I highlighted about the huge involvement of youths in Nepal right after the massive earthquakes that hit Nepal in 2015 and their deployment after the immediate Government intervention; the importance of resilient infrastructure which takes into account the cultural, en...
This May from 12 to 20, I had the opportunity on behalf of Youth Innovation Lab to attend the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva. GPDRR is the biennial multi-stakeholder forum established by United Nations General Assembly to share common challenges, solutions, latest development of progress and mitigation plan to reduce disaster risk, and to review the progress in presence of state actors, non-state actors, the private sector and advocacy groups from around the world.
The history of the GPDRR goes back to the 1994 World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, which unlocked guidelines for natural disaster prevention, preparedness, and mitigation endorsing 'Yokohama Strategy'. The World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held in Kobe, Hyogo in 2005 reviewed the 'Yokohama Strategy' and promulgated the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, and the Hyogo Declaration. Two years of the Hyogo declaration, the first-ever Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) was held in 2007 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The GPDRR is also a platform to critically review the progress on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030). The 2019 GPDRR was critical in respect to the monitoring progress and implementation of the Sendai Framework and to have a common understanding and solutions for the most pressing issues on DRR. As a DRR enthusiast, my excitement was high in terms of learning from global experiences and sharing local knowledge.
Previously, in December, 2018, I already had the opportunity to attend my first UNDRR event, the regional consultative workshop in Bangkok on Disaster Risk Reduction strategies. The event opened numerous opportunities and space to co-work with different stakeholders including the Government of Nepal (GoN). Following the workshop, I was invited by the Government of Nepal, Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) to attend a steering committee meeting to discuss about the development of a Disaster Information Management System (DIMS) along with other 11 different ministries/departments officials. On February 11, 2019, Youth Innovation Lab signed a Memorandum of Understanding (which is rare) with the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) to develop the country's first integrated DIMS named locally as Building Information Platform Against Disaster (BIPAD). In 80 days, spending over 6369 hours, attending nearly 235 meetings, 78 late nights, 39 working weekends and with the involvement of 26 people, the first version of BIPAD (http://www.bipad.gov.np) was ready, just 15 days prior to the GPDRR, 2019. The GoN acknowledged the progress made on the DIMS in its Official Statement and Government of Nepal's position paper.
A further exciting part of my GPDRR experience was to attend various panel discussions, events, and bilateral meetings. Besides the regular meetings, the conference for the first time, introduced the 'Ignite Stage', where DRR experts, practitioners, academicians could come and share their ideas and innovations, which was exciting. This session included talks from a study of an older woman in disaster-affected coastal villages of Bangladesh to Humanitarian OpenStreetMap's presentation on building resilience through Open Data communities in African cities. In addition, there was a dedicated session called 'Learning Labs' where several sessions were organized to provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities on different topics related to the Global Platform. As part of the 'Innovation Platform,' about 24 booths showcased various initiatives taken by development partners, youth groups, UN organizations, and Governments. Initiatives from AI, blockchain technology, space data, new approaches of disaster finance to disaster risk analysis system by UNDP were demonstrated.
Besides the various sessions, I also got an opportunity to share my experiences on various panels, here are some of them:
Making DRR Inclusive
(wide view of the panel discussion organized by UNDRR Geneva office)
I spoke at the panel entitled 'Making DRR inclusive' along with Crispin Conroy, Representative Director at the International Chamber of Commerce; Angelika Planitz, UNDP; Ciro Ugarte, PAHO/WHO; and other stakeholders moderated by Jane Katz, Director of International Affairs, Habitat for Humanity International. I highlighted about the huge involvement of youths in Nepal right after the massive earthquakes that hit Nepal in 2015 and their deployment after the immediate Government intervention; the importance of resilient infrastructure which takes into account the cultural, environmental, and historical assets indigenous to a place; and the need for cutting-edge technological tools to bridge the science-public divide. It wasn't hard to convince the participants that the role of young people is crucial and continuous. However, I believe there needs to be a constant push for effective implementation. Likewise, Angelika Planitz shared examples on 'leaving no one behind' sharing initiatives undertaken globally through UNDP programs. Crispin Conroy put forward how the private sector is working together with state and non-state actors to respond to disasters and preparedness. He highlighted how the ICC is assisting in the economic development, promotion, and protection of commerce and industries both in the private and public sectors globally. Similarly, Ciro shared about the concept of climate-resilient hospitals and their importance in the promotion of inclusion of indigenous people and disability in health disaster risk management.
Technology Innovations and Building Resilience for the Last Miles
(Group photo after the panel (from right) Dr. Siyana, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Pradip Khatiwada, and Shariha Khalid Erichsen)
The second panel I spoke on was called "Technology Innovations and Building Resilience for the Last Miles in Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery-What is the Reality on the Ground?â€ The panel featured panelists such as Dr. Judy Kuriansky, United Nations Representative and Professor at Columbia University, Dr. Siyana Mahroof-Shaffi, Director at Kitrinos Healthcare, and Kenneth Carswell, Mental Health Technical Consultant, World Health Organization. In particular, I was very honored to speak and share my work in the presence of Prof S. Parasuraman, a former director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the audience. As a graduate of the Tata Institute, it was a very proud moment for me to share my work in a global conference in the presence of my former professor.
