Beijing, China
January 20-28, 1997


The first United Nations International Conference on the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters took place in Beijing, China, January 20 - 28, 1997. The participants included 80 natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, and public administrators from nine countries. Participants were primarily engaged in research, teaching, or managing departments and agencies of government at national, regional and local levels. Also represented was the Secretariat for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference particularly benefited from the presence and contributions of Governors and Vice-Governors from the following Chinese Provinces: Fujian, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Yunnan, as well as representatives from Baoji City, Guang Yuan City, Liaoning Province and Shanghai Municipality. The conference was hosted by the State Science and Technology Commission of China (SSTCC), and organized under the auspices of the United Nations Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters of the United Nations Department for Development Support and Management Services (UNDDSMS). Aims of the conference included: The conference included discussions through panels, roundtables, poster sessions, speakers, 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.

Conference participants noted the great variety of scientific studies and experiences, particularly among the Chinese participants, and encouraged all participants to fully document and disseminate their work. Further, the participants acknowledged the value of multi- disciplinary and multi-cultural dialogue, and noted that their recommendations emanated from open communication and appreciation of different experiences and perspectives. The following general principles and specific recommendations represent participants' efforts to suggest a framework and actions which could lead to better integration of public administration and the science of natural disasters.


  1. Natural disasters should be recognized for their destructive and/or negative impact on long-term, sustainable development. Natural disaster reduction should be incorporated in development plans and programmes to prepare communities for their future. In their role to help build safe societies, governments have the legal responsibility for the protection of human life and property and should develop the financial, human, organizational and technical capacity to prepare their communities to resist future natural disasters.
  2. Establish permanent communications forum for exchanging information and experiences on a continuous (real time) basis
  3. Natural disaster reduction should not be confined to emergency relief and post-disaster reconstruction, but rather broadened to also include anticipation, mitigation and preparedness. Processes of mitigation and preparedness should be recognized through policy development, education, formulation and implementation of counter-measures, and funding allocation as an investment to reduce losses and cost of emergency relief.
  4. In order to integrate with the activities of public administration, scientists should be encouraged and supported to invest substantial intellectual resources to apply their knowledge to reduce the hazardous consequences of the natural processes they study.
  5. In order for public administrators to prepare their communities for future occurrences of natural disasters, they should incorporate scientific information on natural disaster trends and events integrally into national, regional and local development plans, policies, and programmes.
  6. Natural disaster reduction programmes should take into account the inter-relatedness of categories of natural disasters. Various types of natural disasters are interrelated, with one disaster often leading to another, as in the case of earthquake- and rain-induced landslides.
  7. Natural disaster reduction can be assisted by a wide diversity of methods of monitoring and understanding natural disaster trends and events, and this diversity of methods should be given full play to contribute to future development of natural disaster reduction.
  8. The United Nations and its Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters should facilitate assistance to developing countries in building their capacity for natural disaster reduction.
  9. In its work The UN Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters should establish strong linkages with the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other organizations involved in natural disaster reduction activities.


A. Scientific Contributions to Natural Disaster Reduction
The participants noted that they benefited from multi-disciplinary exchange among scientists and engineers, and noted that scientific progress from many scientists working together in collaborative, multi disciplinary exchange.

B. Public Administration Contributions to Natural Disaster Reduction
The participants noted the important role of appropriate management of information in communities prone to natural disasters. Local governments play a key role in communicating simple, accurate, complete and timely information in order for communities to understand and mitigate the risk of natural disasters without panic or fear. With cooperative dialogue between scientists and administrators, scientific information can be incorporated into public administration activities relating to natural disaster reduction.

C. Information, Technology, and International Networking for Anticipation and Mitigation of Natural Disasters
These recommendations represent the combined efforts of two working groups. Discussion of the workshop on "information technology for disaster management in urban areas noted the important role that information plays in natural disaster reduction, emphasizing the kinds of information needed to mitigate disasters, the users of this information, and ways to use this information. The discussion in the workshop on "international networking for anticipation and mitigation of natural disasters" was aided by a lead-in presentation by the Chinese National Center for Seismic Data and Information (NCSDI), an operational Internet and Intranet solution for the sharing of seismic data and information. The group recommended the adoption of a "culture of networking and sharing".


The conference participants express their sincere appreciation for the efficient conference arrangements, beautiful and functional facilities, and warm hospitality of all their hosts, and especially the State Science and Technology Commission of China.

Scientists and public administrators had many open discussions  Over the course of the conference, scientists and public administrators from China and abroad exchanged their views and research data openly. Besides presentations by invited speakers, including Mdm. Deng Nan, Vice Minister of SSTC, three day-long workshops were convened which which resulted in a final conference report with recommendations in three areas: 


  • Scientific contribution to natural disaster reduction 
  • Public administration contributions to natural disaster reduction 
  • Information, technology and international networking for anticipation and mitigation of natural disasters 
SSB Display area  The State Seismological Bureau (SSB) displayed many of their earthquake monitoring equipment and recent scientific accomplishments. 
Prof. Qiang Zuji  Prof. Qiang Zuji's Thermal Infrared Imaging Method utilizes widely available NOAA-14 meteorological satellite images to detect temperature anomalies over a wide region that may indicate an impending earthquake days in advance. 
Geomagnetic method poster  The Geomagnetic Method also shows promises as an earthquake early-warning technique. 
Prof. Ren and his Astronomical Method  Prof. Ren Zhenqiu (left) uses astrononimcal as well as meteorological data, together with other information, in order to provide earthquake warnings. Dr. Luis Garcia-Cardenas, Attorney General for Environment Protection of Mexico (center), "embraced" the concept with enthusiasm. 

Conference Report and Recommendations

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