Cyclone Nargis provided an opportunity for ASEAN to challenge its collective response to a major disaster in a Member State. It was the first time that that AADMER was activated and tested in a real post-disaster situation providing valuable inputs, lessons learned as well as tools and mechanisms to be further adapted and utilised. The experiences helped ASEAN better understand the nature of humanitarian architecture after a major-scale disaster and how DRR initiatives can mitigate the impact of a disaster.
ASEAN’s post-Nargis experience also was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships with the Government of Myanmar, civil society, the international humanitarian community and their associated networks. It was the first time for ASEAN to work so closely with the UN at the operational level in the coordination of a joint humanitarian effort in response to one of the worst natural disasters to strike the region in decades.
ASEAN’s experience working closely with a variety of partners and humanitarian actors will inform ASEAN’s future approaches to disaster management and humanitarian assistance. Cyclone Nargis underscores the need not only for ASEAN to be prepared for disasters, but also that the association has the capacity and know-how to respond to them. All of the inputs, lessons learned, tools and mechanisms that resulted from ASEAN’s post-Nargis humanitarian operations should be documented, fine-tuned, if necessary, and used in the implementation of AADMER. They also will inform the establishment and operation of the AHA Centre, and will support the Secretary-General of ASEAN in his new role as the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator. The AHA Centre, to be established in Jakarta, Indonesia and the ASEAN Secretariat, should also be the repository of the good practices and lessons learnt.
Finally, the template that ASEAN established to lead the humanitarian effort following Cyclone Nargis with support from the Government of a Member State and working in concert with the UN and international and national NGOs was unique and innovative. As the ASEAN community intensifies its effort to enhance regional cooperation and integration, the lessons from the Nargis experience may help advance the goal of building an ASEAN community by 2015.