"We are not strangers to each other, as we are all a family. We have the same objectives of becoming disaster resilient and safer communities," says Mr. Suporn Ratananakin, speaking on behalf of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation of Thailand, currently the Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM). This statement was made during the partnership dialogue between ACDM and civil society representatives held last week in Bangkok, Thailand.
This dialogue between government and civil society was part of a process for reaching a common understanding and ways of working together in support of the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER). The process started with consultations with civil society organisations in the countries, followed by a regional consultation attended by national and regional civil society representative. "It is crucial that we successfully take this process forward. Partnership between the ACDM and civil society upholds the very purpose of the ASEAN Charter, which is to 'promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community-building.' This means that we are all together in disaster risk reduction and disaster management," according to Mr. Ratananakin.
The dialogue was attended by representatives of the national disaster management offices and civil society organisations that work both in national and regional in scope, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The civil society participants to the dialogue represent a diversity of organisations working with vulnerable groups and communities in ASEAN, such as those working with women, children, older persons, persons with disability, and even organisations working for the protection of animals during emergencies.
During the dialogue, proposed areas of partnership between ASEAN and civil societies in achieving disaster resilience were discussed. These areas include disaster risk assessment and early warning that considers vulnerability information at community level. Civil society also proposed practical actions to assist ASEAN Member States in ensuring disaster preparedness, prevention, and mitigation in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction at various levels; enhancing safety in schools; and reaching out to citizens of ASEAN to instill a culture of resilience. Further, when the need for regional response arises, civil society can offer its resources to efficiently and effectively assist the affected Member State, and to provide its expertise in developing recovery tools. Other areas of cooperation are in training, knowledge sharing, resource mobilisation, and further strengthening collaborative and consultative mechanisms at the regional level.
“The proposals coming from civil society organisations are indeed useful and compliments the initiatives of ASEAN Member States," according to Lee Yam Ming Lee of the Singapore Civil Defence Force, who chairs several strategic components and building blocks under the AADMER Work Programme.
"Once members of the ACDM approve the proposals, the AHA Centre is ready to work with civil society organisations to implement activities in the identified key areas," according to Mr. Said Faisal, Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre). The AHA Centre is the operational engine for the implementation of AADMER.
The CSOs also expressed desire to form an inclusive regional consultative body that will work hand-in-hand with the ACDM on the implementation of AADMER, where constructive engagement between CSOs and ACDM is the key principle. This regional consultative body will have to be linked with existing national platforms working on disaster risk reduction in the Member States, as well as other stakeholders.
“The formation of a regional consultative body of civil society organisations will complement existing national platforms on disaster risk reduction," says Dr. Aung Lin Aye of the Relief and Resettlement Department of the Myanmar Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
"The ASEAN is a trailblazer in the area of regional joint emergency response and strengthening disaster risk reduction mechanisms globally. ASEAN's model of partnerships with civil society on implementation of the AADMER is another high point worth learning from by other regional bodies," says Mr. Cherian Matthews, speaking as Chair of the AADMER Partnership Group, a consortium of international non-government organisations that has been supporting ASEAN in the implementation of disk risk reduction.
The AADMER Partnership Group has been working closely with the ACDM, ASEAN Secretariat and the AHA Centre in implementing AADMER since 2009. The dialogue was organised by the AADMER Partnership Group in coordination with the ACDM and with the support of Directorate-General European Commission - Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection.
The partnership dialogue was held right after the ACDM Workshop on AADMER Institutionalisation and Development of Monitoring and Evaluation Indicators held on 25-27 March 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. The said workshop was organised by the ASEAN Secretariat with the support of ASEAN-Australia Cooperation for AADMER Work Programme.