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ASBU joins WBU/UNDRR ‘Media Saving Lives’ initiative

The World Broadcasting Union (WBU) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) recently welcomed the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) into the ‘Media Saving Lives’ initiative. The occasion was marked by a four-day regional meeting, affirming the commitment towards helping people in Arab states build their capacity to prepare for extreme weather events. 

Taking place at the ASBU headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, the meeting saw 18 journalists and media representatives from 14 organisations from across the Arab region participating. A line-up of distinguished speakers and experts from across the Arab region and beyond spoke. In his speech, Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), Ahmed Nadeem, acknowledged the uniqueness of the initiative in harnessing the media to change people’s behaviour in the context of disaster-preparedness.

Giacomo Mazzone, ABU representative for ‘Media Saving Lives’, also delivered a speech: “In all the initiatives we have launched in the past, there has always been a missing link  – that is how to reach the most in need population, people who have no access to the internet, electricity and any means of communication. Who reaches these people?”

“We need to connect the information from the meteorological office to the right audience, then journalists can do their work,” Giacomo added. “We need accuracy of information.  Disaster-preparedness is not just a matter of journalistic expertise, but a question of infrastructure.”

Nathan Cooper, a representative from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said, “We need to do more in trying to help people get out of harm’s way ahead of time so when disasters pass, they can recover much more quickly.” 

Nathan pointed out three specific barriers that impede effective disaster-preparedness, i.e. the right information does not reach people, the information is too scientific for people to understand, and thirdly, people tend to freeze during disasters and are not prepared to act as they do not trust the information given. He said IFRC would like to rectify all of these problems, but cannot do it alone.

The Arab region is particularly vulnerable to disasters, as seen in this month’s flash floods that struck the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, as well as draughts that repeatedly affect the whole region. Meanwhile, Algeria and Tunisia experienced wildfires in 2023, while Morocco has been struck by earthquakes in the past. All of these disasters were analysed and discussed in-depth among the event participants with the guidance of trainers Hanene Zbiss and Elliot Christian.

‘Media Saving Lives’ is aligned with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ ‘Early Warnings for All’ (EW4All) campaign which calls for every person on earth to be protected by early warning systems by 2027. Aside from ABU and newly-joined ASBU, other members of ‘Media Saving Lives’ include the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB-UAR), and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU).