Senior Representatives from 10 ASEAN Member States visited Europe last week to observe EU arrangements in managing disasters as part of the “EU-ASEAN Knowledge Exchange Activity,” aimed towards greater cooperation and exchange of skills and practices.

During the visit, 13 Senior Government officials, mainly from National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs), visited Brussels and met with officials of Civil Protection, Belgian First Aid and Support (BFast), European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO)and the European External Action Service (EEAS), including Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. The activity was intensively filled by detail presentation on how EU and each member state manage disasters within and outside Europe.

The group also visited a number of Monitoring and Information Centres and Coordination Centres to better understand EU operational modes and capacities. The Head of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Division of the ASEAN Secretariat and the Executive Director of the Jakarta-based ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) Centre gave presentations on recent developments in Southeast Asia. In order to compare regional and national mechanism for Disaster management, the ASEAN delegates also visited BFast, which offered them an overview of Belgian intervention in case of major disaster.

The group met with Italian Civile Protezione and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and visited their respective control centres in Rome.

The activity was funded and managed by the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI) as part of its Disaster Management component, with organisational support from ECHO’s Civil Protection Unit.

The knowledge exchange activity gained participants a much deeper insight about planning and operations management and assistance in managing disaster. The week provided numerous lessons and examples to be taken back to the ASEAN region as it develops its own regional capacity under the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Response (AADMER).

There are plans for follow up action and further building of cooperative networks between the EU and ASEAN and between each Member States. A reciprocal visit from the EU to ASEAN is expected in November to commemorate the first anniversary of the AHA Centre and the 10th anniversary of the European Community Humanitarian Office.