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Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management Study

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Executive Summary

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian network and therefore a key actor to be considered also in the Arctic. The Red Cross Arctic Disaster Management study denes the ‘Arctic’ from the Red Cross point of view and provides a comprehensive overview of the presence, services and response capacity of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Movement) in the Arctic. The study is intended as a reference material for the Movement to better assess its capacities, but it is also meant to serve other stakeholders: public authorities, partners and other organizations in better understanding the Red Cross work in the Arctic and to nd common ground for cooperation. The data used in the study has been collected through a survey, interviews and a joint seminar with representatives from the Arctic National Red Cross Societies held in Oulu, Finland in March 2018. The study provides a summary on the Arctic operational context, the collected data, conclusions, recommendations and suggestions for future research opportunities.

This study focuses on the Red Cross emergency response capabilities, including human resources, equipment, logistics, databases and alerting systems, training and capacity building, cooperation and coordination and long-term programmes in the Arctic. Although the focus is on the capacities for mass emergencies in the Arctic, the importance of everyday activities is recognized as the basis of all Red Cross preparedness. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is present in people’s daily lives, building resilience and preparedness through its action and helping in everyday incidents and events.

A key finding of the study was that the presence of the National Red Cross Societies in the Arctic states (United States, Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and Faroe Islands), Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia) in the Arctic is mostly based on over 10 000 trained local volunteers with extensive know-how and knowledge about the Arctic conditions as well as national deployable groups and staff. A limitation noted was that the exact number of volunteers involved and available in case of an emergency is hard to define.

Material preparedness in the area varies. In general, local branches are prepared for everyday incidents, but in case of a major accident, material and support would have to be mobilized from outside the area. According to the study, National Societies are not however adequately prepared for this. The extensive knowledge and experience of the RCRC Movement in using harmonized Emergency Response Units (ERUs) could also be utilized in the Arctic context, but winterization, scaling and equipment testing would be needed.

National Societies have adapted to the Arctic conditions and developed capacities including, for example, mobile trailer systems for material preparedness, Arctic Emergency Survival Kits and Arctic First Aid. The Red Cross does not have a specific Arctic training programme, but many National Red Cross Societies practise regularly in the Arctic conditions and provide specialized training in, for example, search and rescue in avalanches. Community resilience is strengthened with training in rst aid and psychosocial support.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have a special role as auxiliaries to states and state authorities in their countries. In general, cooperation with the different authorities and stakeholders in the Arctic was seen as •fluent and well-functioning. Almost all of the National Societies involved in the study have national legislation that defines the role of the Red Cross in the country. Some National Societies are more closely integrated into the national systems with formalized agreements, while other National Societies work from a more needs-based approach.

Based on the findings, the study gives 13 recommendations to the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. These recommendations relate to strengthening volunteer management in the Arctic including spontaneous volunteers, enhancing response capacities for major emergencies through winterization and harmonisation of existing units and pre-logistical planning, increasing cooperation with public authorities, external partners, stakeholders and indigenous communities as well as strengthening Red Cross advocacy and presence in the Arctic Council. The recommendations are aimed at facilitating deeper cooperation within the Movement on Arctic issues as well as at building regional preparedness and partnerships with relevant actors in the Arctic.

The Study has been compiled by the Finnish Red Cross as a part of the Finnish Border Guard’s Arctic Maritime Safety Cooperation (SARC) project funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The study has been conducted in cooperation with the National Red Cross Societies of the United States, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.