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"Nalaka Gunawardene, TVE Asia Pacific" <[log in to unmask]>
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Nalaka Gunawardene, TVE Asia Pacific
Sun, 23 Dec 2007 10:13:35 +0530
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Dear friends,

We are ending 2007 with the release of a regional book we have been working 
for much of this year - please see news release below.

It's unusual for us at TVE Asia Pacific to come out with a book, because we 
are primarily engaged in making and distributing factual films. But once in 
a while we find it useful to capture our experiences and reflections in 
print form to share with fellow professionals and the public. This book 
contains a whole chapter that documents our Children of Tsunami project 
(http://www.childrenoftsunami.info) which we implemented for a year after 
the Indian Ocean tsunami. It also carries many insights drawn from others 
disasters before and since.

During 2007, I had the good fortune of meeting and working with many of 
you. I take this opportunity to thank you for being in our network of 
media, academic and civil society friends across Asia and beyond, and wish 
you restful holidays and a productive 2008.

With warm regards,

Nalaka Gunawardene
Director, TVE Asia Pacific, www.tveap.org

* * * * *

Communicating Disasters:
New Asian book revisits Tsunami's communication lessons

Colombo, Sri Lanka: 23 December 2007.

A new Asian book published this month takes a critical look at the 
communication lessons of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, and 
explores the role of good communications before, during and after disasters.

Titled 'Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book', the 
multi-author book discusses how information, education and communication 
can help create disaster resilient communities across the Asia Pacific 
region, home to half of humanity.

Coming out in time for the third anniversary of the tsunami, the book 
carries an entire section which reflects on the communication lessons of 
that mega-disaster.

Drawing on the tsunami, Kashmir earthquake and other recent disasters, the 
book concludes: adequate planning by media and disaster managers can help 
avoid communications disasters when communicating about disasters.

With focus on the appropriate use of media-based communications, the 
publication covers rapid on-set disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes, 
cyclones and landslides as well as those that unfold slowly, such as drought.

The book, co-published by the non-profit media foundation TVE Asia Pacific 
and the UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok, brings together 21 authors – most 
of them from Asia – who share their experiences and insights on effective 
communication related to various disasters.

It was released during the Third Global Knowledge Conference (GK3) held in 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11 to 13 December 2007. The role of 
information and communication technologies (ICTs) in disaster prevention 
and early warning was discussed during the event, attended by 1,700 people.

Communicating Disasters was edited by two leading Asian journalists – Sri 
Lankan Nalaka Gunawardene and Indian Frederick Noronha – and carries a 
foreword by Sir Arthur C Clarke, inventor of the communications satellite.

"Communicating disasters -- before, during and after they happen -- is 
fraught with many challenges," Sir Arthur Clarke says in his foreword. 
"Today’s ICT tools enable us to be smart and strategic in gathering and 
disseminating information. But there is no silver bullet that can fix 
everything. We must never forget how even high tech (and high cost) 
solutions can fail at critical moments. We can, however, contain these 
risks by addressing the cultural, sociological and human dimensions."

The book's contributors come from backgrounds in print and broadcast media, 
photojournalism, the UN system, civil society, academia and the 
humanitarian sector. They draw on their rich and varied experience in 
either preparing disaster resilient communities or responding to 
humanitarian emergencies triggered by specific disasters. Five chapters are 
written by leading Asian journalists who covered the aftermath of the 
Indian Ocean tsunami.

"This book comes out at a time when both the media industry and the global 
humanitarian sector are undergoing rapid change," says co-editor Nalaka 
Gunawardene, who is also Director of TVE Asia Pacific. "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."

Whenever a hazard turns into a disaster of any kind, journalists and 
humanitarian workers are among the first to arrive on the scene. But their 
needs and agendas are different: journalists have to access and verify real 
time information, and get their story out ahead of the competition, while 
the priority for humanitarian workers and disaster managers is to provide 
relief to affected people.

"In the information age, disaster managers have to balance their own 
humanitarian priorities with the need to manage information flows and 
maintain good relations with the media," the book points out. Several 
chapters explore the nexus between journalists and humanitarian workers, 
identifying the common ground for them to cooperate better.

While ICTs – ranging from radio and television to computers and mobile 
phones - make it possible to reach more people faster on hazards and 
disasters, the book emphasizes that technology is insufficient to achieve 
this potential. "It requires a mix of sociological, cultural and 
institutional responses by governments, corporate sector and civil society. 
This also calls for building or reinforcing 'bridges' between media 
practitioners and disaster managers who have traditionally been on two 
sides of a divide."

Asia's recent experiences have shown how governments, civil society and aid 
agencies mismanage information and communication, aggravating the agony of 
affected people and wasting limited resources. As the book's introduction 
says, "There is growing recognition on the need for a culture of 
communication that values proper information management and inclusive 
information sharing."

The book also quotes from the World Disaster Report 2005, published by the 
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 
which made a strong case for a greater role for information and 
communication in disaster situations: "Information is a vital form of aid 
in itself – but this is not sufficiently recognised among humanitarian 
organisations. Disaster-affected people need information as much as water, 
food, medicine or shelter. Information can save lives, livelihoods and 

"The discussion on the role of information and communication in disaster 
situations continues," the co-editors Gunawardene and Noronha 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 

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 mid December 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. 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 publication is released under the 
<http://creative-commons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode>Creative Commons 
Attribution 3.0 license. Not being a commercial publication, it will be 
available for free download from TVE Asia Pacific website from January 2008 
at: <http://www.tveap.org/disastercomm>http://www.tveap.org/disastercomm

For now, the book's table of contents can be viewed at: 

Related news story appears at: http://www.tveap.org/news/0712com.html


Nalaka Gunawardene
Director and CEO
Television for Education - Asia Pacific (TVE Asia Pacific)
9/3, Gemunu Mawatha, Nawala Road, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.
Phone: +94 11 4412 195; Fax: +94 11 4403 443
Email: [log in to unmask]
www.tveap.org | www.digits4change.net | www.childrenoftsunami.info | 
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