Military officers from ASEAN countries and dialogue partners met in Vientiane yesterday to discuss ways forward in their cooperation for more effective humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).
The officers were gathered for the 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus Experts Working Group on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Meeting as the last meeting for this second phase of cooperation under the Laos-Japan co-chairmanship from 2014 to 2016.
ASEAN is a region at risk of various types of disasters and different levels of severity. Numerous storms hit the Philippines every year, which causes loss of lives and properties.
The 2006 earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia and Thailand. Similar losses also occurred with Japan in 2011 from strong earthquakes and the consequent enormous tsunami.
Myanmar faced a huge loss from Cyclone Nargis hitting the Irrawaddy River Delta in 2008, while flash floods have also caused deaths and loss of properties in Laos in recent years. The threats of natural disasters have continued with the recent earthquake significantly affected Indonesia’s Aceh province. In his welcoming remarks at yesterday’s meeting, Deputy Minister of Defence, Major General Onesy Senesouk said, “Even though this meeting is the last meeting for this phase of cooperation, this does not mean the end of humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”
“We have to continue the development of our existing cooperation mechanisms and enhance our capacity for more effective and efficient response to emergencies and minimise the loss of lives and properties,” he added.
At the meeting, participants discussed the achievements of cooperation made by the EWG in the past three years, learned about the results of the joint training exercise of the EWGs on HADR and military medicines. They also considered the basic principles of the multinational coordination centre and passed the declaration by affected countries.
Chapter 6 of the Standard Operating Procedure for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Operations was also tabled to the discussion for final agreement.
ASEAN established the Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in 2006 as a platform that allows for open and constructive dialogue on regional security issues of mutual interest at the ministerial level and promotes practical operations among the ASEAN armed forces.
All ASEAN member states are members of the ADMM. The ADMM also engages eight key extra regional partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States through the ADMM-Plus.
At their meeting in Vientiane in May, ASEAN defence ministers agreed on the concept of founding an ASEAN dignitaries readiness group to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Major General Onesy said the continued cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief reflected the joint efforts in realising the task agreed by ASEAN defence ministers.
Source: Vientiane Times