Obaid-Al-Shamsi,-vice-president,-NCEMA-at-CEMS-in-AD-on-may-10 pic by samihah zaman-1683732814754
Obaid Al Shamsi, vice president of the National Crisis, Emergency and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), addressing the summit in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is prepared to any new pandemic, natural disaster or national emergency, and is sparing no efforts to further enhance its readiness, a top official announced in the capital on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Crisis and Emergencies Management Summit in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Obaid Al Shamsi, vice president of the National Crisis, Emergency and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), described these national action plans as the ‘Emirati model’ of dealing with emergencies and crises.

“This Emirati model is pinned by wise leadership, which provides solutions to every challenge posed. It also expects the unexpected, and is proactive instead of reactive,” Al Shamsi said at the Summit.

Teach crisis management

While hailing the success of the Emirati model during the COVID-19 crisis, Al Shamsi said its learnings should be included in university-level curriculums that teach preparedness as a science, and equip students with the required predictive and analytical tools.

“We study the sciences that ensure preparedness and crisis handling, including psychology, sociology, engineering and medicine. But then we perfect the knowledge till it becomes an art,” Al Shamsi told a packed audience on the second day of the summit.

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Climate crisis gaps

The most unexpected disasters have historically originated from extreme weather events. Sheikha Shamma bint Khalifa Al Nahyan, president and chief executive officer of the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators, said there are however major gaps in building resilience to climate crises.

“We have seen a significant shift in weather patterns here in the UAE – with heavy rains causing considerable flooding in the Northern Emirates in the peak of summer last year. We need to look no further than our neighbouring nations to see the devastating effects of cyclones in Oman and mass floods in Pakistan [that killed or injured 15,000 people],” she added.

“It is important to recognise that the responsibility of building resilience lies not with one country or nation, but with all of us, as stewards of our planet. In order to achieve this on a global level, we must first start with our cities, our communities and our policies. While our efforts have primarily focused on climate mitigation, we cannot ignore the importance of adaptation to the new world that we are inevitably living in.”

According to the World Economic Forum, the cost of climate adaptation in developing countries is expected to reach 300 billion dollars per year by 2030. In contrast, global adaptation finance flows were only $46 billion (Dh168 billion) in 2020, of which only $28.6 billion (Dh105 billion) goes to developing countries, thus leaving a significant gap.

Leverage tools

Experts also shed light on other kinds of emergencies that have become ever more common, including health crises and manmade emergencies.

“With the tools and resources at our disposal, we must learn to prepare for the unexpected. A big part of this is leveraging the potential of techology artificial intelligence to predict upcoming threats. I am sad to say that COVID-19 was a crisis that was predicted, yet the world did not take it seriously…We must never repeat these mistakes. At the same time, we must also develop human capabilities to handle emergencies, and self-assess our strengths and weaknesses,” Al Shamsi advised.

International collaboration is also key to optimising crisis management, the official said. To that end, the NCEMA yesterday released its experiences during the COVID-19 crisis as a means of sharing its learnings with the world.

The two-day Summit served as a global platform to strengthen partnerships and international cooperation, and for the exchange of disaster management experiences. Following a series of workshops and panel discussions, attendees issued a series of recommendations to strengthen emergency responses.

-Shahad Al Sayegh is an intern at Gulf News