SINGAPORE : Member countries at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Thursday called for a quicker and more coordinated response to disasters in the region.
The US and the Philippines are also looking into organising a region-wide emergency preparedness exercise.
The forum has grown to include 27 members, including ASEAN’s dialogue partners such as China and India, as well as major powers like the United States and the European Union.
It has also expanded its focus from security dialogue to encompass combating communicable diseases and transnational crime.
“Human trafficking or counter-terrorism measures – these are the issues that are non-traditional, and have to be resolved within the larger framework of regional countries,” said Damdin Tsogtbaatar, Mongolia ‘s State of Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Key on the agenda is the need to strengthen cooperation to address security challenges like terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and disaster relief. And many are calling for a more coordinated response to natural disasters in the region.
“We’ve seen some terrible human tragedies, such as the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China. These are human tragedies that are beyond the capacity of any one nation to deal with,” said Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters agreed: “If we prepare now for disasters, every dollar spent saves four dollars later. So you need to prepare now, both the plans and the trained personnel.”
Observers said such exercises will help the various armies learn to work together, especially in providing humanitarian assistance.
Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said: “By working together, the different armies will gain confidence. That’s why the ARF can and should look at this issue.”
Apart from being the driving force of the forum, ASEAN also plays a facilitating role. And that perhaps is a key strength of ASEAN in its ability to bring different countries together in the pursuit of a more stable and cohesive Asia Pacific. – CNA /ls
Souce: Channel News Asia
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