International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction Celebrations in Europe & Central Asia

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Europe & Central Asia
Schoolchildren conducting earthquake drill
Ministry of Interior, Montenegro
Schoolchildren conducting earthquake drill in Montenegro

Governments and stakeholders across Europe and Central Asia are organizing a wide variety of events and activities to raise awareness on this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction theme on “fighting inequality for a resilient future”

In his message for this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR), the UN Secretary-General António Guterres underscored that:

 2023 has shattered temperature records, and seen record drought, fire and floods around the world.  Poverty and inequality are exacerbating these disasters. 

Europe is no stranger to this worrying trend, with the continent warming at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years, as noted in the WMO’s State of the Climate in Europe 2022 report. 

This is exemplified by the drastically increasing severity of forest fires in Europe - with the total burnt area in Europe in 2022 being four times greater than the 2006-2021 average, and fires in Greece in August 2023 marking the most devastating fire that ever occurred in the European Union.

Sebastien Penzini, Chief ad interim of the UNDRR Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, highlighted: 

While our region is one of the most advanced regions in transboundary cooperation on climate, much more has to be done to further adapt to climate change and especially to address the needs of the ones who are most at risk and often disproportionally impacted.

This year’s IDDRR focuses on how disasters disproportionately impact the poorest and most at-risk people, thus worsening inequality. Reducing vulnerability to disasters requires addressing these dimensions.

Mr. Penzini emphasised the importance of an all-of-government, and inclusive approach, supported by transboundary collaboration, and highlighted the importance of IDDRR in raising awareness and fostering inclusive ownership of disaster prevention and preparedness across societies, including to build the resilience of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.

Governments and stakeholder across Europe and Central Asia are engaged in a wide range of inclusive activities to raise awareness on the day’s theme across communities and diverse stakeholder groups, some of which are outlined below.

In Italy, for example, more than 150 events, including workshops, training activities, conferences, exhibitions, civil protection exercises and school initiatives, were held across the country to mark their National Civil Protection Week (9-15 October), which coincides with IDDRR on 13 October.  

These activities reached a wide diversity of stakeholder groups and communities, including through the "Io non rischio" (I don't take risks) campaign, which will bring together volunteers to more than a thousand squares in cities, towns and villages across Italy on the weekend of 14-15 October to raise awareness on the culture of prevention, with a focus on actions that everyone can take to reduce disasters risks, including related to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and wildfires.

In Montenegro, a wide range of events and activities are being organized across the country to educate children and raise awareness on prevention and protection against fires, floods, and earthquakes, pointing out the importance of engaging the entire community and society in disaster risk reduction. These activities include evacuation exercises and the dissemination of flyers and media coverage for raising awareness in the wider public.

In France, more than 2,000 events and activities are being held across the country to celebrate IDDRR. Activities engaging schools, as well as open days, conferences, and crisis management exercises and drills are amongst the many events for raising awareness on disaster risk reduction amongst diverse stakeholders, including citizens, businesses, public offices, elected officials, local authorities, educational institutions, associations, the media, as well as experts and specialists responsible for disaster prevention and management. 

These activities aim to mobilize a culture of risk awareness and foster collective resilience across different regions of France, under a national slogan of "Tous résilients face aux risques" that calls for everyone to be informed, react, and protect themselves in the face of different risks. 

In Portugal, IDDRR celebrations began on 12 October with an official launch of a Handbook on Civil Protection, targeting the leaders of Parish Councils (the smallest territorial unit in Portugal), providing guidance on the organization of the civil protection system and good practices for boosting resilience at local levels. 

Celebrations included the presentation of the Good Practices Award for Promoting Resilience at Local Level to the Region of Aveiro for their project “SEGURA” (Integrated Risk Management System of the Aveiro Region), a web platform that will speed up access to information by first responders and citizens, consequently creating greater resilience in the region.

Recognition Awards were also presented for good practices in different fields, including for the “Panteras” Civil Protection Volunteer Corps (Municipality of Almada), the Program “Young Volunteers for Forest Surveillance” (Municipality of Loulé), the Temporary Emergency Shelter (Municipality of Olhão), the “Game of the Goose” for Risk Education (Municipality of Santo Tirso) and the initiative “Safety in my School” (Parish of Olivais, Lisbon).

In Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and UNDRR are producing braille alphabet flyers to raise awareness and support blind people on disaster prevention and preparedness, with further social media messages on the day's theme shared through UN channels in the country. 

In Tajikistan, a number of joint activities  are organized in cities and districts of the country to mark a month of action around IDDRR, organized by the Committee on Emergency Situations and Civil Defense, local authorities, UNDRR, UNICEF, WFP, AKAH, the Swiss Cooperation Office, Red Crescent Society, civil society and other stakeholders.

Activities include an "Open Doors Day" and games for children with disabilities at the Training Center of the Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense, a drawing contest for schoolchildren in Dushanbe, radio quizzes on issues related to DRR and emergency response, training and contests on DRR in schools in the cities of Khujand, Bokhtar and Khorog, as well as simulation exercises in schools in the Sughd Province. Furthermore, LED monitors will display key messages to raise awareness on IDDRR in the capital city of Dushanbe as well as in Khujand and Khorog, and a multi-stakeholder roundtable on the theme of inclusion of vulnerable groups in disaster risk reduction to be organized later in the month.

As part of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) and to mark IDDRR, the European Committee of the Regions and UNDRR organised a session on “Bridging the gap in cross-border cooperation: societal resilience and disaster risk reduction". The session brought together decision-makers from the local to the EU level. The discussion focused on how to build cooperation between cities and regions where the degree of understanding and infrastructure, as well as the tools and capacities at their disposal, vary, in particular when looking at border regions.

Further activities in the region include a IDDRR drawing contest, involving more than 500 children in Bulgaria. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, an event organized by UNDP brings together local, cantonal, and donor representatives in Bihac, Una-Sana Canton, to discuss the IDDRR theme and topics including digital transformation, early-warning systems, and nature-based solutions. In Hungary, voluntary blood donations are organized annually to mark IDDRR by the National Directorate General for Disaster Management.

These events are amongst many diverse activities organized by governments, international organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations, and many more stakeholders, to raise awareness on the importance of disaster risk reduction in the region in 2023.

LED displays with IDDRR messages in central Dushanbe, Tajikistan
LED displays with IDDRR messages in central Dushanbe, Tajikistan
LED displays with IDDRR messages in a shopping centre in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
LED displays with IDDRR messages in Dushanbe Mall, Tajikistan

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