chapter  11
23 Pages

Regional governance and disaster response


This chapter explores regional responses to disasters in Asia and the implications for the development of regional governance mechanisms. Disasters are traditionally categorised as either natural or man-made. Natural disasters include, in particular, floods, earthquakes, typhoons and volcano eruptions, while man-made disasters include violent conflicts and the forced displacements of populations that they usually cause. Regardless of the cause of a disaster, the subsequent relief action is con-

cerned with the alleviation of suffering of those affected. Its first imperative is to treat the sick and the injured, to feed and shelter the survivors at risk. A primary indicator for assessing the severity of a crisis is the daily mortality rate (DMR). It is generally accepted that an emergency response is warranted if the DMR exceeds 1/10,000 in a given population. The focus of this chapter is on the emergency response to disasters rather than on crisis prevention or post-disaster reconstruction. The purpose of emergency responses, usually referred to as rescue and relief operations, is to return mortality and morbidity rates to pre-crisis levels. Asia’s response to disasters is worth exploring, as it has evolved rapidly in

recent years. Whereas the region was long on the receiving end of assistance, state and non-state organisations have, during the two decades since the early 1990s, become significant players and provided relief in the aftermath of both natural and man-made disasters. From Afghanistan to Myanmar, from Kashmir to Sri Lanka, Asia faces long-lasting, violent conflicts and forced displacements of populations. These man-made disasters have severe consequences in terms of mortality and morbidity, not to forget the ongoing situation in North Korea. It is further estimated that ‘nearly 90 per cent of the people affected by natural disasters between 1975 and 2002 were from Asia, due both to its large population and to its high population density’.1

Of deaths caused by natural disasters worldwide, 70 per cent occur in Asia and the region ‘has suffered from approximately 43 per cent of all natural disasters in the last decade, costing the region about USD 360 billion between the years 1991 and 2000’.2