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EUROWA Charter signed – important milestone for oiled wildlife response in Europe

The EUROWA Charter is in place and signed by 8 organisations, which signifies that EUROWA now exists as a formal network to further professionalism in European oiled wildlife preparedness and response.

The EUROWA Charter was adopted and agreed in principle at a summer 2019 EUROWA summit meeting, attended by leaders from most of the wildlife response organisations that are, or aim to be, affiliated with EUROWA. Attendees agreed on the importance of developing a new, collective communications strategy that highlights the need for authorities to have oiled wildlife response plans and preparedness programmes in place which detail wildlife objectives, strategies, tactics, staffing details, logistics needs and communication plans. While it should not be national NGOs’ responsibility to develop these plans and programmes, they can play an important role is assisting authorities to elaborate them.

It was agreed that the EUROWA Charter is an important tool in communicating the need to authorities in Europe and that by signing up to a shared vision, organisations can have a stronger and more unified voice on this issue. In this way, signing the Charter marks a new phase in the evolution of EUROWA, as it will use unified efforts to encourage increasing authority support for marine wildlife emergency preparedness and response at national and international levels.

The Charter also calls on European governments to support the network by:

  • Adopting EUROWA oiled wildlife response standards at a national level
  • Developing national plans for marine wildlife emergencies that are integrated with the wider emergency response planning framework
  • Supporting their national EUROWA network Member to participate in the national response preparedness programme, including training and exercises.

All organisations at the meeting gave their support for the EUROWA Charter to be established as part of the EUROWA standards series. The content of the Charter was agreed following the meeting, culminating in 8 organisations in 8 different European countries signing by early 2020. Current Network Members include: ONIRIS (France), Oiled Wildlife Response Network Ireland, ProBird (Germany), SON-Respons (the Netherlands), SUBMON (Spain), Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend (Belgium), WWF Finland and WWF Poland. Some of these signatories also represent national networks under which more organisations participate.

The Charter outlines what EUROWA is, how it functions (through formal Governance processes) and what it aims to achieve. Organisations that have signed the Charter (known as Associated Organisations) provide leadership to the Network, through a General Assembly and a Governance Committee. A number of ad-hoc Technical Committees are being created on issues such as training & exercises, equipment and standards, with the overall coordination being provided by Sea Alarm as Secretariat.

These governance processes mean that all organisations can have a say in what the Network does and does not do; and can help to steer future activities. Organisations that are still in the process of signing the Charter can attend trainings and other events and contribute to network activities but are not part of the formal decision-making processes. In this way, a number of additional technical experts can contribute to, and be available for future responses through an affiliation with Sea Alarm or one of the Network Members.

Although Covid-19 will likely prevent the EUROWA Charter signees from meeting in-person this year, governance processes have been agreed and are now being used successfully via conference calls. Preliminary discussions have also taken place on the EUROWA Draft Work Programme (2020– 22), which will be finalised in early autumn.

A Governmental Advisory Committee, which will be created in the coming months, is described in the Charter as a sounding board for exchanging ideas on reaching out to authorities. Sea Alarm, as Secretariat, and Network Members will continue to promote these messages and advocate for better wildlife preparedness in their respective countries and internationally via the European Regional Agreements.

The EUROWA network aims to expand fully across Europe. If your organisation is interested to sign the Charter and to become part of a wider group of European oiled wildlife response experts, or if you are a Governmental authority with interest in adopting EUROWA in your own country, please contact the EUROWA Secretariat.

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