Still from NCEMA video of opening keynote of the Summit by Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE President, in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday Image Credit: Screengrab/Twitter

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has urged greater international collaboration to minimise the risks of future disasters and emergencies, and today launched a study that shares its learnings and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the inaugural Crisis and Emergencies Management Summit in the capital, Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic advisor to the UAE President, said the interconnected nature of today’s world makes all communities vulnerable to disasters and emergencies anywhere in the world.

“The world today is more interconnected than ever before, and no one can live an isolated existence any more. Our experience has shown that no one is safe even from threats that may originate in far off lands. To compound this, disasters today stem from both natural and manmade sources. This is why it is essential to coordinate responses, and to stay prepared for any future threats,” Dr Gargash said during a keynote address at the Summit.

Dr Gargash said the UAE’s coordinated response to COVID-19, guided by the support and reassurance of its leadership, enabled the nation to strike a balance between economic, social and political needs.

“It was a difficult and unprecedented challenge, but the pioneering role played by our leadership reassured the community. We were able to respond effectively, and the UAE recovered quickly and well enough to organise a global event like the Expo 2020 Dubai. This experience demonstrates the need to foresee and predict potential risks, and maintain stability, in order to handle crises,” he added.

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Guide to UAE response

The Summit was organised by the National Crisis and Emergencies Management Authority (NCEMA) of the UAE. During the official opening, the NCEMA launched ‘The Road to Success: The UAE as a Model in Confronting COVID-19’, a guide that traces its response to the pandemic in a bid to encourage further collaboration in the field of disaster and emergency control.

Climate crises

Experts at the two-day conference, which continues until Wednesday (May 10), highlighted the cross-border nature of emergencies, as well as the looming threat of climate crises.

“A warming planet fuelled by runaway carbon emissions is leading to more frequent and extreme disasters. Floods and torrential rains alongside droughts and heatwaves are wreaking havoc on communities across the globe. We are [therefore] experiencing an alarming climate disaster nexus,” warned Loretta Hieber Girardet, chief of risk knowledge, monitoring and capacity development at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Switzerland.

“Water scarcity already affects 40 per cent of the world’s population. For every one-degree Celsius temperature rise, 500 million more people will face 20 per cent loss of renewable water resources. Global food insecurity is already at dangerously high levels. By 2050, climate change will increase cereal prices by 29 per cent. According to the World Bank, climate change threatens to push an additional 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years. Never has the need for strengthened collaboration been more urgent,” she added.

Investing in disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation measures can save lives and reduce humanitarian need, the Girardet stressed.

Cyber threats

In an increasingly more connected world, many global threats are also digital in nature. In turn, digital emergencies affect wider swathes of the global population, said Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, head of the UAE Cybersecurity Council. Addressing delegates, he urged a culture of security and hygiene online, much like the hygiene habits that became second nature as a result of awareness efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to discussions about cybersecurity and natural disasters, the two-day event is also organising talks on how to handle hazardous materials, and how to leverage artificial intelligence to enhance preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies.