ASEAN working to build resilience through disaster-responsive social protection programmes
Three ASEAN sectoral bodies – social welfare development, disaster management and health, together with Specialized Agencies of the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), other partners and civil society groups today announced the planned development of ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster Responsive Social Protection.
A joint initiative between ASEAN, ADB and UN agencies, led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and with support from the Government of Canada and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the ASEAN Guidelines aim to enhance capacity of ASEAN Member States to design and implement social protection programmes that can also deliver disaster response and help vulnerable households build resilience to shocks and stresses.
“This initiative supports two important frameworks of the ASEAN – the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Work Programme and the ASEAN Declaration and Regional Framework to strengthen social protection,” said Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, ASEAN Deputy Secretary General for its Socio-Cultural Community that champions a strong cross-sectoral collaboration within ASEAN in implementing the initiative.
“In our journey to end hunger and poverty, building resilience through integrated, dynamic and flexible social protection programmes will be critical for Leaving No One Behind due to disasters. I am pleased to see that the UN system is working together and with the ADB in supporting ASEAN in this challenging but rewarding initiative,” said David Kaatrud, Regional Director of World Food Programme Asia and the Pacific Bureau, who was speaking on behalf of the UN agencies.
Ayesha Rekhi, a Counsellor (Political/Economic) from the Canadian Embassy in Thailand, and Canada’s Permanent Observer to the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, welcomed the ASEAN and UN initiative. She particularly noted the strong focus on inclusiveness, gender equality, and targeting the poorest and most vulnerable and emphasized that disasters have long-lasting impacts on households that are not always reported, such as disruption of income as well as challenges in meeting their basic food and nutrition needs.
Rekhi said that in such trying times, vulnerable groups such as women and children, can be sexually exploited and abused, deepening personal catastrophes at times of gravest personal risk. She affirmed Canada’s commitment to strengthening sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response strategies in humanitarian settings, adding Canada also believes that society is more prosperous, peaceful and secure when women’s rights are respected, their voices are heard, and when they can exercise their participation in social protection.
Natural disasters cost ASEAN economies billions each year
Natural hazard-induced disasters such as floods, drought, cyclone and earthquakes cost ASEAN economies well in excess of US$ 4 billion annually, and does not take into account losses due other shocks such as disease outbreak and conflict.
“This scale of disaster loss and impact requires solutions that will not only improve effectiveness of disaster response but more importantly to sustainably reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience”, said Taheeni Thammannagoda, Head of the ECHO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. “The EU has been supporting both humanitarian actions and disaster risks reduction, especially community-based DRR for decades in the region. We understand this challenge and thus are pleased to see the political commitments from ASEAN to look at social protection as a sustainable solution for this challenge.”
“The ASEAN Community Vision 2025 envisages a deeply-integrated and highly-cohesive ASEAN Economic Community as well as a resilient, inclusive and sustainable ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, and in that sense, disaster-responsive social protection becomes an essential element in building resilient ASEAN communities in the long run,” the ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General added.