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Baltic Excellence Programme: Seminar on Volunteer Involvement in Civil Protection held in Keflavík, Iceland

The CBSS Icelandic Presidency along with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland held a half-day seminar on volunteer involvement in civil protection on 10 May 2017. The seminar, moderated by Mr Ragnar Þorvarðarson from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, was hosted under the umbrella of the CPN Baltic Excellence Programme and held in Keflavík, Iceland, back-to-back to the 15th meeting of Directors General for Civil Protection in the Baltic Sea Region.

Mr Hjálmar Björgvinsson, Superintendent at the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police emphasized that the topic of the seminar is in accordance with the focus on increasing involvement of civil society organizations in the civil protection field in the BSR. Mr Jón Brynjar Birgisson from the Icelandic Red Cross presented the role of the organization’s volunteers in the national system of response to disasters. Mr Dagbjartur Kr. Brynjarsson from ICE-SAR introduced the importance of volunteer involvement in the search and rescue operations on the sea and at land. Combined, the two organizations have a vast network of volunteers spread around the country and are an integral part of the Icelandic civil protection system.

mr Jari Honkanen, the Senior Specialist at the Department for Rescue Services within the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, discussed the structure of the civil protection system in Finland and the role of volunteer organizations within it. He presented the part-time fire-brigade system, the involvement of the Finish Red Cross and arrangements of the Voluntary Rescue Service, ‘Vapepa’.

The final presentation, provided by Mr Rögnvaldur Ólafsson from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management within the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, gave the participants an overview of the emergency management system in Iceland and how non-paid professionals participate in it as first respondents.

Questions emerged during the seminar touched upon volunteer development and training in the field, youth participation and general reforms in civil protection systems in the region. The theme of the seminar also connects directly with the point four of the Joint Position adopted by Directors Generals for Civil Protection during the meeting held on the following day, which declares the need for “increasing involvement of the local authorities and civil society organizations