The Asia-Pacific region bears the brunt of more than half of the world’s natural disasters but has also been particularly proactive in adopting mechanisms aimed at enhancing disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts at the local, national and regional levels. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has developed a complex regional architecture for enhancing these humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) capabilities that includes, among other initiatives, the establishment of an ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM); launching of the ASEAN Regional Programme on Disaster Management (ARPDM), leading to the development and the signing of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER); the creation of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre); coming up with a bold ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management setting the target for ASEAN to become global leader on disaster management; adopting an ASEAN’s collective response in and outside the region through Leaders’ Declaration on One ASEAN One Response; creating a new role for the ASEAN Secretary General as ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator; and, developing strategic work programs for AADMER’s implementation at national and regional levels. Aligned with the latter strategic plan, many member states have likewise adopted mechanisms to enhance national and regional disaster response capacities.
Overall, the steady progress made to-date in this region on HADR priorities is impressive compared to other similar initiatives in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, some of which are even longer-standing. In a cursory evaluation, it seems that national and regional HADR capabilities have advanced and institutionalized more rapidly, within a shorter period of time, compared to others. As such, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, in partnership with the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC-Global) and ASEAN will convene a workshop to share ASEAN’s experience, architecture, and mechanisms which will contribute to increasing HADR capacities while also exploring HADR’s broader linkages to disaster risk reduction and resilience building efforts more generally.
While the various components of ASEAN’s HADR architecture have been tested in numerous disasters, there is a need to better understand and analyze how well they have fared relative to the expectations generated by their creation; what were the main challenges and how well they were overcome; how do the different pieces of this architecture work together and interact with national- and local-level HADR platforms; and how well or which partnerships helped fuel this regional initiative. This workshop aims to shine a bright analytic spotlight on these questions to generate valuable insights regarding ASEAN’s past performance, what steps it might take to address future challenges, and the emulative value of its track-record for HADR capacity-building innovations in other regions.