Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Asia's disaster response in spotlight at security talks

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: Two years after Asia's top security forum vowed to develop guidelines for joint disaster relief, precious little has been done and hundreds of thousands more have died in calamities around the region. The Myanmar cyclone, China quake and Philippines ferry sinking have catapulted disaster preparedness back to the top of the agenda of the annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) talks in Singapore on Thursday.

Ministers from the 27-member group -- including the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and the ASEAN countries -- are expected to discuss a joint civilian-military disaster relief exercise, among other measures. Aid workers said that while the forum was essentially a confidence-building talking shop, the recent spate of disasters and the threats posed by climate change should galvanise it into action.

"I'm optimistic that there can be some small steps, and even if it's just about disaster risk reduction and preparing countries in the region, that would be a good thing," said Ashley Clements of international aid group World Vision. ARF foreign ministers adopted a statement on disaster management and emergency response when they met in 2006, two years after the Asian tsunami killed some 220,000 people.

…Thursday's meeting should show what has been done to follow up on that pact, and how the forum wants to move ahead in the aftermath of the Myanmar and China disasters, which together left more than 208,000 people dead or missing. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was criticised by aid groups for not doing enough to pressure its military-run member Myanmar to open its doors to foreign relief workers after Cyclone Nargis hit in early May….

The ASEAN flag, from Wikimedia Commons

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