As Dr. Jerrowek, member of the Board of Management of Munich Re mentioned in his opening speech of the GEM Outreach Meeting: "We have been sponsoring GEM since the beginning, because we believe that GEM should and will be the number one model for earthquake estimation worldwide, made available to all interested parties in the public and private sector, and will lead to reducing and mitigating earthquake risk significantly".
The GEM Outreach Meeting, held 8-10 June in Schloss Hohenkammer and hosted by GEM's main private founder Munich Re Group, brought together 130 key stakeholders (both public and private) and distinguished experts from over 40 countries. This first global meeting since the constitution of the GEM Foundation in March 2009, reinforced the need for an independent, uniform standard for calculating earthquake hazard and risk as well as for a critical instrument to support decisions and actions to reduce earthquake losses worldwide.
Over half a million people died in the last decade due to earthquakes and tsunamis, most of these in the developing world, where the risk is increasing due to rapid population growth and urbanization. However in many earthquake-prone regions no hazard models exist, and even where models do exist, they are inaccessible. Better risk awareness can reduce the toll that earthquakes take by leading to better construction, improved emergency response, and greater access to insurance. Ross Stein, one of GEM's founders, said that "access to lucid seismic risk information should be a human right".
GEM, a genuine public-private initiative, offers a unique chance for countries and organizations to obtain state-of-the art information on seismic risk and its socio-economic impact, via open-source software. GEM is funding 9M Euro worth of work to create global datasets on seismic hazard, risk and socio-economic impact; data that does not currently exist in many countries, data that can be used to make comparisons and risk assessments on a worldwide scale. At the same time GEM will be fed by regional initiatives: GEM is helping regions to set up regional research programmes and get them funded. These will enable national scientists to gain state-of-the-art knowledge and to provide their governments with vital information. Two regional programmes (in Europe and the Middle East) have already started and during the meeting a number of potential others were presented; a year from now they should all be operational.
Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Singapore and Turkey, as well as Munich Re, Zurich Financial Services, AIR Worldwide, Willis Ltd. and the Eucentre have already adhered to GEM. During the meeting, Norway announced that it would become the next public participant. Various countries are negotiating their participation, and many more countries, private companies and intergovernmental organizations have expressed their interest in joining GEM. And that will not be the end of it. "GEM is here to stay," stresses Domenico Giardini, another GEM founder. He added, "in five years time we will be the main point of reference when it comes to earthquake risk, have a truly global earthquake model and focus even more on capacity-building, knowledge-sharing and awareness raising activities".
The Global Science Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has called for the development of global, open-source risk assessment. In response to this need, the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) will provide an authoritative standard for calculating and communicating earthquake hazard and risk.
The overall aim of GEM is to implement global strategies and tools that reduce earthquake deaths, destruction, dislocation, and monetary losses. As the first uniform, independent standard for calculating and communicating earthquake risk, GEM will provide a basis for comparing earthquake risks across regions and across borders, and thereby the necessary first step toward increased awareness and actions that reduce earthquake risk. GEM development will integrate local and national efforts to conduct coordinated regional programmes with global standards. GEM tools will be usable at the community, national, or international level for uniform earthquake risk evaluation and as a defensible basis for risk mitigation plans.
GEM aims to achieve its goals through two primary strategies:
1. develop state-of-the-art open source software and databases as a necessary basis for reliably mapping, monitoring, and communicating earthquake risk.
2. activate professionals in all parts of the world towards raising risk awareness and promoting cost-effective mitigation actions. GEM will interact constructively with all ongoing earthquake risk reduction activities, regional and global. Particular integration will be sought with United Nations and World Bank projects which have similar goals, such as risk mapping / risk reduction at the regional and global level.
GEM (globalquakemodel.org) will take 5 years and € 35 million to build. As of May 2009, over half of the necessary funding has already been pledged by interested partners, and additional support is being sought from governments, public institutions, foundations, and private industry.
Additional information on GEM may be found at the GEM website.