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Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk at International Humanitarian Rescue GCTF

September 22, 2023

Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk at International Humanitarian Rescue GCTF
National Fire Agency Training Center, Nantou
September 22, 2023

(As Prepared)


National Fire Agency Director-General Hsiao, Ministry of Environment Chemicals Administration Deputy Director-General Chen, Ocean Conservation Administration Director-General Huang, distinguished guests, and audience members:

It is my pleasure to provide opening remarks for today’s workshop on “International Humanitarian Rescue” held under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, or GCTF.

The GCTF program has come a long way since it was established by the United States and Taiwan in 2015, with Japan joining as a full partner in 2019 and Australia in 2021.  To our partners—we greatly value your contributions and look forward to expanding GCTF together in the future.  I would also like to extend my appreciation to Taiwan’s National Fire Agency for organizing and hosting today’s event.  This is my first visit to the National Fire Agency’s state-of-the-art training center, which is the largest firefighting and disaster rescue training base in Asia.

The World Bank’s Natural Disaster Hotspots report pointed out that 73% of Taiwan’s land area and population are vulnerable to three or more natural disasters, including earthquakes, cyclones, and landslides.  Notably, almost all of Taiwan is at risk of experiencing two or more types of natural hazards, making Taiwan one of the highest disaster-risk areas in the world.

Over the decades, Taiwan has demonstrated a successful model of disaster prevention, disaster management, and humanitarian rescue.  You were able to observe this in action earlier this week at the large-scale earthquake mobilization exercise that occurs every year on the anniversary of Taiwan’s 921 quake.  Today’s workshop builds upon Taiwan’s National Disaster Preparedness Day and is particularly meaningful as we are meeting in Nantou, the epicenter of the deadly earthquake 24 years ago.

So far this year, the world has experienced many significant natural disasters, including the Turkey-Syria earthquake in February, deadly wildfires in Maui, Hawaii last month, the Morocco earthquake just two weeks ago, and the flooding in Libya, to name a few.  The United States is committed to working with partners on disaster relief and response.  In a recent speech at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, President Biden noted the role of climate change in the increasing number of natural disasters and thanked first responders for their hard work, sacrifices, and risks they take out in the field.

As we collaborate to improve disaster resilience globally, sharing experience is essential.  We are honored to have so many humanitarian assistance and disaster relief experts from around the world join us today.  I know my colleagues from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, and the nonprofit organization Spirit of America, as well as experts from Taiwan and Japan, have much valuable technical expertise to share during today’s workshop.

On behalf of the United States, I want to thank all of you for your efforts and contributions to keep our world safe and resilient.  I am delighted to see so many participants from around the world come to Taiwan to participate in this important GCTF workshop.  I wish you a very productive discussion.

Thank you.