ASEAN and civil society launch Safe Schools Initiative
ASEAN Member States, international non-government organisations, and the ASEAN Secretariat, launched today the ASEAN Safe School Initiative (ASSI) Phase II. The initiative promotes a strategic partnership to strengthen collaboration among the ASEAN Member States for advancing Safe Schools in the region.
“The participation of ASEAN Member States in the launching of ASSI Phase II underscores our firm resolve to continue building safer schools and enabling children to become more resilient to disasters. As typhoons, earthquakes, and floods visit our region, regional cooperation in establishing safe schools is an imperative. There should be a joint effort at the regional level to ensure safe education service as millions of children in Southeast Asia live and study in disaster-prone areas,” said Col (RTD) Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Rosli Bin Pengiran Haji Chuchu, Director of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), Brunei Darussalam, as Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ADCM).
The Southeast Asia region has a high incidence of disasters caused by natural hazards, and more than 100 million children live and study in areas prone to disasters such as earthquakes, floods, typhoons, and fire. In the last five years, 14,500 schools in the ASEAN region were fully or partially damaged by natural disasters.
“Given the risk we are facing in the region, extra efforts are required to strengthen education services to be better prepared and resilient to disaster risks. The ASSI workshop serves as a medium for learning and sharing experiences among key actors working in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and education in order to inform the development of a framework for the ASEAN Safe School Initiative,” said Olle Castell, Regional Disaster Risk Manager, Plan International.
The implementation of the ASEAN Safe School Initiative will involve the ministries of education and disaster management agencies from each ASEAN Member State at the governmental level. The ASSI implementation will also be supported by a number of humanitarian organisations such as Mercy Malaysia, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision who have extensive experience in DRR both at the national and sub-national levels. The ASSI implementation is expected to involve other stakeholders in the respective ASEAN countries, including civil societies and media. The initiative, currently funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and Australian Aid, will be implemented from 2014 to 2016.
“ECHO supports DRR as an integral part of humanitarian action aimed at preserving life, alleviating suffering, and strengthening the resilience of communities affected by disasters. It is in order to address the growing disasters and extreme events affecting South East Asia, and therefore the growing vulnerability of school-attending children in the region, that ECHO is contributing to the ASSI regional initiative. The strategy will support empowerment of the respective countries, peer to peer learning and increased contribution to the ASEAN agenda and DRR priorities”, said Edward Turvill, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator (ECHO Asia/Pacific).
The launch of the ASEAN Safe School Initiative is considered to be very timely, given the recent one year marking of Typhoon Haiyan and the upcoming ten year anniversary of the Asia Tsunami. Both disasters caused massive devastation in Southeast Asia.
Currently, ASEAN Member States have committed to ensuring that all girls and boys and teachers at schools have safer teaching-learning facilities and are equipped with proper training and skills in disaster risk reduction.