The Academic Power of Disaster Management: Universities Disaster Management Research Center Platforms (AYMEP)

Kürşat Esat Alyamaç
Prof. Dr., Head of AFAD Disaster Research Center

In today’s world, there has been a shift away from a strategy that focuses heavily on disaster response in disaster management, and more emphasis is given to pre-disaster risk reduction efforts. In fact, both globally and in Türkiye, the concept of ‘risk management’ has been adopted and implemented rather than the understanding of ‘crisis management.’ The concept of ‘risk management’ encompasses pre-disaster preparedness and risk reduction efforts.

The coordination of disaster and emergency operations, the formulation education policies, and the necessary legislative regulations in Türkiye are the responsibilities of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) under the Ministry of Interior. AFAD carries out disaster management activities in an integrated, community-based, research and development-oriented, and pioneering manner, aiming to prevent loss of life, injuries, and economic losses, as well as to preserve socio-cultural structure, national environment, cultural and natural assets, ensure business continuity, and support sustainable development. Since its establishment, AFAD has conducted its work in a project-based manner and continues to do so with this culture. As a manifestation of this culture, a theme has been determined for each year, and activities in line with the objectives of this theme have been carried out. 

2020 was declared the ‘Year of Disaster Preparedness,’ 2021 as the ‘Year of Disaster Education,’ and 2022 the ‘Year of Disaster Drills.’ In 2021, activities related to disaster education were carried out intensively in collaboration with stakeholder institutions and organizations. Within the scope of the education year activities, the idea of establishing stronger and more effective cooperation between AFAD and universities in the field of disaster management emerged, and collaboration with ‘Disaster Management and Application Research Centers’ of universities was proposed. 

The application and research centers of universities and academic units established with the recommendation of university rectors and the approval of the Higher Education Council (YÖK), where education, teaching, and R&D activities are conducted, bring together experts from various disciplines for working in a specific area or expertise or interdisciplinary studies. There are numerous research centers in Türkiye that carry out successful activities related to disasters and have expert researchers within their structure. 

AFAD took the first step in bringing together the application and research centers, which are important stakeholders in disaster management in Türkiye, and forming an academic power in the field of disaster management in the last quarter of 2021. Under the leadership of AFAD, 42 different disaster management and related application and research centers from 39 universities gathered in Ankara on December 22, 2021. The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu, and conducted by AFAD President, Governor Yunus Sezer. The meeting was attended by Deputy Minister of Interior, İsmail Çataklı, university rectors and vice-rectors, directors of research centers, and AFAD department heads. 

The Minister of Interior and AFAD President delivered speeches at the opening of the meeting. The Minister of Interior stated, ‘No one needs knowledge that just sits on shelves. It brings no benefit to anyone.’ This signifies the fundamental purpose of the collaboration. In his statement, ‘Our centers and AFAD, along with other stakeholders, possess a rich scientific knowledge about disasters. The research, application, and education centers of universities offer a scientific richness in the field of disasters,’ AFAD President Yunus Sezer indicated the already close relationship AFAD has with universities and underlines how it aims to formalize this relationship under an institutional identity. This meeting marked the announcement of the establishment of the Universities Disaster Management Application and Research Centers Platform.

On May 17, 2022, a meeting led by Deputy Minister of Interior İsmail Çataklı and AFAD President at AFAD Headquarters, with the participation of 35 universities and 37 different disaster management, application, and research centers, the decision was made for this structure to function as a platform and continue its activities under the abbreviation ‘AYMEP,’ with its goals and objectives outlined.

AYMEP’s 3rd meeting was held on July 28, 2022, in Elazığ, hosted by Fırat University. In this meeting, AYMEP’s mission was determined as ‘Bringing together centers engaged in disaster research, application, management, and education at universities under AFAD coordination to facilitate communication and collaboration, monitor and assess the conducted work.’ Its vision was defined as, ‘To be a dynamic and academic platform recognized at an international level, leading the change and development with an integrated perspective on disaster management for a disaster-resilient Türkiye.’

The 4th meeting of AYMEP took place on September 22, 2022, under the presidency of Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu, and was hosted by Boğaziçi University’s Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute. During this meeting, significant presentations from various research centers were held and important decisions related to disaster management were made.

AYMEP continues its efforts under AFAD coordination with great diligence and enthusiasm. It is steadily progressing towards its goal of becoming Türkiye’s largest and most effective academic platform in the field of disaster management, aiming to extend its recognition globally. Through its established subcommittees, AYMEP maintains its work on building risk assessment, suitability of settlements for geological and climate disasters, settlement suitability for fires, disaster education, volunteerism, and similar topics.

In 2023, AYMEP will continue to contribute to Türkiye’s efforts in reducing disaster risks and will further increase the number of research centers within its structure.

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