Newsletter 6/2010 - Our South East Europe
Region focuses on disaster risk reduction
Frequency of major natural disasters including the losses caused by them has increased significantly over the last decades. The number of disasters grew from 100 in 1975 to about 400 in 2006 thought the world. From economic aspect, damages caused by major disasters are 15 times higher than they were in 1950s, estimates show.
The projections suggest that South Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and Central European regions are the most vulnerable to natural disasters in the world.
“South East Europe is not only very rich with its wild beautiful nature, volatile history, prosperous culture or generosity of the mother earth to its people, but also in terms of manmade and natural hazards such as devastating earthquakes, vanishing floods and seasonal wild fires, chemical, biological accidents and so on”, says Orhan TOPCU, Head of Secretariat of the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South Eastern Europe (DPPI SEE).
“The total estimated cost of damage for the last ten years in South East Europe is around 34.4 billion USD. The total number of people affected is 8 million, and the number of people who died due to these above-mentioned natural phenomena is 23.864. These figures might be shocking but the actual figures might be several times higher taking into account the difficulties and uncertainties in collecting such scale data.”
There is a significant shift in the approach in the region lately, from emergency response towards systematic disasters risk reduction and prevention.
Topcu explains that in response to the increased disaster risk, the regional countries created their very unique regionally-owned initiative, called Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South Eastern Europe (DPPI SEE), in order to foster the cooperation and coordination of regional efforts, without creating new structures or layers of bureaucracy.
“The DPPI SEE aims at strengthening good neighbourly relations through the exchange of information, lessons learned and best practices in the field of disaster management, as well as at enhancing cooperation between DPPI partners in view of EU enlargement and the process of Euro-Atlantic integration for SEE countries.”
The DPPI SEE also works on supporting and encouraging countries in the region to develop, adopt and/or enforce state-of-the-art disaster emergency legislation, environmental regulations and codes designed to prevent and mitigate disasters in line with guidelines and common practices accepted in the international community, adds Topcu.
“Most of the South European states are of small or medium size, which makes the problem of fighting natural or manmade disasters even more relevant”, says Damir Trut, General Director of the Croatian National Protection and Rescue Directorate, adding that even the richest countries could not build a system that would absolutely fulfil the needs of threatened population in disasters.
“The most valuable assistance is the one that is timely, which means fast, and the assistance sent by the neighbours is irreplaceable. In order to be able to demand and send such assistance fast, it is necessary to set up in advance the mechanisms of understanding and cooperation among the peer organizations, as well as formal mechanisms for demanding and rendering assistance.”
Trut reminds of a well-known fact that one of the biggest problems that all of the South European states are faced with, from Portugal to Turkey, are wildfires.
“ Croatia assists other countries in fighting fires. In case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the basis of a bilateral agreement, we act by deploying both our aerial forces (fire-fighting aircrafts) and land forces. We have also efficiently contributed with an aircraft to fighting fires in Greece in 2007.”
He adds that the RCC, as an umbrella organization, above all has a political role in the development of disaster response capacities.
“The aim is to activate other regional participants and political factors in the countries of the region to pay necessary attention to the development of a disaster response system, as well as to raise awareness of the need to reduce disaster risks among all stakeholders of economic and global development in the countries of the region.”
In this context, he referred to the South East and Central Europe Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (SEEC CRIF), an initiative supported by the World Bank and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in collaboration with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), as well as to the establishment of the South East European Firefighting Regional Center (SEEFREC).
“The statistical data indicate that one euro invested in disaster risk reduction means four Euros less in the costs of consequences mitigation.”
Paola Albrito, Head of the UNISDR Regional Office for Europe, says that South East Europe, like other regions and countries around the world, must work systematically towards reducing the risks that disasters pose.
“To realize this objective, the factors which cause disasters must be analyzed and managed, and the exposure to hazards reduced. On a national level, this can only be achieved effectively through the involvement of different actors, ranging from community-based organizations to national governmental agencies. But for maximum efficiency, regional and other international bodies should be involved, as many hazards exceed the capacities of individual countries.”
Albrito adds that civil society, including volunteers and community-based organizations, the scientific community, the media, and the private sector are also vital stakeholders.
She reminds of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) – a ten-year plan of action adopted in 2005 by 168 governments to protect lives and livelihoods against disasters.
RCC Secretariat’s Senior Expert on Security Issues, Efrem Radev, agrees that, as frequently acknowledged, disasters do not respect borders. He stresses that, in its Strategy and Work programme for the next three years, the RCC is focusing on further developing regional cooperation in order to address disaster reduction preparedness in an enhanced, regionally-owned way that would be mutually beneficial for the countries of South East Europe.
“In every activity that the RCC supports or initiates, we seek to bring the SEE countries closer to the Civil Protection Mechanism of the EU. The aim is to assist them in preparing for their integration into the EU structures.”
 Source: Emergency Events Data Base (EM-DAT), a global disaster data-base maintained by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology and Disasters (CRED) in
 Source: IMF 2003 as cited in Hazards of Nature, Risk to Development – An IEG Evaluation of World
Bank Assistance to Natural Disasters; World Bank 2006
 Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change; European Environment Agency; 2005
 Source: EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database, www.emdat.be - Université Catholique de Louvain -