European Civil Protection Forum 2018, the largest event on European civil protection cooperation took place on 5-6 March, in Brussels, Belgium. The Forum was organised by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) and brought together stakeholders from across Europe to discuss achievements in disaster risk management, share ideas and best practices, and discuss ways of addressing new challenges together. The Forum was organized around four policy areas: 1. Strengthening preparedness; 2. Simplifying response; 3. Scaling up prevention, and; 4. Fostering resilience.
During the opening session: Scaling up Disaster Prevention: from Local to European level, Johannes Luchner, Director for Emergency Management, Directorate-General for ECHO, highlighted the importance of working together on prevention; “climate change is presenting a significant risk to all of us, and to the future generations.”
Adam Banaszak, Vice-President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, Poland and CoR Rapporteur on the ‘rescEU’ proposal, emphasised the need for prevention measures as they are more effective than cure: “every euro invested in prevention saves 4-7 euros in disaster response”.
Kathryn Oldham, Chief Resilience Officer, Greater Manchester Combined Authorities, United Kingdom, addressed the importance of prevention at the local level, as “apart from being natural, disasters are something we can prevent and mitigate”. She further stressed the need for long-term planning: “investment in DRR needs to be long-term with a whole-system approach, the whole community needs to be involved”.
Following the opening session, the discussion: ‘rescEU’ solidarity with responsibility: Political leadership perspectives on the European Civil Protection focused on broader, cross-cutting civil protection issues. ‘rescEU’ is a new European system to tackle natural disasters, it combines response with prevention/preparedness. Extreme weather events in recent years have strained the ability of MSs to assist each other. This EU reserve of civil protection response will assist MSs in responding to natural disasters when national capacities are overwhelmed.
Christos Stylianides, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, European Commission, explained the importance of an initiative like ‘rescEU’: “climate change is real, and it is happening right now – it is not fake news”. Mr. Stylianides stressed that ‘rescEU’ will not replace the national response systems, it will function as “a safety net, a solution of last resort in exceptional circumstances, because in times of emergency no country should be left alone, this is how we define European solidarity in practice – solidarity comes with responsibility”.