Training Course: Disaster Relief and Crisis Management (Astana)

Where and when

16-18 March 2009, Astana, Kazakhstan


In March 2009 we returned to Kazakhstan for our final course, on a new topic: Disaster relief and crisis management. The reasoning behind this is that Kazakhstan is very vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and environmental degradation. Natural disasters are a clear and present security threat to Kazakhstan and the wider region. An interesting aspect of disaster relief management is that interagency cooperation is critically important when a disaster occurs. Parliament needs to remain involved during the entire process, although the executive has more powers during a state of emergency than at other times. Of course, in a democracy, the government is accountable for its actions to parliament when the state of emergency has ended. The mechanisms that come into operation before, during and after a natural disaster or national crisis (interdepartmental cooperation, extended powers of the government during a state of emergency, accountability to parliament after the state of emergency, communication with the population during and after a disaster, etc) are much more interesting and relevant for CESS than the technical and operational side of disaster response. We developed and organised this final training course together with the COT Institute for Safety, Security and Crisis Management in The Hague. Karen Engel of the COT Institute provided a case study on Hurricane Katrina during the course, which was considered very helpful by the trainees because of the many mistakes made in the United States. In another session, she analysed public communication and societal engagement during and after a disaster. Karen also conducted an exercise together with CESS staff member Pollien van Keulen. This dealt with interagency cooperation before and during a disaster. The original idea of Pollien and Karen was to divide the trainees in two groups and let them schedule a model which reflected interagency cooperation in Kazakhstan. In Almaty the trainees came up with a very interesting suggestion. The whole group draws the model of Kazakhstan while Pollien and Karen drew the scheme of interagency cooperation in the Netherlands. The differences that came to light were dramatic: in the Netherlands the dynamic runs from the bottom to the top, while in Kazakhstan it is top-down. Bauke Snoep moderated the role-play in Astana, Merijn Hartog did the same in Almaty. This new game deals with the aftermath of a natural disaster in Croania. Did the government abuse the rights it has under the state of emergency? Did they breach the law on emergencies? And why did the government refuse to make use of several offers of foreign aid? In both cases the games were played with a lot of passion, but in the end the government could rebut most accusations. However, we always tell our trainees before the role-play that there is no correct or wrong outcome. Rather, we want to show them that it is very difficult to uphold the law, and why it is vital for parliament to be critical and assertive, and for the government to reveal, explain and justify their actions. In Kazakhstan we brought this message across.


Starlink Kazakhstan: Building Capacity for Democratic Governance in the Security Sector


If you have any questions regarding this event please contact CESS.