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Remarks at the opening ceremony of GARD workshop at Mehrabad International Airport

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Salam vasobhbekheir,

Khanoom-ha vaaghayan,

Hamantorkeshayadmidanid, esme man Gary Lewis hast va man darsazman-e melaldar Iran karmikonam.

Dar in rooz-e khaas, man kheilikhosh-halamazinjaamadanvaazdidar-e shoma.

Hala, baozrkhaheeshoma, man mikhahamchandkalam-e bashomasohbatkonam, be Englisi.

Kheili mamnoon.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start this morning – as I have done in every single speech I have made in the past almost two weeks – by extending sincere condolences – tasliyatarzmikonim – on behalf of the United Nations for those who have lost family members in the tragedy that struck us two weeks ago in the west of this country.

I would like to also wish a speedy recovery to those who are injured and are recovering from their wounds.

And I would like to praise the work of the first responders – both on the ground in Kermanshah and those who came from elsewhere in the country to help.

We – in the United Nations – pledge our continued commitment to support in the recovery phase that is needed at this time.

Now, I have indicated that I am very happy to be here this morning, and I would like to share a few thoughts with you at seeing so many other leaders of this country, and of this city, here with us today.

I would like to welcome, Mr. Najjar, who is a very good partner with the United Nations.  He is Deputy Minister of Interior and the Head of the National Disaster Management Organization.

I would like to say how pleased I am to see Dr. Kashan here with us, Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development.

Mr. Mahabadi, the Head of Iran Airports, who led us off this morning with reflections on how we can make ourselves resilient to earthquakes.

I would also like to recognize Ms. Sharafbafi who is the CEO of Iran Air Company and is also the first female CEO of Iran Air.

I recognize Dr. Darabi of DHL who explained to us how private-sector and the corporate and Government world can work together.

General Mehri, General Hashemi from the security services, who are important role-players in responding to natural disasters, we welcome you as well.

Just under two-weeks ago, I was sitting in our home in Tehran with my wife and I heard something fall over.  I wondered what it was, and I thought someone was trying to enter our house without permission.  I got up and I lookedaround.  I saw that some objects had fallen over.  I also saw some curtains moving.  I still did not understand it as there was no one in our house besides my wife and me. 

Two minutes later I received a call from a member of my team explaining that there had been a large earthquake that had hit Iran.

Two minutes later I received another call.  More information.  People in Kermanshah and nearby had been affected by a massive earthquake.

As time passed, we would come to learn more and more horrific details. 

In Sarpol-e Zahaband Salas-e Babajani regions of Kermanshah the news started to come in about this 7.3 magnitude earthquake.

Eventually we would learn that there are over 450 people killed and 9,000 injured.  2,000 cities, villages, towns have been affected in some way.  90,000 people needing shelter.

We have all seen this on television and on social media. 

And yesterday, I saw it for myself with the team that went from the United Nations in Tehran to help with the recovery phase of the emergency.

Six hours ago, I landed here in Mehrabad Airport.  I was returning from that disaster zone.  For those of you who have not been in the affected areas, I can tell you that it was a very moving experience.  And, I would like to extend, again, my personal admiration and respect for those Iranians who went to help.

Many people have been praised, but I would like to add my voice to recognize the role of Artesh (Iranian Army), the Helal Ahmar (the Iranian Red Crescent Society), the Sepah (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), as well as the National Disaster Management Organization for responding.

But, I would like to point specifically to the words of Mr. Kashan who spoke about the role of the people of Iran in responding – without even being requested to do so by any authority.  There were convoys of cars bringing food, clothing, blankets and other support. 

I have worked in the United Nations for over 30-years and in many countries.  I can tell you that this sort of response by the Iranian people is not something that you see everyday.  And I think you should take great pride, as a nation, in how your citizens responded as well as your Government to this crisis.

So, now we are the stage where we are trying to recover.  And, the voice of the UN and what modest things we can provide as support will be placed at your disposal.

But, the purpose of today’s gathering – at which I am so happy to see so many of you – is different. 

