Jakarta, 20-21 November 2019. The IFRC and AHA Centre organized a 2-day workshop on the “Management of International Assistance” for Southeast Asia governments and Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies (“NS”).  It was the first collaboration between the IFRC Disaster Law Programme and AHA Centre, and the workshop was graced by Ms. Adelina Kamal (AHA Centre Executive Director), Mr. Joy Singhal (IFRC Myanmar Head of Country Office), Mr. Ky-Anh Nguyen (ASEC Director of Sustainable Development).  The activity was generously supported by the governments of Switzerland, Germany and the Australian Red Cross.

Three major disaster events that triggered the receipt of foreign international assistance in Myanmar (2015 nationwide flooding), Viet Nam (2017 Typhoon Damri), and Lao PDR (2018 floods in Attapeu and other provinces) have prompted officials from national disaster management offices, foreign affairs ministries, and national societies in Southeast Asia to sit down and talk about challenges and lessons learned from these disaster responses. Among those identified is the importance of clearly identifying the government office responsible for declaring the request for or acceptance of international assistance, which office/s may accept offers of international assistance, and establishing standard procedures for reaching such a decision.  There was consensus that in the region practice leans towards accepting offers of international assistance rather than direct requests for such support by the disaster-affected state.

Mr. Singhal emphasized that “as auxiliary to their public authorities in the humanitarian field, Red Cross Red Crescent NS with the support of IFRC are on hand to support their governments to strengthen their national preparedness, and facilitate dialogue between international actors and national authorities on how to better prepare together.” This includes support on strengthening national legal preparedness of international humanitarian assistance.  Basic principles espoused by the IFRC Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance, what is usually called International Disaster Response Law (“IDRL”), was shared by Ms. Pauline Caspellan, IFRC SEA Disaster Law Adviser.  She emphasized that the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response perfectly embodies the IDRL principles, and is a model guide for states and NS not only in ASEAN but in other regions.  Ms. Gabrielle Emery, IFRC AP Disaster Law Coordinator, presented the new Checklist on Domestic Preparedness and Response as well as the proposed resolution on “Climate Smart Disaster Laws and Policies That Leave No One Behind” which was adopted by states and national societies at the 33rd Red Cross and Red Crescent  International Conference.

The workshop was formally closed by Mr. Xavier Castellanos, IFRC AP Regional Director, and Ms. Kamal. Both IFRC and AHA Centre are keen to continue partnership on disaster law issues, and further discussions on the outcomes of the workshop are expected early next year in order to continue the momentum of strengthening domestic and regional legal preparedness for disasters in the ASEAN region.