PostHeaderIcon Co-Chairmen's Report of the Third ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Disaster Relief, Moscow, 11-14 April 1999

Co-Chairmen's Report of the Third ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Disaster Relief
Moscow, 11-14 April 1999

 

In accordance with the Chairman's Statement of the Fifth ASEAN Regional Forum (Manila, July 27, 1998) and in pursuance of the recommendations of the Second Inter-Sessional Meeting on Disaster Relief (ISM-DR) (Bangkok, February l8-20, 1998), the Third ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Disaster Relief was held on April 11-14, 1999 in Moscow. The meeting was organized by the Russian Federation and Vietnam and co-chaired by Col. Gen. Nikolai I. Loktionov, Deputy Minister for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters of the Russian Federation, and Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huy Hieu, Permanent Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam National Committee for Search and Rescue.

2. The Meeting was attended by delegations from 21 ARF participants. Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the ASEAN Secretariat, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) and the Inter-State Council on Natural and Man-Made Disasters participated as resource persons and guest speakers. Most delegations included representatives of their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense as well as other agencies involved in disaster management. It was recognized by participants that bringing together defense and non-defense officials is serving the overall objectives of confidence building of the ARF. It was also noted that for the first time in ARF history the ISM-DR was co-chaired by representatives of disaster management agencies. The list of participants is attached as Annex A. The list of ARF contact points was updated and is attached as Annex B.

3. The Meeting adopted the Agenda which is attached as Annex C. The Programme of the Meeting is attached as Annex D.

4. The Meeting was opened by H.E. Mr. Grigori B. Karasin, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. In his address Mr. Karasin commended the activities of the ARF ISM on Disaster Relief. He pointed out that these activities must be viewed as an important and integral part of the model for improving security at national as well as regional levels and must facilitate the confidence building process among ARF participants. It was also noted that the ARF has made valuable efforts in seeking areas of potential cooperation in disaster response and relief. General consensus has been reached among participants on the necessity to enhance cooperation. It is now time to build upon the achieved progress and focus on the implementation of the agreed recommendations to flesh out the modalities for taking coordinated practical measures and actions at a pace comfortable to all participants.

5. The Meeting was held from April 11 to 14, 1999. Two days were spent in plenary and one was taken up by a field trip to the Russian Federation Ministry of Emergency and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) Center in Noginsk, Moscow Region. The delegates were briefed on the activities of ENERCOM in delivering disaster relief and shown a demonstration of disaster relief techniques.

6. The objectives of the Meeting were agreed by participants as follows:

  • to review the options for practical actions in enhancing regional coordination recommended by the ARF Expert Group, and to decide on recommendations to submit to ARF Senior Officials Meeting (SOM);
  • to continue consideration of modalities for utilization of the existing regional and international resources and mechanisms and developing common approaches in disaster response and relief;
  • to further study practical activities of ARF participants in the field of disaster response and relief;
  • to define the future direction of possible cooperation and mutual assistance among ARF participants on a voluntary basis;
  • to contribute further to mutual understanding and confidence building among ARF participants.

Item 1. Review of the Previous Meetings

7. Thailand and the ADPC briefed the Meeting on the outcome of the ARF Disaster Relief Expert Group Meeting held in Bangkok on January 29, 1999 and on the recommendations of the Track Two Workshop on Disaster Management held in Bangkok on January 25-28, 1999. The Meeting agreed that these recommendations provided a useful conceptual framework for considering the ARF's role in disaster relief. It was recognized that the recommendations of the Track Two Workshop paved the way for the concrete output of the Track One Expert Group Meeting. The ISM expressed its appreciation to the ADPC for organizing the Workshop and to the United States for providing financial support.

8. The Meeting noted in particular the Specific Options endorsed by the Expert Group Meeting. It arrived at a broad consensus that these options should be further considered and implemented at a pace comfortable to all participants.

Item 2. Review of Possible Activities for Enhancing Regional Coordination

1. Promoting awareness

9. The Meeting emphasized the importance of creating public awareness through producing relevant materials and sharing experiences in information and disaster planning. During the discussion, attention was drawn to information support in disaster management. Participants were of the view that well-planned and executed information support during and after a disaster can greatly reduce or even prevent sustained damage. The four basic steps to establish information support are: evaluate the requirements, assemble the necessary resources, produce and disseminate mitigation information, and conduct training.

10. The Meeting was briefed by the ADPC on a curriculum for "public awareness campaign development" and subsequent conduct of regional and/or national courses. It reported interest from some donors and asked for a mandate to explore this suggestion further. Some delegations expressed the view that this proposal should not duplicate the programme proposed by the Philippines on enhancing capacities of early warning systems.

11. The Meeting also noted the important role which can be played by the media in promoting awareness and making disaster management more open and transparent to the public.

2. Enhancing capabilities

12. It was stressed that regional cooperation issues should be closely inter-connected with improvements in the regional security environment It is also vital to maintain transparency and openness and to work out certain criteria for cooperation.

13. The Meeting welcomed the proposal by Thailand to co-chair together with Australia an ARF Track One "Train the Trainers" Seminar with the theme "Towards Common Approaches to Disaster Relief Training," focusing on preparedness and response training as well as on the recognized need to formulate common approaches. The Meeting expressed hope that the Seminar could pave the way for ARF countries to come forward with future concrete proposals to train the trainers. The ADPC indicated its willingness to assist with this Seminar. It is envisaged that the Seminar will take place in Thailand on January 25-28, 2000.

14. Special attention of the Meeting was drawn by the US delegation to the "Y2K" issue in the context of disaster management problems with an emphasis on existing preparedness programmes. Some participants expressed the view that joint efforts, including exchanges of information specialists and software, are essential to cope with this problem.