We are here to talk about what happened between now and the 13 days that proceeded us.  Because that is the emergency phase.  And that is when we need three things to be effective:

  1. The first is leadership.
  2. The second is communications.
  3. The third is logistical efficiency.

All of those things are brought together if we have an effective airport system.  I was listening very carefully to Mr. Seidi’s story a few moments ago about what happened 14 years ago in Bam.  And, I was pleased when I was in Kermanshah, yesterday, to meet many people who had been engaged in the Bam earthquake relief operation and who said that we have learnt so much as a country in those 14 years that we could apply it more effectively to the Kermanshah earthquake. 

Especially, regarding how we manage our airports. 

Yesterday, during my conversation with the Governor of Kermanshah, Mr. Bazvand, I learned the following things.  I learned that in the 13 days since the earthquake struck, there have been:

  • 907 flights into Kermanshah Airport. One of them – I should use the opportunity to say – was from the United Nations where we brought in 40 metric tons of surgical supplies and trauma kits, at the request of the national authorities.  But, those 40 tons where a small part of the massive 1,300 tons of equipment and supplies that came in through that airport.
  • The effective management of that airport was also responsible for the fact that within the first 24 hours, 200 citizens of the region that needed to be medevac to Tehran were carried out effectively.

These facts that I am sharing with you should make it quite clear that management of airports is absolutely central to an emergency response.

And believe me ladies and gentlemen, we need it because here in Iran, we are one of the countries that are most greatly exposed to natural disasters of any country on the planet.

We know about the damage of earthquakes.  But, as a result of climate change we will see increasing incidences of droughts and floods as well as drought.  And that is why we need to be more prepared.

Now, this initiative which, in English, is called GARD which stands for Get Airports Ready for Disasters, is something that has a very interesting story behind it which I will come back to shortly. 

But, it is essentially the result a partnership between Deutsche Post DHL Group, the UNDP and UN-OCHA, and here in Iran with Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company.

I would like to at this point in the meeting to ask you to join me in welcoming to the Islamic Republic of Iran, three DHL support team members who will do the training this week, and they will be joined by another gentleman tomorrow.

I would like to take this opportunity to also thank my team from UNDP and OCHA for making this event possible. 

I would also like to thank three gentlemen from Mehrabad Airport who were essential in making this happen in Iran:

  • Golich
  • Ejtehadi
  • Rostami

The combination of all of this talent is going to make this event a major success, I am sure.  So, please join me in welcoming and thanking these colleagues who did the work to get this all together.


I would like to conclude by saying the following things.

In a very strange way, GARD is coming home.  As of today, GARD has been delivered and has provided training in over 20 counties and in over 43 airports.  About 1,000 people have received this training.  But, not many people know that the actual content of the training was derived from lessons learned in Bam, 14 years ago, here in Iran.  And that is the reason I said earlier that GARD is actually coming home for the very first time, today.

There is a second thing.  Many of you may not know, but the two of the most important people who were involved in managing the airlift into Kermanshah, over the past two weeks, were also involved in the Bam earthquake and were responsible for managing the airports in Kerman and Bam, 14 years ago.  These are Mr. Bayati and Mr. Shorafaie, and I understand that they are actually with us in the audience today.  Please stand up and be recognized.


The third point I want to make, connecting GARD to Kermanshah is this.  Last night, at 9 o’clock when I was saying goodbye to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Nik Kerdar in Kermanshah, we said that we were coming back today to Tehran to open the GARD workshop.  He immediately realized how important this type of event was.  And, he said that for the refresher course that needs to take place in Iran next year, Kermanshah Airport will volunteer to be the location for that refresher course.  This is great news and we look forward to not only to this year’s training, but also to next year’s in Kermanshah.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude my remarks today by recalling some of the most of the beautiful lines written by Mr. Ferdowsi in the Shahnameh. 

We can have all the strength in the world that we may possess, but unless we have knowledge, we will not be able to maximize the impact of that strength. 

So, I would like to end by trying – in my poor Farsi – to share with you, a couple of lines that reflects the essence of what we are trying to do today.

توانا بود هر که دانا بود

That means, for our foreign visitors that knowledge will make you stronger.  But, it ends with another line which says that knowledge also makes you younger and makes you think like someone that is a little bit more energetic.

ز دانش دل پير برنا بود

Let us be guided by this timeless knowledge as we search to protect ourselves from disasters that may yet befall us.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.


Last modified onThursday, 30 November 2017 22:29
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