JAKARTA, 28 November 2019 - Since its creation in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has doubled in size and grown in influence to become the leading regional organization for multilateral cooperation. Along with this growth, attention turned to addressing impediments to the social and economic prosperity of its member states. Chief among them is the threat of disasters, both sudden and slow, which chip away at the region’s development gains.

Southeast Asia is also one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions of the world. Partially situated on the infamous ‘ring of fire,’ it faces risks from tsunamis and earthquakes, in addition to climate-related hazards such as floods, cyclones and droughts. According to ASEAN, the region suffers damage in excess of US$4.4 billion each year on average as a consequence of disasters resulting from natural hazards. This figure is projected to rise as a result of climate change according to the Asia Pacific Disaster Report 2019, which estimates that a 1 per cent point increase in the drought index alone can lead to a 0.62 per cent point decrease in sub-regional GDP.

To address these disaster risks, ASEAN has developed a number of frameworks and mechanisms, the most significant being the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), which came into force in December 2009 as the first legally binding regional instrument in the world. ASEAN’s current efforts are guided by the ‘ASEAN Community Vision 2025’ which sets resilience as an overarching objective across all pillars, and the ‘ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management’, which charts the strategic direction for the implementation of the AADMER.

To inform the development of the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025, the ASEAN Secretariat and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), which leads the Prevention and Mitigation Pillar of the ASEAN-UN Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management, organised on 25-26 November the first ASEAN Technical Consultation on Risk-Informed Sustainable Development, which took place in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Organised with financial support from the Republic of Korea, a key goal of this consultation was to accelerate the integration of disaster risk reduction into the ASEAN’s sectoral work plans. The consultation brought together representatives from around 20 divisions and organs of the ASEAN Secretariat, under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, H.E. Kung Phoak.

While highlighting that “mainstreaming DRR across ASEAN sectoral work plans has been difficult, slow and challenging” Mr. Phoak asserted that “the ASEAN Secretariat is in a very strategic position to advocate a whole-of-society approach and seamless collaboration in advancing risk-informed sustainable development in the region” and described the consultation as “essential to create an enabling environment within the ASEAN Secretariat for a collective forward-thinking approach among different divisions, departments, and with ASEAN centres.”

With support from UNDRR, the assembled ASEAN Secretariat managers and representatives identified risks and challenges to the ASEAN Vision 2025, the means to address them, their respective roles and opportunities for cross-departmental partnerships with the Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Division. Moreover, the consultation will contribute to shaping the disaster risk reduction and risk-informed sustainable development agenda in the new aadmer work programme and support ASEAN efforts in strengthening regional resilience.

“To achieve the objective of resilience, disaster risk reduction cannot be departmentalised but needs to be mainstreamed across all centres and work-streams. It is only then that the interconnectedness across risks can be addressed – preventing systemic risk requires a systemic approach”, said Dr. Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief of UNDRR in Asia-Pacific, who led the UNDRR team, including the Global Education and Training Institute, that facilitated the discussions.

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