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Central Europe: Annual Report (Appeal 01.52/2001)

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Appeal Target: CHF 10,877,065; Revised (operational) budget: CHF 5,322,582
Operational Developments

In 2001 the Federation's regional delegation in Budapest continued to provide support to fifteen national societies in central and eastern Europe. The region can be divided into three sub-regions: the Baltics, Central Europe and the Balkans.

All three sub-regions have experienced dramatic socio-economic movements, depending on their historic, geographical, and contemporary situations. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1999 and they might be joined by Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by late 2002. These countries are also likely front-runners to join the European Union (EU) in the near future (2004 or 2005). In 2001, some countries in the region (especially in the Balkans) continued to struggle against increasing poverty, chaotic political and economic conditions, and heightened security concerns. All the countries in the region faced, in various degrees and combinations, the challenges of environmental degradation, natural disasters, organized crime, inter-ethnic tension, and the social costs of structural adjustment programmes that governments have implemented in the transition from command to free market economies. Of the region's total population of approximately 130 million, a considerable number live below the poverty line.

In the aftermath of the Balkans crisis, the economic situation has deteriorated even further. In some of the countries covered a crisis situation might erupt very quickly, thereby creating a situation in which large numbers of people, especially the thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees, would suffer considerably. Macedonia, for example is a case in point.

The pace of structural change in the three subregions appears to be slower than in the first half of the 1990s. This is mainly because reform efforts that were 'easier' to implement were undertaken in the early years of systemic transformation, leaving a core of difficult tasks still to be tackled, i.e., pension reform, environmental safety and general market discipline. As governments in Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltics continue to address transition and adjustment issues, the situation of the most vulnerable can be expected to get worse over the next several years.

Against this backdrop, the national societies in the three subregions have an important role to play at present: they must also be ready to address increasingly more complex and interrelated social and economic problems that will sweep over this part of the world in the coming years. This poses a challenge both to the national societies themselves, and to the International Federation and its regional delegation in Budapest.

The change towards a market economy has, in many cases, been carried out at great human cost. Women, children, youth, the elderly, as well as the physically and mentally disabled were hard hit by economic reforms. Such reforms left states much weaker than before, and therefore no longer able to provide a social safety net for many of their vulnerable citizens.

Within the context of Action Research, new ways of working were explored. Ways of decentralizing the workload from the Geneva Secretariat down to regional and country delegations were explored. The regional delegation was very much involved in this process which had a direct impact on the work of the delegates. As a result, 2001 saw the establishment of the regional finance unit on 1 January, with the planning and reporting unit created later on.

The year also saw increased consultation and participation of national societies both within and outside the region in the delegation's work. This was achieved via three main processes:

  • The organization of two major meetings (leadership meeting, partnership meeting)
  • Appeal process 2002-2003
  • The Regional Assistance Strategy
Central Europe is often affected by seasonal disasters. Unfortunately, 2001 was not an exception. Hungary, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were suffered from floods. The regional delegation assisted the relevant national societies through the launching of three Federation appeals.

A significant occurrence was the sudden departure of the head of the regional delegation in September. The disaster preparedness delegate was appointed acting head to cover the interim period while waiting for a new head of delegation.

The regional delegation faced severe overall funding problems in 2001 (humanitarian values, organizational development, coordination and management as well as human resources and planning and reporting). Despite these funding limitations, most objectives planned in the appeal were achieved. New services were established to better respond to the needs of national societies.

Through the exploration of new and innovative methods of working, taking into account lessons learned and adjusting to current realities, a more effective, active and responsive regional delegation is now in place.

The International Federation of the Red Cross, through its regional delegation in Budapest (established in 1992), supports and assists the following Red Cross national societies: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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