The European Commission (EC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have launched an initiative to increase disaster prevention in cities across seven countries and territories in the Western Balkans.
The two-year project, to be implemented by UNDP in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia, will equip municipalities to reduce the risks associated with flash floods, earthquakes, droughts and other disasters.
“Natural disasters are and will remain one of the biggest challenges in these countries. Investing in building stronger preparedness and protection systems is key”, said Armen Grigoryan, UNDP Istanbul regional hub, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team Leader. “We will continue to work together with the EU and national governments to ensure the safety of people”.
With a budget of 577,000 Euro, the initiative, funded by the EC’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid office (ECHO), will create local networks of local responders, allowing disaster-prone municipalities to intervene, support each other and unlock funds in case of disaster. It will also document procedures for how to act quickly, and train local officials, who will then train people on how to keep safe.
It is estimated that 80 percent of disaster losses are borne by municipalities. The measures will work with local disaster agencies to reduce the economic and human impact and pave the way for swifter recovery. In addition, the project will create a network of local and regional institutions involved in disaster risk reduction.
In 2014, flash floods caused widespread devastation and loss of life in the Western Balkans, resulting in the loss of 79 lives, the evacuation and displacement of close to a million people, the loss of tens of thousands of homes, livestock, agricultural land, schools, hospitals and businesses in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.
In some of these countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNDP has been working closely with the European Union to restore public infrastructure and support affected people.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was hit hardest – UNDP, with EU funds, restored 4,640 homes, 133 public buildings, 145 communal infrastructure sites and revived local agriculture and economies in the 24 most-affected municipalities.
UNDP and the EU are partnering in 140 countries across the world to deepen democratic governance, prevent or help countries recover from conflict and natural disasters, build resilience, and adapt to climate change.
* All references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).