15. The Meeting was briefed by the ADPC and the ADRC on their on-going and upcoming activities.

3. Facilitating cooperation

16. The Meeting welcomed the offer by the Philippines to convene an ARF Conference on Enhancing Capacities of Early Warning Systems. The proposed Conference was considered by the delegates to be an important step for improving individual national capacities in early warning systems and enhancing cooperation among ARF participants. It is envisaged that this Conference will run for three days in September 1999. The delegation from the EU offered its assistance in preparing and conducting the above Conference. The ADPC also offered to collaborate with the Philippines on this activity and to assist with an inventory of early warning systems and experts.

17. In respect to the Philippine's proposal, the US reaffirmed its earlier offer to fund the compilation of an inventory of existing early warning systems and leading experts that could be used by the Philippines to help structure and conduct the proposed Conference. The inventory will be undertaken by the ADPC and will be made available to the Philippines by late August 1999.

18. The Meeting welcomed the offer by the US to organize and fund a workshop on developing a common format for reporting on post-disaster damage and needs. The Meeting was of the view that the format must first be acceptable to the ASEAN countries and meet individual needs for information on sub-national and national levels. The workshop is tentatively scheduled for August-September 1999 and will be limited to disaster management personnel from ASEAN countries, with the results of the workshop to be shared with the broader group of ARF participants at a later date.

19. As a follow-up to the Meeting of the ARF Expert Group on Disaster Relief in Bangkok on January 29, 1999, the ADPC Presented "Matrices of Cooperation in Disaster Management," which listed cooperation among ARF participants, both bilateral and multilateral, as well as with other regional and international organizations. The Matrices cover almost 80 recorded cases of past ad hoc cooperation and existing formal arrangements in disaster management among ARF participants.

20. The Meeting viewed positively the range of cooperation listed in the Matrices and commended the work done by the ADPC. The Meeting encouraged the ARF participants which had not been able to submit their questionnaires in a timely fashion to do so. It was accepted by general consensus that an updated version of the Matrices be prepared in time for the ARF Ministerial Meeting in July 1999 in Singapore.

Item 3. Conceptual Framework for ARF Activities in Disaster Management and Response

21. The Meeting reaffirmed its commitment to work on the development of national and international disaster-related capabilities, to capitalize on existing arrangements and resources, and to enhance coordination between the ARF and disaster-related regional and international institutions.

22. Most of the delegates acknowledged the supportive role of the military in disaster relief. It was noted that national and multilateral military capabilities should be engaged in disaster relief operations according to the concrete circumstances and the regulations in each country, in a transparent manner, but only upon the request of the country suffering damage.

23. Some delegates were of the view that since a focus of the ARF is on confidence building measures among the military, issues of disaster relief cooperation should contribute to enhancing contacts among ARF participants, including military-to-military, and complement rather than duplicate other agencies' activities and avoid projects that put heavy financial or organizational burdens on ARF participants.

24. The Meeting discussed suggestions to explore ways to enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation in disaster relief involving the military on a voluntary basis.

25. Delegates took note of the suggestion by the ASEAN Secretariat representative to consider the ASEAN Model of Collaboration in the implementation of the Regional Haze Action Plan as a basis for broader cooperation covering the whole region and particularly among ARF participants.

26. In view of the importance of information sharing in disaster management the Meeting appreciated the activities of the ADPC and the ADRC and welcomed their offers to use the facilities of these institutions to exchange information.

27. The Meeting appreciated an offer by the European Commission to continue providing funds and assistance through its Humanitarian Office (ECHO) in the form of training and institutional strengthening for disaster preparedness as well as for the implementation of pilot projects for disaster prevention.

Item 4. Further Exchanges of Experiences among ARF Participants in Disaster Management, Preparedness and Relief

28. A number of countries gave comprehensive presentations on their national experiences and national delivery mechanisms for dealing with natural and man-made disasters. Delegates reiterated the need to continue bilateral and multilateral cooperation in sharing information and accumulated experiences in Disaster Management, Preparedness and Relief among ARF participants. Special emphasis was placed on utilization of advanced technologies to forecast and prevent natural disasters.

29. The Meeting took note of offers made by some of the delegates to host joint disaster relief training courses and seminars. The Meeting also noted the idea to conduct special study tours of expert-level delegations from ARF participants to national disaster relief facilities and SAR exercises. At the same time, delegates recognized the need to further enhance local disaster preparedness to better support wider regional and international efforts.

30. It was also agreed that a special section will be incorporated in the Matrices' of Cooperation in Disaster Management among the ARF participants prepared by the ADPC under "Current Capacities and Needs in Disaster Relief Training."

Item 5. Future Direction of ARF Activities in Disaster Preparedness and Response

31. Delegates exchanged views on the future direction of the ARF's cooperation and of the work of the ISM-DR. The Meeting confirmed its belief that ISM-DR contributes significantly to the ARF's goal of regional confidence building and facilitates determining a framework for development of disaster relief cooperation. Some participants underlined the importance of identifying priorities for further cooperation, emphasizing those that bring practical results.

32. Some delegations stressed that the future direction of ISM activities should be addressed carefully. They were of the view that a certain period of time is needed to implement current projects and tabled proposals. The ARF could usefully profit from having these activities run their courses during the coming period. They would also provide the basis for substantial discussion at the next meeting.

33. The Meeting agreed to recommend to the ARF SOM to continue the activities of the Inter-Sessional Meeting on Disaster Relief for one more year and welcomed the offer of Vietnam and the Russian Federation to continue co-chairmanship of the ISM-DR. Vietnazn offered to host the next ISM-DR in Hanoi.

Acknowledgments

34. The Meeting thanked Russia and Vietnam for co-chairing the ISM-DR, ensuring that its activities made a contribution to furthering effective regional cooperation in disaster relief and response and enhancing confidence among ARF participants.