The Southeast Asian region must stand together on World Humanitarian Day to face the innumerable challenges that threaten humankind, Asean noted on Monday.
Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the humanitarian community face daunting challenges and complex human tragedies each year.
Both human and natural disasters threaten the well-being and lives of millions of people, he said.
“Human suffering steadily increases as typhoons, earthquakes, and other environmental hazards destroy entire communities and claim lives. Whole populations continue to be displaced and threatened as a result of human conflicts,” Surin said in a statement.
Citing a recent example, he said that the Philippines had just been drenched by relentless rains from the monsoon, flooding entire cities and towns in Central Luzon and Metro Manila a few weeks ago.
Besides natural disasters, the region suffers from the ravages of human conflict, resulting in thousands of displacements across the region, he added.
“In the face of such challenges, Asean believes in the humanitarian imperative. Indeed we should all embrace the spirit of helping, not only as a matter of policy but also as normal practice and our guiding ethos,” he said in the statement released this weekend.
The spirit of helping is also inspired in the Asean Charter spirit that suggests “one caring and sharing community,” he said, promoting a "people-oriented Asean" and "upholding international humanitarian law.”
“We have also been proactive in fostering regional cooperation and building capacity to deal with various kinds of natural and human-induced disasters. In December 2009, the Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) entered into force. We went two steps further: first by producing a Work Program in 2010 as a set of actionable steps for the realization of the regional treaty, and second by establishing the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) in 2011 as the operational engine of AADMER,” he said.
Asean’s capacity for humanitarian response was tested at the height of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in May 2008, causing140,000 deaths.
In 2009, the Asean Leaders assigned Surin as the humanitarian assistance coordinator for both natural disasters and pandemics, reaffirming Asean’s priority in humanitarian efforts in the region.