European Commission and UNDP to a develop a regional Crisis Response Centre at the League of Arab States

19 Dec 2010

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The European Commission has signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to set up a regional Crisis Response Centre and Warning System at the League of Arab States. The Centre aims strengthening the capacities of the Arab region in crisis prevention and response through enhanced cooperation between the Secretariat General of the League of Arab States (SGLAS), the European Commission (EC) and the UNDP.

UNDP, having extensive global experience in crisis management, will provide technical and management support in establishing the Crisis Response Centre at the Arab League. Cairo based Regional Centre of UNDP will manage the project in close collaboration with the regional office of EC and the Secretariat of the LAS.

The Centre will be established at the Secretariat of the League of Arab States (LAS) in Cairo. The European Commission (EC) is providing Euro 1,925,190 for this initiative, which will be implemented during 2011-2012. Read below

The 2001 UNDP Executive Board reaffirmed that crisis prevention and disaster mitigation should be integral parts of sustainable human development strategies.

UNDP helps countries prevent and recover from armed conflicts and natural disasters through advocacy, capacity building, conflict sensitive development, development of tools and methodologies, gender equality, knowledge networking, strategic planning and programming, and policy and standard setting.

Sustainable Development is challenged in Arab region by various crises. Most of the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) are also the ones affected by chronic conflicts and disasters including Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Iraq, oPt and Lebanon amongst the Middle Income Countries (MICs) also suffer from internal and external conflicts, and from disasters like earthquakes. In addition, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have serious disaster related challenges. Historically the Arab States have followed a response oriented approach to dealing with crises and disasters. However, now there is an enhanced awareness amongst governments about crisis prevention and preparedness.

Many Arab States are engaged in establishing policies and institutions to deal with natural disasters and conflicts in an effective manner. The focus is to revise old policies or develop new ones with a prevention agenda; e.g. Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco. Other Arab States are focusing on strengthening their disaster management institutions to deal effectively with disasters and crises through better prevention and preparedness; e.g. Jordan, Syria. However, Arab States disaster management capacities are still low, and they have a long way to go in establishing strong policies and institutions.

UNDP is helping at present the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen in their efforts for effective disaster risk management and crisis prevention.

Country Programmes

Egypt suffers from localized flooding in many parts of the country. It is also at risk from climate change related disasters; e.g. coastal inundation. In Egypt, the UNDP is working with the Disaster Version:1.0 Start Management department of the Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) to develop national policies and technical capacities for disaster risk management. A national disaster loss database has been already prepared and available with IDSC. Also national disaster management strategy has been developed. Next part of the work will focus upon capacity development of the Civil Defense department at national and governorate levels. UNDP Egypt is also working to strengthen the Cairo Regional Centre for Conflict Resolution and Peace-keeping in Africa (CCCPA).

Amman and Aqaba cities in Jordan are located at the Dead-sea Fault line. Studies indicate that the two cities may suffer severe damages and losses in case of a future earthquake. UNDP has helped the Jordan Civil Defense to conduct an earthquake risk assessment for Amman city and prepare an earthquake mitigation plan. At present, it is working with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) on integrating earthquake safety measures in the Aqaba construction and development.   

Earthquakes and droughts including water scarcity pose serious threats to people and economy in Iraq. However, didn’t have any institutions to deal with emergencies and disaster preparedness. UNDP has successfully advocated to the government of Iraq for establishing a National Committee for Disaster Management. At present, UNDP is implementing a project to strengthen physical and organizational capacities of the National Committee for Disaster Management and implement a national plan for better disaster preparedness.

Research shows that major urban centers in Lebanon including Beirut and Tripoli are exposed to seismic risks. Flooding and forest fires also pose frequent threats to Lebanese people and society. Prime Minister of Lebanon asked UNDP to help in improving national policy for disaster management and to strengthen the High Relief Committee (HRC). Thus, UNDP is implementing a project to conduct national risk assessment, revise the national policy, establish a strong Secretariat of the HRC with focus upon disaster preparedness and to implement an awareness campaign on personal safety in disasters.

