Jakarta. The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have signed an agreement on a joint program to strengthen Southeast Asia's regional disaster management center. The program includes a Rp 108 billion, or $7.9 million, grant for capacity building and knowledge sharing activities.
Speaking after the signing of the agreement, the executive director of the Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center), Adelina Kamal, emphasized that the focus of this program is to enhance the excellence of AHA Center as an organization and that it will not be focusing on infrastructural improvements.
"There won't be any infrastructure built using the grant from EU SAHA, but there will be capacity development. In terms of building [infrastructure], we do already have the capacity and knowledge within the region. What we need from the EU is knowledge transfer," Adelina said.
She said the EU's excellence in responding to disasters outside its region is what the AHA Center aspires to.
"We want in the future to be able to facilitate Asean response outside the region. And the best teacher to do that would be the EU because it's been doing it collectively as a region for years," Adelina said.
According to Adelina, several Asean countries have actually helped handle several disasters outside the region, but only on a bilateral basis. With EU SAHA, the AHA Center aims to learn from the EU how to provide assistance outside the region as a collective.
Adelina, however, said that aside from enhancing Asean's capacity to work beyond the region, another objective of the program is to strengthen the internal capacity and organizational excellence of the AHA Center.
"We're talking about being a global leader on disaster management and responding outside the region. We can only do that if internally we're strong: financially and in our regulation. The EU will also help us in that regard," Adelina said.
One of the capacity building activities will involve the Civil Protection Agencies of the EU Member States, namely the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and the Estonia Rescue Board (ESB).
The EU Ambassador to Asean Igor Driesmans said the EU's experience and expertise in responding to and handling large-scale disasters can hopefully bring benefits to the AHA Center.
He also emphasized the importance of collaboration between regional organizations that deal with disaster management with the hope the collaboration can prepare more parties in dealing with disasters as well as making adequate preventive measures.
"Preparedness is as important as adequate responses in order to limit human causalities; we need a two-pronged approach to minimize causalities and losses. We also, as a global community, need to face the reality of climate-induced disasters," Igor said.