IWR Leads USACE Participation in United Nations’ Water and Disasters Panel

By CourtesyApril 17, 2024

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Institute for Water Resources
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Institute for Water Resources (Photo Credit: USACE) VIEW ORIGINAL

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 17, 2024) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a participant in the United Nations' (UN) High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters (HELP). Established in 2007 at the request of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), HELP comprises 21 international organizations to address water disaster preparedness and response. The group collaborates closely with the UN Secretariat for the Office for Disaster Reduction (UNDRR). The USACE representative to HELP is the USACE chief of engineers, Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon.

HELP's mission is to support international organizations, governments, and stakeholders in rallying political will and resources. It focuses on raising awareness, fostering coordination and cooperation, setting common objectives, tracking progress, and implementing effective strategies to tackle water and disaster challenges.

USACE participation in HELP is coordinated through USACE’s Institute for Water Resources (IWR). In February 2023, IWR lead, William Logan, PhD, served as primary author of a HELP report and policy brief on Guiding Principles for Incorporating Environmental Justice into Flood Risk Management. The report was released at the High-level Symposium on “Integrated Flood Management in the post-COVID-19 era”, in Tokyo, Japan, on January 18, 2023. The report highlighted approaches that engage disadvantaged communities in all phases of the flood risk management process—from water resources planning to flood mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

In March 2023, IWR arranged for the participation of Hon. Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, on a panel at the Sixth UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters, organized by HELP and held at the United Nations in New York City. This event was held in conjunction with World Water Week also held in NYC. Mr. Connor spoke on his current priorities for USACE relative to flood and drought preparedness, forecasting and response, emphasizing new tools such as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations and Managed Aquifer Recharge, along with social equity for disadvantaged communities including tribes.

In December 2023, the annual HELP Global Report on Water and Disasters was launched at the 22nd HELP meeting in Manila, Philippines. Part of an annual series, the 2023 report summarized not just the disasters themselves but also the knowledge, lessons, and best practices learned from confronting them. One of the five chapters described USACE Jacksonville District’s preparations for and response to three events in the 2022 hurricane season. The chapter was authored by Ms. Michelle Roberts and two of her colleagues from the Jacksonville District.

Each year brings new water-related disasters for USACE and its colleagues to confront. USACE will continue working with HELP and its international partners to learn from each other on lessons learned, best practices, and advancements in science and engineering that can lower death tolls and economic losses, year by year.