In Morocco UNDP has helped the Government to prepare the National Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness. At present, UNDP is helping the Ministry of Environment to set up flood and drought warning systems in the Oases regions, under its “Programme for sustainable development in Oasis regions”.  

Aside from the chronic conflict, Somalia is also prone to flooding and drought related disasters. One consequence of the conflict has been the damage to flooding and canal infrastructure in the South-Central Somalia region. Support to flood and drought mitigation activities is an important part of the natural resource management strategy of UNDP Somalia, under its Recovery and Sustainable Livelihoods (RSL) Programme. This will include structural mitigation works as well capacity development of local, regional and national authorities.

Flooding is a commonly experienced disaster in Sudan. The country also suffers from droughts and  pest-attacks. Sudan lacks institutions that responsible for disaster risk management. UNDP is working both in North and South Sudan to establish and strengthen institutions for disaster risk management in Sudan. Due to the ongoing political uncertainty the intervention is still at earlier stages.

In Syria, UNDP has been working on disaster risk management since 2005. It is supporting the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment (MLA&E) to prepare a national risk analysis, a plan for earthquake mitigation in the City of Damascus, develop a Master Degree course on Disaster Risk Management at the University of Damascus, support the Ministry of Agriculture in drought mitigation, and review existing policies to clarify mandates of different departments. As a consequence of the UNDP support, the government of Syria has given special attention to Disaster risk management strategy in the National Development Plan. Government has also enhanced allocation of funds for Disaster Risk Management.

Yemen is exposed to risks from earthquakes, floods, droughts. Water scarcity enormously adds to the development challenges of Yemen. UNDP has been working in Yemen since 1997 to support government of Yemen in disaster risk management through a project on disaster preparedness, management and recovery. UNDP has helped Yemen to establish a Disaster Management Unit/Emergency Operations Center, prepare a National Disaster Management Plan and enhance capacities of the Civil Defense. These interventions have helped in improving inter-ministerial coordination, and timely post disaster assessment and response. 

Key Activities in the Region

European Commission to develop a Crisis Response Center at Arab League of Arab States

The European Commission has signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to set up a regional Crisis Response Centre and Warning System at the League of Arab States. The Centre aims strengthening the capacities of the Arab region in crisis prevention and response through enhanced cooperation between the Secretariat General of the League of Arab States (SGLAS), the European Commission (EC) and the UNDP.

UNDP, having extensive global experience in crisis management, will provide technical and management support in establishing the Crisis Response Centre at the Arab League. Cairo based Regional Centre of UNDP will manage the project in close collaboration with the regional office of EC and the Secretariat of the LAS.

The Centre will be established at the Secretariat of LAS in Cairo. The European Commission (EC) is providing Euro 1,925,190 for this initiative, which will be implemented during 2011-2012.

Other specific objectives of the center include:

·          Strengthening capacities of the SGLAS to respond to political, social, economic and environmental crises, through a joint capacity development programme.

·          Operationalizing capacity within the SGLAS for gathering and channeling of early warning signals and their analysis in support of early action.

·          Systematizing a long-term dialogue between the SGLAS, the EC and when deemed appropriate UNDP in the fields of risk analysis, crisis response, conflict prevention and peace-building in order to promote the exchange of information, notify each other in a timely manner, and cooperate in order to identify mutually acceptable solutions to crisis situations

The Crisis Response Centre, once established, will have the capacity to provide analysis and warning to the leadership of Arab States about all emerging crises situations in the region, whether they are related to environmental disasters- earthquakes, floods, droughts, man-made industrial disasters and conflicts or development related crises; e.g. food in-security.

UNDP will help in setting up the information systems, training officials from crisis departments of member Arab States, and in establishing partnerships with research institutions, universities, UN agencies and other humanitarian and development organizations related to crisis prevention and response. In total over 200 officials will be trained in various aspects of crisis management. It is expected that through setting up of this Centre, the Arab League in collaboration with its member states will be in a position to prevent and respond to crisis situations in an effective manner.

