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Government of the Netherlands

The Government of the Netherlands most notably through the Crisis Management Department of the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM), and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been a primary force in recent years in improving international preparedness for, and response to, environmental emergencies. In doing so, they have set an important example for the international community and have helped to raise the quality standards for international response to humanitarian and environmental crises around the world.

Initiated at the recommendation of the 6th meeting of the international Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE 6) the "Flash Environment Assessment Tool" (FEAT) was developed by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), with support from the Inspectorate of VROM. Coming under the rubric of TA1 of the Rosersberg Initiative, the FEAT was designed to help improve capacity to evaluate and respond to environmental emergencies. It serves to identify environmental impacts, and support initial response actions in disaster contexts. It does not take the place of in-depth environmental assessments, which may be appropriate at later stages of the disaster response. The FEAT is a carefully balanced compromise between simplicity and scientific rigor, with emphasis on usefulness to response mechanisms such as UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams. It provides quick answers in complex disaster situations, even in the absence of specialized technical resources or expertise.

In August 2008, the Netherlands unveiled its Environmental Assessment Module (EAM), an innovative mobile laboratory developed within the framework of the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP) to support international response to environmental emergencies. The EAM can be rapidly deployed for disasters involving hazardous substances, together with the relevant technical expertise and two fully-equipped off-road vehicles: one containing a mobile measurement and analysis unit, the other containing materials for logistical support, such as satellite equipment and a GPS. The entire EAM can be transported in a cargo aircraft. However, being a modular unit, equipment relevant to a given emergency can be selected and deployed individually. When deployed, the EAM will be supported by a knowledge network of research institutions and Ministries in the Netherlands (BOT-mi) to ensure affected countries receive the best available support. The EAM will be used to assess effects of environmental disasters. It will mainly be deployed in countries that lack the specialist knowledge or capacity needed to deal with environmental disasters. The development of the EAM is a joint initiative of the Netherlands' VROM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following recommendations by the international AGEE. Its development and deployment over a five-year period involves a commitment by the Netherlands of 2 million. The EAM can be deployed at the request of the UN or other international organizations. Countries themselves may also directly request assistance from the Netherlands. A primary client of the EAM will be the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit. The first "deployment" of the EAM took place during the September 2008 Triplex disaster simulation, held in Sweden and Norway.

Also in August 2008, the Netherlands hosted the pilot Environmental Emergencies Training, held in The Hague. It was designed in close collaboration with the Crisis Management Department of VROM, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the SRSA of Sweden. A comprehensive curriculum - covering a wide range of issues such as the UN response system to natural disasters, environmental emergencies, personal mission preparedness, information management, stress management, and cultural awareness - was developed to ensure that participants of the training would be mission ready.

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