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Activities in July-August

The summer months have been filled with LACER activities and we are pleased to share some highlights in this monthly report.

Technical Advisory Mission on strategic planning (B1.3)

During the reporting period LACER experts Linnéa Arnevall and Peter Månsson led meetings with counterparts in the AHA Centre, aimed at designing a participatory workshop with AHA Centre staff in Jakarta during the Fall. The purpose is to collect inputs and prioritise around key strategic considerations in the coming decade, laying the basis for the 10 year strategic plan.

In order to further facilitate the strategic visioning process, LACER Team Leader Charles Silva and expert Peter Månsson participated in the ASEAN Disaster Management Week (ADMW) in Singapore from 21-24 August 2023, co-organised by the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the ASEAN Secretariat, AHA Centre, European Union, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Asian Development Bank, and Temasek Foundation.

Themed “Disaster Resilience in ASEAN – Now and Beyond”, the ADMW 2023 served as a platform to commemorate the achievements of ASEAN in disaster management and disaster risk reduction, while charting ASEAN’s progress and strategies in disaster resilience. Welcome remarks were provided by K Shanmugam, Singapore Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, and Iwona Piórko, European Union Ambassador to Singapore. Around 200 guests including ambassadors, representatives from the ACDM, ASEAN’s Partners, UN representatives, as well as the private sector and non-

governmental organisations, attended the ADMW. A full program is available at https://admw.sg/programme

Regarding the LACER activity on strategic visioning, the key components of the ADMW were the Resilience Forum and annual Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management.

1. ASEAN Disaster Resilience Forum (ADRF) was launched in Singapore under the theme “Building a Disaster Resilient ASEAN Community: Mobilising ASEAN and its partners on this journey.” The ADRF aims to invoke discussion on a “whole of ASEAN” approach towards a disaster resilient ASEAN Community and the importance of ASEAN partners in this endeavour. Through re-visiting past ASEAN achievements and understanding the challenges in building disaster resilience, the Forum sought to map out the future of disaster resilience in ASEAN and encourage collaboration with ASEAN partners and friends. The ADRF comprised the following sub-themes and speakers:

  • High Level Panel Discussion: “ASEAN’s Journey towards Disaster Resilience”
  • Thematic Discussion: “Securing the Future of a Disaster Resilient ASEAN: Perspectives of ASEAN’s Partners and Friends” speakers from ADB, IFRC, World Bank, OCHA
  • Public-Private Partnership Session: “Exploring Synergy towards a Disaster Resilient ASEAN Community” Speakers from ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Japan International Public-Private Assn. for Disaster Risk Reduction (JIPAD), DHL Group, PDRF

2. ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management (SPDDM) As the pinnacle event of the ADMW, SPDDM 2023 invoked discussion on the future landscape of ASEAN’s disaster management by bringing in experts and renowned practitioners of climate-induced disaster resilience, technology, artificial intelligence, geographic information systems, and innovative proactive disaster management. The theme for SPDDM 2023 was “Disaster Resilience: Investing Today for a Sustainable Region” and comprised the following sub-themes and speakers:

  • Keynote Presentation: “Building Resilience to Climate-Induced Disasters” Former AHA Director Said Faisal, Prof Winston Chow, UNESCAP
  • High-Level Panel Discussion: “Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Communication and Early Action for Proactive Disaster Management” with Japan Bosai, Thai DDPM, Singapore Red Cross
  • Thematic Session: “Risk Governance and Innovative Technology in Disaster Management” with Esri Malaysia, PDRF, Earth Observatory Singapore, Atma Connect

The ADMW also included a brief celebration, as 2023 marks the 20th year of the formation of ACDM. Through the course of these past two decades, the ACDM has seen successes on disaster management within the region, such as the establishment of AADMER and the creation of the AHA Centre, as well as the development of procedures for member states to assist one another in response to disasters (SASOP, AJDRP, etc).

Thereafter, the LACER team continued on to Jakarta for in-depth discussions with the AHA Centre group dedicated to strategic planning, also meeting with ASEAN Secretariat officials tasked with the same. A tentative plan for the coming workshop was drawn up in this context.

Peter Mansson presenting for AHA Centre staff

Conduct donor/partner coordination meeting (B2.3)

LACER used the occasion of the ADMW in Singapore, where many donors and partners of AHA Centre were already gathered, to organise a partner coordination meeting on 23 August 2023. The purpose was to pursue a regular dialogue among AHA Centre partners on issues of common interest especially with an eye toward sharing information on programming and planned funding. Present at the meeting were: Kumiko Ogawa and Arun Mahesti (JICA), Nina Kondracki (GAC), Amalia David Corbelli (UK Met Office), Erik Kjaergaard and Ria Carmelina (SDC), Michael Weiss (GIZ), Amalia Mastur and Anila Khan (FCDO), Peter and Charles (LACER).

The dialogue covered a lot of ground in terms of presenting on current and planned projects with AHA, and separate notes are available from this discussion. Two common themes emerged: first, there is a great willingness among donors to fund additional activities at the AHA Centre, as reflected in several new multi-year projects with significant volume budgets. Secondly, even as new initiatives are being planned, many donors expressed concerns about absorption capacity and current levels of staffing in AHA Centre.

The dialogue concluded by looking at a number of current challenges: high staff turnover, change of leadership in the midst of project implementation, failure to meet donor reporting standards, and a limited capacity to generate proposals which meet donor standards. Finally the partners agreed to continue the coordination dialogue on quarterly basis, with the next occasion in October 2023.

Exchange of Experts (C3.2)

During the reporting period, LACER Team Leader Charles Silva participated in the EU-ASEANExpert Roundtable: What role can the EU play in Southeast Asia? Avenues for EU-ASEAN cooperation in managing water resources and disaster risk in the Mekong. The roundtable was organised by
The Clingendael Institute
and the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) to discuss
policies needed for the EU to increase its presence in the region. As part of
the topic “Which EU instruments and mechanisms for managing water resources and
disaster risk can foster cooperation with ASEAN?” LACER Team Leader Charles Silva shared insights on partnership between EU and ASEAN agencies from the perspective of being embedded within a regional disaster management agency in Southeast Asia, including progress and challenges. A follow up roundtable is anticipated in September covering civil society dialogue and some specific initiatives on the ground.

Joint workshop for Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) functions at AHA Centre and NDMO’s (D1.2)

LACER is pleased to report on the sustainable development of AIM-Net (AHA Centre Information Management Network) following LACER team’s initial engagement in the launch of the concept in September 2022 (see that monthly progress report for further details). Recalling that LACER had co-facilitated the workshop of AIM-Net leading to the establishment of an activity plan for the work streams, AHA Centre was able to build on these successes through a third AIM-Net workshop held on 17-19 July with the support of EU SAHA. On that occasion, the NDMOs and AHA Centre representatives succeeded in agreeing on concrete steps to improve disaster information management and information systems interoperability, including:

  • AIM-Net Training Roadmap that will guide the network in significantly improving the capacities of the NDMOs
  • establishment of a webinar series and research study on data standards and existing collaboration mechanisms

The agreement on clear measures ahead and the fact that the work plan is now being implemented autonomously by the AIM-Net community of practice reflect a desired sustainiability of results following LACER’s engagement. Moreover, the measures bring ASEAN significantly closer to the goal of AHA Centre and NDMOs more easily sharing big data on disaster risks and communicating more readily between their respective emergency operations centres (EOC) to access information and develop common standards for collecting and disseminating information.

