Strong regional cooperation needed to tackle future crises in Asia Pacific

Regional countries recognise the increasing risk and intertwined nature between disasters, climate and health, especially with the onset of Covid-19

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic credit: un.org

ASIA-PACIFIC governments are supporting an enhanced and stronger regional cooperation to better prepare for future crises and pandemics.

In the Ministerial Panel on Disaster, Climate, and Health Resilience webinar yesterday, part of this year’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) Regional Conversation series, United Nations (UN) under-secretary-general and Escap executive secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana (picture) said regional countries have recognised the increasing risk and intertwined nature between disasters, climate and health, especially with the onset of the ongoing Covid-19.

She noted that the ministerial panel acknowledged that disaster risk reduction (DRR) needs to be mainstreamed across sectors and highlighted the urgency to invest in preparedness, which some countries have done much earlier due to their direct experiences in natural disasters.

“These experiences are expected to evolve, on top of being compounded by Covid-19. All speakers support for an enhanced and stronger regional cooperation going forward, not only for the sharing of best practices, but also to advance constructive dialogue among the countries.

“Hopefully, the countries could come up with a regional framework to advance both regional and subregional cooperation to better prepare for future crises and pandemics.”

Maldives Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology Khadeeja Naseem said it is a priority for all parties to enhance cooperation and build resilience to cascade disasters through adequate DRR.

“For example, early warning systems and resilient infrastructure are essential public goods and should be promoted as such. These are cost-effective investments that can create huge dividends by building resilience, minimising loss of life and accelerating recovery.

“Furthermore, climate proofing our critical infrastructure is imperative to ensure continuity of vital services such as hospitals, freshwater resources, harbours, electricity and communications,” she said.

Meanwhile, India Minister of State for Home Affairs (Disaster Management) Nityanand Rai flagged an unmitigated challenge of managing floods, referring to Unescap’s Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019 that highlights substantial increase in flood-related losses, with the problems expected to become worse by 2030.

The report states that under severe climate change scenarios in Asia, India will be the worst affected, with annual losses of nearly US$50 billion (RM210.92 billion).

“India suggested Unescap to develop a regional cooperation mechanism for managing transboundary floods to which the Indian government will extend all necessary support including through the institutions in this endeavour,” he said.

Indonesia National Disaster Mitigation Agency head Lt Gen Ganip Warsito said his government will continuously push for progressive implementation of DRR strategies through strengthening political commitments, community-based risk reduction and enhancement of disaster literacy in dealing with expanded “riskscape”.

Indonesia faces both geological disasters such as earthquake and volcanic eruptions, as well as climate-induced disasters such as Seroja cyclone, floods and droughts.

Japan Assistant Minister/DG and Ambassador for Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Keiichi Ono concluded that the region must seek deeper understanding of the linkages between climate change, disasters and public health to better deal with the compounded systemic nature of risks.

“Furthermore, we need to promote stronger governance and risk-informed investment to prevent the creation of reduced disaster risk,” he said.