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Closing Workshop of the Project “Addressing the Risks of Forest Fires in SEE”

The closing workshop of the project “Addressing the Risks of Forest Fires in South Eastern Europe”, implemented by the Regional Environmental Center (REC) under the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC) with funding from the Austrian Development Cooperation, took place in Budapest, Hungary, on October 29, 2015.

Six country studies were produced during the project, exploring forest fire risks in South Eastern Europe (SEE) as well as the policy and institutional responses currently in place. The studies also identify gaps and needs in the context of those responses. In addition, and to highlight the regional dimension of forest fires in SEE, the project produced a regional report that provides a comparative summary of the findings of each country report.

Workshop participants included forestry representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Representatives from Moldova also attended as observers, and representatives from the REC, OSCE, the National Food Chain Safety Office of Hungary (responsible for forest protection in Hungary), and the Regional Fire Monitoring Center (based in the Macedonian capital, Skopje) also took part.

The workshop provided an opportunity to discuss the country and regional reports and to identify future steps to improve forest governance in SEE.  Following the discussion, delegates issued a statement and adopted the Roadmap Addressing the Risks of Forest Fires in South Eastern Europe by consensus.

Statement by the participants at the workshop

Acknowledging the discussions that took place during the workshop, the participants:

  1. State that the project outcomes are welcome and express their gratitude to the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) for the financial support under the ENVSEC Initiative and for cooperation with ADA (Austrian Development Agency).
  2. Agree with the roadmap of forest management recommendations produced by the project.
  3. Are aware of the importance of good forest governance and recognise the importance of the European Union’s forestry-related legislation and policies.
  4. Are aware that the insufficient level of financial and human resources allocated to institutions responsible for forest disaster management and forest fire prevention is a major obstacle to better forest governance.
  5. Recognise that the exchange of best practices, experiences and lessons learnt with other countries, institutions and international players is a valuable resource for building additional institutional capacity.
  6. Recognise that cooperation with each other and with international partners, including ENVSEC, the Global and Regional Fire Monitoring Centers, the Regional Environmental Center and the Themis Network is of immediate value in light of point 5).
  7. Agree to support the Regional Environmental Center in its work to improve the long-term sustainability of the project results, and understand that the Regional Environmental Center will therefore seek to implement follow-up activities and secure the necessary funding for them.
  8. Agree to officially present this statement and the roadmap addressing the risks of forest fires in SEE at the next regional ENVSEC coordination meeting.

October 29, 2015, Budapest (Hungary)

Addressing the risks of forest fires in a SEE roadmap

The roadmap focuses on strategic priority activities. The proposed priority activities have been developed based on the recommendations formulated in the Regional Report on Forest Fires. The current international and regional legal, policy and institutional frameworks contain all the essential components for dealing with forest fires. However, they still need to be improved in order to achieve greater efficiency in forest fire protection. In this context, efficiency does not refer only to efficient forest fire suppression, but also to efficient forest fire prevention. The activities required to achieve efficiency can be implemented at both national and international level.

1.       Internal coordination

Consolidate and strengthen national institutions and capacities. Attention can then be given to national, transboundary and regional networking among agencies and ministries. Where needed, the legal framework should be clarified and responsibilities clearly assigned, taking special care to avoid overlaps.

 2.       Transboundary coordination and cooperation

Open transboundary coordination and cooperation channels. The exchange of information, best practices and disaster management information flows are essential tools to collectively address the risks of forest fires and forest fires themselves. Consider creating a permanent regional mechanism to ensure such coordination and cooperation.

 3.       Setting up early warning systems in the countries

Create early warning systems where they don’t exist yet. Early warning systems are key to prevent catastrophic forest fires that can also affect neighbouring countries and can have grave negative impact on local economies, ecosystems, air quality, soil quality and resilience to climate change.

4.       Strengthening and building capacities in the competent national authorities

Develop training programmes on forest fire prevention and control. Emphasise forest fire management programmes (prevention, preparedness and suppression) through training programmes on forest fire prevention and control, with special attention to transboundary aspects, to increase the efficiency and capacity of the national authorities responsible for natural resource and forestry management. Special attention should also be given to the identification and reduction of the causes of forest fires as a part of forest fire prevention.

5.       Public participation, meetings and other events

Include public participation in forest and forest fire management practices, at both the policy design and monitoring and implementation levels. Conferences, roundtables and other public events can be used to raise awareness and collect valuable inputs that reinforce citizens’ engagement in forest governance.

6.          Development of a regional action plan

Develop and adopt a regional action plan with a timebound set of goals and activities that should include all of the strategic points listed above and any other intermediate measures necessary to achieve them. The implementation of such a regional action plan should include a monitoring mechanism and provisions for support services.

 7.      Development of research programmes

Strengthen the existing national funds for scientific research connected with forest fire protection and seek to use the available international financial resources for regional scientific projects.

The above is a summary of the text of the roadmap. For the full version, please download the PDF from the link on the right-hand side of this page.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
Forest Fires