Regional preparedness and response mandates in national laws
None of the ASEAN MS legal frameworks on DRM include specific provisions about working with the AHA Centre or implementing AADMER. They also do not mention the ASEAN Standard Operating Procedure for Regional Standby Arrangements and Coordination of Joint Disaster Relief and Emergency Response Operations (SASOPs). However, the participants of the Regional Consultation shared that some national policy documents already cover these (but these are not yet available in English and are therefore not covered by this research). For example, in Lao PDR the SASOP has already been implemented, even though it is not mentioned in their national DRM law.
Specific provisions for mobilization of resources for regional response were generally not present in any of the national DRM legal frameworks. Each law was screened for the inclusion of either (a) regional or bilateral information sharing on existing threats and hazards, or (b) mobilization of regional resources for response, and neither of these categories of provisions was found. However, the laws were also examined for inclusion of general measures on complying with international/regional treaties, calling for international/regional assistance, responding to such calls from others, and allowing transit of humanitarian goods, equipment and personnel.
One DRM law was identified that mentions ASEAN, and that somewhat indirectly. This is the Myanmar Natural Disaster Management Act 2013, which defines “foreign regional organizations” as including ASEAN, and then allocates duties to the national committee that it carries out with the permission of the Government. These include:
- Making recommendations to the Government on the contribution of foreign regional organizations to Myanmar’s Natural Disaster Management Fund;
- Providing humanitarian assistance to foreign countries struck by major disasters, “especially any member State of the foreign regional organizations;”
- Permitting “transit through the state of food and relief items and rehabilitation material provided by a foreign country to another country.”
This provides a general but solid mandate for regional coordination under AADMER and with the AHA Centre.
Given the lack of specific mention of AADMER or the AHA Centre so far in the ASEAN MS national laws, the research focused on the general provisions in the laws concerning regional or international cooperation relating to disasters.
Most laws have provisions for calling for and accepting international assistance (understood to cover regional assistance), but only a few laws have provisions on providing external assistance to other states. For example, both Malaysia and Singapore include scope for the mobilization of their national civil defence forces to other countries if requested during disasters.
Some of the laws include powers that are relevant to AADMER implementation without specifically mentioning it. Four main types of provisions have been identified that can support aspects of AADMER implementation. These are legal provisions on:
- Fulfilling relevant treaty obligations in general
- Requesting and receiving international or regional assistance (IDRL)
- Responding to requests and sending international or regional assistance
- Allowing for transit of humanitarian assistance across the national territory to other countries where they need disaster assistance
Examples for peer sharing - fulfilling general treaty obligations
Three ASEAN MS laws were identified that give powers to the national DRM institutions relating to treaty obligations (including ‘agreements’ and ‘arrangements’) – Brunei, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Brunei has relatively detailed mandates on this issue in its Disaster Management Order 2006 (Articles 9 and 17). It empowers the National Disaster Committee to:
- “ensure that regional and international arrangements concerning matters relating to effective disaster management are established and maintained;”
- “to decide on the assistance to be provided to any country or territory relating to disaster operations;” and
- to decide on the assistance offered by any country or territory, organization or individual.” (DMO art. 9)
The Order also includes related functions for the Director of the Brunei NDMC, to:
- “To establish and maintain regional and international arrangements concerning matters relating to effective disaster management;” and
- to “coordinate assistance for disaster management and disaster operations, whether within or outside Brunei Darussalam.”
These provide general powers in relation to regional arrangements – which would include ASEAN, AADMER and AHA Centre obligations, agreements and procedures.
They also give general powers to the DRM institutions in relation to:
- Sending humanitarian assistance to other countries
- Accepting international humanitarian assistance
In Cambodia, the Disaster Management Law 2015 specifically empowers the National Committee on Disaster Management (NCDM) (in Article 28) as:
“…the leader in coordination and implementation of international cooperation, collaboration and international assistance in terms of budget, resources and materials for the disaster management activities including the implementation of bilateral, multilateral, regional and international agreements on disaster management and joint multi-lateral response in the period of the disaster and/or emergency.”
Although these are general powers that do not refer to ASEAN, AADMER or the AHA Centre, there is clear authority to implement these treaties and to undertake joint multi-lateral disaster response. The Cambodia law also has very extensive provisions on receiving international assistance, that are described in more detail under that heading.
The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act 2010 also mentions treaty obligations (Articles 6 and 9):
- The National NDRRM Council is empowered to: “Coordinate or oversee the implementation of the country’s obligations with disaster management treaties to which it is a party and see to it that the country’s disaster management treaty obligations be incorporated in its disaster risk reduction and management frameworks, policies, plans, programs and projects.”
- The Office of Civil Defence is empowered to: “Ensure that all disaster risk reduction programs, projects and activities requiring regional and international support shall be in accordance with duly established national policies and aligned with international agreements;”
These provisions do not mention any specific obligations under the ASEAN or AADMER or AHA agreements, but they do give clear powers and responsibilities to the national DRM institutions. The NDRRM Council and OCD need to make sure that the country’s obligations under the regional provisions are met. They also need to take these obligations into account as an integral part of their domestic disaster risk reduction and management activities.
All of these types of general provisions provide the necessary powers, but they do need to be supported by procedures or rules to implement the treaty obligations under the AADMER.