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RIBA joins UK advisory group on global crises

RIBA joins UK advisory group on global crises

The RIBA is one of three founding members of the first UK advisory group for the built environment that will operate on the global humanitarian stage, advising and supporting reconstruction efforts after crises.

The UK Built Environment Advisory Group (UKBEAG), co-founded by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), was launched last week at a special event during Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador.

UKBEAG launched at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador

The group plans to bring together the collective expertise of the three founding institutes and their professional members to support a range of humanitarian and development partners, including UK and international governments, in preparing for and responding to humanitarian crises from floods, droughts and earthquakes to conflict situations.

UKBEAG will also offer support to the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and other international humanitarian agencies.

RIBA Vice President International Peter Oborn says the group is a response to a gap in the international humanitarian aid response, which is not really geared up for urban environments.

'We are not talking individual building projects here, and we are not replacing other charities that do good work, we're trying to do something different, to bridge the divide between the development and the humanitarian relief sectors, which are seen as two separate things,' Oborn explains.

'Being in Quito, it was very interesting to see how we could have helped in Ecuador after the April earthquake. Aid agencies responded, but after six months the emergency response had moved on and international effort was evaporating. These agencies don't have the capacity to plan for the reconstruction effort, which needs capacity building, guidance and policies.'

Speaking at the launch, Piers Craven, Chargé d'Affaires at the British Embassy in Quito said: 'I'm delighted to support the launch of the UK Built Environment Advisory Group at HABITAT III today in Quito. This is a great initiative to share skills, expertise and experience across the world.

'The focus this morning on disaster preparedness and risk reduction is timely and topical as Ecuador undertakes the huge task of reconstruction following the earthquake of 16 April.'

UKBEAG has actually grown out of discussions the RIBA has been having for some time with DfID and international agencies up to UN level.

One of the catalysts was the last year's Nepal earthquake, where the RIBA was helping on the ground and noticed that the IStructE was present too, but no-one was talking to each other, recalls Oborn.

The RIBA called the other UK institutes together to discuss how efforts could be more effective if they worked together, and how they could present a single interface in discussions with DfID.

At the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May this year, the creation of the Global Alliance for Urban Crises was announced. The RIBA became a signatory and committed to create the UK group. The Alliance will meet again in Paris next month, where Oborn says the group hopes to identify how it can be most effective in generating policy and guidance and galvanising member efforts.

Thanks to Peter Oborn, principal, Peter Oborn Associates and RIBA Vice President International.

Text by Neal Morris, © RIBA

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