Intervista con Danilo Bilotta, esperto giuridico della Protezione Civile italiana, consulente UNDP nell’ambito del progetto Interlink Disaster Risk Management eseguito da UNDP e finanziato dalla Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo in Bosnia Erzegovina.
IDRM Project, Interview with Danilo Bilotta
- Based on your review of civil protection legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, what is your opinion on how well current legislative framework supports efficient functioning of civil protection in BiH?
The legislation presently in force in both Entities is sufficiently tailored on BiH risk profile, however it is not yet fully developed regarding a full coverage of the disaster risk management cycle. It is presently yet too focused on response and only partially oriented towards a full consideration of prevention and preparedness activities. The historical evolution of most civil protection/disaster management systems in Europe shows that going from a purely disaster response-based system to a more complex one covering the whole disaster risk management cycle is a common development path and the Countries in the Western Balkans make no exception. This is way it is particularly important that a reform of the legislative frameworks at Entities level in BiH is now taking shape and that these reforms look at the most advanced disaster management systems in Europe
- What are the biggest gaps in legislation when comparing Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European countries?
A true step forward in bridging the gap between a system mainly based on response to natural disasters and a disaster risk reduction system is actually made when scientific evidence is systematically put at the disposal and in support of decision makers. This is not an easy task. It is a long-term objective on which policy makers, disaster managers and the scientific community need to work together because most of the times they are not used to do it. Equally important is to have good implementing measures and the administrative capacity to actually enforce such legislative frameworks, as well as a cooperative environment where the common objective to jointly advance towards a system that puts the risk reduction and risk mitigation actions at its core is genuinely shared.
Also defining good coordination arrangements in legal texts is not an easy task but it is something that becomes vital during major disaster response operations. An intervention model should be defined in more clear terms and be applied, trained and tested systematically at all administrative levels, starting from Entity down to municipal headquarters.
- Could you tell us in which areas EU Civil Protection legislation places a greater emphasis?
In the last fifteen years the EU Civil Protection legislation has rapidly developed. Due to a limited mandate regarding prevention, which is a primary responsibility of the Member States, it is definitely on common preparedness that the EU Civil Protection legislation has played a key role. Throughout the last fifteen years the civil protection Mechanism has financed relevant international exercises, common training programmes and the development of civil protection response capacities in the Member States but also in candidate Countries, such as BiH and other Countries in the Western Balkans, that have already benefited from EU funded civil protection cooperation programmes.
- How important is harmonization of legislation at different levels for the functioning of the civil protection system?
Civil protection systems need to integrate and involve all relevant stakeholders in their disaster risk reduction actions to work efficiently and maximise the results of their activities, no matter if we are referring to response, preparedness or prevention actions. Regarding response this is even more evident, because the results of lack of coordination and integration can be quite visible. . Due to the complexity of the constitutional and administrative setting in BiH, the harmonization of the legislation across different levels and between Entities is all the more important and something on which the current civil protection legislative reforms should pay particular attention in order to provide the assistance to the population and the recovery phase in a standardized manner and with the same quality of assistance and service throughout the entire Country
- What can Bosnia and Herzegovina learn from Italy when it comes to strengthening of civil protection systems?
The analysis of the civil protection legislative framework in BiH – conducted with the support of Italian Cooperation within the framework of UNDP’s IDRM project – emphasized that there is a strong interest in the Country in developing a structured system of civil protection volunteers’ organizations. In this regard Italy has many good practices and lessons learnt to share. Our civil protection volunteers are a key asset for our system, we count more than 4000 civil protection volunteers’ organizations at national, regional and local level and a comprehensive legislative framework that not only encourage but also facilitate and support their key role in our civil society. This is certainly a range of expertise and knowledge that could be put at the disposal of BiH.
- What are the main challenges that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to address to better protect citizens from adverse effects of disasters?
BiH needs to progressively bridge the gap between the scientific community that monitors and assess the natural risks and the decision makers and civil protection managers and operators that have the task to translate scientific advise into civil protection actions. The legislative framework need to lay down the basis for the development of an integrated alert system based on scientific evidence and expertise. This is a huge challenge because it implies not only having the right legal provisions in place, but also creating the conditions for such an integrated system to develop at all administrative levels from central down to local municipalities and governmental units.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a member of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, unlike the regional countries such as Serbia, Montenegro. Why the membership in this Mechanism would be important for BiH?
The Mechanism would offer new opportunities to reinforce the civil protection system in the Country, but most of all it would allow BiH experts and professionals to exchange good practices and experience with their colleagues in other European Countries so to create an environment that would facilitate the general growth of the system. Being part of the Mechanism opens possibilities to access technical and financial resources to improve the Country’s capacity to reduce the likelihood of natural and manmade disasters to occur or to mitigate their impact as well as to improve the Country’s preparedness. Then it would allow BiH civil protection authorities to access in real time, if and when needed, a 24/7 one-stop-shop for assistance in disaster response since members of the Mechanism are in contact through a platform called CECIS (Common Emergency Coordination and Information System) that connects the situation rooms of all civil protection authorities of the Countries that participate in the Mechanism.