ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management 2017 - Opening Remarks by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 18 August 2017

Your Excellency Le Luong Minh

Secretary-General of ASEAN

Ms Ursula Mueller
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, United Nations

Ms Elisabeth Rasmusson
Assistant Executive Director, World Food Programme

Heads of the National Disaster Management Offices (NDMO) of the ASEAN Member States

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.




1.     It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you to the 3rd ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management (SPDDM). 

2.     Last year, we spoke about advancing ASEAN's thinking on disaster management at the SPDDM. It is good that the focus this year is on building greater cooperation between ASEAN and the UN, and other international organisations, on disaster management.   

3.     In that context, it gives me great pleasure that we have with us, Assistant Secretary General of the UN OCHA (United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Ms Ursula Mueller; as well as the Assistant Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) Ms Elisabeth Rasmusson. 

4.     When we come together in these conferences, we want outcomes. This is one of those conferences where the outcomes are tangible – year by year we see the difference it makes to the lives of people. If you look at disaster management today, the kinds of disasters (man-made as well as natural) that strike countries around the world and in this region, there are few countries that can deal with the disaster risks and then rebuild their communities after major disasters on their own. Very few are able to do that. 

5.     The way forward really is, within this region, build on our networks, help each other and collaborate with the United Nations. That has helped advance both these sets of partnerships, both within the region and working with the UN. This has tangibly helped advance the ability to deal with disasters, manage them and help people on the ground. Let's look at some examples. 




6.     First, our partnerships within ASEAN. Helping each other in times of crises is the ASEAN way. Every country has different capabilities but each of us has trained personnel and equipment that can be called upon at short notice to assist any disaster-affected country. 

7.     The establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) in Indonesia has helped coordinate that capability in a much better way. 

8.     The most recent example of how that came into play was how the AHA Centre flew emergency relief items to Marawi, with the support of the Malaysian government. We thank them for that, and it is a genuine expression of ASEAN solidarity.

9.     We can and we must do more to enhance our disaster relief preparedness. ASEAN is working on designating the AHA Centre as the regional body to respond to disasters within and outside of Southeast Asia. In so far as our help is needed, the AHA Centre will coordinate it. The AHA Centre can develop disaster management expertise that is specific to this region, which is the primary theatre of operations. 

10.     We will continue to work closely with other experts in disaster management, tap on their knowledge, capabilities and capacity, and ensure that we can respond as efficiently and effectively as possible when disaster strikes.




11.     The second aspect is ASEAN-UN collaboration. This is an important relationship to us. 

12.     This year, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the ASEAN and UN Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management. It is timely for us to focus on such collaboration.

13.     The first Plan of Action was signed in 2012. Since then, the cooperation has grown stronger. Working with the UN helps us coordinate better for cross-border logistical support and builds capacity across the region. 

14.     The UN OCHA's provision of technical assistance to the AHA Centre, in preparing for and responding to disasters, is a case in point. Our officers have learnt from such exposure, and their capability has increased. 

15.     The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also helped the AHA Centre to manage its first regional warehouse in Subang, Malaysia. The warehouse has supplied emergency relief items – tents for temporary shelter, basic necessities, medicine from its stockpile. This has been sent to several disaster affected areas in Southeast Asia. ASEAN is establishing two more satellite warehouses in Thailand and the Philippines. We thank the World Food Programme and the Japanese Government for supporting ASEAN in this area.




16.     The third set of partnerships is with the private sector and NGOs. Last year I spoke about how partnerships with the private sector and NGOs were essential, because not all the expertise lies with government or state agencies. NGOs and the private sector are also important partners in disaster risk management, response and recovery.

17.     We need to work more closely together in developing the National Disaster Management Organisations of ASEAN Member States to alleviate the economic and social losses caused by disasters. 

18.     Today, we have invited representatives from the private sector, NGOs, academics in the ASEAN region, to join us in this Dialogue. Speakers will share their rich experiences in data technology and discuss how these can be applied to disaster risk management issues. The Dialogue will enable new networks to be formed, and spark new ideas and initiatives. 

19.     With as many of the stakeholders as possible on board, we can do much more, more projects to operationalise the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER).




20.     I would like to thank the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for putting this together.  I also thank everyone for the work in advancing ASEAN's disaster response capabilities. I wish you a fruitful and constructive dialogue. Thank you very much.