Today, Travelport president and CEO Jeff Clarke renewed his call to develop a US-EU Task Force on Global Emergency Communications. The proposal was included in the Transatlantic Business Dialogue’s (TABD) “Building a Transatlantic Innovation Economy”, a set of recommendations developed by the transatlantic business community and delivered to participants in the 2009 US-EU Summit.
While the impetus for Travelport’s recommendation was the Spring 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, the confusion over travel and trade advisories and bans brought about by the spread of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe emphasizes the need for an official mechanism to coordinate crisis communications and decision-making.
The full story of the ash cloud has yet to be told, but it appears that once again governments are relying on fragmentary and incomplete data rather than facts to guide decisions regarding how people should travel and how goods should be transported between countries. As Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of IATA said, European decisions to close airspace have been made with “no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership.”
Clarke stated, “In times of global crisis, it is imperative that government decisions on travel and trade be made with all pertinent information at hand. It’s clear that is not happening in any kind of coordinated fashion right now. I strongly urge the US and EU governments to come together and establish this Global Emergency Communications Task Force.”
“The American and European business leaders who participate in the TABD have a strong track record of putting forth clear recommendations to the US Government and European Commission to improve the transatlantic economic relationship. U.S.-EU innovation capacity depends, in part, on the secure movement of goods and the fastest and freest movement of people possible,” said Kathryn Hauser, U.S. executive director of the TABD. “That is why the TABD called for establishment of a transatlantic task force capable of assessing and responding to global emergency situations as they relate to the international movement of goods and people. We reiterate this recommendation now, in light of the current crisis.”
The proposed US – EU Task Force on Global Emergency Communications would serve as a clearinghouse of fact-based information for elected officials responding to global crises. It would ideally be chaired by government and business representatives from the travel and supply chain industries. Other members of the Task Force would represent different sectors of the economy and include health and security representatives.
Initially, the Task Force would focus on establishing cross-border relationships between the relevant decision-makers and developing mechanisms to ensure consistent communication in the case of an urgent emergency situation.