Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South Eastern Europe

Introduction

Human and economic losses due to natural disasters continue to increase and remain an obstacle to sustainable development in the South Eastern Europe (SEE). Disaster reduction policies must be implemented to build disaster-resilient societies and communities. This is necessary to reduce the level of risk in everyday life and to ensure that development efforts do not increase the population’s vulnerability to hazards. While governments have the principal responsibility for their citizens’ right to safety and security, they cannot - and should not - shoulder these tasks alone.

A number of shared risks clearly recognised by nations in SEE provided the impetus for mutual co-operation in disaster prevention and preparedness. In a number of cases the vulnerabilities as well as the risks are shared by neighbouring nations.

Upon the initiative of countries from SEE, in March 2000 the Office of the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact called a meeting to discuss disaster preparedness and prevention issues in the region. Participants included Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), and the Gorizia Research Area. The meeting led to the creation of the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative (DPPI) for SEE. Subsequently, the DPPI was placed under Working Table III “Security” of the Stability Pact.

Dynamics – evolution of the initiative

The Idea (2000) - An ad-hoc Steering Group was formed in 2000 under the joint chairmanship of Croatia and Italy. As a first operational step, the Steering Group appointed an Operational Team, which led an assessment of the needs and capacities related to the disaster preparedness of 12 countries in the region. The multi-institutional and international composition of the team established to provide the technical background work was unprecedented. It benefited from expert personnel from Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Sweden, the United States, the IFRC, NATO, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For team member organizations and nations, it was the first time that such a team was created around the issue of disaster preparedness and prevention in SEE.

Regional Assessment (2001) - As the first stage towards developing its strategy, the DPPI assessed the capacities of each country of the region in terms of its disaster preparedness and prevention needs and capabilities. The initiative’s Operational Team reviewed natural and technological disaster risks and existing disaster management and preparedness plans. It also identified on-going emergency response projects, co-ordination structures and procedures. The assessments were based on a methodology developed by UNDP, with inputs from the other participant organisations and nations.

The Operational Team’s Regional Report (the “Gorizia Report”) was discussed at a workshop in Geneva in June 2001. Based on the findings, a "Strategy Outline" was accepted by the participants. The Strategy Outline encompassed several lines of work that the regional countries shared among themselves and on which they took lead roles. These included information sharing and networking, preparedness planning and exercises, strengthening local disaster management structures, and border crossing procedures. 

Agreed Way Ahead and the Beginning of the Structure and the Commitment (2002 - 2006) - At the following DPPI Workshop in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in October 2001, regional countries brought several project proposals in line with the above mentioned subject areas and concluded together with international partners that there was a dire need for an appointed expert to manage the DPPI project in Brussels. As a follow-up, an Executive Secretary of the DPPI SEE was appointed in February 2002, physically located at the Stability Pact Office in Brussels (financially supported by Norway, Switzerland and US). The prioritisation of the projects was decided at the DPPI working meeting in Budapest, Hungary, in March 2002.

At the Stability Pact Regional Table in Bucharest, Romania, on 5 June 2002, the Declaration on Co-operation in Disaster Preparedness and Prevention in SEE was signed by 11 countries and the IFRC. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia associated itself with the Declaration.

At the DPPI Regional meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, 16-18 September 2002, a new DPPI structure was adopted and the DPPI Action Plan 2002–2006, with Terms of Reference for an Advisory Board to the DPPI, was endorsed by the participants. 

During the meeting, DPPI partner countries, together with international partners and donors, also agreed to facilitate regional or multi-partner disaster management programmes and the development and implementation of projects.

Transfer to the region - full regional ownership (2006 to date) - In 2005, the DPPI Secretariat, which, over the time, was reinforced from initially one professional to three, moved to the region, hosted by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. The donors and partners agreed that a firmer commitment from the founders was needed for further co-operation, in particular that the non-binding Declaration on Co-operation in Disaster Preparedness and Prevention in SEE, signed in 2001, should be re-confirmed by partners and that provisions for creating a legal entity should be established. After a lengthy and exhaustive consultation process the agreement to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Institutional Framework for the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for SEE was reached.

At the regional meeting in Bucharest, 16-17 April 2007, SEE partner countries, being aware of the importance and benefits of regional co-operation in this field, agreed to fully take over the management of the initiative and to provide human and material resources for the functioning of its Secretariat. With full support of all SEE partner countries Slovenia took over the first chairmanship of the DPPI SEE and put all the efforts to ensure transition of the Initiative from the Stability Pact to fully regionally-owned initiative. After intensive consultation process led by Slovenia, the consensus on the Memorandum of Understanding on the Institutional Framework for the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for SEE (DPPI SEE MoU)  was reached.  The MoU laid down the governing and coordinative structure of the DPPI SEE as well as the budget and financing of the Initiative. In September 2007 the MoU was signed by Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Slovenia, by May 2008, it was signed also by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey, and in 2009 by Serbia. Thus, DPPI SEE became and has ever since been fully regionally owned and coordinated mechanism functioning under the political umbrella of the Regional Cooperation Council of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).

During Slovenian chairmanship to DPPI SEE in 2007 and the Slovenian Presidency to the Council of the EU in first half of 2008 a lot off efforts were put in networking with international partners and donors with the aim to raise the visibility of the Initiative and its further activities. Among others the European Commission became fully engaged as a member of the Advisory Board of the Initiative.  

To further enhance countries’ commitment to continuously address disaster preparedness and prevention issues and to give to DPPI SEE its much-needed visibility, Bulgaria (as the holder of the SEECP Chairmanship) hosted the first SEE Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Prevention and Preparedness in April 2008. A Joint Statement adopted at this meeting requested the development of a comprehensive strategy and action plan to be drafted before the end of 2008. 

With the 2007 DPPI SEE MoU coming to its end in December 2013, in the period 2012 - 2013 the DPPI SEE member countries negotiated and agreed upon the text of a new Memorandum of Understanding  that was signed by eight SEE countries on the occasion of the XXVII DPPI SEE Regional meeting (November 2013, Sarajevo) . Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the new Memorandum of Understanding on 18 April 2014 and Romania is expected to finalize their internal procedures towards signing of the MoU at the DPPI SEE regional meeting autumn session 2014. Moldova denounced its membership to the DPPI SEE in March 2014.