RSIS-AHA CENTRE WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY WEBINAR:
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA DURING COVID-19
In commemoration of the World Humanitarian Day on 19 August 2020, the AHA Centre collaborated with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) to implement a webinar on Humanitarian Assistance in Southeast Asia during COVID-19.
The discussion focused on the potential dual threats of a pandemic and natural disaster. Speakers shared ideas and insights on the particular challenges faced by the humanitarian sector during the pandemic, as well as potential solutions to the challenges, and how to strengthen partnerships between relevant stakeholders.
The webinar featured a number of distinguished speakers and guests. Primarily there was Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, who previously served as the Under Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and currently is the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia on Public Health. Next were Mr. Masahiro Ishizeki, the Head of International Programmes of Mercy Relief, and Ms. Carol Lee, Executive Director of Mercy Relief. Dr Alistair D. B. Cook is Coordinator of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Programme and Senior Fellow at the NTS Centre, RSIS. Prof. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of NTS Centre, RSIS, opened the one-hour webinar, and Ms. Adelina Kamal, the Executive Director of the AHA Centre, served as the moderator of the discussion.
All speakers raised many important points during the course of the discussion. Dr. Mahmood said that the pandemic should not be an excuse for the region to ‘take their eyes off’ the many issues facing the region, including the ongoing threat of natural disasters, climate change, refugees and irregular migration. She also highlighted the potential solutions offered by technology in mitigating the impact of the pandemic, such as one example applied in Malaysia named the “Kita Match” application.
Mr. Ishizeki shared the activities implemented by Mercy Relief in several countries in the region to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, as well as some of the learnings from the response. Key points included on ensuring accountability, as well as the logistics of managing operations spanning several countries at the same time.
Finally, Dr. Cook noted several humanitarian trends happening right now, many of which actually preceded the pandemic, but became more pronounced due to COVID-19. Examples included how the needs of the most vulnerable population often become secondary to the political security considerations, and the challenge to global cooperation as more countries turn to regional collaboration. Dr. Cook also proposed for humanitarian lane to facilitate quick transfer and distribution of humanitarian assistance during emergencies, as well as a national one stop shop in order to enhance government’s relations with local and national partners, including the private sector.
Written by : Dipo Summa | Photo : AHA Centre