First Donor Coordination Conference for the Development of the Civil Protection System Held in Georgia

More than 50 representatives from international donor organizations, diplomatic missions, government ministries and non-governmental organizations participated in a Donor Coordination Conference held on 19 October 2018 in Borjomi, organized by the RDFG Disaster Risk Reduction Center together with the Emergency Management Service. The conference was organized as part of the DRR Support component of the USAID ZRDA Activity in Georgia, for which RDFG is the implementing partner. The conference was attended by representatives of organizations working in the civil protection field to discuss strengthening the disaster management system and overall civil protection in Georgia.

The conference brought together relevant stakeholders to update attendees on reforms within government structures in the sphere of disaster management, facilitate discussions on civil protection and emergency management, elaborate a joint vision for an improved disaster management landscape, including the role of DRR mainstreaming, and develop plans for next steps towards building the Georgian government’s capacity to appropriately prepare and respond to emergencies.

The conference was opened by RDFG Chairman Vano Grigolashvili, who emphasized the value of an open dialogue that considers the needs of all stakeholders. Grigolashvili expressed his gratitude that the DRR Center can facilitate the introduction of a systematic approach to emergency management and disaster risk reduction in Georgia, including through the critical steps of resource mapping, connecting different actors, and promoting a platform for continuing results-oriented interactions. Shalva Khutsishvili, Acting Head of the EMS Service of Georgia, spoke to participants about the purpose of ministerial reforms, future plans – including introducing a formal national emergency response volunteer roster and an alternative to compulsory military service, and the importance of enhanced international cooperation. Khutsishvili also declared that his goal for the final results of the reform process is a “service which is modern, technologically developed, which corresponds to international standards and is highly trusted in society, [which] will be able to protect people, property and environment from anticipated emergencies (natural or man-made disasters) more effectively.”

Opening remarks were also given by representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ “112” service, the Ministry of Health, and Deputy Chief of Party for the USAID ZRDA Activity in Georgia, Katy Tchumburidze. During the conference, the Emergency Management Service, “112,” and the Ministry of Health of Georgia presented information about their ongoing and future projects and recognized existing challenges in the field. They also shared with donors their entities’ most urgent needs regarding technical equipment, trainings, and the construction of a new educational center for emergency workers.
“For us it was important that the representatives of almost all organizations working in emergency management have been presented at the conference, including international donor organizations, embassies, and government structures and we had a very interesting dialogue. We hope that the conference will be the first step that will support the strengthening of the coordination in this field and the launch of new initiatives,” said Grigolashvili.

Donor organizations present at the conference shared their visions, best practices, and challenges with the conference participants and discussed current and future cooperation opportunities, and the current activities being carried out in Georgia in this field. A panel of speakers from donor organizations included representatives from UNDP, UNOCHA, the Embassy of the United Kingdom to Georgia, the Embassy of France to Georgia, the Embassy of Austria to Georgia, and the Warsaw Main School of Fire Service.

“I would like to congratulate the organizers of this very important conference to bring all the stakeholders together at one table, including all the national, international organizations and donors. It has been very successful and very fruitful event and it was very important to see the different options and possibilities in the development and in the support of the emergency management service, but also in all other field related to disaster management. I’m looking forward for close cooperation with all these players and wish great success for the future,” stated the Liaison Officer of the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Austria, Karlheinz Gortano.

UNDP National Disaster Response Advisor in the Caucasus, Nino Lortkipanidze, added, “We live in demanding times where the countries in the region face complex challenges that can have profound implications on its populations. It is obvious that no country or sector is immune to the impacts of natural hazards, many of which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to the impact of climate change. These challenges can only be tackled by working together through the effective collaboration with national and international stakeholders aiming at strengthening emergency coordination structures and response capacities of Georgia. Having said that, the donor conference was much needed effort to bringing all partners working in the field of DRR/emergency preparedness and response together and articulating needs and developments within the respective state entity.”

In the second half of the conference, thematic working groups were formed to facilitate a round table discussion series, where groups delved into a series of complex and urgent issues in the field, recognizing existing challenges, needs, and opportunities, and developing recommendations for government structures, donor organizations, and third party actors to improve coordination and cooperation in and before an emergency. Participants evaluated the round table’s innovative format, rarely seen in Georgia, as particularly valuable. Round table moderator Samantha Guthrie, from RDFG, expressed her satisfaction with the success of the activity. “We were so glad to see participants getting very involved and actively participating during the round tables. There were real, substantive discussions happening between people from different sides of the issue that rarely have the chance to interact face to face. We had to extend the time of the session, because people did not want to stop their brainstorming and strategizing! We are currently compiling a document with the main takeaways of the round table session to share with participants as a tangible product of the conference,” said Guthrie.

For more information on the Donor Coordination Conference for the Development of the Civil Protection System or to join the dialogue as a donor organization, please contact Gvantsa Kokoshvili at gkokoshvili@rdfg.ge