ENVSEC: a continuing success story

Aarhus Centres to lead the way in community-based disaster risk reduction

April 13, 2016
TALKING THE TALK: Delegates discuss DRR in Vienna. Photo: Micky Kroell/OSCE

Representatives of Aarhus Centres, local authorities, state agencies for emergency situations, NGOs and international and regional organisations from four different regions (Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia) concluded a two-day meeting on strengthening the capacities and roles of civilian populations and communities in disaster risk reduction (DRR).

The event, organised by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, was held in Vienna on April 7-8, 2016.This concluding meeting, in which the Regional Environmental Center (REC) was an active participant, sought to provide a platform for discussion and the presentation of activities conducted within a project that is rightly considered to be a success story of the ENVSEC initiative, namely: “Strengthening the capacities of Aarhus Centres in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in order to enhance awareness of local communities”.

In the framework of the project, the capacities of Aarhus Centres and their local partners were assessed and then strengthened through training workshops in seven project countries: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Serbia and Tajikistan. The project supported 12 selected Aarhus Centres in creating a resilience platform for the future through: identifying disaster vulnerabilities; increasing knowledge of community-based DRR; ensuring access to adequate communication and outreach tools; developing specified disaster awareness-raising action plans; and disseminating educational material to local populations.

Over a course of two days, the REC actively engaged in discussions during the concluding meeting, presented an overview of REC-led components, outlined new initiatives and ongoing REC projects on the topic of disaster risk reduction, and provided updates on best practices and lessons learned from more than 25 years of strengthening environmental governance, fostering transparency, ensuring multi-stakeholder participation and supporting the transition to a circular and low-carbon economy.

On April 9, following the meeting, participants enjoyed a field trip to the Danube-Auen National Park.

A key player

Within the project, the REC’s primary role was to provide international expertise for a series of workshops on DRR communication and awareness raising, including practical exercises for the participants. Tailor-made workshops addressed local representatives of Aarhus Centres along with local authorities, civil society, NGOs and stakeholders from the private sector. Based on the input and feedback received, and building on experience from the Czech Republic, the REC contributed to the publication "Disasters and Risks", a brochure that provides Aarhus Centres with a broad overview of DRR. To better address the needs identified by individual centres, greater emphasis in the educational material was placed on education and information dissemination.

The concluding meeting confirmed that the practical involvement of Aarhus Centres can make a substantial contribution to DRR. Although the individual centres differ in terms of actual capacity, there is a set of specific areas on which the centres can focus according to their individual capacities and expertise. It is expected that this ENVSEC “success story” will continue in close cooperation with the Aarhus Centres, which will benefit from a transfer of the following needs (as identified by the REC over the course of the project):

  • basic principles of successful communication prior to, during and after disasters;
  • general know-how and strategies for traditional and online publishing and monitoring, including web design; and
  • methodologies required to draft local, regional and national strategies for the development and deployment of disaster warning systems, including the transfer of technical know-how.