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Building on the success of 2018’s forum, the ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management (SPDDM) 2019 turned its focus to the region’s resiliency in the face of disaster. Titled Building ‘ASEAN’s Resiliency to Disasters’, the 2019 SPDDM took place in Singapore on the 21st of August 2019, and was attended by some of the region and the world’s leading disaster management professionals. The event was co-organised by the ASEAN Secretariat, the AHA Centre, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), alongside the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as the forum’s knowledge partner.

In 2018, the SPDDM focused on “Strengthening a Disaster Resilient ASEAN through Effective Cross-Sectoral Cooperation and Innovation”, with the theme of enhancing ASEAN’s disaster management capabilities through multi-sectoral engagement. 2019’s SPDDM continued on this track, aiming to develop discussions on how ASEAN how partnerships contribute toward building ASEAN’s resiliency in times of disasters, in line with ASEAN’s theme of ‘Partnership for Sustainability’ under Thailand’s Chairmanship in 2019. This topic pushes to continue building on ASEAN’s achievements to enhance resilience for communities and other stakeholders across the region. As part of the day’s discussions, participants and speakers discussed ongoing efforts to realise the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management, with the range of inputs to act as a reference in the upcoming development of the AADMER Work Programme 2021 – 2025.

The forum was opened by Dr Ko Ko Naing, the Director-General of the Department of Disaster Management of Myanmar as this year Chair of the ASEAN Committee for Disaster Management (ACDM), in which he highlighted the importance of partnerships in reducing losses from disasters, and that the SPPDM could form a platform in which stakeholders could share and exchange their knowledge on the issues faced. During the speech Dr Ko Ko Naing also noted that the operationalisation of “One ASEAN, One Response” forms a key step to further building ASEAN’s resiliency to disasters. Mrs. Josephine Teo, Ministry of Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs of Singapore, followed-on by encouraging governments to be more resilient in the face of climate change and natural disasters, while highlighting the importance of sufficient resources being allocated to government agencies for disaster management efforts. Mrs. Teo also highlighted the importance of community engagement – particularly teaching people about the dangers and threats they are exposed to and how to deal with them – while highlighting several initiatives used in Singapore to raise awareness and capacity for the community in disaster management.

Following interesting speeches from other key representatives and organisers of the forum, a high-level discussion then took place on the topic of ‘ASEAN Resiliency: Forging Partnerships For Future Challenges’. Panellists engaged in the fruitful discussion included Ms. Cristelle Pratt, Deputy Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Under Secretary-General for Partnership at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Mr. Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons Division at the African Union. These panellists brought interesting perspective from outside of the ASEAN region, and highlighted efforts being taken in their own regions that could be of value to ASEAN.

The following session titled ‘ASEAN, sustainable Development and Disaster Impacts’, raised some of the contexts, challenges and learnings that would be applied to the ASEAN region on disaster management. Speakers included Mr. Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Ms. Lesley Jeanne Y. Cordero, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist from the World Bank Group, Mr. Darren Klemm, Commissioner of Department of Fire and Emergency Services in the State of Western Australia, and Mr. Teong How Hwa, Deputy Commissioner (Future Technology and Public Safety) at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

To round out the discussion sessions, the third thematic forum focused on “Adapting To Localisation as a New Norm In Humanitarian Response”, in which the AHA Centre’s Executive Director Ms. Adelina Kamal, moderated a range of participants through interesting insights on the application of local-based contexts and approaches to broad-scale disaster management efforts. The SPDDM was then capped-off with a range of questions and answer sessions regarding the content of earlier discussions and closing remarks from the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), Mr. Kung Phoak, that summed-up the day’s findings and the important points to be considered on behalf of the region as a whole.

Written by : William Shea | Photo : SCDF