Earth Day: Improving multilateral environmental emergency response

On Earth Day, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched the publication Environmental Emergencies – Learning from Multilateral Response to Disasters by holding a roundtable discussion on multilateral environmental emergencies response and the lessons learned from these experiences. GCI President Alexander Likhotal was part of the roundtable, drawing on GCI’s experience in the area of environmental emergencies and looking ahead at the future challenges.

“For the future the keyword is preparedness. The better we prepare, the better we can prevent of life and materials,” said Alexander Likhotal. “We need to reunite and consolidate our activity under the guidance of the UN to limit the price we have to pay for disasters.”
He also highlighted the linked history of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit and GCI during his intervention. GCI Founding President Mikhail Gorbachev formally requesting the UN General Assembly to establish a UN centre to deal with environmental emergencies in 1989. The following year, Gorbachev brought up the idea of creating an organization that would apply the Red Cross emergency response model to ecological conflicts and disasters, which led to the creation of GCI in 1993. As such, GCI has worked closely with UNEP/OCHA since the beginning, being a registered affiliate with the unit since 1997 and Gorbachev contributed to the book by writing the foreword.
“The web between humanitarian and environmental damage is intrinsically interconnected,” said Gorbachev in the foreword. “Therefore, I was heartened when the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit was created to deal with environmental emergencies.”
Created in order to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, the publication highlights the successful partnerships and lessons learned from the past 15 years of responding to international environmental emergencies.
The roundtable was opened by Vladimir Sakharov, Chief of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit and moderated by H.E. Ambassador Toni Frisch, Deputy Director-General, Head of Humanitarian Aid Department and Head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit in the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The panel also included Rudolph Mueller, Chief Emergency Services Branch, OCHA; Muralee Thummarukudy, Programme Officer, UNEP Disasters and Conflicts Programme; and René Nijenhuis, Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit.

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