Asia’s top security forum calls for better disaster response

July 24th, 2008 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, July 24 (DPA) Asia’s top security forum said Thursday a disaster-hit country should facilitate assistance from other nations and international organizations for “prompt and effective disaster management and relief” where needed. The foreign ministers from the 27-member Association of South-East Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) also agreed that external assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country.

“Disaster relief efforts should be under its overall control and supervision,” said the recommendations included in a “chairman’s statement.”

ASEAN’s errant member Myanmar triggered international condemnation when the ruling junta refused to allow foreign aid or relief workers into the secretive state following the May 2 Cyclone Nargis.

It was only after ASEAN brokered an arrangement among the 10-member organization, Myanmar, the United Nations and international community that the initially-rebuffed supplies and personnel were allowed to enter.

Recognizing that many of the ARF countries are in a region prone to natural disasters, the ministers emphasized the need for the forum to “intensify cooperation in the areas of emergency preparedness, disaster relief and management, rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

They cited the need for further training, technical assistance and coordination among ARF participants in advance of disasters.

The ministers urged Myanmar “to take bolder steps toward a peaceful transition to democracy in the near future” and work towards the holding of free and fair general elections in 2010.

They also reiterated their calls for the release of all political detainees, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

While welcoming North Korea’s submission of a list of its nuclear programmes, the ministers “emphasized the need to verify its completeness and correctness,” the statement said.

They also stressed the importance of the early establishment of an effective verification mechanism with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) playing a leading role.

Although the ARF adopted a statement on disaster management in 2006 two years after the Asian tsunami killed 220,000 people, aid workers noted that little action had taken place prior to the recent cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China.

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