The League of Arab States (LAS) is attaching significant importance to developing its capacities for coordinated regional approaches to crisis prevention and response in their broadest sense; including their developmental, operational and knowledge management dimensions. More specifically, the Secretariat of the LAS has resolved to strengthen its institutional and coordination capacities to anticipate, analyze, prevent and respond to threats to sustainable human development and stability posed by natural and man-made disasters, as well as to increase its effectiveness in post-crisis recovery.

The Crisis Response Centre will foster the gathering and channeling of early warning signals among its Member States and link early warning to early action. The LAS Secretariat will invest in the technological infrastructure and the development of the technical know-how required to ensure the effectiveness of early warning mechanisms and capacities for critical analyses and use of geographic information systems.

The Centre will have the capacity for rapid access to "open source" information, its collation, analysis and dissemination to the leadership of the LAS and through it, to its Member States. It will facilitate networking between decision-making and response institutions at national and regional levels as well as bear the potential of easing connections when needed between research, developmental organizations and institutions, civil society and information houses. The Centre would enable the LAS and its member countries to monitor potential crisis situations and to organize a coordinated and effective response.

The project is in accordance with the priorities set by the "UNDP Strategic Plan 2008-2011", including through its provision of policy and technical support, its advocacy for the multi-sectoral challenges especially in crisis prevention and recovery. 

It is expected that upon its establishment, the Crisis Response Centre and Warning System would perform the following functions, with a view to improve crisis response and prevention in the region.

·          Produce analytical reports on periodical basis about brewing crisis situations, the geographic regions and countries to be affected, estimates of potential damages and losses and actions that can be taken by national governments, by the LAS and by other stakeholders to prevent those crises, and to respond to them effectively when they occur;

·          Disseminate above analytical reports to LAS leadership, national crisis management departments, and relevant international players when appropriate or needed;

·          Produce early warning messages about eminent crises and issue early warning to regional and national stakeholders for organizing timely response;

·          Assist the LAS leadership in organizing regional efforts for crisis prevention and response, if required by the situation; 

·          Organize periodical conference and training for national crisis management departments in order to establish and maintain effective capacities for crisis management; 

·          Maintain partnerships with global institutions for implementing regional strategies for crisis prevention and response.

Capacity Assessment of the High Relief Committee in Lebanon

UNDP has completed the capacity assessment of the High Relief Committee (HRC). The purpose of this exercise is to advocate to and provide recommendations to the Government of Lebanon, about strengthening the High Relief Committee (HRC), through clear mandate, establishment of a fully functional Secretariat, allocation of funds in annual budget to HRC for disaster preparedness, expanding the member of HRC to include mitigation related ministries. It is believe that the implementation of recommendations will help Lebanon to minimize the risks from earthquakes, floods and forest fires amongst others through better preparedness and systematic response. A stronger HRC will also be able to meet the six key expectations of stakeholders that were expressed during the capacity assessment exercise. A brief description of the stakeholder expectations for improving the disaster management system is given as following: 

·          Various stakeholders complained that there was lack of clarity about departmental roles in disaster management. This resulted from the lack of nationally agreed standard operating procedures.

·          In the absence of an emergency operations center, the response coordination was undertaken on Ah Hoc basis, without any one national department serving as the focal point in all kinds of emergency operations to provide leadership and supervision. This has led to onsite confusion amongst departments trying to address an emergency situation.

·          Stakeholders highlighted the need for preparedness planning, e.g. drills, stockpiling, development of response capacities, and information sharing etc.

·          Currently, no systematic warning capacities and system exist in the country. The department of meteorology doesn’t have the mandate and capacities to produce disaster warnings, which is highly desirable. The need to strength research capacities of the CNRS to study seismic risks was also recommended.

·          No disaster management training institution exists in Lebanon, which could provide various kind of training to departments on disaster response, preparedness and mitigation.

·          Management of information about disaster risks and resources was identified as critical to facilitate better policies and programs.