The European Commission and ASEAN are keen to engage in closer cooperation in regional disaster management. The mutual commitment was confirmed in Jakarta by Kristalina Georgieva, the EU humanitarian and crisis response commissioner and by representatives of the Indonesian government and ASEAN’s leadership. Georgieva was the first EU Commissioner to visit the ASEAN Secretariat. She met with ASEAN’s Secretary General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, and with Dr H.R. Agung Laksono, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Welfare.
“ASEAN, its most important member – Indonesia, and the European Commission are very keen to pursue new ways for cooperation in disaster preparedness and response,” said Commissioner Georgieva. “In a region that is so exposed to natural disasters, we can certainly do more to assess and tackle the risk of calamities which can wreak havoc in the lives of millions of people and sap the growth of some of the world’s most dynamic economies. I look forward to more cooperation in reducing the vulnerabilities in Southeast Asia, but also to learning from the experiences and practices of Indonesia and its neighbours in disaster management. So we plan to share lessons and exchange best practices and to organise joint training exercises in civil protection,” the Commissioner added.
Together with ASEAN’s Secretary General and representatives of Indonesia’s government and National Disaster Management Agency, Commissioner Georgieva discussed the opportunities for better coordination in disaster management. ASEAN has been particularly attracted to the European model of coordination in disaster response through the EU Monitoring and Information Centre.
The Commissioner’s visit will result in more intensive and practical cooperation with both the Indonesian authorities and ASEAN. Moreover, the European Union is launching the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Initiative (READI). This new facility can target up to €4 million on mitigating disasters and exchanging know-how on how to better withstand nature’s devastating forces. Another example of the active partnership between the Commission and ASEAN in disaster risk reduction is the high-level response exercise which was held in Manado, Indonesia, in March 2011.
Southeast Asia is very densely populated region, which is also highly vulnerable to natural disasters. In the last 30 years, Asia Pacific has suffered 91% of the world’s fatalities and 49% of the global damage caused by strings of natural disasters.
In Indonesia alone, the European Commission has contributed over €113 million since 1994 to address the humanitarian needs of communities affected by earthquakes, tsunamis, malnutrition, floods and ethnic violence. In 2010 and 2011, the Commission has funded the provision of shelter, food, water and sanitation, access to health care and psychological support to the survivors of the Mentawai tsunami and the Mount Merapi volcanic eruption. The victims of the Sumatra and West Java earthquake have also received relief thanks to European support.
The high disaster risk in the region confirms the pressing need to invest in regional disaster risk reduction, with the aim to minimize the casualties and the devastation disasters can cause.
Together with disaster response, the European Commission also focuses on building disaster resilience in Asia. Through its Disaster Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO), the Commission invests in improving the coping capacity of communities that suffer from floods, earthquakes, forest fires and other recurrent disasters. DIPECHO bolsters community-based activities, builds local capacity, engages in mitigation actions and puts in place early warning systems, education and public awareness campaigns.
In Indonesia, the Commission maintains one of its largest disaster preparedness programmes in the region. Since 1998, the Commission has provided some €6.7 million for Indonesian and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing the local communities’ disaster preparedness capabilities.