B-FAST visits the Association of Southeast Asean Nations
In the framework of the further Belgian support to the capacity and institutional development of ASEAN, the FPS Foreign Affairs and the B-FAST Secretariat have taken the initiative to organize a seminar on “disaster response” on 03 July 2013 in the “ASEAN AHA Centre” (“ASEAN Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Management”). This seminar was a concrete answer to ASEAN’s request for consultation on disaster response.
Unexpectedly, an extra dimension was added to this seminar: the day before the start of it, the isle of Sumatra had been hit by an earthquake (epicentre between Banda Aceh and Medan). Hence, B-FAST had the opportunity of seeing the AHA Centre in action.
Participants to the seminar were members of the AHA Centre, the ASEAN Secretariat and representatives of the “disaster response” services of the different ASEAN Member states. Besides, the European Delegation and the UK embassy were represented.
During this seminar the B-FAST Secretariat gave an explanation about the origin, the evolution and the functioning of B-FAST and illustrated the new methodological and substantive concepts in the approach of natural and “man-made disasters”. The ASEAN Secretariat, the AHA Centre as well as the individual ASEAN Member states provided an interactive exchange of ideas and experiences. In this context, specific interest was attracted by:
- the cross-departmental coordination mechanism, typical of B-Fast ;
- the availability within B-Fast of a large “pool” of volunteers ;
- the rapid employability of the means of B-Fast ;
- the central role of the FPS Foreign Affairs, i.a. given the network of diplomatic posts abroad;
- the emphasis put on the “host nation support” concept ;
- the attention paid before the start of an operation to the dimensions in the margin of the proper aid, including “security” and “cultural awareness”;
- the training sessions with participants both on the European level and on the UN level.
Moreover, this visit was the perfect opportunity for providing feedback on the recent experiences of B-Fast during the “ASEAN Disaster Relief Exercise” in Thailand. Particular attention was paid to the benefit of this type of international exercises, to the “cultural” challenges and to the important aspect of the transport of material to the “area of operation”.
Finally the ICARUS-project was discussed. This project that is actually being developed, should lead to a concrete achievement in 2015. It aims at increasing the technical robot support in “Urban Search and Rescue”-operations (air-based, land-based and sea-based operations).