Bangkok, 13 October 2010
I am pleased to deliver this message on the occasion of the 2010 ASEAN Day for Disaster Management which we observe in conjunction with the International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October 2010. Today marks our persistent efforts in building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters at both national and regional levels.
Southeast Asia region is prone to all types of natural hazards and we have been managing their effects for many years. The environmental, economic and social impacts of catastrophic disasters have been severe. Over the past two decades, natural and man-made disasters in the ASEAN region have been aggravated by relentless urbanisation, rapid population growth, and increasing economic exposure. If the risk of disasters is not addressed, ASEAN’s efforts to boost Southeast Asian economies, enhance their competitiveness, and make the region attractive to investors would be endangered.
I can confidently say that ASEAN is marching towards sustainable economic transformation. This year, the ASEAN Leaders have agreed that Member States will act swiftly at all levels to achieve sustained economic development and Member States are all striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and implement the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). These international commitments have been incorporated into the development planning process of individual countries and have likewise influenced thinking within regional institutions. ASEAN is committed to the ideals of sustainable development by alleviating poverty and reducing disaster risk to enhance the overall well-being of the peoples of ASEAN. We thus recognise that disaster risk reduction and poverty reduction are two sides of the same coin. The recent UN Summit on 22 September 2010 acknowledges that disaster risk reduction and increasing disaster resilience in developing countries can have multiplier effects and accelerate the achievement of the MDGs. Reducing vulnerabilities should thus be a high priority for developing countries, because the effects could delay or even set back development.
The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), ratified by all ten ASEAN Member States, entered into force on 24 December 2009. The Agreement affirms ASEAN’s commitment to the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) and is the first legally-binding HFA-related instrument in the world. Bound by this legal agreement, Member States have developed the AADMER Work Programme for 2010-2015, which was adopted in March 2010. ASEAN has since started implementing this comprehensive Work Programme, in pursuit of translating the legal agreement into concrete actions and initiatives in the next five years. ASEAN is on the move to attain the common vision of disaster resilient nations and safer communities by 2015, even as the risks and challenges posed by the impacts of global climate change and natural disasters remain alarming.
To realise the vision, ASEAN and partners are accelerating the efforts to strengthen ASEAN capacity and capability to deal with various kinds of natural, human-induced and complex disasters. In this, ASEAN has been working very closely with Member States, building stronger cooperation with the United Nations family and other relevant international organisations, and cultivating a closer and complementary relationship with civil society.
ASEAN consequently fully supports this year’s theme for the International Day: “Making Cities Resilient” and joins in the World Disaster Reduction Campaign to invest more in urban disaster risk reduction. To complement this global campaign, ASEAN also supports the Campaign on One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals. Philippines and Indonesia have been gathering tremendous support from the public for this campaign, where people coming from the government, civil society, and even the private sector have all pledged to make schools and hospitals in their respective countries disaster resilient.
I would like to express my appreciation to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), which has again invited ASEAN to mark this very important day in Bangkok, Thailand. The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management and the UNISDR had earlier this year jointly organised an ASEAN Regional Drawing Competition with the theme, “My City, My Future: Making ASEAN Cities Safe from Disaster”, which aimed to increase awareness among school children in ASEAN on their cities’ vulnerability to disasters and the importance of building safer cities.
Over a thousand children aged 8-12 from countries in Southeast Asia competed to describe, through their drawings and paintings, how safer cities can contribute to realising ASEAN’s vision of disaster resilient nations and safer communities. This is a regional activity where the participation of communities and people at the grassroots is clearly manifested.
Under the AADMER Work Programme, ASEAN will soon implement projects on building disaster resilient ASEAN cities and exploring risk financing schemes as a safety net for vulnerable groups and for the public sector to share risk. ASEAN is aware that cities and metropolises are the driving force of national economies. It is therefore crucial that cities and municipalities should become resilient to disasters, so as to promote the national economic growth. ASEAN is also aware that the poor can be the most affected population by natural disasters. Microfinancing options for the poor are therefore necessary to prevent the poor become poorer after a disaster.
To close, let us use this event to reflect not only the importance of disaster risk reduction towards achieving sustainable development, but to also reaffirm our commitment to speed up and achieve the ASEAN Community, Hyogo Framework for Action and Millennium Development Goals by 2015. I would also like to extend my sincere recognition to the international community, non-government organisations, academic institutions and civil society for their outstanding energy and assistance for supporting the ASEAN Member States in every level of disaster risk reduction initiatives. I would encourage that we continue the existing collaboration and keep on inventing new strategies and technologies to further enhance disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation as well as poverty alleviation initiatives.