This comment by Guido Bertucci was published in the 18 May 1999 issue of EOS, Vol. 80, No. 20.
Comment: United Nations Encourages Sharing of Information On Disaster Forecasting Technologies
Natural disasters are on the rise and are of serious concern to the global community. During this decade, the United Nations, through its International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and the Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters (UNGP-IPASD), has striven to raise global awareness about natural disasters and about the possible approaches communities can take to reduce the impact of such disasters. Noting the emergence of many techniques and methodologies for early warning and community preparation for disasters, as well as the rapid advances in information-sharing technology, the United Nations seeks to facilitate exchange of information, data, and experiences, and to encourage the integration of applied natural sciences and public administration so as to strengthen the capacity of local communities to assess and mitigate their immediate risk from natural disasters.
As in all sciences, there are competing theories and methodologies. With a view to global progress, the United Nations promotes the sharing of many different experiences and perspectives among professionals in all member states. The United Nations welcomes and respects all opinions, especially those based on careful research. The Forum opinion, "A Misuse of Public Funds: U.N. Support for Geomagnetic Forecasting of Earthquakes and Meteorological Disasters," (Eos, September 29, 1998) and its criticisms have to be viewed in this overall perspective. However, we would like to correct a factual inaccuracy. The headline gives the erroneous impression that "public funds" have been used. No public funds were used for the activity referred to. The cited Manual on the Forecasting of Natural Disasters: Geomagnetic Methods (U.N. Publ. ST/TCD/SER.E/65) and indeed the entire UNGP-IPASD are funded through private donations.
Guido Bertucci, Division for Public Economics and Public Administration, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, USA