Press Release

United Nations

Department of Public Information - News Coverage and Accreditation Service - New York

29 January 1997


NEW YORK, 29 January (DDSMS) -- The first United Nations International Conference on the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters was held in Beijing, from 20 to 28 January. Participants included natural scientists, engineers, social scientists and public administrators primarily engaged in research, teaching, or managing departments and government agencies at the national, regional and local levels in Armenia, China, Ecuador, India, Mexico, The Philippines, and Turkey. Several observers from Japan and the United States also attended. Representatives of the secretariat for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also attended.

The Conference was hosted by the State Science and Technology Commission of China, and organized under the auspices of the United Nations Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters, of the Department for Development Support and Management Services (DDSMS) of the Secretariat.

In the opening ceremony, the Chinese Vice-Minister for State Science and Technology Commission, Deng Nan, noted that China was seriously affected by a large variety of natural disasters, the most serious of which were caused by violent weather and earthquakes. Mrs. Deng stated that China would actively support and participate in the Global Programme and would like to share its experience in the integration of public administration and the science of disasters with other countries.

The Conference heard reports on the status of earthquake disaster readiness from the governors and vice-governors of several Chinese provinces, including Fujian, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Yunnan, as well as from representatives from Baoji, Chengdu, Dalian, Guang Yuan, Lanzhou cities, Behei and Liaoning provinces and the Shanghai Municipality.

Among the Conference's activities were panel discussions round tables, poster exhibitions and field visits to the Tangshan area, precursor monitoring stations and the City of Tangshan's preserved sites and museum commemorating the 28 July 1976 magnitude 7.8 Tangshan earthquake. Participants also viewed the exhibit on "best practices" in public administration in Qinglong County, where the administrators mitigated loss of life through anticipation of the Tangshan earthquake, which was displayed at the Headquarters in New York during the resumed fiftieth session of the General Assembly on Public Administration and Development, held in April 1996. (This exhibit is available for display in New York through the Division for Governance, Public Administration and Finance of the Department for Development Support and Management Services.)

Conference participants noted the value of multidisciplinary and multicultural dialogue, stressing that their recommendations emanated from open communication and appreciation of different experiences and perspectives. Further, they encouraged all scientists and public administrators to fully document and disseminate records of their work. Specifically, the conference suggested a framework and actions designed to achieve better integration of public administration and the science of natural disasters.

According to this framework, natural disasters have a negative impact on long-term sustainable development. Therefore, natural disaster reduction should not be confined to emergency relief and post-disaster reconstruction, but rather broadened to also include anticipation, mitigation and preparedness. Further, the Conference noted that in preparing their communities for future occurrences of natural disasters, public administrators need to incorporate scientific information on natural disaster trends and events into national, regional and local development plans, policies and programmes.

In addition, the Conference stressed that a wide diversity of methods of monitoring and understanding natural disaster trends and events needs to be taken into account to contribute to the future development of natural disaster reduction. Participants encouraged the United Nations Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters to facilitate assistance to developing countries in building their capacity for natural disaster reduction, including maintaining strong linkages with the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, the UNDP, and other organizations involved in natural disaster reduction activities.

The Conference recommended the setting up of various working groups and increasing communication between scientists and public administrators, including the use of the Global Programme world Wide Web site: