The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) recently celebrated their new partnership to build capacity to monitor, plan for and respond to disasters.
The occasion was marked by a signing ceremony attended by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, disaster management officials from Lao PDR, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and PDC. The agreement between PDC and Lao PDR was signed on February 18, 2020 at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Vientiane, Lao PDR—outlining a shared commitment towards building a safer, more disaster resilient nation.
“Expanding our country’s use of the best available technology along with continued collaboration will help us reach our national objectives to strengthen early warning systems, disaster management, and advanced planning,” said Department of Social Welfare Director General Mr. Vilayphong Sisomvang during the ceremony.
The signing ceremony was immediately followed by user training on the supporting Disaster Monitoring and Response System, or DMRS, which is powered by PDC’s hazard monitoring and early warning platform DisasterAWARE. Lao PDR, in partnering with PDC, is joining other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States to build on its existing disaster management programs by making use of DMRS. DMRS was originally deployed in 2012 for operational use by the ASEAN Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre).
“PDC is working closely with the key disaster management stakeholders in Lao PDR to ensure that use of DMRS is widely adopted and integrated effectively into Lao PDR decision making,” said PDC Asia Program Advisor Ms. Victoria Leat. Leat was optimistic about the possibilities of the program, highlighting recent successes in flood impact analysis conducted between PDC, Lao PDR, and the AHA Centre during widespread flooding in 2019, as well as assessments of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam failure in Attapeu in 2018. PDC is a global applied science and technology center managed by the University of Hawaiʻi that has successfully partnered with countries around the world at the national, subnational, and local level to institute the latest developments in disaster management technology, science, and research.
Lao PDR’s program is part of a larger PDC Regional and National Capacity Development Program funded by OFDA, said PDC Deputy Executive Director Mr. Chris Chiesa. It uses the latest data, science, and technology to strengthen early warning systems in order to reduce risk and vulnerability in the region. “The goal is to build national resilience, promote information-sharing between Member States, and support regional collaboration on the rising human and economic costs of natural disasters felt around the world,” Chiesa said.
“Early warning is central to effective disaster risk reduction,” Chiesa said. “It is, in fact, noted as a goal and as a key component of the U.N. Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, echoing a similar focus on early warning systems previously outlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action.”
The program is funded by the United States through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and endorsed by the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM).
“The people and communities of Lao PDR are at risk from natural hazards that significantly impact the country’s economy and long-term development efforts,” said Mr. Patrick Bowers, USAID’s Deputy Country Office Director at the signing ceremony. He emphasized the importance of technology and information in aiding the country’s population of seven million people who are routinely exposed to floods, droughts, storms, earthquakes, and other risks exacerbated by climate change. “Within this hazardous environment, Lao PDR’s Central Disaster Management Committee has made great progress towards achieving its national disaster management goals in recent years and we applaud their efforts to protect citizens through this program.”
PDC and Lao PDR’s National Disaster Management Organization are also working on the initial development of Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to help institutionalize the use of DMRS within the country’s disaster management community. Meetings were also held with key data providers to facilitate inclusion of Lao-PDR data within DMRS. Work on the project is scheduled to continue through the latter part of the year and will include additional user and administrator training, Lao language integration within DMRS, and finalization of the CONOPS and SOPs.