ITU and the Government of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg have agreed to cooperate on strengthening emergency telecommunications and rapid response in the event of natural disasters. ITU and Luxembourg are members of the Emergency Telecommunications (ETC), comprising of UN agencies and other humanitarian partners. The Government of Luxembourg has developed a nomadic satellite-based telecommunication system – ‘emergency.lu’ – aimed at assisting humanitarian agencies respond to communities affected by natural disasters, conflicts or protracted crises. This platform will be available as a global public good to the international humanitarian community as of 1 January 2012, with Luxembourg funding its development, implementation, operation and maintenance to the tune of € 17.2 million.
Under the umbrella of the “ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies” (IFCE), ITU will encourage its 193 Member States to use the ‘emergency.lu’ platform and facilitate the rapid deployment of emergency telecommunication systems in the event of a sudden-onset disaster, or a longer-term deployment in chronic or recurrent humanitarian contexts or as part of a preparedness strategy in developing countries. ITU will negotiate appropriate regulatory and legal frameworks with Administrations, particularly Telecommunications Regulatory Authorities, to assist in the deployment. IFCE is an ITU communications initiative to assist the humanitarian community in disaster response. IFCE and emergency.lu will be jointly and individually deployed within two hours of notification using every possible means, including custom-fitted aircraft, depending on the nature and magnitude of the disaster.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said that the initiative of the Government of Luxembourg was a timely and significant step in serving the humanitarian community and the victims of disasters worldwide. “In recent times, disasters have wreaked havoc around the world – floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, wild fires – resulting in catastrophic loss of lives and damage to property,” Dr Touré said. “By placing emergency.lu at the disposal of the international humanitarian community as a global public good, the Government of Luxembourg has provided an invaluable asset to humankind in an effort to save lives – and ITU will take all measures to facilitate its deployment.” The agreement was signed in New York on 6 December by Ms Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Luxembourg, and Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).
“The launch of a collaborative and coordinated communication system to serve the humanitarian community is an important step in saving lives,” said Sanou. “Given the critical role of ICTs in disaster preparedness and relief, ITU believes that no one organization could alone address all the needs of the humanitarian community. Partnerships among providers of emergency telecommunications systems and services are critical in pooling resources for saving lives regardless of the nature of the disaster or where it takes place.” Mr Sanou also announced that ITU will soon be launching a Smart Sustainable Model that will ensure that resources set aside for disaster risk reduction and management are also used for sustainable development.