Montenegro is a south-central European country with a multinational population of 620,000, comprised of Montenegrins, Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians and Croats. Its political situation has been stabilising after gaining independence from the state union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006. A Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union was signed in 2007 and the process of accessing membership of the EU is intensifying.
Economy-wise, Montenegro has, in the last two years, been experiencing constant growth with a GDP increase of 7 per cent in 2007; driven in part by considerable foreign investments, particularly in property. The country's economy has switched from agriculture and manufacturing to predominantly services, with 60 per cent of GDP based on services; 15 per cent came from tourism alone. However, large foreign investments in property have driven the prices of real estate very high, and despite inflation being low at 4.2 per cent in 2007, the current account deficit was as high as 42 per cent of GDP in 2007, with the unemployment rate estimated at 14.7 per cent.
According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, 12.2 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and 30 per cent lives below the line of economic security. The most vulnerable groups are Roma, Ashkalie, Egyptians (RAE) with 52.3 per cent living below the poverty line. They are followed by refugees and internally displaced persons (15,000 out of which 24 per cent are RAE), with 40 per cent below the poverty line and people with disabilities (10 per cent of the population) with 60 per cent living below the poverty line. Additionally, out of the total population of 620,000 there are 103,393 people above the age of 60 and 74,160 above 65. Economic migration from rural to urban areas- many rural areas are almost exclusively inhabited by older people- and reduced national reliance on agriculture, coupled with ongoing health and social system reforms mean that there are serious gaps in social security for the older population.
Floods and heavy snowfalls cause frequent winter emergencies. The risks to the population are region specific, with the northern part of the country more exposed to snow-blocked roads, causing traffic accidents and sometimes cutting certain settlements off for days on end. Droughts and fires are prevalent in the summer, with the coastal regions facing a lack of water that is compounded by the underdeveloped infrastructure.
There are numerous public documents and strategies adopted in, or for, Montenegro to ensure that the needs of people are met. To name but a few, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2007), the Strategy for the Development of Social and Child Protection 2008-2012, the Strategy for the Improvement of the Position of RAE in Montenegro 2008-2012, the Strategy for the Integration of People Living With Disabilities 2008-2012 and the Strategy for the Development of Social Protection of Older People 2008-2012. The Law on Protection and Life Saving was adopted in 2008, defining the roles and responsibilities in disaster preparedness and response. All these plans and strategies identify stakeholders and define their roles, including the responsibilities of the Red Cross in all the areas.