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To support ASEAN endeavours to enhance disaster response capacity, in 2020 the European Union (EU) and the AHA Centre launched a EUR 10 million programme supporting the AHA Centre’s work, named the “Integrated Programme in Enhancing the Capacity of AHA Centre and ASEAN Emergency Response Mechanisms”, or in short known as the EU-SAHA programme. This new initiative aims to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of the AHA Centre to achieve operational excellence in disaster monitoring and emergency response, as well as enhance mechanisms for ASEAN leadership to ‘respond as one’ through excellence and innovation in disaster management.

In the wake of the Central Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, the AHA Centre was among the first humanitarian agencies that arrived on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance. The AHA Centre highlighted its unwavering commitment in assisting ASEAN Member States (AMS), and again proved instrumental in assisting the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) in coordinating humanitarian aid by utilising available ASEAN mechanisms. The project is expected to also leverage the expertise of the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC), which operates under the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism and has a similar scope of work in the EU as the AHA Center does in ASEAN.

The Executive Director of the AHA Centre, Ms Adelina Kamal, expressed her appreciation for the launch of the programme. “The EU SAHA programme will enable the AHA Centre to strengthen the entire spectrum of the ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN One Response, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders in September 2016. It will enable the AHA Centre to further enhance our capacity to facilitate ASEAN’s collective response to large-scale disasters inside the region, maximising further our coordination potentials as shown in multiple responses in 2018. Not only that, the EU SAHA will also allow us to study what it takes to facilitate collective response outside the region and learn from the EU, who has done it, through comparative studies and knowledge exchange”.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, recognised EU’s support, stating that “As an important partner of ASEAN, the European Union’s contribution to the AHA Centre will play a pivotal role in advancing ASEAN closer towards realising its vision as a global leader in disaster management. By supporting ASEAN’s hallmark emergency response mechanism, the European Union ensures the continued development of disaster management assets and capacities at the regional and national levels in the ASEAN region”.

It is the AHA Centre’s hope that through this new programme, the ASEAN region will become more resilient and more proactive in disaster mitigation and prevention. Much has been achieved to this point, but efforts must be sustained to realise the outcomes of the ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management. The ASEAN region is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, having experienced more than 50% of overall global disaster mortalities during the period of 2004-2014. The aim of the new EU programme is to substantially reduce disaster losses in lives and in the economic, social, physical and environmental assets of ASEAN Member States. It also aims to support joint responses to disaster emergencies through concerted national efforts, and intensified regional and international cooperation.

Speaking after signing of the agreement at the ASEAN Secretariat on January 27, the EU Ambassador to ASEAN, Igor Driesmans, stated that no countries should overlook the importance of concerted and coordinated disaster response. He highlighted that the regional approach to dealing with disaster has provided ASEAN greater strength to handle unprecedented calamities, as it can utilise regional pool of Member States’ expertise and assets – managed by the AHA Centre. The Ambassador said that this is not only a workable model, but also a mechanism to deal with the transboundary nature of the climate-induced disaster. This requires strong collaboration and partnership among Member States, similar to European nations under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EU-CPM), which is shepherded by their Emergency Response Coordinating Centre (ERCC), an entity displaying the same value and design as the AHA Centre.


Written by : Ina Rachmawati and Dipo Summa | Photo Credit : AHA Centre