A regional disaster response centre based in Jakarta will be designated as Asean's regional body to respond to disasters within and outside South-east Asia, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.
Set up in 2011, the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) currently mobilises resources and coordinates Asean's response to disasters within the regional bloc.
But its role will be expanded, in a bid to improve Asean's disaster relief preparedness, said Mr Shanmugamin a speech at the Asean Strategic Policy Dialogue on Disaster Management.
The annual dialogue was at the Mandarin Oriental hotel - the third time it has been held here.
"In so far as our help is needed, the AHA Centre will coordinate it. The AHA Centre can develop disaster management expertise that is specific to this region, which is the primary theatre of operations," he said.
The AHA Centre has played a key role in managing responses to crises in the region.
Most recently, it flew emergency relief items into Marawi, where Philippine forces are battling militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group. The centre has also responded to disasters such as the Banda Aceh earthquakelast year and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines.
Mr Shanmugam pointed out that few countries in the world can "deal with the disaster risks and then rebuild their communities after major disasters on their own".
Therefore, the way forward is to build on partnerships such as the AHA Centre within Asean, and collaborate with the United Nations, the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), he said.
The partnership between Asean and the UN is an "important relationship", he said, adding that cooperation has grown since the two bodies signed a strategic plan of action for disaster management in 2012.
He noted that UN officers have provided the AHA Centre with technical assistance, and helped it manage its first regional warehouse in Subang, Malaysia, which stocks emergency relief items such as basic necessities, tents and medicine.
He added that it is also important to form partnerships with the private sector and NGOs, as "not all expertise lies with government or state agencies".