The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB), current chair of the CBSS Civil Protection Network, hosted a meeting for CPN Senior Experts on 5-6 April 2022 in Tønsberg, home to DSB headquarters.
14 participants from 7 countries attended the meeting, which was the first physical gathering of the network after the pause caused by the pandemic. The meeting focused on sharing the latest updates on national and international civil protection initiatives with the help to Ukraine being at the centre of the discussions. Chair of the meeting, Dag Olav Høgvold, Head of Section for International Relations in DSB, stressed in his greeting speech that «it is even more important to meet and work together at this, very difficult time in Europe!”
Vineta Polatside, Senior Adviser for Safe and Secure Region at the CBSS Secretariat, briefed the participants about the suspension of Russia from the CBSS activities and asked for the group’s opinion on the potential continuation of the cooperation in the CPN format. Senior Experts were united in the positive response: ”We should not let one country destroy working cooperation, there is the political will to continue working within CPN – and there is no burden to continue, only added value! We can achieve a lot together: CPN and EUSBSR PA Secure and it is up to us to strengthen these networks,” summed up the common opinion of the participants.
CBSS Secretariat also briefed the participants on the progress of the ongoing projects: FIRE-IN, NET-CBRN-REACT, BALTinnoSEC, NEEDS, ChyResilience and asked for their input on the upcoming initiatives on preparing BSR communities for climate change-related risks, crisis communication, volunteerism and children’s role in disaster risk reduction.
DSB presented the information about the EEA/Norway Grants as potential funding opportunities for disaster prevention and preparedness activities across the Baltic Sea Region and briefed the Senior Experts on the successful Baltic Excellence Programme, prepared and carried out by DSB in March 2022.
Understandably, the conversation often turned to Ukraine since civil protection authorities from all the countries in the region participate in either humanitarian efforts or professional assistance to the Ukrainian Fire and Rescue services during Russia’s invasion. One of the leading roles in coordinating help to Ukraine was taken by Poland. Senior Experts from the Polish Headquarters of the Fire and Rescue Services shared their experience in gathering and distributing help to Ukraine and presented current needs such as fire trucks and other equipment to the group. This request was answered immediately by a few countries’ representatives, contracts were exchanged and possible next steps were discussed. These quick professional exchanges are evidence that CPN can be used not only for capacity building or knowledge sharing but also for strengthening the response capacity of the countries in times of crisis.
During the rest of the meeting, the CBSS team conducted a workshop during which the Senior Experts brainstormed about the potential improvements in the network’s way of working while tackling the region’s most common problems. Some of the ideas, generated in the workshop included organising online interactive seminars on specific topics (such as youth volunteering or safe land-use planning); involving business associations and science centres in the networks’ activities to help effective finding solutions in a more cross-disciplinary manner, and initiating more role-play/scenario-based exercises with relevant stakeholders since such activities proved to be effective learning tools.