CapaCities project halfway

Introduction

With a project duration of two years and a start in January 2018, the CapaCities project is now half way. The 3 Core team partners, Safety Region South-Holland South, ITINERIS and the Regional Centre for Sustainable Development and the 3 Recipient cities, Ararat municipality, Armenia, Kutaisi City, Georgia and Ungheni City, Moldova started the project to structurally improve the capacities in these  cities to lead and coordinate a structured process of Disaster Risk Management planning, based on multi-hazard risk assessments and self-insight in their current DRM capabilities. This in strong connection with EU policies for DRM, as well as the Sendai framework. By the end of the project these cities should be capable to continue a structured DRM planning, led by knowledgeable and competent focal points and based on a concrete DRM strategy including a roadmap that has been developed during the project.

The DRM curriculum consist of six 3-day Learning and Experience Sharing meetings (LES), eight e-Learning online classes and tailor-made coaching by the Core Team members in 4 local support and advice meetings for each city (SAM’s). The local DRM action will include a self-assessment of DRM capacities, city-to-city peer reviews, local stakeholder meetings and the development of a local DRM strategy with roadmap. The bridge between the learning process and local action is made by homework assignments, that transform learning questions to concrete local activities.

LES meetings

The first LES meetings took place in February (Ungheni) and May (Kutaisi) 2018. The third one in 2018 took place in Ararat, October 1st till 5th. The topic was Disaster Risk Management Planning. Core team member Ruud Houdijk introduced the topic with a lecture in which he explained the purpose of DRM planning and the relationship with other steps in the whole DRM process like the risk assessment and capability assessment. He also explained the relationship with other policy processes, more in particular Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development.

In several workshops about Bow-Tie Analysis, Spatial Safety Disaster Risk reduction in building codes and the relationship between DRM measures, Climate change and Sustainable development the focal points learned on a very active way to understand the different expects of DRM planning. The workshops were introduced by short presentations from the Core team members and guest teacher Tuna Onur from Onur Seemann Consulting in Canada.

More theoretical background was given in a lecture about analysis and evaluation of DRM measures. During this lecture more the topics of risk evaluation – capability evaluation and political evaluation – and different types of Cost Benefit Analysis were discussed in-depth.

In a very successful parallel session with the stakeholders from Ararat, Tuna Onur, a well-known international expert in this field,  had a good dialogue on seismic building codes. This also was the topic during the first field visit. During a city walk Tuna showed the focal points in a very practical way how to recognize seismic vulnerability and how this could be avoided with proper regulations and enforcement.

On the third day, the focal points presented their work from the first eight months, what they had learnt and how they had built a stakeholder network on DRM. They also presented the planning for risk assessment and the self-assessment on DRM capabilities.

Online meetings (e-LES)

Like the first half year, also in the second semester some e-LES meetings were held to share knowledge and experiences. On June 27th the project had its third online meeting. First, the DRM focal shared their ideas about conducting a local disaster risk assessment. Beforehand the focal points had been instructed about the principles and methods for risk assessment. Their homework was to apply what they had learned to their own city and come up with an ambition level and practical approach to develop a disaster risk assessment. In the online meeting they each presented a concrete action plan for conducting a risk assessment with their local stakeholders.

Discussing the approaches of the three cities it was concluded that it is important to be realistic. In light of the limited time, the process requires achievable objectives with clear deadlines. Better is to design a first draft risk profile, rather than aim to do a full and complete risk assessment.

The Core Team presented the framework for self-assessment of DRM capacities. It covers the main components of DRM governance, DRA, DRM planning, prevention/DRR, preparedness / response and recovery. The purpose is to facilitate a local stakeholder dialogue on current gaps, in order to inform decisions about the DRM strategy. The capacities and the “supporting questions” are derived from the EU guideline for risk management capabilities assessment, the EU Peer Review Framework and experiences from previous EU projects.  The 3 cities have used the framework for a self-assessment with their local stakeholders. Next year, the same framework will be used for a local peer review (cities looking in each other’s kitchen), to supplement the self-assessment with an external view. The resulting insight in gaps and ideas for improvement will be the basis for their DRM strategies.

During the 4th online meeting, September 20th, the DRM focal points shared their progress so-far regarding their preparation of the self assessment in their cities. The focal point also discussed their first questions about the reading syllabus for the upcoming third LES meeting in Ararat.

