|Home > News||14 December 2007|
Communicating Disasters: New book seeks the common ground
A new book published this week looks at how information, education and communication can help create disaster resilient communities across the Asia Pacific.
Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book brings together 21 authors – most of them from Asia – who share their experiences and insights on effective communication before, during and after disasters.
Coming out in time for the third anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, it takes stock of communication lessons of the mega-disaster. Its core message: adequate planning can help avoid communications disasters when communicating about disasters.
The book, co-published by TVE Asia Pacific and the UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok, was released during the Third Global Knowledge Conference (GK3) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11 to 13 December 2007.
Edited by two leading Asian journalists -- TVEAP Director/CEO Nalaka Gunawardene and independent journalist Frederick Noronha -- the book carries a foreword by Sir Arthur C Clarke, inventor of the communications satellite.
The book is the culmination of a year-long process that began with an Asian brainstorming meeting on Communicating Disasters that TVEAP and UNDP convened in December 2006 in Bangkok. That meeting, attended by three dozen participants drawn from media and disaster management sectors, identified the need for a handbook that can strengthen cooperation of these two communities before, during and after disasters.
The 160-page book comprises 19 chapters and seven informative appendices. It is richly illustrated using professional images drawn from Drik Picture Library, PhotoShare, TVEAP image archive and the work of individual photographers across Asia.
The book is aimed at journalists and disaster managers who often have to communicate under many pressures during and in the aftermath of disasters. It is also a useful guide to civil society groups who are keen on using information and communication to create safer societies and communities.
"This book comes out at a time when both the media industry and the global humanitarian sector are undergoing rapid change," says Nalaka Gunawardene, TVEAP Director and co-editor of Communicating Disasters. "Our contributors are among the 'change agents' leading or consolidating these changes, and thus able to offer insights from the cutting edge in their respective spheres."
The contributors draw on their rich and varied experience working in either preparing disaster resilient communities or responding to humanitarian emergencies triggered by specific disasters. Some are journalists who have reported on disasters from the 'ground zero'; others are aid workers, public information officials or development professionals who have been at the forefront in emergency responses or are engaged in disaster risk reduction.
"There are certainly great benefits to be reaped if strengthened understanding and common ground can be forged between different media outlets, government departments and development agencies when disasters strike," says Elizabeth Fong, Regional Manager, UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok, in her preface to the book. "This publication is one contribution toward leveraging the reach of the media and ICTs to better inform citizens and save lives."
Where there is no camera, there is no humanitarian intervention,” the book's cover blurb quotes Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres who later became the Foreign Minister of France.
It adds: "Disaster managers and relief agencies acknowledge the mass media's key role at times of distress. Yet, the relationship between media practitioners and those managing disasters can often be stressful, difficult and fraught with misunderstandings."
How can these mishaps be minimised, so that the power of conventional and new media can be harnessed to create more disaster resilient communities? What value addition can the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) bring in?
Media and development professionals from across the Asia Pacific share their views based on decades of experience in covering or managing a variety of disasters. With focus on the appropriate use of media-based communications, the publication covers rapid on-set disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones and landslides as well as those that unfold slowly, such as drought.
"The discussion on the role of information and communication in disaster situations continues," the co-editors say in their introduction to the book. "Media-based communication is vitally necessary, but not sufficient, in meeting the multiple information needs of disaster risk reduction and disaster management. Other forms of participatory, non-media communications are needed to create communities that are better prepared and more disaster resilient."
They add: "This book does not claim to provide all the answers, but we hope it has at least raised many pertinent questions. Instead of trying to be comprehensive or definitive, our contributors are being provocative and imaginative."
This publication is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Not being a commercial publication, a limited number of copies are available from co-publishers TVEAP and UNDP until stocks last (see box).
Click here for Table of contents of Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book