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Civil protection meets humanitarian standards: DPPI SEE’s journey to becoming Sphere’s regional partner for South-Eastern Europe

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An interview with Vlatko Jovanovski, Head of DPPI SEE Secretariat

What is the DPPI SEE?

The Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South-Eastern Europe (DPPI SEE) is an initiative owned by ten national civil protection authorities which aims to collaborate on regional approaches to disaster management. DPPI SEE was established in the year 2000 and has been strengthening regional cooperation in disaster management through various types of capacity development activities ever since.

How did you first meet Sphere?

Our first interaction with Sphere was during the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) in Geneva in February 2019, where we first exchanged on the idea to join forces to promote Sphere in South-Eastern Europe. With memories still fresh of the 2015 European migrant crisis[1], it was considered important to expand the knowledge of the national civil protection authorities represented in DPPI SEE on the meaning and scope of humanitarian principles and international standards. Something that started as an idea very soon transformed into action and we started preparing to implement a comprehensive Sphere Training of Trainers (ToT) programme as part of DPPI SEE’s Disaster Management Training programme.

How did the Sphere ToT go?

COVID-19 impacted implementation. The pandemic reminded us of the importance of providing humanitarian assistance based on respect for human rights and dignity – and forced us to learn new methods of working to achieve this. DPPI SEE and Sphere showed a high level of flexibility and shifted the planned workshops online – each course taking place over four weeks instead of the planned 3 days in-person.

These courses were led by listed Sphere trainers Zeynep Sanduvac (Turkey) and Dijana Muzička (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and co-facilitated by Tristan Hale and Aninia Nadig (from the Sphere secretariat). We completed 3 online trainings in 2020 with 56 participants in total.

In 2021, we focused on building our training capacity by inviting all 56 graduates to continue their learning journey. Sixteen put themselves forward and, still influenced by restrictions on travel and gatherings, followed an online course in online teaching methods in November 2021 facilitated by Stephen Blakemore (RedR UK).

Finally in 2022 as the pandemic calmed down, we had the necessary conditions for a five-day face-to-face Sphere ToT workshop which was organized in Tirana, Albania with Aya Alnaset (Turkey) as the Lead Trainer and Zeynep and Dijana Muzicka cofacilitating.

What are the outcomes and impacts of the ToT?

One of the great benefits of ToT programme arose from the mixed group of participants that included people from the national civil protection organizations and Red Cross/Red Crescent societies. This had an impact on strengthening the relations between these entities by helping them to understand each other’s roles, responsibilities, scope of activities, challenges and limitations.

Our ToT graduates are now following their individual trainer development plans. Hakan Esmergül (Turkey) and Muhammed Saltuk Güven (Turkey) have already been welcomed into the community of listed trainers, and have both earned ‘active trainer’ badges for at least six workshops completed within two years!

What other Sphere-related activities is DPPI SEE involved in?

The new Sphere knowledge was tested in October 2023, during a full-scale field simulation exercise in Brcko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, DPPI FLEX 2023, where Sphere Handbook application, notably the shelter and settlement standards, was included as part of the scenario.

DPPI FLEX participants set up a temporary settlement

DPPI FLEX participants set up a temporary settlement

As part of the preparation for the simulation exercise, a Sphere in Urban Settings training was held in May 2023 in Tirana, Albania.

And of course, in the final months of 2023, DPPI SEE and Sphere signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a vision of promoting Sphere in South-Eastern Europe for many more years to come.

Watch a souvenir video of DPPI FLEX 2023 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPhU7m3B3YU

DPPI SEE joins Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and the Africa Humanitarian Standards Network (AHSN) as Sphere’s third regional partner.

As Sphere’s network of country focal points has grown and blossomed, so has the importance of regional partners to facilitate knowledge-sharing and learning between neighbouring focal points.

As with all Sphere focal points and regional partners before them, DPPI SEE was a true champion of Sphere for several years before recognition, and with their strong links to civil protection actors, RC/RC societies and NGOs in ten South-Eastern European countries, the prestigious position of Sphere regional partner is well-deserved.

Does your organisation systematically apply, disseminate and/or advocate for Sphere standards? Could you become our next focal point or even regional partner?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_European_migrant_crisis