The ARW “Stimulus for Human and Social Dynamics in the Prevention of Catastrophes” was convened on 5-8 October, 2010 in Yerevan, Armenia. The Republic of Armenia is one of most exposed countries to natural disasters not only in the Caucasian region, but also in the entire Euro-Asian continent. Strong earthquakes and landslides, floods and droughts, heavy rains and tornados, and many other natural disasters present a major threat to national security and an important impediment to the stable development of the national economy. Man-made disasters are also of great importance in Armenia. The presence of a Nuclear Power Plant, 30 large chemical facilities, 1,000 large hydrological dams, and fire hazards demand a well-structured policy in emergency preparedness, and it requires large resources from the national economic and social spheres. Damage caused by natural and, partially, man-made disasters during 2003-2010 in the Caucasian Region was estimated to have cost hundreds of millions of US Dollars.
Also, while some 20 legal and regulatory acts are in force in Armenia, the further development of the legal framework has to be supported. Thus the Workshop was aimed at further supplementing the common efforts of scientists from NATO and Partner countries to transfer technology and knowledge with the aim of decreasing the vulnerability of the population from both natural and man-made disasters.
As the Armenia–NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) has foreseen, ARWs try to unify the efforts of the scientific community in creating a greater understanding of the various threats to society, territories and the environment. Thus, this ARW had the task of further evaluating accumulated European theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the relevant fields of concern so that practical recommendations can be developed for the prevention and mitigation of disasters.
The huge interest in the Workshop, already mentioned, was particularly reflected in the large participation of relevant Armenian scientific and public administration institutions. Top management from the Armenian Rescue Service, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the German and UK ambassadors to Armenia, took an active part in the ARW sessions. The event was actively publicized in most well-known press, TV and radio Armenian media.
The agenda consisted of about 25 presentations (from 10 countries) and discussions that addressed a wide range of disaster-management regimes. The principal themes focused (for a series of typical disaster scenarios) on how these disasters can affect both the human and natural environments. Accordingly, the presentations and syndicate discussions covered the following areas of concern: natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, and floods; man-made disasters such as accidents at mining and tailings dams; nuclear/radiological facilities and illicit trafficking of nuclear material attempts; and environmental contamination. The monitoring and assessment of health and environmental pollution risks, as well as the communication of these risks to the public, were also discussed.
The various themes addressed integrated techniques for predicting, measuring and assessing the various physical and environmental impacts, and their prevention and mitigation. The relevant essential key factors that must be involved to achieve such prevention and mitigation were also discussed.
The contributions reflected the extensive experience in the participating countries (namely, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Netherlands, Romania, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the Ukraine) in the field of combating man-made and natural disasters, as well as how their secondary impacts should be assessed and adapted to the specific conditions in Armenia. Thus the presentations were considered very useful, especially for those partner countries that are developing their legal frameworks in civil emergency planning, and particularly those who are aligning to EU directives and other international standards.
Participants proposed to continue the common efforts of their countries in scientific research and in the development of effective solutions for minimising the negative impacts of disasters on the social and environmental spheres. They also considered that the correlation between human factors and the prevention of catastrophes, with greater focus on industrial man-made disasters, could be one of the main topics for a future workshop.