At the 17th Coordinating Conference on the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (SOC-COM) on 17 December 2021 to discuss the future of climate change cooperation in the region, Brunei Darussalam encouraged member states to continue the implementation of the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters, or ASEAN SHIELD.
During the 38th summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) held via videoconference on 26 October 2021, ASEAN adopted the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD), a strategic, holistic, cross-sectoral and coordinated approach across the three ASEAN Community Pillars, to ensure ASEAN’s response in mitigating the impacts of different types of emergencies and disaster.
The Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration states that the ASEAN is cognizant of the multi-dimensional impacts posed by the increase in global and interconnected challenges, including economic and financial crises, cybersecurity, climate change, environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, nuclear or radiological emergencies, energy, vaccine and food shortages, natural disasters and public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which have or could greatly affect the lives and well-being of the people and sustainable development of the ASEAN Community, with reverberating and long-standing impacts throughout the region and beyond. It recognises the importance of a ‘whole-of-Community approach’ and promoting greater cross-pillar and cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination, to better prepare for, address and recover from emergencies and disasters affecting the Southeast Asian region in an effective and holistic manner, to better protect the ASEAN Community from the detrimental impacts of these challenges, and to minimise further disruptions to the lives and livelihoods of the peoples of ASEAN.
The Declaration emphasises the need to improve communication and linkages among ASEAN processes and mechanisms to swiftly and effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, as well as, to optimise or streamline the use of existing measures and ASEAN processes, in order to shield and protect the ASEAN Community, with a view to minimising disruptions and ensuring continuity in the daily lives and services for the people.
It also calls for tasking the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC), supported by the Joint Consultative Meeting (JCM) and the ASEAN Secretariat to coordinate and oversee the progress on work and initiatives under ASEAN SHIELD. The Declaration further tasks the ACC, supported by the JCM and the relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, to review and strengthen the role of the Secretary-General of ASEAN as the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator (SG-AHAC), through the review of the Terms of Reference of the Secretary-General of ASEAN as the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, to enable the Secretary-General to: (i) recommend the timely activation of the relevant ASEAN mechanisms to expeditiously address regional emergencies and disasters in consultation with the relevant Sectoral Bodies; (ii) expand the coverage of the responsibilities and roles of the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator, to include coordination of ASEAN’s response to other types of emergencies and disasters affecting the region that may fall under ASEAN SHIELD; and (iii) coordinate and oversee ASEAN’s overall response towards the successful implementation of ASEAN SHIELD across all three ASEAN Community Pillars, to facilitate the timely and expeditious activation process of the ASEAN SHIELD.
The Declaration encourages ASEAN Sectoral Bodies to build up necessary initiatives and measures in promoting and strengthening ASEAN SHIELD, including by promoting the regular exchange of experiences and information, and dialogue among ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, where relevant, to accelerate well-coordinated and regionally concerted efforts towards building a prepared, responsive and resilient ASEAN Community.
There is also a call for cooperation with ASEAN external partners in consultation with the relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, including through sharing of best practices and lessons learned, to improve the coordination of existing ASEAN processes and mechanisms, with a view to facilitate the implementation of ASEAN SHIELD, as well as to enhance ASEAN’s disaster risk reduction and management capabilities, to better prepare and respond to emergencies and disasters which have or may affect the region in the future. Finally, the Declaration commits to an enduring aspiration to shield and protect the peoples of ASEAN, including the most vulnerable populations, during times of emergency and disaster, to protect their lives and livelihoods, and ensure the continued provision of essential goods and services, including medicines and medical supplies, to minimise disruptions or impacts and spillover effects to the ASEAN Community.
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