ASEAN members' National Disaster Management Offices and their staff have been at the forefront of establishing and implementing the world’s first and only legally-binding regional framework on disaster management (Photo: UNISDR)
By Andy McElroy
SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 1 February 2016 – Greater disaster resilience at community and national level is an important element of a new era of closer integration and cooperation in Southeast Asia, a high-level ASEAN-China cooperation forum was told today.
The 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose combined population is 622 million, experience average direct economic losses from disasters of US$4.4 billion every year, representing “an enormous socio-economic cost” which threatens sustainable development and livelihoods.
The Director of the Sustainable Development Directorate of the ASEAN Secretariat’s Socio-Cultural Community Department, Ms. Adelina Dwi Ekawati Kamal, said the region needed to address and adapt to a “new normal” of increasingly extreme and frequent weather events.
“The enormous socio-economic cost of such phenomenon not only hinders development prospects and productivity of our peoples, but it also poses a clear and present threat to our stability, environmental sustainability and multi-fold security, especially food security,” Ms. Kamal told the ASEAN-China Seminar on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.
“To reduce the adverse impacts of natural and human-induced disasters and climate change, especially on our most vulnerable populations, we must be able to make our communities more sustainable and more resilient.
“We need to further strengthen our multi-sectoral coordination with defence, military, health, political, security and social welfare sectors, and enhance partnerships with civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders.”
Ms. Kamal said the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – a 15-year global agreement that aims to curb deaths and economic losses from natural and man-made hazards – and the wider sustainable development and climate change agreements likewise adopted last year is helping to guide the region’s efforts to strengthen resilience.
Mr. Xu Bu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to ASEAN, in Jakarta, Indonesia, said natural hazards “continue to haunt” the Southeast Asian region. He said the respective National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMO) would be crucial to efforts to increase regional cooperation in monitoring and forecasting, rescue and recovery.
“China has gained significant experience and is ready to share its know-how on disaster prevention and relief with our ASEAN friends,” Mr. Xu said.
The new ASEAN Community was formally launched a month ago, marking a significant additional consolidation and integration of the regional bloc since its establishment in 1967. Greater regional cooperation to achieve resilient and sustainable development is a priority.
ASEAN has a track record of global leadership on cross-border cooperation on disasters to build upon. It developed the world’s first and only legally-binding regional framework on disaster management. The respective NDMOs have been the main driving force behind the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER).