Promoting the role of citizens in civil protection
Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine have a common history as a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Historically, civil protection in these countries was solely state-managed, which has inevitably impacted the development of civil society organisations (CSOs), as well as the awareness and involvement of the general public in this area.
Until now, citizens’ participation in CSOs has been quite limited, and the culture of civil protection-related volunteering is a relatively recent development in the region. Likewise, the concept of spontaneous and non-affiliated (ie: not associated with an organisation) volunteers has only come up in recent years and still needs structural support.
The ProVoice project aims to strengthen cooperation between Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and other Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) countries in the fields of volunteer management, spontaneous volunteering, and population awareness in disaster preparedness. Led by the Austrian Red Cross in cooperation with the Red Cross Societies of Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Denmark, as well as the University of Innsbruck and the Moldovan-based organisation “EcoContact”, the 2-year project started in April 2018. It is built on the outcomes of a previous initiative that worked to reinforce the first aid, psychosocial support, and crisis communication activities of the Red Cross Societies in these three countries through the development of materials and training opportunities for volunteers.
ProVoice looks to enhance management capacities of volunteer leaders and emergency response teams in Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. To complement practical training, project participants are developing organisational and policy-level materials, such as guidelines for organising spontaneous and non-affiliated volunteers. The objective is to ensure that each participating organisation has a structured framework to support people who want to volunteer in disaster response.
The project’s central focus is on the essential role that volunteers and the general population can play in emergencies. Among the activities, awareness-raising and disaster preparedness training exercises aim to reduce fear by informing people of what to do which precautions to take in case of a disaster. Due to the specific needs of vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and people with disabilities, the ProVoice activities focus on their active inclusion. With the support of the Danish Red Cross, between 60 and 70 members of the community, civil protection authorities and volunteers in each of the three focus countries have participated in community-based exercises so far. In addition to this, media and social media activities ensure outreach to a larger sector of the population.
Lastly, ProVoice partners work to build shared expertise and to support the sharing of experiences among civil protection actors in Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. They also help to establish stronger working relationships between CSOs and civil protection authorities. Through the exchange of experts and peer visits, stakeholders improve their understanding of relevant civil protection procedures and the needs in the other participating countries.
Those who have received training appreciate the positive effect it will have on their future work. “We can say that today we know double what we knew before about volunteering, thanks to the information that participants shared in the meeting. There will probably be many questions as we continue to evolve, but we are confident that we can always turn to our partners in order to receive support and expertise.”, said one of the volunteer managers who took part in the training.
Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine
2018 - 2020
Austrian Red Cross, Bulgarian Red Cross, Ukrainian Red Cross, EcoContact, University of Innsbruck