Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative

July 2004

The Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative (EMI) was first launched in 1998 and is registered as a not-for-profit organisation in the Philippines. EMI has the backing of three international scientific unions, as well as UNESCO and the International Lithosphere Program (ILP). EMIís aim is to be the catalyst for disaster risk reduction, the facilitator of knowledge sharing and the promoter of research efforts focused on the reduction of the impact of major disasters on megacities. EMI fosters direct exchanges between researchers, practitioners and end-users in order to bridge the gap between science and applications, to create a dynamic of cooperation and to bring about practical solutions that best fit the needs of megacities. EMI promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to disaster assessment and mitigation in order to develop sustainable and culturally compatible solutions.

EMI concentrates its efforts on building capacity of complex metropolises in developing countries, where the risk of earthquakes can be devastating to the population, economy, culture and environment. Today, half of the world's population lives in urban areas and 17 of the world's 20 largest cities are in developing countries. Within its programme, EMI promotes the establishment of comprehensive city-wide disaster management systems, and the development of tools for disaster assessment and disaster management such as information and communication technology (ICT) that enable megacities to understand their risk and take actions to reduce their exposure to disasters. The knowledge of hazards and risks builds institutional strength, increases accountability and triggers pro-active intervention. Institutionalisation of disaster mitigation at the local level remains however a distant goal; many megacities in the developing world have presently little if any capacity for disaster reduction. Disaster management practice in megacities is further hindered by the lack of competent standards and methods for sound practice. The fragmented conventional mono-discipline approach to the development of knowledge does not lend itself to practical methods in a field that requires integration of knowledge from several disciplines. The current mechanisms of knowledge transfer from researchers to the end-users are too inefficient to adequately disseminate knowledge to practitioners in developing countries, and have kept knowledge within a few experts. At the same time, the risk from earthquakes and other disasters keeps increasing, due to the upsurge of urban population, aging infrastructure, inadequate socio-political structures, and weakness of institutions. The body of knowledge and experience specific to megacities is meagre compared to the needs associated with the complex management environment of megacities.

The Cluster Cities Project (CCP) is EMIís flagship project and is critical to its mission because it is the forum that builds the infrastructure, creates a coalition among EMIís partners, and engages them in a process of disaster risk reduction. Through the CCP, EMIís partners build relationships, understand their role and responsibilities, acquire knowledge, and develop the motivation and the confidence to engage themselves and their institutions in disaster risk reduction. The primary targeted stakeholders are local government policy makers and the scientists. These are the two essential poles in the development of a broad coalition that expands towards other local, national, regional and international active agents that could consolidate and contribute to the coalition. Today, about 20 megacities from around the world participate in the CCP.

In 2004, EMI launched the 3cd Program (Cross-Cutting Capacity Development Program) as a long-term (2004-2009) inter-disciplinary programme designed to assist EMIís partner cities to implement sound practices for disaster risk management. The 3cd Program builds on the network of cities developed in the CCP. The 3cd Program is designed as a partnership endeavour open to all institutions that are interested in urban disaster risk reduction. Its detailed design will be developed in collaboration with all participating cities and partner institutions. Phase 1 (2004-2005) of the programme is being undertaken in partnership with the Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Research Centre (EdM) of Kobe, Japan, HMU at the World Bank and other partners. This phase assesses current practices of disaster risk management in megacities, identifying gaps and user needs, and undertakes several capacity enhancement activities in EMIís partner cities and institutions.

More information on EMI, the Cluster Cities Project, the 3cd Program and other EMIís activities can be found in EMIís website: www.earthquakesandmegacities.org.