Asia-Pacific economies are seeking to improve preparedness in the world’s most natural disaster-prone region to help businesses stay up and running and ensure people’s livelihoods in an emergency.

APEC senior disaster management officials took stock of related challenges and charted a path towards greater inter-agency cooperation to reduce disaster risk during a two-day meeting in Bali that concluded on Thursday.

“The Asia-Pacific region experiences more than 70 percent of all natural disasters globally,” said Dr Syamsul Maarif, Head of the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency. “When emergencies strike, our first priority is to protect lives and livelihoods.”

“The effects of business disruptions in one economy can ripple across the region and inflict a heavy toll on the cross-border movement of people and goods,” Dr Maarif explained. “This has the potential to impact productivity on a wide scale and, with it, prices and income flows which make cooperation to improve disaster preparedness essential.”

APEC economies are exploring ways to expedite the delivery of international support to disaster-affected areas based on collaboration between disaster management, customs and immigration agencies, noted Dody Ruswandi who chaired the 7th APEC Senior Disaster Management Officials’ Forum.

“Enhancing the mobility of emergency responders and their personal equipment can save lives as well as safeguard the supply chains and production bases that are vital to trade and economic growth throughout the APEC region,” said Ruswandi who also serves as Deputy for Prevention and Preparedness at the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management.

Support for the development of this initiative is a component of APEC’s three-year strategic plan for strengthening disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness within the public and private sectors.

“Small businesses are the backbone of economies in the Asia-Pacific but are particularly vulnerable to disruptions caused by natural disasters,” said Dr Li Wei-sen, Co-Chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group. “The building of risk awareness and promotion of business continuity planning through training and best practice-sharing are central to our efforts to keep these firms operating as normally as possible.”  

Delegates welcomed inputs from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and recognized the importance of deepening engagement with regional and global emergency management bodies to further these aims.

“An open exchange of information, including real time data, helps to synchronize planning and resource deployment needed for effective disaster risk reduction,” concluded Dr Nguyen Huu Phuc, who also Co-Chairs the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group. “Identifying possible areas of joint cooperation is a key element of our agenda.”

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