The European Commission today adopted two Communications related to disasters: a Community approach to reducing the impact of natural and man-made disasters within the EU, and a strategy for supporting disaster risk reduction in developing countries. The Communications, adopted as a package, represent a first attempt to establish a more strategic approach. Proposed action at Community level focuses on areas where a common approach is more effective than separate national approaches, such as developing knowledge, linking actors and policies, and improving the performance of existing Community disaster prevention instruments. With regard to developing countries, the Commission is setting out an EU strategy to help reduce the impact of natural disasters on countries considered to be high-risk. Both Communications contribute to the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for action 2005-2015, adopted at the world conference on disaster reduction.
European Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas said: "Natural disasters are a growing threat for EU Member States, and they are predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude over the coming years. We must do all we can in order to reduce their impact by being prepared as best as we can. This Communication is an important first step launching a long term process for Community action in this field."
European Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid Louis Michel said: "Disasters are shattering the lives of poor people all over the globe. We know that prevention is better than cure. Investing in the reduction of risks before a disaster takes place pays huge dividends in comparison to providing humanitarian aid afterwards. I believe that disaster risk reduction is a key element in the fight against poverty across the globe."
Prevention: added value at EU level
The prevention Communication identifies areas where action at the EU level could provide added value. These include: establishing a Community-level inventory of existing information and best practices; developing guidelines on hazard and risk mapping; linking actors and policies throughout the disaster management cycle with more training and awareness-raising; improved access to early warning systems; and more efficient targeting of community funds.
Disaster Risk Reduction: a must for sustainable poverty reduction
The disaster risk reduction Communication sets out the following action priorities:
- strengthening of political dialogue with developing countries;
- integration of disaster risk reduction into both EU and developing countries' policy and action, including EU support for national risk reduction investments;
- development of regional plans, starting with one for the Caribbean: such action plans would include for example support for awareness-raising campaigns.
The EU will set out all the specific actions foreseen in an implementation plan foreseen for June 2009.
In March 2008, the Commission adopted a Communication on reinforcing the Union’s Disaster Response capacity (COM(2008)130). It took an integrated approach encompassing all stages of disasters (prevention, preparation, immediate response, recovery), addressing all types of disasters (inside or outside the EU, natural or man-made), and covering all EU instruments as well as inter-institutional coordination. It also included a specific annex on forest fires. The Communication announced the two proposals on prevention and on an EU strategy for disaster risk reduction in developing countries. Furthermore, the European Parliament and the Council have both called for urgent action in the area of disaster prevention.
The economic cost of disasters in Europe is estimated to be €15 billion.
Disasters hit developing countries hardest, as they are the most vulnerable and have the least capacity to cope. They also undermine and jeopardize the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight goals include the target to halve the proportion of people living on less than 1 US Dollar a day and get every child primary education by 2015 (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals ).
Under the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action – an international framework on disaster risk reduction – states should work jointly on the issue.
The Communications can be found here:
Disaster risk reduction Communication: