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Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in the Asian and Pacific Region Adopted by ESCAP Member Countries

Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 6 June 2022

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Photo by IRNA

Asia-Pacific countries endorsed the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific at the 78th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on 27 May 2022.

Elaborating on the regional plan of action on sand and dust storms in the Asian and Pacific Region adopted by the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in the Asian and Pacific Region Adopted by ESCAP Member Countries (ESCAP) Member Countries, she said, "Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific provides a solid basis for countries in the region to bolster their efforts, including by strengthening cross-boundary collaboration, to reduce the risks associated with sand and dust storms and minimize their impact on sustainable development."

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“Last week ESCAP countries agreed on regional action through the endorsement of the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific. Having a political consensus among countries in the region about what needs to be done is a big news and it was achieved because we had good evidence on which we developed this plan of action” she stated.

"The Regional Plan was developed based on the findings of the Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific along with in-depth sub-regional and thematic consultations with affected countries. The process was undertaken in line with ESCAP intergovernmental mandate and at the request and recommendation of APDIM Governing Council."

"As a trans-boundary climate-induced environmental disaster, sand and dust storms are adversely affecting communities' sustainability and resilience and are becoming a serious rising concern for affected countries. More than 80 per cent of the entire populations of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Islamic Republic of Iran are exposed to medium and high levels of poor air quality due to sand and dust storms according to the findings of the Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific."

In response to IRNA reporter's question regarding the role of APDIM in developing the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific to Face Dust Storm in ESCAP Member States Especially Iran, Rossano said, “APDIM is a regional institution of ESCAP, so we are very honored to be hosted in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran."

"We have a regional mandate, and we work with the whole Asia-Pacific region member States and in that context, we first conducted the regional risk assessment on the impact of sand and dust at the regional level including the Islamic Republic of Iran," she added.

"Following the regional risk assessment, we worked to facilitate discussions and consultations amongst countries, including at the sub-regional level looking at South and Southwest Asia, North and Central Asia.  Through these consultations, we could facilitate the development of the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific, which ESCAP members States, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, commented on, and was finally endorsed at the ESCAP commission on 27 May 2022.”

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Rossano also pointed to the objectives of regional plan of action on sand and dust storms in Asia and the Pacific, saying, “The Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific has three operational objectives and each operational objective has recommended actions at national and regional levels to reduce the intensity and negative impacts of sand and dust storms on all socio-economic sectors. It identifies anthropogenic measures that could contribute to or mitigate their formation and reduce their intensity and frequency.”

“The Plan will serve to improve understanding of the socio-economic impact of sand and dust storms, enhance monitoring and early warning systems with an impact-based focus, and put in place coordinated regional actions in most at-risk and exposed geographical areas,” APDIM director said.

Touching upon APDIM collaboration with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Rossano said, “APDIM is in touch with the Department of Environment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were very helpful also in contributing to the regional risk assessment, especially from a technical perspective. We try our best to facilitate context for cooperation among different governments of the region, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. In that regard, we look forward to continuing to collaborate with all partners, including the Department of the Environment, Iran Meteorological Organization, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Plan and Budget Organization, the National Disaster Management Organization."

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is really at forefront in terms of understanding the problem of sand and dust storms as well as dealing with it," Letizia Rossano said in an exclusive with IRNA, adding that Iran is one of the few countries that have a coordinating committee at national level to deal with sand and dust storms.

"This is something that we advocate for other countries to do as well so that they can look at the problem in a broad perspective, breaking down silos by involving all different parts of the government that are touched by this issue,” she noted.

She added, “We are truly honored to be based in Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and are very grateful for the support we receive from the host country because it really goes to show the leadership of the host country and the role that we can play and hopefully, we are living up to that expectation. We will continue to collaborate with all relevant partners inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

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Elsewhere in her remarks, she referred to the role of the regional commissions in facing sand and dust storms, saying, “ESCAP is one of the economic and social commissions of the United Nations."

"Another such commission is ESCWA, which is the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. At ESCAP, we work with ESCWA to precisely bring together countries from the two regions to look at the issue together. For example, last year, we organized an intra-regional discussion with ESCWA where there was a call for regional and inter-regional cooperation to reduce the risk and negative impacts of sand and dust storms. The Regional Plan is for ESCAP member States, but still it is a very good basis to build further collaboration and agreement with the other countries beyond the ESCAP region,” Rossano noted.

Commenting on the neighboring countries' willingness to cooperate to face sand and dust storms,  Rossano said, “There is an interest to do so because sand and dust storms are trans-boundary hazard, so I think there is more advantage in collaborating than not, and I think the role of an international organization like the United Nations is precisely to create the space, convening the table if you wish, around which conversations can be held. We did so with the analysis, we had multiple consultations so that we really focus on the problem and not on the finger pointing. Pointing fingers and blaming are not helpful in solving problems. Looking at the actual problem, however, focuses on the actual technical nature of the problem and the actual impact and interests of the countries involved; that helps to move forward.”

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“One of the important elements that we came across in the course of the analysis for the risk assessment was that countries did not really account for the impact of disaster loss caused by sand and dust storm so what APDIM did was to develop a complementary Guideline on Monitoring and Reporting the Impact of Sand and Dust Storms through the Sendai Framework Monitoring which helps countries to report the impact of the sand and dust storm through the Sendai Framework Monitoring.

"The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted in 2015. All countries agreed on an international framework to reduce the impact of the disaster, comprising seven targets to achieve until 2030. These include, reducing mortality, number of affected people, economic losses, damage to critical infrastructure etc. Countries also agreed to report every year on progress in meeting these targets and we realized that it was possible for countries to also report on the impact of sand and dust storms; hence, the choice to develop these Guidelines to make it easier for countries to account for the impact of this hazard.”

APDIM at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2022 in Bali, Indonesia

“The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is the key international conference on disaster risk that the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) convenes every three years. This year, I was invited as APDIM Director to moderate one of the thematic sessions on data challenges and solutions for disaster risk management where there was a call for enhanced disaster risk data governance and data-driven analysis to inform policy decisions. So APDIM played a major role in the international scene on disaster information management and data, the key issue of its role and mandate. The outcomes of the Global Platform 2022 which was convened recently from 25 to 27 May in Bali, Indonesia, are presented in the Co-Chairs’ Summary: Bali Agenda for Resilience."

Link to original news: https://en.irna.ir/news/84778568/APDIM-Director-Iran-at-forefront-of-understanding-sand-dust

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