|ASEAN Secretariat, 21 June 2008|
The Post Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) teams completed their assessments today. The 250-strong teams were deployed to the cyclone-hit areas in the Yangon Division and Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) Delta starting 9 June and 11 June 2008 respectively, for a two-week assessment.
An appreciation ceremony was held in Yangon today to welcome back the PONJA teams. Members of the teams comprised personnel from the Government of Myanmar, ASEAN Member States, the UN, international and local NGOs, Myanmar Red Cross, private sector as well as volunteers. The Asian Development Bank and World Bank, who are supporting ASEAN for the assessment, also took part in the Joint Assessment.
Preliminary findings from the Joint Assessment and countries’ experiences would be shared at the ASEAN Roundtable on Post Nargis Joint Assessment for Response, Recovery and Reconstruction on 24 June. Besides members from the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force, Tripartite Core Group (TCG) and PONJA teams, partners and donors are expected to participate in the Roundtable.
Preceding this, a Workshop on Medical Missions Feedback will be convened on 23 June to address urgent medical and health challenges and to recommend measures to aid in Post-Nargis relief response and early recovery.
Following the two events, the Third Meeting of the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force will be held on 25 June to discuss on the interim report of the Joint Assessment, as well as outcomes and recommendations from the Roundtable.
Secretary General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, will be in Yangon for the events. He is scheduled to conduct a field monitoring visit to the affected areas in the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) Delta on 26 June with the TCG members.
|Press Release |
Welcome Back Ponja Teams
Yangon, 21 June 2008
Chairman of the ASEAN-Myanmar-UN Tripartite Core Group (TCG), Deputy Foreign Minister of Myanmar, U Kyaw Thu, thanked members of the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) teams for their hard work and dedication as he welcomed them back to Yangon today.
The last batch of the PONJA teams returned to Yangon on June 20 after spending two weeks assessing the impact of Cyclone Nargis. All 38 PONJA teams, comprising 32 Village Tract Assessment (VTA) and 6 Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) teams, worked their way through Yangon and the Irrawaddy Divisions, covering over 250 affected villages.
Their critical work will be integrated into a comprehensive Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Report, which will be launched at the meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in July.
”I do believe that all the participating networks had a successful mission and the assessment works of both the VTA and the DaLA teams will be able to expedite activities of the relief, recovery and resettlement for the cyclone victims”, said Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu.
During the welcome-back ceremony today, the VTA and DaLA team members recalled the tough conditions which they had worked in. Heavy rains, frequent breakdown of transportation, and poor road conditions have made their job much more difficult. However, these conditions also made the assessment teams appreciate the struggle that the people affected by Cyclone Nargis must have been enduring themselves.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli, applauded the teams for going out to even the hardest to reach villages to listen to the victims, which he said was the hardest part of the assessment. “By doing so, you touched many people’s hearts”, he told the teams. “You have given hope to many people, children, mothers, and fathers.”
The ceremony was also attended by Singapore Ambassador to Myanmar Robert Chua and Special Representative of the ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Anish Kumar Roy. Ambassador Chua praised the teams for their courage and determination to complete the work despite the challenges of the monsoon season.
“You are still an untold story to the outside world. But we in ASEAN and at the TCG will tell your story in due course,” Ambassador Chua said. “You’ve done the work despite all the challenges and forged the team spirit across the nationalities and racial groups. I have great respect and admiration for your courage and determination.”
“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between our friends from Myanmar, ASEAN and the UN through this new structure called the TCG. It is a new model of international cooperation of the country affected by Cyclone Nargis, the regional organisation ASEAN, and the international community represented through the UN.”
Dr. Anish Kumar Roy, the Special Representative of ASEAN Secretary-General, also praised the PONJA teams for the hard work. “All of you the PONJA teams have done what the world wishes ASEAN and the UN do together, and that is bringing the compassion of the world into the Delta and sharing the real dire situation in the Delta with the outside world for future joint humanitarian actions. We are all proud of you and certainly the people in the Delta are grateful to you all.”
The TCG presented certificates of appreciation to all members of the PONJA teams, the regional hub coordinators, and the operators of the Control Room who kept track of the PONJA teams while they were in the field.
|Opening Remarks by the Secretary-General of ASEAN at the ASEAN-World Bank Workshop on Improving the Quality of Engagement with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) |
ASEAN Secretariat, 20 June 2008
“New ASEAN for the peoples needs support”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A warm welcome to you all to the ASEAN Secretariat.
Thanks for your participation in this Workshop. And thanks to the World Bank for funding this event.
