The minister of state for international development tells a meeting of engineers and relief workers how crucial their work is
The UK engineering sector has a crucial role to play in responding to natural and man-made disasters in places like Haiti, Pakistan and East Africa, the minister of state for international development has said.
Addressing CEOs and senior directors of leading engineering firms and institutions including Mott MacDonald, Arup, MWH, AECOM, CH2M and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Rt. Hon. Alan Duncan MP said: “Engineers and engineering companies are a crucial centre of instant disaster response; there are so many examples of where [engineering] skills can help.”
Support from the engineering community would assist the UK in making its disaster response effort “the very best in the world”, Mr. Duncan added.
The Minister of State was taking part in ground-breaking talks hosted by the Department for International Development (DFID) and facilitated by disaster relief charity RedR on 10 May to explore how the engineering sector and government can work together to improve response to humanitarian crises caused by floods, drought, earthquakes or conflict.
In a lively discussion, senior corporate executives and government officials identified a number of common goals and challenges.
They looked to improved understanding of the culture of modern humanitarianism amongst the engineering sector and awareness of how disaster response works in practice. They also talked about the need to establish stronger technical partnerships between UK government, the engineering sector and NGOs, particularly in the planning phase of disaster response and recovery.
Further to this, better awareness of the unique skills and competencies the engineering sector can bring to the various phases of disaster response is needed – as well as recognition of the legal and financial limitations on private sector companies and their personnel.
The Humanitarian Emergency Response Review, a comprehensive independent analysis of how the UK deals with global disasters, highlighted the need for DFID to unlock the potential of working with the private sector if future humanitarian challenges are to be met. By 2015, an estimated 375 million people could be affected by climate-related disasters each year, experts predict, creating a significant need for emergency response capacity.
Jo da Silva, director of international development at engineering company Arup, said: “It has taken years to get to the point where DFID is inviting engineering firms to sit around the table. It’s an important step that started more than 30 years ago when RedR was founded, by emphasising that engineers are useful in emergencies, as well as doctors.”
RedR’s Chief Executive, Martin McCann, said: “The role of engineers in emergencies is as important today as it was in the 1980s. What has changed over three decades is the context. Humanitarian response is very different in 2012, but it still needs cutting-edge engineering thinking, planning, coordination, innovation, leadership and skills. That’s what the engineering sector – including the engineering sector at a local level – can bring to the table, helping to save and rebuild more lives when disaster strikes.”
The 10 May event was the first of its kind to focus exclusively on the engineering sector, following the publication of the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review nearly a year ago.