Safety without borders
In recent decades, the South Caucasus – which encompasses the three former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – has sustained massive human and economic losses due to disasters. Although a number of natural and man-made hazards threaten the region, earthquakes represent the most significant risk, followed by floods and droughts. The Metzamor nuclear plant’s placement in an area of Armenia with a high level of seismic activity exemplifies the frightening potential for natural and technological risks to compound one another.
In the South Caucasus, 57% of the population lives in cities, with large concentrations in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, the bustling capitals of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, respectively. Although these cities are prone to earthquakes and potentially vulnerable to floods, no major initiatives directed at disaster risk reduction (DRR) have so far been initiated in the region’s urban communities. Moreover, climate change is expected to exacerbate disasters associated with hydro-meteorological hazards, leading in the long term to decreased water availability and increased risk of drought. Water scarcity and drought would hit the region’s remote and less developed areas, where agriculture is still the main source of income, particularly hard. About one-third of people in the South Caucasus live below the poverty line.
The trans-border nature of the disaster-prone areas of the South Caucasus and its river systems calls for a coordinated approach to DRR and response. At present, levels of preparedness and prevention vary from country to country, and regional cooperation is limited. The overall focus of existing systems and frameworks is on response rather than on prevention, reduction and preparedness. Even in the area of response, roles and cooperation structures within and between countries are not well defined.
The objective of this project was to help reduce the vulnerability and enhance the safety of the Southern Caucasus population. Specifically, it aimed to sustainably strengthen resilience to natural and man-made disasters in 19 vulnerable communities, 12 of them rural and seven of them urban.
Through a combination of increased human and financial resources, infrastructure development, skill improvement and greater awareness and collaboration, the project implemented the following interventions within and across the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia:
- Built capacity for community-based DRR in 12 rural communities (six with the Swiss Re Foundation’s support)
- Fostered innovative approaches to community-based DRR in seven urban communities (all with the Swiss Re Foundation’s support)
- Engaged local, national and regional stakeholders in a policy dialogue about DRR
- Shared knowledge and exchanged experiences in community-based DRR