BRT Mobilizes Private Sector Response to Urgent Disasters in Myanmar and China | Business Roundtable

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Washington, D.C. --- Immediately following the cyclone that ravaged Myanmar on May 2 and the earthquake that hit Sichuan China on May 12, Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response moved quickly to activate its international emergency network to assess, aid and expedite the response to both disasters. The Partnership for Disaster Response is an initiative to galvanize the business community to contribute its vast resources – beyond financial contributions – to accelerate on-the-ground relief and recovery activities following major disasters. The Partnership’s ability to draw upon existing relationships with relief agencies on the ground has proven all the more vital given the political complications and logistical obstacles impeding the relief efforts in both countries.

“The main lesson we learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the need to be prepared for unexpected, extenuating circumstances, which is why the Partnership for Disaster Response was developed,” said Richard Keyser, chairman and CEO of W.W. Grainger, Inc. and chairman of the Partnership for Disaster Response. “The business community is deeply concerned about those affected by these tragic disasters in Myanmar and China, and we stand ready to assist our partner relief agencies in the most effective capacity.”

Immediately after the cyclone struck Myanmar, Business Roundtable reached out to its contacts at the largest global humanitarian agencies to identify what supplies, services and expertise the business community could provide to expedite the relief effort. Business Roundtable’s NGO partners on-the-ground in Myanmar and China, including Save the Children and World Vision are providing regular updates on their assessments of the crisis but have not yet called upon the business community for in-kind contributions.

The Partnership is emphasizing that due to the challenges of transportation, companies – and the general public – should hold off sending any supplies. One of the Partnership’s key findings is that unsolicited donations often hinder a relief effort because they can clog transportation systems or overcrowd warehouse space that is needed to store and ship more urgently needed supplies (please see the Partnership’s “The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Giving” for more information on this issue).

Business Roundtable is also working closely with the American Red Cross, which has been providing regular updates on the activities of the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, active in both Myanmar and China. China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs has formally requested assistance from the international community and authorized the Red Cross Society of China to receive donations to help the affected areas. The International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies announced an appeal for funding to purchase supplies including food, drinking water, medical help and tents, but stated that all supplies will be procured locally.

Business Roundtable companies have donated more than $8.7 million to date in cash and in-kind contributions to the relief efforts, with more than $4.1 million to bring much-needed aid to the affected areas in Myanmar, and nearly $4.6 million to support relief work in China. In the immediate stages of disaster response, relief agencies typically request cash contributions to enable relief workers to buy essential supplies locally and revitalize economies that have been shaken by the disaster (please see the Partnership’s “The Top 10 Myths of Disaster Relief” for more details).

“The Partnership is committed to coordinating the most effective approach to disaster response and recovery efforts, and communication is key to our success,” said Tom Lehner, director of public policy at Business Roundtable. “The collaboration we put in place with the American Red Cross last year is producing clear results—through strong contacts and clear communications, we are able to mobilize our companies to respond as efficiently as possible to help those in need.”

Neal Denton, Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships at the American Red Cross, commented, “In times of emergency, having established relationships is invaluable. Our partnership with Business Roundtable has shown that strong networks of communications can have immediate, powerful effects, whether the urgent needs are for in-kind contributions, as was the case during last year’s California wildfires, or for cash contributions to facilitate the disaster operations in Myanmar and China.”

Updated information on Business Roundtable company contributions can be found at the Partnership for Disaster Response Web site – www.respondtodisaster.org – the first comprehensive clearinghouse of information to help the business community prepare and respond to disasters.

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