/ / AHA Centre Diary 1


The AHA Centre, with the support of the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), organised a workshop on the Lessons Learned from Humanitarian Operations for the 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake in Turkiye and Syria on 18 and 19 September 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on 6 February 2023 triggered an outpouring of international sympathy and support. A report from the United Nations News estimates that the earthquake resulted in more than 410,000 casualties, causing homelessness to 1.5 million people and more than USD 45 billion worth of damages. Considering the severity of the disaster’s impact, on 7 February 2023, the Government of Turkey announced that it would welcome international aid. As of 9 February 2023, more than 100 countries, including several ASEAN countries, i.e., Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, also mobilised their personnel and logistics support to Turkiye and Syria.

Such large-scale international humanitarian operations are infrequent. It offers a glimpse of how the global humanitarian system can work to support communities affected by disasters. Therefore, the workshop aimed, first, for ASEAN to learn first-hand the dynamics, challenges, and best practices in helping an affected state that is geographically far from the region. Second, to identify critical lessons from emergency response operations in Turkiye and Syria that can enhance ASEAN’s ability to respond as One beyond the region. This learning opportunity will shed light for ASEAN in manifesting One ASEAN One Response Declaration, which was signed in 2016 by the ASEAN Leaders, outlining ASEAN’s ambition to respond as one within and beyond the region and is also contributing to the goal of ASEAN as a global disaster management leader by 2025.

The two-day workshop brought together experts from ASEAN Dialogue Partners, such as Japan, Australia, India, the United States of America, and New Zealand, to share learning points from their humanitarian operations in Turkiye and Syria. In addition, the workshop also brought representatives from the ASEAN Member States (AMSs) who deployed humanitarian teams to Turkiye and Syria, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

The workshop’s first day focused on bringing participants to understand the common operational picture, challenges, and best practices of the response through a keynote speaker from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presentations from ASEAN Dialogue Partners and partner organisations, and panel discussions. The panel discussions were divided into lessons learned and coordination at the strategic and tactical/field levels. Discussion on the strategic level was shaped around crucial decision points in sending assistance, collaboration and coordination with the affected government and other assisting governments, and resource allocation.

Meanwhile, the tactical/field level scope discussed operational challenges to mobilise resources, mainly the deployment and operationalisation of the USAR and Disaster Response teams and coordination among the teams from different countries on the ground.

On the second day of the workshop, a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with the AMS and ASEAN Dialogue Partners and partner organisations, respectively, took place in parallel, focusing on how ASEAN can realise the vision of responding beyond the region. The AMS group, comprising representatives of the NDMOs and national USAR agencies, focused on identifying current capacities and mechanisms of ASEAN and its AMS that can be used to advance the OAOR vision. The FGD with AMS continued with a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) exercise, which guided the Group in identifying the strengths and weaknesses and broader opportunities and threats of realising ASEAN’s mission beyond the region.

In parallel, the second Group with ASEAN Dialogue Partners and partner organisations focused on identifying possible support that the partners can provide should ASEAN extend its humanitarian assistance to other regions. This perspective is expected to complement the discussion in Group 1 so that ASEAN can have a balanced understanding of what needs to be prepared moving forward.

The workshop resulted in several strategic and technical recommendations for ASEAN to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study for ASEAN responding beyond the region. It further recommended exploring the development of a roadmap as part of the study for ASEAN to transform its capabilities for providing humanitarian support following a disaster outside the ASEAN region.


Written by: Grace Endina & Dipo Summa | Photos by: AHA Centre