ASEAN Takes a Proactive Approach to Disaster Risk Reduction

Date Published
June 8, 2022

Anticipatory action relies on data analysis to predict where crises, such as the next pandemic, might occur and act ahead of time. Photo credit: Asian Development Bank.

Southeast Asian countries are enhancing their capacity to anticipate climate-related hazards and mitigate emerging threats and health emergencies, such as COVID-19. This entails working together toward data-driven risk management, increasing financial resiliency to deal with disasters, strengthening infrastructure resilience, and promoting ecosystem-based solutions.

“Southeast Asian countries are moving toward mechanisms for disaster preparedness and response that can operate based on the ‘One ASEAN, One Response’ principles of speed, scale and solidarity,” said Deputy Director General Tianchai Chukittiwibul of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation of Thailand and Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management.

Climate-related hazards, such as floods, typhoons, droughts, heat or cold waves, and storm affected more than 57 million people in Asia and the Pacific, including Southeast Asia. These hazards not only threaten lives of the most at-risk populations but they also have ripple effects on community livelihoods, which can strip away income and food security. Over the last 50 years, Asia has accounted for half of the world’s economic losses from natural disasters, amounting to more than $1.3 trillion.

Anticipatory action

At the sidelines of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) held in Bali last month, ASEAN launched its Framework on Anticipatory Action in Disaster Management. The framework is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Deputy Director Shukri Ahmed of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Office of Emergencies and Resilience said ASEAN is one of the most productive agricultural baskets in the world, and it best suited to showcase the importance of anticipatory action for livelihood interventions.

Climate change continues to increase the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events, thus anticipatory action is fast becoming a critical approach in comprehensive disaster risk management.

Anticipatory Action is a set of interventions that is carried out when a hazard poses imminent danger based on a forecast, early warning, or pre-disaster risk analysis. It helps mitigate the impact of an anticipated disaster on people, assets, and infrastructure. Interventions include early warning information and advisory to decision-makers in government, the private sector, civil society, local communities, and humanitarian partners; enabling informed and timely action at different levels; situational monitoring of the risks or possible impacts; ensuring the continuation of services, such as access to water, electricity, communications, and transportation infrastructure; protective livelihood interventions; pre-positioning equipment and supplies where there is an imminent danger; distributing assistance pre-disaster; and ensuring critical infrastructure maintenance is done ahead of a disaster.

Strategic and holistic 

In Bali, ASEAN member states also issued a joint statement on strengthening resilience to disasters. Member states agreed to intensify collaboration on disaster risk reduction efforts in the region through a strategic and holistic approach. Measures they outlined include the following:

  • Implement the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD).
  • Build ex-ante risk financing and risk transfer capabilities of member states through the ASEAN Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance program.
  • Strengthen the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility.
  • Mobilize disaster funding mechanisms, including the ASEAN Disaster Management and Emergency Response Fund.
  • Promote the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data, and satellite and space-based data to forecast disaster risks as well as facilitate open data and data sharing.
  • Build resilient infrastructure and prevent disruption to basic services and utilities, such as transport and telecommunications, when disasters strike.
  • Implement ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction, which include the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of ecosystems and the environment.
  • Partner and collaborate with different sectors and organizations to tap their expertise and resources in enhancing disaster resilience in the region.

ASEAN also stressed the importance of a whole-of-society approach in building disaster resilience and ensuring no one is left behind in recovery efforts. It cited the ASEAN Village in Central Sulawesi as a model for encouraging stakeholders and partners to contribute to post-disaster recovery. The village was built for those who were left homeless by the triple disasters that hit Central Sulawesi in September 2018. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami and liquefaction.

Australia, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, and Direct Relief, a United States-based non-governmental humanitarian organization, provided financial support for the construction of the ASEAN Village, which was implemented by the AHA Centre in coordination with Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, the National Disaster Management Authority of Indonesia and the local governments of Central Sulawesi and Palu City. The project constructed 100 earthquake-resistant permanent housing units, a mosque, and an auxiliary health center.