Western Balkans working on world’s most advanced disaster response network

Oct 30, 2017

In Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia heavy rainfall resulted in extensive flooding in 2014. Photo: UNDP Serbia

Seven countries and territories in the Western Balkans met here last week, building what could soon become the world’s most developed network of disaster responders. 

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia convened together with officials from the European Commission, attempting to create a sophisticated network of disaster experts and officials.

“This is a historic moment,” says Krunoslav Katić of the UNDP-supported Southeast Europe Urban Resilience Building Action Network (SEE URBAN) initiative. “Because we know climate-induced disasters are on the rise, local preparedness is the way of the future.”

Should a disaster strike, the sub-region now hosts an information-sharing network that would trigger real-time data exchange, enabling mayors, NGOs, national decision-makers and experts to coordinate their responses.

In 2014, heavy rainfall resulted in extensive flooding in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, displacing thousands of people and causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

Three years on, countries in the sub-region have taken steps to reduce the risk of disasters and are intensifying their efforts to protect people from future destruction.

Financed by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the SEE URBAN initiative aims to bring all 7 countries and territories together into a formal network.

The initiative follows in the footsteps of the Sendai Framework, a 15-year, voluntary agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders. 

Partners in the initiative are looking at replicating the experience in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)

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