Bali, Indonesia, 18 November 2011

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers signed the Agreement on the Establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) at the 19th ASEAN Summit here yesterday. The signing ceremony, witnessed by the ASEAN Leaders, also marked the official launch of the Centre.

AHA Centre aims to be the regional hub for information and knowledge for disaster management. It will also serve as the centre point for mobilisation of resources to disaster-affected areas andact as the coordination engine to ensure ASEAN’s fast and collective response to disasters within the ASEAN region.

The AHA Centre is established as part of ASEAN’s commitment to strengthen collective response to disasters and to reduce disaster losses. The establishment is mandated through a legally-binding agreement called the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), which is the region’s response to the need for a regional disaster management framework. In 2007, ASEAN Foreign Ministers agreed that the Centre will be based in Indonesia.

Indonesia as host of the Centre set up premises and facilities at the seventeenth floor of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (Badan Pengkajian dan Penerapan Teknologi – BPPT) in Jakarta, Indonesia since January this year. A number of ASEAN Dialogue Partners, in particular Australia, Japan, New Zealand, United States and recently the European Union, have also been assisting the establishment of the AHA Centre.

The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), which comprises heads of national disaster management organisations of the ASEAN countries, assisted by the ASEAN Secretariat, has been instrumental in delivering the birth of the AHA Centre and laying the groundwork.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, who was assigned as ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator by the ASEAN Leaders in 2009 said, “I am ready to work closely with the new AHA Centre. The Centre will be the technical and operational arm in ensuring ASEAN’s collective response to disasters. It will be ASEAN’s tool for better response to future disasters, and provide a mechanism for ASEAN countries to work together in preparedness and reducing losses to disasters.”

The signing of the Agreement for the AHA Centre demonstrates strong commitment from ASEAN Member States to enhance disaster management cooperation and reaffirm ASEAN’s endeavours in promoting a disaster-resilient community in the region.