Dr Jonatan Lassa; Senior Lecturer, Emergency & Disaster Management, Faculty of Arts and Society, Charles Darwin University, Australia; discussed the status of disaster policy in ASEAN, and offered insights into further improving the reform of these regional policies, at the RSIS seminar “Disaster Policy Reform in ASEAN 2003-2023: Progress and Challenges”. The seminar, hosted by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre), was held on 20 February 2023 at the RSIS Lecture Theatre. Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, NTS Centre Head, moderated the seminar.
According to Dr Lassa, although key bodies in ASEAN, such as the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management Centre, and dialogue partners, have been consistently collaborating in the development of regional disaster policies, progress is more difficult to assess when measuring lasting impact on the ground.
The major challenge is the absence of a systematic commitment to sustainable recovery and the Build Back Better framework. In the region, we still see many preventable hazard events which turn into disasters. This highlights the need to focus the recovery process to “build back etter” and prevent these disasters from reoccurring.
Dr Lassa argued for a “creative recovery” process which commits states and societies to not only reach the same development levels at the time of the hazard but to reach the development levels should the disaster not have occurred. Without this commitment to reaching these development levels, then the affected communities are effectively returning to the past.
This seminar concluded with a Q&A session. Questions from the attendees ranged from the role of market mechanisms in providing disaster financing, to the need for ASEAN to set its own agenda and the effectiveness of anticipatory action on slow-onset disasters.