Emergency Situation Declared in Serbia – Government Agencies Respond as One, Thanks to the UN Recommended Methods

„This might not be the first time snow has fallen in Serbia, but it is the first time the government is responding in an organized manner,“
- Ivica Dacic, First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister of Interior

Since 6 January, Serbian citizens face extreme cold and heavy snowfall. Over the course of one month 70,000 people have been affected and cut off by the snow, nine people have been reported dead, one is declared missing, and over 160 people have been rescued and/or evacuated. On 5 February, in the anticipation of further worsening of the situation, Serbia’s Republic Emergency Management Headquarters (REMHQ) declared a state of emergency.

The disaster that has enveloped so many parts of the country could not be dealt with using local resources only. It was necessary to engage all state resources, explained Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic at the REMHQ meeting, which is why the emergency situation was declared. The REMHQ meeting was attended by the ministers of Defense, Health, Education, Labor and Infrastructure.

 „This might not be the first time snow has fallen in Serbia, but it is the first time the government is responding in an organized maner,“ said Mr. Dacic. The Republic Emergency Management HQ is a platform for all relevant government stakeholders to coordinate their respective efforts. In Serbia, REMHQ is also the precursory body to the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the establishment of which is recommended by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The National Platform for DRR is expected to be established over the course of the next two months and it will include an even wider spectrum of government and non-government players at the table, dealing with disasters already at hand as well as prevention of potential disasters.

In Serbia, the UNDP has been supporting the advancement of Disaster Risk Reduction management mainly by providing strategic policy advice to the Sector for Emergency Management of the Ministry of Interior and to other key stakeholders, particularly in creating necessary legal and institutional framework, as well as improving capacity of key institutions to implement efficient DRR polices. Specifically UNDP has assisted with:

  • Development of the draft National Strategy on Rescue and Protection in Emergency Situations, which was passed by the Serbian Parliament in November 2011. Download \"The National Strategy for Protection and Rescue in Emergency Situations\" in Serbian language.
  • Drafting of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the National Strategy;
  • Drafting amendments to the Law on Emergency Situations;
  • Development of the methodology for risk assessment;
  • Establishment of the National Platform for DRR – a body which would engage a wide spectrum of relevant institutions and stakeholders, governmental and other, to formulate a joint approach to matters of DRR on a national level;

The Serbian government has not only made a significant step in creating a unified front at a time of need through REMHQ, it has also recognized the importance of planning for and preventing potential disasters. The Minister of Defence, Dragan Sutanovac, suggested that once the situation is stabilized, the government’s efforts should be focused on preventive measures. For instance, settlements in remote areas should be maped out, that way making any future rescue missions more effective. Such thinking is perfectly aligned with the UN recomendations and priorities. On 26 January, 2012 UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon stressed that “prevention saves billions of dollars and millions of lives” which is why it will be the very center of UN activity in the next five years. You can read Secretary-General’s statement here.