Some 50,000 earthquakes occur on average every year, as the Earth's tectonic plates shift and adjust, including some of potentially devastating magnitude releasing considerable energy. The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have shown yet again the potential for devastation. UNESCO, in its capacity of fostering knowledge, has been supporting the study of earthquakes and development and the implementation of earthquake resistant building codes.
As an international organization UNESCO convenes workshops and seminars to share knowledge, to train engineers and scientists and to support the establishment of international, regional and national centres for the recording, exchange and analysis of seismological data.
UNESCO and the US Geological Survey have been jointly involved in programmes aiming to reduce earthquake losses, creating networks of expertise, stations and institutes. An important feature of such programmes is that they make it possible for countries which are politically antagonistic to one another to exchange scientific data (RELEMR, RELSAR, RELNAR).
Similar projects have been funded, equipped and staffed with UNESCO’s help. More recently, UNESCO has cooperated with the Libyan authorities on the establishment of the Libyan National Seismological Network (LNSN), which is designed to provide high-quality data for research projects in regional and global seismology.
In June 2007 a new International Platform for Reducing Earthquake Disaster (UNESCO-IPRED) was established in close cooperation with the Building Research Institute (BRI) of Japan, for collaborative research, training and education regarding seismology and earthquake engineering. This programme intends to identify gaps and priorities through the sharing of scientific knowledge and experience in the field of seismology and earthquake engineering, and to support the development of political will and public awareness to ensure better preparation against earthquakes.