From disaster relief to risk reduction in Armenia
Armenia is prone to natural disasters. Eight out of every 10 persons in the country face the probability of experiencing a natural disaster such as an earthquake, landslide or flooding. The country incurs $33 million in damage from such disasters every year. But thanks to recent efforts, Armenia has shifted from reactive relief to proactive risk reduction.
UNDP has helped the government and the public better prepare for disasters by assisting with the implementation of crucial legal and institutional reforms. UNDP has also supported the establishment of an effective disaster risk reduction system. And it has supported concrete community-level measures to minimize the damage from flooding and landslides.
“Our partnership with UNDP has been essential and productive,” said Armen Yeritsyan, Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations. “It serves as an example of cooperation between a government and an international organization that can be replicated in other corners of the world.”
A legacy of weak preparedness
- In October 2011, the National Disaster Observatory and the Crisis Management Centre were officially inaugurated;
- In June 2011, facilitated by UNDP in Armenia, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Armenia and the Ministry of Interior of Montenegro signed a Memorandum of Understanding and committed to strengthening cooperation in disaster management and response;
- In December 2010, the Disaster Risk Reduction National Platform was officially adopted by the Government;
- In April 2011, the Minister of Emergency Situations issued a decree introducing a decentralized DRR system;
- Disaster risk reduction was integrated into the community development plans of 95 communities of the Ararat region;
- About 7,000 metres of drainage systems and 500 metres of mudflow channels were cleaned, while about 1,500 meters of soil dams, 100 metres of gabions were built and a bridge was reconstructed.
- Some 3,000 square metres of anti-hail nets were installed in communities in the Ararat, Shirak, Syunik, Lori and Tavush regions;
After a devastating earthquake in 1988, national authorities and the country at large began to re-evaluate how well they were prepared to handle natural disasters. The country lacked basic elements, such as an agency to coordinate disaster risk management, and a system to collect information and analyse risks. But there existed a strong political will to initiate the legal and regulatory changes needed to improve disaster preparedness.
The authorities revised national legislation, establishing a sound legal and regulatory disaster risk reduction (DRR) framework, and they allocated significant resources to national and local bodies for coordination and implementation of DRR activities. The objective was to create a resilient centre buttressed by strong communities.
Keeping floodwaters at bay
One such community is Sipanik, in the Ararat region. Located in one of the most disaster-prone areas of the country. Sipanik was selected as a pilot site for community-based mitigation projects. Successful risk management practices in Sipanik have already been replicated in four other regions.
“We very much appreciate the support of UNDP, who brought together those who want to help and defend us, and ensured that our voices are in line with those of decision makers, experts and specialists,” said Hovhannes Arakelyan, a resident of Sipanik. “I can continue to cultivate my land and reap my harvest, even if the Hrazdan river floods again.”
The Government has taken ownership over the process. The Ministry of Emergency Situations has driven the national capacity development process – reaching out to national, regional and local bodies, academia, educational institutions, NGOs, communities and volunteers.
UNDP worked to raise awareness of the importance of disaster preparedness and risk reduction by applying UNDP worldwide development experience and best practices. It further invested in bringing top experts to Armenia to help reform institutional and legal frameworks and enhance national capacities.
Together with the Ministry of Emergency Situations, UNDP developed a national disaster risk reduction strategy based on the Hyogo Framework of Action, a 10-year, UN-backed plan to make the world safer from natural hazards. The strategy will promote the further institutionalization and sustainability of the DRR system in Armenia.