A new model of the Law on Disaster Risk Management will be under public discussion in a few days, announced Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief Marko Blagojević today, stating that the future umbrella body would be tasked with establishing mechanisms of continuous cooperation with civil society organizations.
Speaking at the press conference, where Flood Emergency Response Plan, prepared by YUCOM with the support of the Embassy of Australia, was presented, Blagojević said that civil society organizations had provided invaluable assistance during the May floods, maintaining their role at a significant level to this day.
Blagojević stated that civil society organizations should work together with the state to strengthen disaster risk management capacities, stressing that the last year devastating floods were neither the first nor the last disaster in Serbia.
He noted that the EU and UN experts participated in the preparation of the new legislation, while everybody would have a chance to give their own opinion about the law in the public discussion. Blagojević said that the new law would not be lex specialis, but an organic law, and that it should therefore be a good one. He also noted that the experience in the last year floods was of primary importance in the preparation of the new legislation.
“We will remain vulnerable to disasters. The question is how we will respond and act in the coming years to mitigate the risk”, said Blagojević, stating that Serbia had been caught unprepared by the last year devastating disaster.
Noting that, until now, financial assistance for 20,209 households in the total amount of 4.8 billion dinars had been paid, 430 destroyed houses reconstructed, 660 subtenants paid out, and 1715 businesspeople provided with state aid, Blagojević said that considerable effort had been invested in the reconstruction, including flood defense infrastructure, adding that the state had given what it could.
Blagojević rejected claims of discrimination during aid allocation, as well as those of lack of transparency in the process, stating that all data about the funds management were available at the Office website, that the Transparency Serbia positively assessed the experience in public procurement procedures during the reconstruction, and that the public advocate especially praised the Office for its transparent work.
Answering the questions, Blagojević said that there were 100 people, mostly the Roma, in the collective centre in Obrenovac, stating that a solution had been found for a number of them, and that they could relatively soon hope to get new flats which would be built from EU funds.
Blagojević also announced that the problem of tailings pond leakage within the antimony mine of Stolice, near Krupanj, would also be solved with the assistance of the UN in the effort.
“We took that upon ourselves, in cooperation with the UN, who will finance the project preparation”, said Blagojević.
Blagojević stated that the Office would invest own resources to fund the project which would prevent further water inflow into the tailings pond and that the previously lacking resources for that purpose had now been provided. The dam of the abandoned mine broke last year due to severe floods.
YUCOM Director Milan Antonijević said that the Emergency Response Plan presented legal challenges found in the field, but also expressed hope that there would not be any new natural disaster and that the Plan would finally not be used in practice.
He noted that the Plan answered some questions, such as – how did the state, civil society and citizens respond to the floods in May last year and what were the lessons learnt.
The Australian Ambassador to Belgrade Julia Feeney expressed hope that the Plan would be very useful for any possible future emergency.
She underscored that disasters could not be foreseen, but that communities should improve their resilience to disaster challenges, stressing that it was very important to learn from experience.
NGO representatives, namely Zoe Gudović from the Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Nada Đuričković from the Roma Center for Women and Children Daje and Bojana Selaković from the Civic Initiatives also shared the experience during the floods and the last year.
Lawyer Milena Vasić from YUCOM pointed out labour relations as the area where there were issues in the field, namely in the payment of salaries to the workers who did not come to work since they were affected by floods.