As part of the panel, I highlighted the role of technology like DIMS in preparedness and as a response mechanism. I also emphasized the importance of citizen science data (Open Data) and its usefulness for disaster response and preparedness. A specific example I gave was of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake where the OpenStreetMap contributors from around the world mapped critical infrastructure like roads, buildings, open spaces, and alike that helped humanitarian responders on the ground to coordinate further. The data that was produced during that time are now being used by government post-disaster initiatives, which serves as a concrete example of a use case of open DIMS data. I also emphasized the critical importance of focusing on grassroots level interventions to involve local people at risk in the development process of technological tools. In short, is stressed the need for local driven technological tools to bridge the science-public divide.
(Picture from the panel discussion along with (from left) Kenneth Carswell, Dr. Siyana Mahroof-Shaffi, Pradip Khatiwadda, and Shariha Khalid Erichsen )
In the panel, Dr. Siyana talked about how Kitrinos Healthcare through their Care-A.Van project are engaging with risk populations by utilizing a medically outfitted vehicle to fill the gap to deliver basic health care in the humanitarian support network in Greece. The use of the group of interpreters, physicians, midwives, nurses and paramedics to connect health facilities to the needy people, including refugee camps. Kenneth shared about the STARS project—a digital psychological intervention for young people aged 15 to 18 years, who are going through psychological distress that impairs in daily life. Young people using an automated 'chatbot', through which people can interact and share their distress with the bot which gives the feeling of speaking like a human. The system is equipped with videos, audios, and interactive stories that are believed to be helpful to reduce distress.
Following the sessions, people approached me to explore if possibilities to work together to build similar platforms. People showed interest to understand Open Data, the technological use, and if this system is replicable in other countries or not. In addition, various people provided some recommendations on the DIMS for example to include data on the most vulnerable people to be affected adversely by disasters like elderly people and children.
Youth Actions on DRR
(A pre-event organized by United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth during GPDRR 2019 )
The third session at GPDRR that I spoke in was called 'Youth Actions on DDR', a special discussion for youth participants of the conference organized by the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. During the session, I presented about the work that we have been doing at Youth Innovation Lab. As in many countries the relationship between youth and Government is often antagonistic with both sides blaming each other, I highlighted the necessity for youth to work with Government and different ways to do so. I shared the examples from my past including my experience of working on the Plastic Bag Ban initiative with 60 parliament members of environment protection committee to formulate legislation on a plastic bag ban in 2015. I also spoke about my involvement in working with the Government of Nepal's National Planning Commission and the Himalayan Climate Initiative as the National Coordinator for three days following the devastating earthquake to lead a pool of 5000 volunteers in relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Finally, I highlighted my most recent experience of working on the DIMS under the MoU between YI Lab and the with Ministry of Home Affairs. All the initiatives that I lead in the past and in the present are closely linked with the Government and its policies and have helped to be connected with Government and make a significant impact.I also spoke on the importance of conducting evidence-based advocacy campaigns and use of Open Data for urging the Government to adopt the right policies. I shared the experience of how youth in Nepal are leading campaigns, such as LightsON (http://light.utilitymaps.org/) to pressurize the government to enact and implement legislation to expand the street light coverage and maintain the network in Nepal. Specifically, we discussed how similar advocacy campaigns can be organized in the DRR sector to bring the right policy to reduce disaster risk. Promoting youth entrepreneurship and creating livelihood opportunities is of critical importance and I highlighted how SDG:Co Lab can be a medium to promote Sustainable Development Goals and help young people to connect to the potential entrepreneurs with right partners and donors.
Following the GPDDR, a field trip was organized by the Swiss Government to the Val de Bagnes village located at the foothills of the mountains to showcase initiatives taken to minimize mountain hazards. In the trip, the local Government shared and demonstrated how local practices and technological tools are being used to minimize potential damage from Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOFs). In 1818, during the spring, an avalanche from the Gietro Glacier created an ice dam, which later turned into a glacial lake and burst after two days that killed 40 people making a huge economic loss. After that incident, in the last two centuries, at least nine major GLOFs are being recorded—the latest one is Faverges Lake, Plaine Morte Glacier in 2018. After knowing all these facts, listening to presentations, and practice observing the place, the overall situation reminded me of my country. Even we have mountains—not just a few--thousands of mountains which are at extreme risks. I was amazed to see how much emphasis they have given to record historical data of all those events, how many alerts they are in case of analyzing potential impact and risks of similar hazards. All those events made me realize that we have so much to learn, reflect, and act to save lives from similar events. This visit was a great learning experience to observe mitigation plan, use of cutting edge technology to observe potential risks, and evacuation plan in case of any distorous event. All in all, I also enjoyed the food, hospitality, and most essentially the local level perspectives and knowledge of local-level authorities during this field trip .
(While attending official statement session representing Nepal at GPDRR 2019)
To conclude, GPDRR 2019 was a great platform to meet and interact with amazing people from different parts of the world, who work in various sectors and are committed to mitigate disaster risk. The GPDDR provided me not only with the opportunity to connect to a global network, but also bestowed Youth Innovation Lab with the confidence to think about work beyond Nepal. I am grateful to the Data for Development in Nepal Programme implemented by The Asia Foundation and Development Initiatives funded by the Department for International Development for the financial support to make my attendance to the GPDDR 2019 possible.
The YI-Lab is a collaborative platform and experimental pop-up to catalyze and mobilize the creative energy of young people between 15-29 to co-create solutions for inclusive development.
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