South Korea, ASEAN work to sharpen disaster response

South Korea, ASEAN work to sharpen disaster response

Tom Abke

South Korea is teaming up with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to train disaster response personnel and set professional standards for how disasters are managed.

The training and capacity-building projects are being funded by the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund (AKCF). One program will use virtual reality to conduct a training course for strengthening disaster risk governance. The project will also include integrated disaster management training for different types of disasters for officials from the 10 ASEAN member states.

The five-year (2020-25) project has three objectives, according to an AKCF news release: provide capacity building for local and central government officials; improve disaster risk governance of ASEAN members; and allow each state’s national disaster management office gather and assess disaster risk information.

The ASEAN Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management, dubbed the ASCEND project, is a three-year effort launched in September 2020 by the South Korean government and the Jakarta-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), pictured. By setting certification standards for program trainers and graduates, “the project will generate a pool of professionals to mobilize assistance and resources during disasters,” stated an ASEAN news release.

“Through this project, we want to validate skillful and competent professionals in disaster management to realize ASEAN’s vision in becoming a global leader in disaster management by the year 2025,” Adelina Kamal, the center’s executive director, said at the launch.

Lim Sungnam, South Korea’s ambassador to ASEAN, expressed hope that his nation’s information technology-driven disaster management system will help fulfill that vision. South Korea has contributed more than U.S. $3.3 million to the ASCEND project and U.S. $124 million overall to 421 AKCF projects since 2012, according to AKCF documents.

The training projects are rooted in the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), which took effect in 2009. The agreement established the AHA Centre and later the AADMER Work Programme, which includes the ASCEND project.

With its typhoons, floods, droughts, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions. Over the past 16 years, it has endured three catastrophic disasters as categorized by the ASEAN Disaster Management Reference Handbook: the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), Cyclone Nargis (2008) and Typhoon Haiyan (2013).

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.