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Asia – Europa meeting (ASEM) on disaster risk reduction 

On September 14-15, a high level meeting on disaster risk reduction and management, with a specific focus on innovation and technology, was held in Danang, Vietnam, writes Ørjan Karlsson. This turned out to be an interesting meeting between academia and practitioners, and was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam. 

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More than 40 per cent of the lower Mekong Delta is less than one metre above sea level, so the intrusion of salt in fresh water as a consequence of storms and/or rising sea levels has a major impact on livelihoods in the region

The main rationale for the meeting was to provide a platform for Asia – Europa Meeting (ASEM) members to exchange best practices, consolidate proposals to enhance co-operation in application and utilisation of innovation and technology in disaster risk reduction and management. The meetings could be perceived as an informal work stream with regards to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and parts of the Paris Climate agreement.

The meeting gathered about 102 participants, including senior policymakers, national and local government officials and experts from ASEM members, disaster managers, researchers, practitioners and representatives from international and regional organisations, international humanitarian assistance organizations, NGOs and businesses.

In his opening statement, Hoang Van Thang, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, stressed that natural disasters would continue to be one of the most challenging threats to humanity in the 21st century. It has the potential to jeopardise efforts to improve quality of life and promote sustainable development. From the EU presidency, Peter Petrovic said that Europe is committed to providing immediate civil protection and humanitarian assistance when disasters strike and/or when national response capacities are overwhelmed. He further underlined EU's strong commitment to disaster risk reduction and management.

The meeting was conducted in five sessions. During the two days, the participants discussed ways to enhance technical and scientific capacity and to raise awareness of ASEM members in disaster risk reduction. Special focus was put on sharing knowledge, use of ICT, methodologies and models to assess disaster risks, vulnerabilities and exposures to all hazards and access to and sharing non-sensitive data and information to support national measures for successful management of natural or man-made disasters. Most participants stressed the importance of enhancing cross-cutting collaborations among stakeholders in Asia and Europe

Having deployed to three different Asian countries through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines), the overall agenda was of specific interest to me. The topic of prevention was clearly visible through the five different sessions. During the field visit, our Vietnamese hosts gave examples of how they try to combat soil erosion and salt pollution. More than 40 per cent of the lower Mekong Delta is less than one metre above sea level, so the intrusion of salt in fresh water as a consequence of storms and/or rising sea levels has a major impact on livelihoods in the region (see image above).

Prevention saves lives, and money. It’s a cliché, but nonetheless true. Still, it’s difficult to get prevention as a topic high enough on the political agenda. The most important outcome of the ASEM meetings might be just that.

Ørjan Karlsson is Head of International Relations Department/Assistant Deputy Director at Norway's Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (CPEP) and a Member of CRJ's Editorial Advisory Panel

For more information about ASEM, click here

For more information on the Mekong Delta, click here  

Ørjan Karlsson, 05/11/2016
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