Investment in preventing and mitigating disasters saves both lives and money

BUDVA, 18-20 April 2011 – “Mindful of human and economic cost, investment in preventing and mitigating disasters saves both lives and money – the latter at some 1:7 ratio,” said Mr. Alexander Avanessov, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro at the opening of a three-day meeting: “National platform for disaster risk reduction in Montenegro”. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Montenegro, in cooperation with the United Nations System in Montenegro and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), as one of the activities within the Regional Project for Disaster Risk Reduction in South-East Europe. The Project is financed by the European Commission and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Only in 2009 – there were 335 natural disasters reported worldwide, killing 10,655 persons, affecting more than 119 million others and causing over $41.3 billion economic damages. Hydrological disasters were most common, accounting for 53.7% of total reported natural disaster occurrence followed by meteorological disasters (25.4%). With this in mind, over 70 countries in the world have established National Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction that provide a basis for  a systemic approach to coordination of strategic and comprehensive initiatives of various governmental, non-governmental and private sector initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of disasters and increasing resilience of ecosystems, economies and communities.

The unprecedented flooding in 2010 in Montenegro highlighted the importance of a coordinated action from national to local level in risk reduction ad preparedness, early warning and response. The National Policy Dialogue on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), held in November 2010 in Kolašin, produced a set of recommendations to strengthen the DRR system in Montenegro, one specifically relating  to the establishment of a National Platform. The three-day working session from 18-20 April served as a preparatory consultative meeting where representatives of various institutions had an opportunity to discuss a variety of topics, including the role of the National Platform in the context of Montenegro, priority areas for action, and best coordination practices.  The conclusions from the meeting will be integrated in the official Governmental decision to establish the Platform in the following weeks.

“Montenegro, as a UN member state, is obliged to establish a National Platform for DRR, and it would be necessary that all state organs and institutions participate in that process, as well as non-governmental and scientific institutions. So far, Montenegro has been focused on the response after disaster happens. Even though many disasters cannot be prevented, it is possible to develop an early warning system. The emergency situation management involves awareness, legal framework for action, as well as prevention measures for mitigating impact of disasters. Contingency planning is a result of strengths and skills that a community can use to respond to a disaster, with an aim to reduce its possible effects,” emphasized Mr. Ivan Brajović, Minister of the Interior in the Government of Montenegro. 

Mr. Clive Rumbold, Head of Political, European Integration and Trade Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro said that the regional program funded by the EU Multi-beneficiary IPA in the amount of €2 million and implemented by the UNDP aims to support the capacity development for coordinating activities in DRR, as well as to connect the national and local level through an inter-sectorial approach. “Assessments conducted so far simply point out to the necessity for Montenegro to be better prepared and to be ready to better respond to disaster.” Mr. Rumbold concluded.

Mr. Zoran Begović, Deputy Minister for Civil Security and Emergency Situations underlined: “Montenegro is determined to make disaster risk reduction policies become a national priority, with strong institutional basis for action, as well as to make the Strategy for DRR become a part of strategy for development. To support this goal, it is necessary that all the stakeholders take over their responsibility and duties in the systemic DRR, as well as to include experiences, skills and knowledge of different sectors.”

According to Mr. Alexander Avanessov, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro, “Within the Integrated UN program, the pillar on Sustainable Economic Development and Environmental Protection specifically provides support to national and local partners in achieving a balanced and equitable regional economic growth based on sustainable planning and use of natural resources that will provide high quality of life and long term economic opportunities for its inhabitants. Supporting this goal, the program specifically identifies establishment of a system for effective prevention, control and reduction of risks and implementation of measures designed to increase resilience of ecosystems, economy and communities to changing climate.” He emphasized that the UN’s focus in Montenegro is on capacity development – particularly for adaptation, including the capacity to prepare for and mitigate climate change-induced natural disasters and to increase the resilience of eco-systems.

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The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) is a strategic framework adopted by the UN member states in 2000 that provides guidance and coordination of efforts for achieving reduction in disaster losses and building resilient nations and communities as essential conditions for sustainable development.  The UNISDR is a focal point for implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA)- a 10 year plan of action adopted in 2005 by 168 governments to protect lives and livelihoods against disasters.  Disasters reverse developmental gains and hamper the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.  Bali Action Plan in 2007 identified DRR as means of adapting to climate change in order to reduce its impacts and as an adjunct to long-term efforts to mitigate climate change.

In order to increase resilience of the environment and the economy, Montenegro must be equipped and organized to take informed policy decisions. This requires capacity development- assistance that puts in place the institutions, knowledge, policies and frameworks- that promotes climate-resilient growth. As the Cancun Agreement notes, “addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that offers substantial opportunities and ensures continued high growth and sustainable development”. This is a unique opportunity to support the country in meeting the EU requirements with the implementation of the UN Conventions.  Based on the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), and looking towards the COP 17 in Durban and Rio+20 climate change summits, it is the right time to boost the global transition to Sustainable Human Development.

The National Platform will provide a basis for coordinated, institutionalized approach to first developing a DRR action plan with clearly identified roles, responsibilities, and mandates, and further to streamline DRR in all major strategic documents and policies as well as educational system, to establish national system for collection and analysis of disaster data, and to enhance institutional capacity for risk assessment on all levels.

The UN will continue to provide full support to this comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction specifically through supporting the streamlining of DRR into major national policies (i.e. National Plan for Formalization of Informal Settlements), through strengthening capacities of national partners and local communities for risk identification, analysis and vulnerability assessments, contingency plans with specific focus on gender and vulnerable groups and environmental sustainability and (iii) establishing school-based disaster management systems, strengthening capacities of teachers and media in emergency management and DRR.