The 5th e-LES, held  on October 31st  was following up on LES 3 and focussed on seismic vulnerability and building codes. All cities presented their ideas about the vulnerability of their city for seismic events,  the current situation in their city/country including the relevant legislation and the most important measures to take. The focal points presented their action plan for 2019.

During the 6th e-LES,  December 13th , partners presented their vision on mainstreaming DRM with other policy fields in their city as part of the implementation process. They also discussed the progress of the self-assessment in their cities and the preparations for the 4th LES meeting which will be held in Ararat from Januari 22nd till 24th 2019.

Support & Advice meetings

During the last 3 months of the year, members of the Core Team visited the cities for the second time to support them individually. These visits took place On October 11th  and 12th (Ungheni), November 12th till 16th (Kutaisi) and December 5th till 7th (Ararat)

In all cities the program included a meeting with the stakeholders or Local Working Group, which includes representatives of all relevant local entities, to discuss the self-assessment. During the meeting, the participants practiced in performing the self-assessment, using the tool developed by the Core Team. In general, the stakeholders were very enthusiastic about the sessions and their involvement in it. They are willing to learn about EU approaches to DRM.

The DRM focal points of Ungheni also presented the results of identifying the disaster risks specific to Ungheni and their prioritization. The participants were also made familiar with the use of scenario analysis to develop a “risk matrix” that shows the impact and likelihood of local risks. The local working grouping practiced this methodology on five natural hazards (floods, earthquake, landslides land, climate change, heavy rainfall with hail) and three technological risks (road accidents, fires, unexploded munitions), to identify scenarios, develop a risk matrix and prioritize the risks for Ungheni municipality.

A meeting of the Municipal Commission for Emergency Situations was held to discuss the current situation and the measures taken to reduce disaster risks and to cooperate with citizens. The second day, representatives of the CapaCities Core Team and the local DRM focal points participated in simulation exercises organized by the Ungheni Exceptional Situations Directorate in coordination with other entities involved in the prevention, intervention and disaster recovery.

In Kutaisi the meeting with the stakeholders also was very fruitful and led to a good insight in the current situation regarding DRM and possible measures to improve it. The stakeholders made the statement that they like to be more involved and will be available for it. They also would like to continue with focal points and a local working group after the project has been ended.

During an also successful meeting with the staff from the Governors Office and the deputy mayor, the focal points and Core team members discussed the cooperation between the Governor’s Office and the city in implementing the new national DRM legislation.

In Ararat, it was concluded by the stakeholders that, within the current governance framework of Armenia, the priorities for the DRM strategy of Ararat should be to develop a Disaster Risk Assessment to show the need for DRM actions and to develop and implement a structured DRM planning process (led by the focal points), in order to show that Ararat is capable enough to work on DRM. These basic capacities should ensure donors that Ararat is capable to implement structural DRM policies, so that funds can be acquired for targeted prevention and preparedness actions. The results of this discussion will be reflected in the self-assessment report.  Like Kutaisi, the stakeholders suggested the focal points to involve them more often during the project and as a more permanent committee after the project. They stressed the importance of a more structural governance of DRM in Ararat, using a focal point to coordinate the work.

During this SAM focal points and Core team members participated in the local commemoration of the Spitak earthquake victims from 1988. During a short ceremony flowers were brought to the Spitak earthquake monument. This was followed by an impressing ceremony at the school in Ararat with at the end an opportunity for the team to discuss DRM issues with the students.

Spitak 30 International Conference

Focal point Hripsime Aghagulyan and Core Team members Ruud Houdijk en Nico van Os also participated in the “Spitak 30 International Conference” in Yerevan during the SAM meeting. Beside the useful information as provided during the different presentations the team members benefitted from their presence because of the fact that the focal point of Ararat met a lot of people from national level of Armenia and from the scientific community. These new contacts will help Ararat in future to build their DRM network and capabilities.

During a two hour poster presentation session the team presented the Capacities project as foreseen in the Dissemination Work Package of the project. The project was explained to several interested participants and dissemination materials were spread among the participants.

Next steps

Next year the focus of the project will be moving from “learning” to “doing”. The first half year will be used to deliver the self-assessment reports, make a prelimary risk profile and to organize the peer reviews in the cities. The second half year remains to apply all that has been learned in the development of a holistic Disaster Risk Management Strategy.

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