News story

Britain to lead more effective response to disasters

Today the UK laid out how it will improve the way it responds to man-made and natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, today laid out how Britain will improve the way it responds to man-made and natural disasters to provide more effective help to people devastated by earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and war.

The new proposals follow Lord Paddy Ashdown’s review of the UK’s humanitarian emergency response and include:

Better prepared countries
Many countries where the Department for International Development works are at risk from disasters. The UK Government will now focus more resources into helping them build up their resilience to natural disasters and conflicts.

Cutting-edge technology
The government will appoint a team to identify and develop the most up-to-date innovations for disaster response, including satellite mapping to track the movement of people affected by flooding and use of mobile phones to get information to victims of disasters.

Deployment of more varied UK experts
A wider pool of specialists including surgeons, scientists and weather experts will be sent into disaster areas alongside the International Search And Rescue teams, which are currently drawn together from Fire & Rescue crews across the country, to expand the scope of the UK response.

Better UN leadership
Call for a radical overhaul of UN leadership - backing the agenda for change that the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Baroness Amos, has set out - to ensure international response helps those most in need, when they need it.

Rapid response facility
A new facility to provide rapid assistance to humanitarian charities in the first 72 hours of a crisis will get more help to people in the “critical window” following a disaster. British NGOs will be ‘pre-qualified’ to receive emergency funding, ensuring aid gets to the front line faster.

Armed Forces
Greater use of the special skills of the Armed Forces, where appropriate. Andrew Mitchell paid tribute to the involvement of the Armed Forces in recent humanitarian responses. In Pakistan last year they flew in emergency bridges to flood zones, reconnecting stranded communities. In Haiti they shipped in vital heavy construction materials and life saving supplies.

New Partnerships
With governments around the world, including new partnerships with China, Brazil and Gulf States, along with the Private Sector and charities to bring as much expertise and support as possible to crisis situations.

Andrew Mitchell said these measures would prevent thousands of deaths and save the international community money in the long run.

Latest research shows that the number of environmental disasters have trebled over the past thirty years, hitting poor countries hardest. The number of natural disasters are expected to continue to increase rapidly.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

Time and time again, British people have been generous to those devastated by disaster.

Lord Ashdown’s review says that the UK response is widely praised, but we can do better. The changes I am announcing today will ensure Britain is at the forefront of disaster response. Through this action we will make sure our efforts save as many lives as possible.

Read the full press release

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Published 15 June 2011