Workshop on Training and Exercise methodologies – ARDEX (F1.1) 

ARDEX, the ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise, was held from 1-3 August 2023 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. ARDEX 2023 was organised by BNPB, the Indonesian national disaster management organisation, and the AHA Centre, with the support of the European Union through the EU-SAHA Project. Participating on behalf of the LACER project were Referee Trainer Mati Raidma and observers Paul Shewry (Civ-Mil Coordination Expert), Olga Bezbozhna (Gender Advisor) and Charles Silva (Team Leader).

Firefighting scenes from exercise

The purpose of ARDEX, which is meant to be held every two years, is to test and evaluate regional processes and capabilities through a full-scale simulation exercise which activates ASEAN’s emergency response and disaster management mechanisms at different levels. At the strategic level, ARDEX helps to test guidelines for ASEAN’s standby arrangements, processing requests and offers of assistance, and cross-border mobilisation of resources. At the operational and tactical level, ARDEX tests ASEAN’s command and control structure, interoperability of response teams from member states, and capacities such as casualty management.

The three day exercise, with its many moving parts and components both national and international, demonstrated that ASEAN has the ability to plan and manage a complex crisis management exercise involving multiple teams and member states. The ARDEX also represented a useful occasion for disaster management professionals from member states and AHA Centre to share experiences, learn from one another, and develop personal relationships with colleagues which often prove to be a valuable asset in a real emergency situation. A large number of observers were invited, including donors/partners of BNPB and AHA such as FCDO, JAIF, JICA, EU, MSB, USAID, SDC, PDC.

For the sake of improving future exercises in ASEAN, LACER reporting on the ARDEX has also highlighted a number of shortcomings that can be addressed in future planning. These include:

  • ARDEX 2023 proved to be a heavily scripted demonstration rather than a live exercise which could test capacities under challenging conditions and an unfolding, uncertain scenario. Future exercises should include less rehearsed elements.
  • Of two areas of particular interest to LACER experts, civ-mil coordination and gender integration, the ARDEX contained little of relevance. It was moreover conveyed to LACER experts that civ-mil coordination is not a focus of the ARDEX but rather will be featured as part of a subsequent exercise managed by the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting in October. 
  • The visiting USAR teams brought no equipment of their own, which would have been useful to simulate real conditions for a responders arriving from other AMS
  • ASEAN did not include any external evaluators as part of the ARDEX review, which would be useful for a broad and independent review of the exercise
  • AHA Centre would benefit from experiencing crisis management and emergency response exercises carried out by other regional actors, such as those under EU MODEX.

Support the further development of ARDEX through the integration of gender, human rights based approach (F2.1)

Following her participation as an expert in the ARDEX, LACER’s Gender Advisor Olga Bezbozhna is completing a review of the exercise and its incorporation of elements of the ASEAN Framework for Protection, Gender and Inclusion. The report is expected in September.

LACER team smiling to the camera


Assess gaps and needs in Civil-military coordination SOPs and routines in close collaboration with EU-SAHA programme (G1.1)

In conjunction with the ARDEX in Yogyakarta, LACER was able to complete its assessment of gaps and needs in civil-military coordination SOPs and routines. LACER expert Paul Shewry, joined by Team Leader Charles Silva, observed the civil-military components of the ARDEX and prepared a detailed report for AHA Centre and the ASEAN Military Representative. The report makes a number of recommendations to bring ASEAN exercise planning in line with international best practices in civ-mil coordination. These include:

  • integrating civ-mil coordination experts into the planning, scripting and execution of future exercises to ensure that the function is fully tested;
  • establishing a multi-national coordination centre (MNCC) in future ARDEX. This would allow the staffing and operation of the platform to be tested. 
  • Incorporating staff from the ASEAN Military Medicines Conference into future ARDEX exercises, involving them in exercise design and in planning and scripting phases. An ASEAN Military Medical Assessment Team should likewise be included in the MNCC.
  • Better communication of the SASOP and other key guidelines with all participating foreign militaries before the exercise. 
  • A training module for ASEAN first responders should be created that covers safeguarding, gender and diversity and other appropriate topics.