The South Caucasus region is particularly prone to natural hazards, including earthquakes, floods, and landslides. Rising temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating the impact of climate-related disasters. Improving the capacity of national authorities and local communities to prepare for and respond to disaster is a priority for the European Union in the region.
The EU’s humanitarian funding has been focused on supporting the disaster preparedness program (DIPECHO) in order to increase the capacity of national stakeholders and people's resilience to recurrent disasters.
The threat of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh adds to humanitarian risks.
Since 1992, the European Union has allocated a total of over €188 million in the South Caucasus countries (Georgia €97 million, Armenia €49 million, and Azerbaijan €42 million).
The varied geography of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, which includes vast mountain chains, grasslands, and large river systems, makes this region particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The whole region is exposed to a variety of natural hazards, and in recent years, the rising temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating natural disasters such as floods and landslides.
However, earthquakes remain the predominant threat. The region spans several fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active zones in the world, and earthquakes are a frequent occurrence. Major cities in South Caucasus are especially at risk. Moreover, earthquakes can trigger avalanches, landslides and mudflows, which pose a considerable threat as almost two-thirds of the entire population of the region live in mountainous areas. Climate change is expected to increase vulnerabilities and exposure to hazards in the coming years, and will subsequently result in the need for greater adaptation and assistance in the South Caucasus.
Since 1992, the European Commission, through its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, has provided over €188 million to South Caucasus regions, including both humanitarian aid related to conflicts and natural disasters, and funding for disaster risk reduction initiatives.
The European Commission's disaster preparedness project, DIPECHO, is a proven model to save lives and preserve livelihoods with some of the achievements being: disaster risk reduction (DRR) awareness significantly increased at all levels; introduction of DRR in school curriculum; inclusive DRR education to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged children; innovative pilot projects linking DRR with climate change adaptation; strengthening capacities of disaster management authorities, national organisations and communities, and the inclusion of DRR in government policies and development plans. The total DIPECHO funding in South Caucasus since 2010 amounts to over €10.4 million.
In the present funding cycle (2017-2018), the European Union is funding community-based initiatives to increase the resilience of the population through simple, inexpensive measures such as disaster mapping, evacuation plans, building of safe havens, and the pre-stocking of food. The EU also continues to fund school-based preparedness projects, and advocates with national and regional authorities to integrate disaster risk reduction into formal school curricula and general school activities.
The current DIPECHO partners in the South Caucasus are: UNDP, UNICEF, Save the Children, Danish Red Cross (implemented through Armenian and Georgian Red Cross societies), Oxfam and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB).