Context and Objectives
Disasters know no borders and the challenges and risks faced are very often shared. With an increasing number of forest fires, floods, earthquakes, marine pollution, pandemics and other natural catastrophes across the Euro-Mediterranean area, greater cooperation among UfM Member States is now widely recognised as a much needed focus of efforts to strengthen civil protection in the region. The fight against many of these disasters is often won or lost in terms of human or environmental losses depending on the preparedness and response, regional coordination and capacity to implement rapid response on time.
While UfM Member States have primary responsibility for national disaster risk management, international and regional assistance can complement national response capacities in case of disaster when they are overwhelmed or in need of support. The advantages of pooling resources, efficient mutual assistance, knowhow and use of specialised equipment are therefore manifold to build stronger regional civil protection services and networks. By establishing a regional Civil Protection Mechanism, UfM Member States can play a key role in coordinating common responses to potential disasters and cooperate on risk assessment, crisis prevention, preparedness and planning for when a disaster occurs. The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) provides a coordinated approach to reinforcing prevention, preparedness and response to disaster, with its Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) able to provide analysis, monitoring and coordination of requests and offers of assistance for disaster response.
The year 2019 saw the relaunching of the Civil Protection Cooperation process among the UfM Member States. After 10 years of hiatus since the last meeting of the Directors-General of the UfM Member States, the UfM Secretariat and the European Commission convened a Directors-General of Civil Protection meeting on 11 February 2019 for the UfM Member States and other relevant partners of the EU to discuss the common challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean region with a view to prepare an Action Plan during 2020. The outcomes of this meeting led to the Final Recommendations which focused on increasing resilience, cross-institutional cooperation and dialogue amongst policy, operational and scientific communities. The need to strengthen the synergies between the EUCPM and the neighbouring countries was widely acknowledged. To this effect, the UfM Regional Platform is considered as the appropriate format by the European Commission.
Following the initial meeting, and in order to implement the Final Recommendations, the UfM Member States decided to set up three working groups to tackle the following themes:
- Preparing for efficient mutual assistance in the Euro-Mediterranean area.
- Engaging citizens in disaster risk management.
- The role of volunteers in civil protection.
The first working group on Preparing for Efficient Mutual Assistance in the Euro-Mediterranean Area, convened on 26 November 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of the working group was to identify the priorities for the Civil Protection Action Plan for Efficient Mutual Assistance. The priority actions proposed to be taken forward on a regional level and in partnership with the countries concerned are:
- Host Nation support
- Preparedness for response
- Risk assessment and situational analysis for rapid response
It is foreseen that the two other Working Groups will meet virtually on 19-20 October 2020 in preparation for the physical same working group meetings earmarked for January 2021 in Brussels.
Civil Protection falls under one of the six priority areas of the UfM Secretariat, defined by the Summit of the Heads of State and Government that took place in July 2008 and led to the creation of the UfM.
- European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
- European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations