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Boosting Disaster Resilience: Learnings from ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

The recent ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management (SPDDM) in Singapore emphasized the urgent need for countries to improve their ability to handle more severe and frequent natural disasters. This is due to climate change.

Singapore's Minister for Communication and Information, Josephine Teo, highlighted the seriousness of the situation. She echoed the United Nations' view that climate change is a major issue. Teo mentioned a significant rise in natural disasters in the ASEAN region. The number of natural disasters increased from 530 in 2020 to about 1,400 in 2021. These disasters caused over 1,000 deaths, 16,000 injuries, and more than 350 missing persons.

Teo outlined three key areas for ASEAN countries to focus on. These areas aim to reduce climate change impact and improve disaster resilience.

  1. Building Resilience: Teo emphasized investing in disaster-resilient infrastructure. She referenced a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The study showed that every dollar invested in such infrastructure saves four dollars. Otherwise, those four dollars would be spent on reconstruction. Teo advocated for a mindset shift. She wanted people to recognize the value of early warning systems. She also wanted them to recognize the value of resilient infrastructure. She stated that prevention is more cost-effective than cure.

  2. Partnerships: Acknowledging the complexity of disasters, Teo stressed the need for collaborative efforts. ASEAN countries cannot afford to work alone. Partnerships with non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, and the business community are crucial. Teo highlighted the role of the business sector in disaster management. She urged businesses to consider climate factors in investment decisions. She also encouraged them to reduce their carbon footprint.

  3. Innovation: Teo highlighted the potential of innovation. Specifically, she mentioned advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. These could improve disaster management. AI technologies could better predict disasters. This would provide responders with more time for preparation and evacuation. Scientific research could lead to the development of materials and techniques. They would be better able to withstand the impact of disasters.

These key areas will help build a more resilient future for the region. Prioritizing disaster resilience is a necessity. It is also an urgent imperative for the well-being of ASEAN nations. This is crucial in the face of a growing uncertain future.

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