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European Week of Regions and Cities

Bridging the gap in cross-border cooperation: societal resilience and disaster risk reduction

The purpose of the session is to seek practical ways to enhance societal preparedness while addressing vulnerabilities to reduce the risk and impact of disasters. It will mainly focus on how to build cooperation between cities and regions where the degree of understanding and infrastructure, as well as the tools and capacities at their disposal, vary, with a particular focus on border regions.

  • Local and regional | Climate and environment | Civil protection and risk prevention
  • Code: 10WS23485
  • SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre, Silver hall


Sigrid Sengers

  • Mayor, Municipality of Druten


Andrew Bower

  • Programme manager, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Practical information

Tue 10/10/2023, 14:30 - 15:30 CET
SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre, Silver hall
Breaking barriers to cross-border cooperation
English, French
Social media


Session summary

The session focused on enhancing societal preparedness while addressing vulnerabilities to reduce the risk and impact of disasters. The three speakers from different backgrounds shared their diverse perspectives on the challenges and practical experience to overcome those barriers.
With Mr. Andrew Bower's moderation, the speakers reflected on their cities' and regions' main challenges and barriers in building cooperation and collective response to natural and man-made disasters.
Ms. Małgorzata Bartyna-Zielińska, Head of the Environment and Climate Department, City of Wroclaw of Poland (MCR2030 Resilience Hub), mentioned the siloed thinking on the ground and varying perspectives among policymakers at the local and city government levels. She emphasized that overcoming the siloed thinking is particularly important when dealing with cross-border river basins and the associated hazards. Joint responses and ownership, hence, are essential for addressing these new forms of disasters.
Ms. Sigrid Sengers, Mayor of Druten of the Netherlands, underscored the importance of considering the diverse effects of climate change on the population and adapting policies across cross-border regions accordingly.
Mr. Christophe Clergeau, Member of the European Parliament, highlighted the challenge of anticipating future threats and the need to identify and protect vulnerable groups when disasters strike. He stressed the importance of assessing and analyzing vulnerability locally, but also at the European level, to foster collective action and response, as well as the need to be prepared for larger-scale crises and learn from the experiences of other regions.
During the second segment of the session, the speakers shared the good practices of cross-border cooperation in the cities and regions.
Ms. Sengers mentioned the "Room for the River" program, a nature-based solution introduced by the Dutch government to mitigate the risk of flooding. Also, she mentioned a German fire department that was constructed at the border regions of Germany and the Netherlands, so that it can serve both German and Dutch municipalities when disasters happen. Mr. Clergeau referred to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism// to the work of Emergency Response Coordination Centre as a good example of collective response at the European level.
The session also marked the celebration of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2023, observed on the 13th of October each year, serving as a reminder of the ongoing commitment to building resilience and reducing disaster risks.