Victims of disasters will now be able to benefit from faster and more effective rescue operations, thanks to the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations that comes into force Saturday, 8 January 2005, following ratification by 30 countries.
Until now, the trans-border use of telecommunication equipment by humanitarian organizations was often impeded by regulatory barriers that make it extremely difficult to import and rapidly deploy telecommunications equipment for emergencies.
When disaster strikes, communications links are often disrupted; yet for disaster relief workers who arrive on the scene these links are essential.
In the absence of an agreed multilateral framework that temporarily waives formalities, delays have meant the loss of lives. "In emergency situations, telecommunication saves lives," said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations specialized agency for telecommunications, which, along with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has been a driving force in drafting and promoting the Convention. "With this Convention, relief workers can make full use of today's telecommunication tools which are essential for the coordination of rescue operations."
The Tampere Convention calls on States to facilitate the provision of prompt telecommunication assistance to mitigate the impact of a disaster, and covers both the installation and operation of reliable, flexible telecommunication services. Regulatory barriers that impede the use of telecommunication resources for disasters are waived. These barriers include the licensing requirements to use allocated frequencies, restrictions on the import of telecommunication equipment as well as limitations on the movement of humanitarian teams. "OCHA aims to ensure the best response to disasters to prevent loss of life and help survivors. The Convention will make that work easier," said Jan Egeland, Operational Coordinator of the Tampere Convention.
The seventeen-article, legally binding international treaty, was unanimously adopted on 18 June 1998 by the delegates of the 75 countries that attended the Intergovernmental Conference on Emergency Telecommunications (ICET-98), hosted by Finland in Tampere, about 200 km north of Helsinki. The Treaty was then open for accession, requiring 30 ratifications to come into effect.
The 30 countries that have ratified the treaty are:
- Czech Republic
- El Salvador
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Sri Lanka
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