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Risk-Proofing the Western Balkans: Empowering People to Prevent Disasters


Report calls for building disaster risk into development efforts

Sarajevo, 20 May 2016 – Two years after massive flooding caused widespread devastation and loss of life in the Western Balkans, countries in the sub-region have taken steps to reduce the risk of disasters but more will need to be done to protect people from future destruction, according to the Human Development Report for the Western Balkans, launched here today.

The floods of 2014 resulted in the loss of 79 lives, the evacuation and displacement of close to a million people, the loss of tens of thousands of homes, livestock, agricultural land, schools, hospitals and businesses extensive damage in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.

In the past two years alone, the magnitude of disasters increased significantly in the Western Balkans, affecting 15 times more people and causing economic losses 30 times higher than in the period from 2000 to 2013. While recovery actions financed largely by international donors managed to restore normal living conditions, the Western Balkans region remains highly prone to disasters.

“People must be placed at the centre of disaster risk reduction. At-risk and affected communities can become agents of change, and must not be perceived only as potential victims or survivors of disasters. If people are empowered especially through investments in their capacities, they are likely to reduce their exposure to risks.”, the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark said in her opening speech.

The report was launched by Ms. Clark, Mirko Šarović, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Melvin Asin, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to BiH.

Ms. Clark said at the launch that during the last two decades, disasters have killed more than 1.3 million people and cost over USD $2 trillion globally.

The Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirko Šarović said: “UNDP successfully strengthens ties between ministries, as well as ties between authorities at all levels, local and entity governments. Our successful cooperation is of great importance for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

“Natural disasters are and will remain one of the biggest problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring countries. We have to worry about the safety of our citizens. We must work together, because together we can avoid these disasters. Together we can do everything”, said Melvin Asin, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to BiH.

The report points out that effective risk reduction requires an understanding of the vulnerabilities of communities and economies, with a specific understanding of which sectors and population groups are at risk.

For instance, farmers, migrants and the elderly require specific insurance schemes. These differences need to be understood and addressed appropriately in all future development plans.

Knowledge about the probability of future disasters and their possible impact needs to be developed and shared widely, which is why more investment is required in new technologies.

In addition, risk assessments that include spatial and socioeconomic analysis, to understand hazard exposure and vulnerability, should be mapped, analysed, used and widely shared. Populations should have free access to open data to make informed decisions on their risks and responsibilities.

The discussion also called for exploring how modern technologies on one hand, and unprecedented engagement of women, youth and minorities on the other be capitalised upon and scaled up as means of strengthening resilience of communities to disaster risks, and ensure effective, inclusive and sustainable approaches in the future.

UNDP, together with governments and international partners, has been working to provide adequate protection for the region’s 25 million people.

Sub-regional Human Development Report “Risk-Proofing the Western Balkans” is available at

Contact Information

UNDP Communications Unit

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