JAKARTA, 27 January 2015 - “Recognising that natural disasters cut across boundaries, strengthening the relationship between Southeast Asia and South Asia is an urgent imperative,” H.E. Alicia Dela Rosa Bala, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community said today during the visit of policy level officials from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The visit to the ASEAN Secretariat is part of a one-week study exchange involving around 30 officers from the SAARC Member States, the SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), and SAARC Secretariat.

The exchange also included visits to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) to learn about ASEAN’s regional disaster response mechanisms and a policy-level workshop. It aims to draw lessons from ASEAN’s experience in managing effective and coordinated response to disasters particularly in setting up and operationalising the AHA Centre. His Excellency Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary-General of SAARC, as head of the delegation, said ”Regional cooperation between ASEAN and SAARC for disaster management could be a stepping stone for larger cooperation between the two regions”.

The delegates expressed their gratitude in learning from ASEAN’s wealth of experience in responding to natural disasters. They observed that with the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) as the policy backbone on disaster management, cooperation between and among the ASEAN Member States is facilitated. As the agreement’s operational engine, AHA Centre has facilitated ASEAN’s collective response to natural disasters in the region since its establishment in November 2011.

In addition, the participants expressed optimism in continuing the partnership between ASEAN and SAARC. According to them, the key learnings from the study visit would contribute to the preparation for the implementation of the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, which is expected to come into force in the near future. The study exchange is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the US Forest Service, and facilitated by the AHA Centre and the SAARC Disaster Management Centre.

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