26 November 2019, Brussels. Around 70 participants hailing from the national Civil Protection Units from the UfM Member States convened in Brussels for a Technical Working Group on “Preparing for efficient mutual assistance in the Euro-Mediterranean Area” under the framework of the UfM and jointly organised by the European Commission. The discussions during the meeting focused on the following three areas: host nation support, preparedness for response, risk assessment and situational analysis to support rapid response in case of natural and man-made disasters.
The purpose of this working group served to facilitate the identification of priorities for an action plan for efficient mutual assistance in the Mediterranean area. This Working Group came to fruition following the 3rd Meeting of the Directors-General of Civil Protection of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) that took place in Barcelona on 11 February 2019, almost a decade after their last meeting.
The opening speeches and setting the scene were delivered by Johannes Luchner, Director of Disaster Preparedness and Prevention at the DG ECHO and Major Thamer Ali Al-Qeban from the Jordanian Civil Defense as a representative of the UfM Co-presidency. In his opening address Director Luchner underlined that the approach is the need to build a stronger regional civil protection that will benefit not only the countries on a national basis but also the neighbouring countries. Regional solutions are the best solutions and the European countries and those in the Mediterranean are to seek regional solutions since many share the same risks and challenges. Luchner referred to the European Green Deal which sets a path for a transition that is just and socially fair. The European Green Deal is designed in such a way as to leave no individual or region behind in the great transformation ahead.
The UfM Secretariat’s welcome remarks were addressed by Marisa Farrugia, Deputy Secretary General for Social and Civil Affairs. In her speech DSG Farrugia said that as an intergovernmental organisation, the UfM provides the ideal platform to advance the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue on civil protection by facilitating links between the policy dimension and its operational translation on the ground through concrete programmes and initiatives that address the challenges of the region and its key interrelated priorities. She also referred to the Report entitled “Risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region” by the MedECC, underlining that climate change has exacerbated existing environmental problems in the Mediterranean region and that we will be faced with further disasters and risks which call for preparedness and regional mutual assistance. Through a common Civil Protection Mechanism, and the UfM Regional Dialogue, its Member States in the Civil Protection could play a key role in coordinating common responses to crises and cooperate on risk assessment, disaster prevention, preparedness and planning. The UfM is proud to facilitate these meetings and to bring together on an equal footing the countries of the North and the South of the Mediterranean in the civil protection sector.
The Working Group sessions were Co-Chaired by the Directorate of DG-ECHO and the Jordanian Civil Defense representing the Co-Presidency. The Working Group aimed at putting recommendations of the previous Directors General meeting of Civil Protection at the UfM Headquarters in Barcelona last February into concrete action.
Lively discussions led to the development of an ambitious draft action plan and new ground breaking proposals were put forward mainly on:
- Creating a Vademecum on civil protection and disaster management system profiles for the Mediterranean countries
- Organising small-scale exercises, practical simulations and proposal for new types of training (e.g. decision-makers)
- Creating Host Nation Support inter-institutional working groups
- Creating Mediterranean response capacities
Two other working groups are planned to take place in 2020 on “Engaging citizens in disaster risk management” and “Civil protection volunteers”. The three working groups were created based on the recommendations of the Third meeting of Civil Protection Directors-General of the Union for the Mediterranean member states, which took place in Barcelona in February 2019.
After 10 years of hiatus, the Civil Protection Dossier has now picked up steam under the UfM Framework and activation work in collaboration with European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.