This is one of the several collaboration activities between ASEAN and the World Bank. As you all know, ASEAN and the World Bank are also working closely in organizing and providing ASEAN-led international humanitarian assistance to the cyclone victims in Myanmar.
ASEAN has taken the lead in this unprecedented but crucial operation because we care. We care about those hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims who need urgent relief to survive, decent shelters to recover, and long-term assistance to rebuild their life and livelihood. We are doing what we can to help them. Many of our external friends and partners appreciate our efforts and have come to join us in helping the cyclone victims.
I have even opened a coordination office in Yangon and sent my officers to run it. This is unprecedented in the annals of ASEAN’s 41 years of service. But this is necessary. We in ASEAN must persevere; we must not fail in this grueling mission. Our reputation is at stake here. But more importantly, the welfare and well-being of hundreds of thousands of villagers in the Irrawady delta ravaged by Cyclone Nargis are also at stake.
The whole world is watching ASEAN. Our friends and partners in the international community all want us to succeed. And I believe we have the desire, the energy, and the compassion to go to great lengths to achieve success in this historic mission.
The New ASEAN
What ASEAN is doing for the cyclone victims in Myanmar is what is expected of ASEAN – as a Community of Sharing and Caring. This is the New ASEAN that puts peoples at its centre. This is the New ASEAN that I know and you all know we deserve to have. This is the New ASEAN that we are capable of creating, sustaining and improving to benefit all peoples.
Undoubtedly, many great initiatives in ASEAN are top-down. The decision to start the ASEAN-led humanitarian assistance operation in Myanmar was made by ASEAN Foreign Ministers in their Special Meeting in Singapore on 19 May 2008. The decision to have the ASEAN Charter came from ASEAN Leaders who called for the establishment of the task force to draft the Charter under guidance of ASEAN Foreign Ministers.
But in order to build the ASEAN Community and sustain its development into the 21st century, top-down leadership alone is not enough. ASEAN needs popular support of all peoples in ASEAN – nearly 600 million now. ASEAN also needs support from civil society organizations to help bridge the information and understanding gaps. Civil society organizations are in a better position to acquire information and interact with ASEAN.
In the ASEAN Charter, the engagement with civil society organizations and other “entities associated with ASEAN” has been incorporated specifically in Chapter V. The Committee of Permanent Representatives and the Secretary-General of ASEAN, according to this Chapter V, will be the key focal points in the engagement.
Just like in the case of the World Bank, ASEAN’s engagement with the civil society is evolving; although the World Bank seems to have progressed considerably in recent years. And this is why I think we can learn a thing or two from the World Bank during this Workshop today.
Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar has opened up opportunities for ASEAN to expand engagements with not only civil society but also other various parties, such as ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, ADB and other international organisations. Consequently, through this, confidence and support in ASEAN will be enhanced.
Popular Support Needed
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the commitment of all ASEAN Member States to transform ASEAN into a “people-oriented” New ASEAN is genuine. ASEAN needs support from the civil society in this transformation. Popular support can further strengthen the political will and political commitment of all parties concerned in ASEAN.
On my part, I can assure you that I am fully committed to building this New ASEAN in which peoples are at the centre. You all can count on me and my ASEAN Secretariat staff as your friends and partners in this New ASEAN.
|Press Release |
Launch of New Information Centre on Emerging Infectious Diseases in the ASEAN Plus Three Countries
ASEAN Secretariat, 17 June 2008
A new web-based Information Centre on Emerging Infectious Diseases in the ASEAN Plus Three Countries was launched today. The website was launched by Dr. dr. Siti Fadilah Supari Sp.JP(K), Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia and Dr. Soeung Rathchavy, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN at the Ministry of Health of Indonesia.
The new website (www.aseanplus3-eid.info) is designed to facilitate information exchange on emerging infectious diseases and to provide policymakers, health programme managers, and stakeholders with the necessary information to help improve health interventions and raise awareness on health-related issues and concerns. It is also intended to provide a venue for discussion on pressing issues related to emerging infectious diseases.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Rathchavy said that the website would serve as an important vehicle for providing outbreak and surveillance data to the ASEAN Member States and Plus Three Countries. “I would encourage our colleagues and partners in the region to make use of the communication and information exchange mechanism by participating in the discussions and proactively sharing information that would be beneficial to our work on emerging infectious diseases,” she said.
The website is coordinated by the Ministry of Health of Indonesia. It will be maintained jointly by the ASEAN Experts Group on Communicable Diseases and the ASEAN Plus Three Focal Points for Communication and Information Sharing.
The website development is carried out under the auspices of the ASEAN Plus Three Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme which is managed by the ASEAN Secretariat, and financially supported by the Australian Agency for International Development.