ASEAN working together as One in making children in schools and communities resilient to disaster

Published: 21 February 2017 9:29 CET

By Wanweena Tangsathianraphap, IFRC

On 14 and 15 February, key government officials from the Ministries of Education and National Disaster Management Offices of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States and other active stakeholders came together at the 2nd ASEAN Regional Conference on School Safety in Bangkok. The Conference was co-organized by ASEAN, ASEAN Safe Schools Initiative (ASSI) Consortium and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


The meeting has reaffirmed the ASEAN governments’ commitment to prioritise school safety through the implementation of relevant regional and global frameworks in Disaster Risk Reduction as well as to strengthen the collaboration among the working groups to continue in advancing Safe Schools in the region.


“As we enter the 3rd phase of  ASSI implementation, it is timely that we mark it with a regional event such as this Conference, to provide a venue for all school safety stakeholders in ASEAN for knowledge exchanges and sharing of lessons-learned on comprehensive school safety programming,” said Mr.Kobchai Boonyaorana, Thai Director Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Policy Bureau.


Several key issues have been addressed to highlight the importance of integrating disaster risk reduction in the education sector such as the regional approach to comprehensive school safety and education in emergencies, safe school network movement as well as the resources and tools to enabling the riskless environment. The regional implementation progress, including the achievements and the strategies were also widely discussed.  


As part of the founding member of Asia Pacific Coalition for School Safety (APCSS), the IFRC has been involved in key steps of the ASSI in the past years. In this Conference, IFRC facilitated the thematic session on Enhancing the ASEAN Youth engagement in school safety initiatives” engaging representatives from ASEAN National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, schools, youth, UN agencies and other partners.


Lessons learned and experience were shared among the participants. The new IFRC tool,  youth engagement toolkit in school safety was introduced in the thematic session and the potential opportunities and key recommendations were proposed back to the plenary meeting.


“I would like to say this Conference is very inspiring, because for me, I managed to see what others have been doing in this field,” said Mr. Lai Wai Keat, a youth volunteer from Malaysian Red Crescent Society. “After this Conference, I will fly back to Malaysia to find more volunteers to join in, and we can start doing something from there with the Malaysian Red Crescent,” he added.


Southeast Asia is one of the regions with high incidence of natural hazards such as earthquake, floods, typhoons and fire. More than 100 million children are at risk living or studying in these disaster-prone areas.[1] They are also among the most vulnerable groups when disaster strikes due to limited resources and capacity[2]. Empowering the children and young people to identify the risks they face at home, at school and in their community as well as enable them to become more resilient to disasters, is therefore crucial to achieve ASEAN goal on Disaster Management.


“Building safe and resilient schools is a corner stone of building resilient communities,” emphasized Mr. Marwan Jilani, the Head of the IFRC Bangkok Country Cluster Support Team in his closing statement.


The organization made two commitments at this conference; by first, to strengthen and broaden the engagement the youth and volunteers and scale up our school safety activities to more schools and more children at risk, and second to institutionalize the partnership around ASSI Consortium as an inclusive and long-term program approach.


“We look forward to taking this important initiative to new levels and to reach together to more schools and more children,” he concluded.