ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management - Opening Remarks by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 24 August 2021

Your Excellency Dato Lim Jock Hoi
Secretary-General of ASEAN,

Your Excellency Kurt Kunz,
Ambassador of Switzerland to ASEAN,

Heads of the National Disaster Management Offices of the ASEAN Member States,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies & Gentlemen,

1.   Good afternoon.

2.   Welcome to the 6th ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management (SPDDM).

3.   The SPDDM has been an important platform to bring together practitioners, industry, academia, to discuss how we can strengthen disaster management in our region.

4.   This event was cancelled last year, due to COVID-19. I am glad that we are at least able to meet virtually this year. 

Challenges for Disaster Management

5.   In this past year alone, within our region, we have seen typhoons and floods hit the Philippines, the Mekong region, Malaysia and Thailand. There were also earthquakes in Indonesia. Widespread destruction of properties. Many lives were lost.

6.   Compounding the challenge is of course COVID-19. Countries have had to put in place travel restrictions and public health measures, to contain the pandemic.

7.   These restrictions and measures have slowed down disaster response and the deployment of aid to the affected communities.

ASEAN's Disaster Management: Making it Future-Ready

8.   How do we ensure that our disaster management response is future-ready, and is able to deal with emerging challenges? This is a critical question.

9.   I would like to suggest three areas that we can focus on.

(A)   First, strengthen the local responses.
(B)   Second, explore new ways of raising funds for disaster management.
(C)   Third, leverage technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness of disaster response operations.

(A) Strengthening Local Responses

10.   Let me deal with the first point. Strengthening the local responses.

11.   Local governments, civil society organisations, and community – they have an important role to play in disaster relief and recovery.

12.   Local responses supported by international humanitarian organisations can actually achieve better outcomes.

13.   One such example is the ASEAN Village project in Palu City, Central Sulawesi in Indonesia. Palu City was hit not by one but three disasters in 2018 – a tsunami, an earthquake and liquefaction of the soil.

14.   Palu City’s recovery effort was led by the local government, and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) coordinated regional and international support.

15.   We can draw on the success of the Palu City experience and replicate this concept in other disaster spots in the region.

(B) Raising Funds for Disaster Management

16.   Second, we have to explore new ways to raise funds for disaster management.

17.   Disaster relief efforts are resource-intensive. Their sustainability hinges on the availability of funds.

18.   The Disaster Emergency Logistics System of ASEAN or DELSA has deployed relief items from the ASEAN stockpiles to fill the gaps in the countries’ own supplies.

19.   Medical supplies have also been distributed to several ASEAN Member States to support the COVID-19 response. However, the work of DELSA is dependent on donor funds, and assistance from the AHA Centre.

20.   It is therefore important for ASEAN to ensure regular, sustained contributions to the ASEAN Disaster Management and Emergency Response Fund, or ADMER Fund.

21.   The ADMER Fund supports many aspects of disaster management and relief efforts in ASEAN, including emergency operations, the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Work Programme, and the operations of the AHA Centre itself.

22.   Besides contributions by the governments of the ASEAN Member States, we should also explore additional sources of funding, including from partners, the private sector, and philanthropic organisations.

23.   I look forward to the discussions you will be having on how we can mobilise resources better, how we can crowdsource, during this Dialogue.

24.   It would be a timely conversation as the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, or ACDM, embarks on a review of the ADMER Fund.

(C) Leveraging Technology

25.   Third, the use of technology.

26.   The ACDM has been collaborating with partners to leverage technology to transform humanitarian operations in ASEAN. For example, using digital platforms for humanitarian logistics and warehouse management.

27.   National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs) are also exploring the use of technology to enhance disaster information management, early warning systems, and search and rescue capabilities. We encourage NDMOs to continue investing in research and development, share best practices and experiences across ASEAN, strengthen collective capabilities.


28.   A review of the areas I mentioned will put ASEAN’s disaster management capabilities and capacity on a surer footing for the future.

29.   I thank the AHA Centre and ASEAN Secretariat for co-organising this event with the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

30.   I also thank the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for supporting this Dialogue. Switzerland’s contributions to ASEAN’s development are manifold; This is just one.

31.   Finally, I wish everyone a fruitful dialogue. Thank you.