Brussels, 24 November 2009
EU Environ ment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will tomorrow launch the third Civil Protection Forum in Brussels. More than 500 civil protection professionals will come together for the two-day conference on how EU countries can develop their resilience to disasters. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and impact of natural disasters and Europe has to be prepared for this and other challenges such as terrorist threats, chemical incidents and other accidents. The conference, "Towards a more resilient society", will debate future challenges for European civil protection, technological developments and how to involve people in preparing for disaster.
Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner of the Environment, said: "Europe is ready to do everything possible to strengthen its resilience to disasters to reduce the high cost to human life. Every year thousands of people lose their lives and many mo re face long-term disruption to their daily life. Last year alone, some 20 million people worldwide were forced from their homes by natural disasters. The financial costs are also high: disasters cost Europe an estimated €15 billion a year. The Forum will be a vital platform for debating the challenges facing us and in helping us strengthen our disaster prevention and response."
Civil Protection Forum
The third Civil Protection Forum will focus on resilience and how Europe can strengthen prevention and response measures to deal with disasters more effectively. Resilience to disaster means not only the ability to recover from a major disaster but also building the capability to withstand disaster into planning.
The Forum will bring together over 500 participants to debate future challenges for European civil protection. Three debates with high-level speakers from the world of politics, business and research will allow a frank exchange of ideas on when and how to prepare for disaster; risk perception and self-sufficiency among citizens and what form a disaster management strategy in Europe should take.
Speakers will include EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Margareta Wahlstr öm, and State Secretary at the Ministry of Defence in Sweden, Håkan Jevrell.
An exhibition involving international partners, training organisations and innovative technologies will run alongside the conference. This includes an earthquake simulating platform, part of an exhibition on the disaster that hit the Italian city of L'Aquila earlier this year.
The Commission and Civil Protection
The Commission supports and supplements disaster prevention at national, regional and local levels and runs the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) which acts as a hub for the response phase of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection.
The EU Community Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response. Thirty-one countries participate in the Community Mechanism (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). Through the Mechanism, they pool resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries. Any country in the world can call on the EU for assistance.
Since its creation in 2001, the EU has assisted in disasters worldwide, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, the 2008 earthquake in China and the forest fires in Southern Europe this summer. The MIC now responds to over 20 emergencies a year.
The European Commission is working to reinforce the EU's disaster response capacity. This summer, it tested EU-level assets. Two fire-fighting planes were available from July until September to assist Member States in fighting forest fires. The Commission will draw lessons from this pilot project.
Work is also starting on a number of prevention initiatives to develop an EU approach to the prevention of natural and man-made disasters. This includes developing guidelines on risk assessment and risk mapping, developing a cross-sector overview of major risks that the EU may face and setting-up a European network for disaster prevention.
Note to editors:
The third Civil Protection Forum: "Towards a more resilient society," will take place at the European Commission's Charlemagne building, 170 Rue de la Loi, Brussels from 25-26 November 2009. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will hold a press conference with Guido Bertolaso, Head of the Civil Protection Department in Italy, on Thursday 26 November at 11.30am in the Berlaymont press room.