The earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria should galvanise countries in the Mediterranean to review their civil-protection mechanisms, members of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) said on 25 April at a meeting in Morocco.
The two massive earthquakes, registering 7.7 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, and the aftershocks devastated cities and provinces across south-eastern Türkiye and northern Syria in February 2023, killed around 60,000 people, and affected roughly 20 million. The disaster has lent greater urgency to two topics – civil protection and sustainable urban development – that are the subjects of reports being drafted by ARLEM, whose members are local and regional politicians and officials from all shores of the Mediterranean.
Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP), co-chairing the meeting on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), and director-general for external relations for the Region of Galicia, said that the earthquake had triggered a wave of solidarity across his region, including through a collaboration with the pharmaceutical aid NGO, FarmaMundi. He said: "Solidarity in times of disaster and misery knows no borders, especially for the most vulnerable communities, such as children, refugees, or victims of violence. The disasters in Türkiye and Syria should be a moment of reflection for every local and regional leader. They should prompt every city, region and country in the Mediterranean to review its own emergency-response plans and whether there are ways in which politicians, experts and emergency teams at the regional and municipal level can learn from colleagues in other countries. We share a region that is very vulnerable not just to earthquakes, but to wildfires, droughts, floods, and the effects of climate change. Common problems require common responses."
Mina Bouhdoud, co-chair of ARLEM's commission and mayor of the community of Lagfifat in Morocco, said: "Local and regional authorities help each other with material assistance in times of crisis. But we can do more. We can share knowledge and expertise, we can strengthen our international partnerships, we can train and help our officials and emergency teams, and we can advocate politically for more action to reduce the risks posed by disasters. These are recommendations made by the United Nations, and they are critically important."
Mustafa Palancioğlu, ARLEM member and mayor of Melikgazi in Türkiye, said: "In the 21st century, countries and cities are more interconnected than ever before. In this context, a new governance model is needed against many threats, from disasters – such as floods and earthquakes – to the refugee crisis, pandemics and cyber-attacks. In these modern times, when traditional approaches are insufficient, new approaches are needed."
An ARLEM report on how local and regional authorities can work together is currently being drafted. Its rapporteur, André Viola (FR/PES), member of the Departmental Council of Aude, said: "We cannot prevent natural disasters from occurring but we can significantly mitigate their effects. The recent devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria showed us how our homes, public buildings and historic neighbourhoods can be reduced to rubble in few minutes. The responsibilities of local administrations during crises varies from country to country. But there are actions and rules things that we each need to do in order to be prepared. Such as the need to map risks, install and strengthen prediction and warning systems, raise public awareness, review how we use land and build safer structures."
The ARLEM meeting, which was held in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, also discussed a draft report on sustainable urban development by Abdelaziz Derouiche, president of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of the Councils of the Prefectures and Provinces, which hosted the ARLEM meeting. Mr Derouiche's report focuses specifically on urban health and sustainable transport. Rabat forms part of the Rabat-Salé-Skhirat-Témara metropolitan area, which is the second-largest agglomeration in the country and is expected to increase in population by 27% by 2040 with journeys expected to increase by 52% in the same period.
Mr Derouiche also underlined that "the city of Rabat has experienced remarkable socio-economic development, which has enabled it to be declared a 'city of light', the Islamic and African capital of culture and classified by UNESCO as world heritage in 2012".
Mr Derouiche will present his draft report to the Union for the Mediterranean on 4 May, at a ministerial conference on sustainable urban development at which ARLEM will present the perspective from the sub-national level with the aim of bringing a territorial dimension to policies.
The reports by Mr Viola and Mr Derouiche are due to be adopted in October 2023 at a plenary meeting of ARLEM.
Note to editors:
- The Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) is a forum that brings together representatives from local and regional authorities in the European Union and partner countries in the Mediterranean region. ARLEM was created in 2010 by the European Committee of the Regions, which serves as the secretariat and has a consultative role in the legislative work of the European Union. ARLEM also serves to inform the work of the Union for the Mediterranean, a regional cooperation initiative aimed at promoting stability, economic growth, and cultural understanding in the Mediterranean region.
- ARLEM award – Young Local Entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean: ARLEM each year gives an award to young local entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean – and only a couple of weeks remain for applications for this year's award. Applications close on 15 May; the application form can be found here, with further details on the ARLEM webpage. The award, which is open for businesspeople younger than 35, aims to stimulate local business, support young people and encourage collaboration between local public authorities and the private sector. Ms Bouhdoud said: "What sets our ARLEM award apart from the many other prizes given annually to entrepreneurs in Europe and the Mediterranean is that we identify local and regional authorities that support young entrepreneurs in their area, in order to set examples of impact that the regional authorities of the Mediterranean partner countries can have not only in their entrepreneurial ecosystems, but also for the community as a whole.
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