On Tuesday, October 1st, 2013, under the patronage of his Excellency Prime Minister Prof. Rami Hamdallah, the Urban Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction Centre/ Earth Sciences and Seismic Engineering Centre held a workshop on Disaster Risk Mitigation in Palestine and Support Action for Strengthening Palestinian-administrated Areas capabilities for Seismic Risk Mitigation (SASPARM) project.
The attendees included Dr. Maher An Natsheh, Acting President, Mr. Maher Ghoneim, Minister of Public Works and Housing, Dr. Fabio Girmagnoli, representative from the European Earthquake Engineering Center (EUCENTRE), Dr. Jalal Dabeek, Director of the Urban Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction Center, Dr. Jawad Fatayer, Deputy President for Graduate Affairs, and representatives of international organizations and local institutions. A number of academic staff and university students attended as well.
Dr. Jalal Dabeek welcomed the international and local attendees and highlighted the main concepts the workshop addressed, focusing on introducing the SASPARM project and its European and International partnership, as well as the integration of the governmental and non-governmental efforts in reducing and insuring the risks.
Dr. Maher Natsheh spoke about the university’s efforts to educate the community about disaster risk reduction. Preserving human lives was the reason behind the decision to establish the scientific center twenty years ago.
Dr. Natsheh added that “disaster risk reduction fulfils the university mission of serving the Palestinian community and institutions by reducing damage and causalities resulting from natural disasters, especially earthquakes. The Centre’s plans and programs were set in cooperation with local institutions to achieve this goal”.
In conclusion, he pointed out that the university is adopting academic programs in all the faculties, in addition to courses in engineering and seismic design, and land use so that the Engineering graduates and undergraduates can apply and practice what they study.
On his turn, Mr. Maher Ghoneim, Minister of Public Works and Housing, addressed current efforts to reduce the damage from earthquakes and disasters in Palestine, highlighting awareness and counselling campaigns and programs, holding training programs in managing crises and emergencies, in addition to building safety assessments and adopting more stringent building codes.
Dr. Ghoneim also called for a national plan combining local, national, and international efforts to enhance awareness of the risks and to support people during and after a crisis, pointing out the government’s current efforts in this regard.
Dr. Fabio Germagnoli, a representative of the European Center for Seismic Engineering (EUCENTRE), also spoke. He said, “the first time I came to Palestine, especially to Nablus in 2010, we [EUCENTRE] cooperated with Jalal Dabbeek and the Urban Planning Centre in developing plans and programs on earthquakes, in addition to designing certain educational and technical courses to benefit students and the working staff”.
The first session, chaired by Dr. Amer Alhmuz, included an overview on the Earthquake Risk Mitigation Program in Palestine (SASPARM- FP7 project), as well as a presentation on the European Centre and the Land Management System in Italy, graduate programs in seismic engineering, and a discussion on the Engineers’ Union Plan to apply the requirements of earthquake resistant construction.
The second session, moderated by Mr. Abdulhakim Al Jawhari, discussed the role of governmental and non-governmental Palestinian institutions’ in earthquake risk reduction. Representatives from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Civil Defence, the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and the National Commission for Disaster Risk Mitigation all gave presentations.
Dr. Sami Al Kilani conducted the third session where the attendees discussed several topics, including the importance of insurance in risk reduction and the ten essentials of a safe city. They also talked about international campaigns in building cities’ capacities to confront disasters, the experiences of Palestinians, and concluded that green building is the safest.
On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster and Risk Reduction, which falls on the 13th of October, 2013, Mr. Samer Aqrouq, the Director of the People with Disabilities Care Office in the university gave a presentation on adapting public space and facilities for the disabled and illustrated the university’s experience in this regard.
The workshop on Disaster and Risk Reduction in Palestine was held in coordination with the UN Foundation for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Ministry of Local Government, the General Directorate of Civil Defence, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Engineers Union, the Red Crescent, and the Palestinian Federation of Insurance Companies.
The organization was hosted by the Disaster Risk Mitigation Project in Palestine as well as the Support Action for Strengthening Palestinian-administrated Areas Capabilities for Seismic Risk Mitigation (SASPARM) Project. SASPARM is currently being implemented by An Najah National University in cooperation with The European Centre for Seismic Engineering and the Institute for Advanced Study of Pavia (IUSS), within the framework of (FP7) European Project.