ASEAN on Disaster Management: Earthquake and Tsunami in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

7,7 SR Earthquake and 1.5-meter-high tsunami hit Central Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 28th, 2018. The natural disaster caused various physical destructions, and fatalities; the death toll reached 1,948, and thousands may still be buried under the debris, not yet found. In response to the unfortunate disaster, The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) has coordinated with relevant agencies and stakeholders to organize search and rescue teams as well as humanitarian support to Indonesia. This, of course, relieves some of the burdens Indonesia now carries.

ASEAN’s strong commitment to reduce disaster losses in the region and to jointly respond to disaster emergencies is manifested through The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER). The agreement was signed in Vientiane, Lao in July 2005, it outlines the directions that may be taken into consideration by ASEAN in the following years.

The agreement classifies the key strategies to implement the AADMER to become more people-centered, people-oriented, financially sustainable, and network approachable by 2025. Most importantly, the focus is to further strengthen the role of the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center) as the main coordinating body for disaster management, and to realize the vision of ‘One ASEAN Response’.

Established by the 10 ASEAN Member States, AHA Centre is an inter-governmental organization, which aims to assist cooperation and management among the ASEAN Member States and with the United Nations and international organizations for disaster management and emergency response within ASEAN region. AHA Center frequently reports its progress and activities to the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM). The ACDM members consist of leaders of National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) of the 10 ASEAN Member States who operate as the Governing Board of the AHA Centre. The following statements are the core values that AHA Centre has:

  • Always maintain the trust and confidence of the ASEAN Member States
  • Open working environment where everyone is part of a first class professional team that is stronger together and helping one other
  • An efficient and non-bureaucratic organization that constantly delivers results and gets things done
  • Zero tolerance towards corruption with high accountability and financial integrity
  • Passion for excellence in everything we do through continuous improvement and innovation to make ASEAN great in disaster management.

Furthermore, there are 3 main mandates carried out by the AHA Center: disaster monitoring and analysis; preparedness and response; and capacity building. In addition, one of the main strategies of the AHA Center is concrete action in every disaster monitoring and analysis Through these activities, the AHA Centre targets to decrease the loss of life and impairment to property from natural disasters by identifying hazards and risks before impact and by increasing warning times.

The AHA Center operates closely with the National Disaster Management Organization (NDMOs) of all ten ASEAN Member Countries in monitoring and distributing information about disasters in the region. As regards to preparedness and response, AHA Centre advances several tools and regulation to hasten the mobilization of resources between the ASEAN Member States and its partners in times of catastrophes – one of the available resources includes standard operating procedures.

Concerning the third operation, capacity-building aims to build a disaster-resilient region. It has two courses, which are ASEAN-Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) and the AHA Center Executive Programme (ACE). The ASEAN-ERAT is a response team to support the affected ASEAN Member States during disasters.  Every time a disaster occurs in the Southeast Asia region, ASEAN-ERAT members are ready to be deployed within eight hours after an emergency warning is activated or based on the request of the affected country. As for the ACE Program, it is intended to train future leaders of disaster management in ASEAN. The ACE program by far is the most concentrated disaster management training program in the region.

For disasters that occurred in Central Sulawesi, most ASEAN member countries provided assistance, aid, and relief to Indonesia through AHA Centre. The Malaysian government has contributed RM1 million and set up the Sulawesi Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster Fund (TBGBTS) on October 4, 2018, to help the victims of the disaster.

Singapore Government has also offered to send humanitarian provisions and workforces to help with ongoing relief; two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 aircraft are set to deliver humanitarian supplies and equipment, including tents, meal rations, and medical supplies. The aircraft then will continue to help Indonesia with disaster relief works including the evacuation of citizens from the areas affected.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF) has employed two officers to participate in a 10-day mission to central Sulawesi as part of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team; this is under the coordination of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.

The Vietnamese Government decided to offer US$100,000 in aid relief. Prime Minister of Thailand, presented a contribution of 5 million baht (approximately US$155,000) to H.E. Mr. Ahmad Rusdi, Ambassador of Indonesia to Thailand. While Lao PDR donated 200,000 USD and Brunei Darussalam deployed members to explore types of assistance needed. The Philippines donated 300,000 USD and sent relief items, and Cambodia gave 200,000 USD.

As a manifestation of the ‘One ASEAN One Response,’ the AHA Center is expected to always be alert and prepared to assist countries affected by the disaster. Since the ASEAN member countries are vulnerable to natural disaster, the AHA Center has a very imperative role in ASEAN. AHA Center should also do more research about the possibility of future disasters and how to effectively manage them – since nature has always been a mystery when it comes to disastrous events. It is important that the AHA Center should always be prepared for whatever is to come.

Written by Raissa Almira, a research intern at the ASEAN Studies Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada.