide residues in a range of food, from poultry and eggs to dates and honey. Algeria was the world’s sixth leading exporter of dates, worth approximately US $129 million in 2020.
Through the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme and in partnership with FAO, staff of the Algerian National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRAA) and the National Institute of Veterinary Medicine (INMV) have been trained in methods of analysis and supported with the required analytical equipment. These institutions are now equipped to contribute towards consumer protection and the trade of agricultural products.

Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience North America announce Preliminary Conference Programme for October

Download your Preliminary Conference Program guide today at www.ciprna-expo.com/PSG

As the recent Ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, JBS, Dassault Falcon Jet Corp, CNA Financial, and others has demonstrated, as well as the on-going threats from natural hazards/disasters, terrorist attacks and man-made disasters, it is becoming increasingly important for policies and procedures to be implemented to protect our critical infrastructure for a more secure nation.

It gives us great pleasure to invite you to join us at Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience North America in New Orleans, Louisiana, for what will be 3 days of exciting and informative discussions on securing North America’s critical infrastructure.

With a leading line up of international expert speakers, sharing their knowledge, expertise and experiences, we know you will find this a most rewarding and enjoyable event and look forward to seeing you in New Orleans, for the next in-person meeting on October 19th-21st, 2021, where we will ensure a safe and Covid compliant environment for discussing how to secure North America's critical infrastructure.

Download your Preliminary Conference Program guide today at www.ciprna-expo.com/PSG and discover more on this premier conference program, expert speakers and showcase exhibiting companies.

Register today and save $$$ on your conference delegate pass with the early bird.
You can register online today at www.ciprna-expo.com/onlinereg

#criticalinfrastructureprotection #resilience #cybersecurity #disasterprevention #riskmanagement #businesscontinuity #government #emergencymanagement #security #infrastructure

Natural hazard triggered industrial accidents: Are they Black Swans?

A recently published JRC study examines whether technological accidents caused by natural hazards (Natech accidents) are real “Blacks Swans” (unpredictable and hence unpreventable events), identifies their possible causes and discusses effective strategies to manage extreme risks.
The study concludes that the Black Swan metaphor is overused for technological accidents in general and Natech accidents in particular, whose recurrence raises questions about the effectiveness of corporate oversight and the application of state-of-the-art knowledge in managing risks.
What are Natech accidents?
Natech accidents occur when the natural and technological worlds collide, wherever hazardous industry is located in areas prone to natural hazards. Past Natech accidents have often had significant impacts on public health, the natural and built environment, and the local, national or even global economy.
Major technological accidents considered unpreventable are occasionally called Black Swan events. Three features characterize a Black Swan:
- it must be an outlier with respect to normal expectations, making it unpredictable;
- it has to have a major impact;
- it can be explained in hindsight, making it appear predictable.
Inadequate risk management and organisational risk blindness
A closer look at past Natech accidents shows that the vast majority of these events, if not all, could have been foreseen and prevented using available information and knowledge prior to the disaster. They can therefore not be considered inevitable or Black Swans.
The JRC study provides a detailed analysis of the reasons for why Natech risks are often underestimated:
- Risk management traditions and the Act-of-God mindset - The focus for managing natural risks has traditionally been on the response side and hence on disaster management, rather than on prevention and risk management, whereas the technological-risk community has always focused on risk- rather than disaster management. Natech risk is sandwiched between these two worlds, and neither community feels very much at ease with taking ownership of the risk;
- Complexity of Natech risk scenarios - Natech risk analysis would need extensions to traditional risk-analysis methodologies in order to cover the multi-hazard nature of the risk and the multitude of possible simultaneous scenarios;
- Risk governance and risk management problems due to the multi-stakeholder and multi-hazard nature of Natech risks, and the multitude of possibly conflicting issues that are usually on a manager’s radar screen;
- Socio-economic context, including group interests and power, economic pressure, and public or media indifference; and
- Human fallacies and cognitive biases that can corrupt the experiences we draw on for estimating risks.
Managing extreme risks
Building organisational resilience is key to managing risks effectively, in particular in high-risk industry. The JRC study discusses possible strategies to reduce extreme risks, prepare better for their consequences, and make Black Swans more accessible:
- Risk-based versus precaution-based strategies
- Disaster incubation theory and warning signals
- Mindfulness
- Resilience engineering
- Scenario planning
- Red teaming
While the JRC study is centered on Natech risks, it is generally applicable to managing also other types of extreme or low-probability risks.

NSA releases Cybersecurity Advisory on Ensuring Security of Operational Technology

The National Security Agency (NSA) released the Cybersecurity Advisory, “Stop Malicious Cyber Activity Against Connected Operational Technology” today, for National Security System (NSS), Department of Defense (DoD), and Defense Industrial Base (DIB) operational technology (OT) owners and operators. The CSA details how to evaluate risks to systems and improve the security of connections between OT and enterprise networks. Information technology (IT) exploitation can serve as a pivot point for OT exploitation, so carefully evaluating the risk of connectivity between IT and OT systems is necessary to ensure unique cybersecurity requirements are met.
Each IT-OT connection increases the potential attack surface. To prevent dangerous results from OT exploitation, OT operators and IT system administrators should ensure only the most imperative IT-OT connections are allowed, and that these are hardened to the greatest extent possible. An example of this type of threat includes recent adversarial exploitation of IT management software and its supply chain in the SolarWinds compromise with publicly documented impacts to OT, including U.S. critical infrastructure.
This guidance provides a pragmatic evaluation methodology to assess how to best improve OT and control system cybersecurity for mission success, to include understanding necessary resources for secure systems:
- First, NSA encourages NSS, DoD, and DIB system owners, operators, and administrators to evaluate the value against risk and costs for enterprise IT to OT connectivity. While the safest OT system is one that is not connected to an IT network, mission critical connectivity may be required at times. Review the connections and disconnect those that are not truly needed to reduce the risk to OT systems and functions.
- Next, NSA recommends taking steps to improve cybersecurity for OT networks when IT-OT connectivity is mission critical, as appropriate to their unique needs. For IT-OT connections deemed necessary, steps should be taken to mitigate risks of IT-OT exploitation pathways. These mitigations include fully managing all IT-OT connections, limiting access, actively monitoring and logging all access attempts, and cryptographically protecting remote access vectors.
Operational technology includes hardware and software that drives the operations of a given infrastructure environment, from an engine control unit in a modern vehicle to nationwide train transportation networks.
Every IT-OT connection creates an additional vector for potential OT exploitation that could impact and compromise mission and/or production. Performing a comprehensive risk analysis for all IT-OT interconnections and only allowing mission critical interconnections when they are properly protected will create an improved cybersecurity posture. By employing an appropriate risk analysis strategy, leadership and system owners and operators can make informed decisions to better manage OT networks while reducing the threats from and impact of exploitation and destructive cyber effects.
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