The ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management 2016 - Opening Remarks by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 19 August 2016

Your Excellency Le Luong Minh


Secretary-General of ASEAN


Your Excellency Willem Rampangilei


Chief and Minister of the National Disaster Management Authority of Indonesia


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


Distinguished Delegates


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning,




1. A warm welcome to all of you for joining us from abroad. It gives me great pleasure to join you here. This is our second ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management. We thank you for your participation in this important Dialogue.


2. What makes today's event more significant, is that we are holding it in conjunction with the World Humanitarian Day (19 August).


3. The World Humanitarian Day was designated by the UN General Assembly in 2003 to recognise humanitarian workers and their work in helping others in disaster prone areas, people who are in distress and in need.


4. It is a good recognition of the humanitarian work that our countries and our agencies do, and really a way of saying that we can do more to help others, others who face danger, natural disasters and calamities. We can and we should do more.




5. Last year, we held the inaugural ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue. I made reference to the 2014 United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Report.


6. That report stated that the Asia-Pacific region experiences the highest number of natural disasters in the world, including floods, typhoons, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.


7. The expert thinking is that there will be more natural disasters and more extreme weather conditions with climate change and increasing urbanisation . So it is not going to reduce, it may well increase. We saw this early this year. Many areas in Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam experienced severe droughts caused by soaring temperatures because of the El Nino phenomena. 


8. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has issued a report. The Report states that the drought in the Philippines affected more than 180,000 farmers, just in a short period. 


9. In Myanmar, at least ten large regions faced severe water shortages, with the drying up of wells, ponds, and rivers.  


10. ASEAN Member States therefore really need a robust disaster management and emergency response framework. As a regional grouping, we have done reasonably well in the field of disaster management. 


11. A key achievement is The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, or AADMER. The AADMER document was ratified in 2009 by all ASEAN Member States. This makes ASEAN the first regional grouping in the world to have a legally binding document and framework for the coordination, cooperation and resource mobilisation for disaster management.


12. The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management ("ACDM"), working within the framework of ADDMER, has done excellent work. It has successfully implemented the 2010-2015 Work Programme. Moving on from planning to actual implementation, it has:


a. Established the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management; 

b. Set out the Standard Operating Procedures for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response; 

c. Set up the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team; and 

d. Developed the Disaster Emergency Logistics System for ASEAN.


13. These are just four examples, and it has done more. These initiatives have been operationalised. They have been deployed during mega disasters in ASEAN since 2010, such as the massive floods in Malaysia and Thailand in 2010 and 2014, Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines and the 2013 Aceh earthquake in Indonesia.


14. These initiatives have improved ASEAN's abilities to deal with these disasters and the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance in a timely manner.




15. The ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue held here last year was successful. As a result, the ACDM has decided to convene this Dialogue as an annual event.


16. The SCDF is Singapore's National Focal Point for the ACDM, and the ASEAN Secretariat. It will take the lead in organising this yearly event.


17. A principal focus of this Dialogue will be on strengthening and deepening ASEAN's thinking in disaster management, with an emphasis not just on the short-term but long-term policy thinking, setting up structures and ways in which we can deal with these issues. It will work with research institutions and various ASEAN sectorial bodies, and give special attention to regional cooperation on disaster management for the next ten years.


Private Sector Partnerships


18. Ladies and Gentlemen, at last year's Dialogue, we were privileged to hear from many distinguished speakers, including the previous and current ASEAN Secretary-Generals. Dr Surin Pitsuwan and Ambassador Ong Keng Yong shared their perspectives, together with His Excellency Mr Le Luong Minh.


19. Their candid insight gave us ideas and the thinking which shaped our perspectives on what should be the focal point for this year's dialogue, which is how to enhance private sector partnership with us.


20. In any disaster, the governments will be expected, and will have to take the lead. But the expertise does not always lie with the governments. Take large countries in particular, there are supply chain and logistics management companies. Today, there is the convergence within big data as to what is happening on the ground – the geography, the population data and the lay of the land. The logistics companies are doing this every day for a living. They have to get their goods across in good times and in not so good times. They have the resources and expertise. Converging on the other side are the IT experts and IT companies. Governments don't do this on a day to day basis and it only makes sense for the governments to partner with the private sector and think through how we can work together during times of disaster to help the people on the ground.


21. For example last year, Nepal suffered a severe earthquake. The Corporate Citizen Foundation of Singapore deployed its Swift Emergency Evaluation Deployment team, or SEED for short. They were equipped with body bags, stretchers and water filtration systems. SEED was one of the first few foreign teams to reach the affected areas. Their timely arrival helped the ongoing rescue and relief operations, particularly in remote areas where help was most needed.


22. In 2014, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. In the aftermath, AirAsia of Malaysia helped raise cash donations. AirAsia provided free cargo space and flights for the NGOs and humanitarian agencies. These agencies were providing round-the-clock relief supplies in the disaster stricken areas.


23. Just now, I was speaking to a young man from Malaysia, Mr Karl Loo, who is developing a variety of mobile applications which bring together various services.  These apps would help individuals to immediately access these services in times of disaster, which could prove to be a serious multiplier factor for us. We have Mr Markham Shaw here with us today, who will help us think in terms of management excellence. I was speaking with a young lady, Ms Ivy Kamadjaja from Kamadjaja Logistics. Her company provides supply chain management across Indonesia. It makes sense for us to work with the private sector. There is great potential synergy that we need to explore, structure and crystallise so that when needed, we can work together.


24. So thank you very much again. Let's learn from each other and work with each other. Thank you.