This week in Rome, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Food Agencies in Rome Ertharin Cousin, and leaders from USAID, World Food Program, World Health Organization, and the United Nations System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC) joined over 180 experts from governments, UN agencies, civil society, the private sector and media –for the “Towards a Safer World” Conference.
The “Towards a Safer World” initiative brings top experts together in an effort to identify and promote the best practices in preparing for pandemics, and in the course of this Conference these experts discussed the findings of 11 thematic papers examining good practices and lessons from the multi-sectoral pandemic preparedness movement.
USUN Rome Ambassador Ertharin Cousin remarked that the key to success on this initiative is “maintaining global public will for supporting the capacity building that is necessary for guiding future multi-stakeholders’ responses to pandemics.” Ambassador Cousin also noted that, “this will be no small challenge, but the world – -a safer world – depends upon your success.”
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of State Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones spoke, among other things, about how the private sector is now preparing disaster response capability. For the recent Hurricane, Irene, Wal-Mart and Home Depot were able to “institutionalize their capacity to respond” to disasters, said Dr. Jones, based upon the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.
In addition, Dr. Jones remarked how there continues to be the need to improve “communication so as to build public confidence” in the midst of a natural disaster or pandemic. UNSIC Coordinator David Nabarro closed the opening session, remarking that this is truly a “unique opportunity to strengthen relationships, build trust and confidence across multi-sector stakeholders, and use those relationships to equip ourselves for more effective work in the future.” This “Whole of Society” approach for pandemic preparedness will be a critical tool for the wider crisis preparedness community.