By Rosa Abruzzese
Serbia has taken a major step towards establishing a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction with the announcement that 32 Serbian cities have now formally joined the World Disaster Reduction Campaign – Making Cities Resilient: "My City is Getting Ready!"
They include the western Serbian town of Ljubovija where a state of emergency was declared last December when water levels in the River Drina rose to record levels flooding hundreds of homes and forcing large-scale evacuations.
Kraljevo in central Serbia has also joined the campaign. It was at the epicentre of an earthquake which measured 5.3 last November and which was felt across the country, including in the capital Belgrade.
The announcement came as the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic, met with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, to discuss continuing efforts to shift the country focus from an emergency reactive approach towards a pro-active disaster prevention and risk reduction strategy.
Ms. Wahlström congratulated President Tadic on the advances made and the commitment shown to reducing vulnerability to disasters, and on the progress made on preparedness, citing the importance of strong municipal involvement as a means to build communities’ resilience to disasters.
She singled out for praise the fact that 32 Serbian cities, many of which were vulnerable to hazards such as earthquakes and floods, have now joined the 800 cities and towns from around the world in the Making Cities Resilient Campaign. The USAID sponsored programme, 'Preparedness, Planning Economic Security' (PPES) actively facilitated the engagement of the Serbian municipalities. The SRSG was accompanied by the Regional Coordinator for Europe, Paola Albrito, the UN Resident Coordinator William Infante and Mr. Neil Buhne, Director, UNDP/BCPR Geneva Office during her visit.
The UN Disaster Risk Reduction chief also acknowledged the leadership of Ivica Dacic, First Deputy Prime Minster, Minster of the Interior, and Predrag Maric, Assistant Minister of Interior and Head of Sector for Emergency Management, in driving efforts to strengthen coordination among national partners through the ongoing effort to establish a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. During the meeting, the National Platform mechanism was welcomed as a strategy to address the multi-sectoral nature of disaster risk reduction.
Serbia also reports against strategic goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. The country is in the course of adopting legislation which will provide the legal framework for establishment of an integrated emergency management system.