BRIEF September 10, 2018

Press Backgrounder: Understanding Risk Balkans Conference

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Understanding Risk Balkans Conference

Belgrade, 17-19 September, 2018

In May 2014, historic flooding caused well over $2 billion in damages and losses in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone – nearly 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. More recently, significant climate anomalies such as 2017’s “Lucifer” heatwave have underscored the threat of climate change in the region, which could see temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial averages by the end of the century. Spiking temperatures would not only slash agricultural yields and hydropower production, but would also exacerbate impacts from flooding, mudslides, and other disasters.

This week in Belgrade, hundreds of experts and practitioners from the Balkans and across the world are participating in the 2018 Understanding Risk Balkans Conference (UR Balkans), which focuses on understanding climate and disaster risk to guide government investments and create more resilient societies.

Understanding Risk (UR) is a global community of 8,000 members active in the creation, communication, and use of disaster risk information. Members representing NGOs, governments, tech companies, academia, and beyond share knowledge and experience, collaborate, and discuss innovations in risk assessment. The community convenes this year to examine the increasingly important role of innovative technologies in identifying climate and disaster risk.

Improving the way risk information is gathered, analyzed, and communicated is critical to preparing for disasters. UR Balkans will feature best practices from around the world, and explore how disruptive technologies are accelerating disaster risk management. For example, open data risk assessments on pre-1990 housing stock in countries like Bulgaria are helping leverage government action on seismic risk throughout the region.

Partners like the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), with funding from the European Union, have supported the Government of Serbia in the deployment of LiDAR technologies to produce detailed Digital Terrain Models of priority flood prone regions, which can be used to build highly-accurate flood hazard and risk maps. The Government of Serbia is also forming partnerships with neighboring countries to create a network of weather and water monitoring stations that will improve forecasting, provide early warnings to communities vulnerable to weather extremes, and gather data on long-term climate trends.

“Serbia has faced a several severe disasters over the last few years, showing us that climate change is a fact,” says Marko Blagojevic, Director of the Serbian Government’s Public Investment Management Office. “Since disaster knows no boundaries, a regional approach in understanding and managing disaster risk is a crucial for resilience.”

Development partners are also supporting governments to pursue other climate-smart policies throughout the Balkans. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, efforts are underway to restore critical infrastructure to protect against growing flood risk. In Albania, the government is pursuing sustainable land policies to help protect water supplies from heatwaves and droughts. In FYR Macedonia, efforts are underway to safeguard the country’s vital agricultural sector from climate variability. And within both Kosovo and Montenegro, energy efficiency policies are being mainstreamed to ensure sustainable economic growth.

Ultimately, these and other innovative approaches explored at UR Balkans will help provide decision makers with robust information on climate and disaster risks to inform comprehensive disaster risk management policies.

“UR Balkans provides a unique space for a wide array of stakeholders, from scientists to government representatives to civil society voices, to come together to address growing climate and disaster risk,” says Linda Van Gelder, the World Bank’s Regional Director for Western Balkans. “By sharing knowledge and exploring new technologies, we can better understand the risk facing our communities and help make them more resilient.”

This conference is hosted by the World Bank, GFDRR, the European Union, and the Government of Serbia, each working at the forefront of understanding and managing growing risks from climate change and natural disasters.

Media contact:

Vesna Kostic |  +381 11 3023 723 | vkostic@worldbank.org