Ukraine press release

PRESS RELEASE: Bridge the Gap Conference

KYIV, UKRAINE – The industrial and environmental risks in eastern Ukraine constitute a threat to human security and are impediments to successful reintegration. On February 16-18 2021, the Embassies of France and Sweden, together with ACTED will host a conference to raise awareness of these risks. The conference is organized by the 3P Consortium, an EU-funded group of international and national NGOs, who have worked on a 22-month project, reaching 171,292 individuals, to prevent, prepare and protect civilian populations and critical service systems against the risks of natural, ecological and industrial disasters in eastern Ukraine.

Eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine has not only made the civilian population vulnerable to conflict-related risks, such as shelling or prolonged utility cuts, but also increased the risks posed by industrial and environmental hazards present in this heavily industrialized area. France has been politically committed to the resolution of the conflict since 2014 and the creation of the Normandy Format. As co-host of the conference, Ambassador of France to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins recalls that:

“Beyond very specific subjects, environmental issues are a blind spot in the current negotiation formats for the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, not addressing them could have dramatic and long-term consequences for the local populations, already badly affected by years of war.”

Ambassador of France to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins

Sweden has longstanding support to Ukraine in the environmental field, and currently chairs the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). As co-hosts of the conference, Sweden aims to bring attention to the challenges that Ukraine’s conflict-affected population face. Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine, Tobias Thyberg underlines that:

“The Swedish chair of the OSCE will continue OSCE’s active role in preventing and countering environmental security challenges. The OSCE comprehensive concept of security recognizes that environmental security is one of the prerequisites for secure and resilient societies.”

Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine, Tobias Thyberg

The conference will cover the following priorities for the disaster risk management system in Ukraine:

  • Environmental Monitoring as the basis for a national risk-oriented approach: The lack of a unified system for monitoring emergency risks in Ukraine negatively affects the process of forming a risk management system and the possibility of applying risk-oriented approaches in public administration. Therefore, it is necessary to create a monitoring system and, as a result, create a basis for applying a risk-based approach.
  • The mine situation: from ecological constraint to ecological asset: Economic insolvency and military damage lead to mines being abandoned and flooded, posing one of the most urgent environmental hazards. Solutions to address the regular flooding of mines can prevent ecological disaster in eastern Ukraine.
  • Evidence-based decision making for disaster risk management: Evidence-based risk profile development is essential for better risk understanding and preparedness to respond effectively to hazards at the regional level.
  • Decentralization – Settlement/Hromada level preparedness and response capacity: A full understanding of hazards, vulnerabilities and resources present at each level – family, community, hromada, raion – is necessary to ensure safety during emergency situations.

The conference will bring together experts, local, regional and national government officials, civil society including the humanitarian and development community, as well as the private sector to discuss priorities to reduce risks and increase local response capacities. The conference will lay out key recommendations to Ukrainian authorities and international partners on how best to implement disaster risk reduction in Donbas, based on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

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