Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
More than half of the world’s natural disasters occurred in the Asia and Pacific region during the past decade, making it the most disaster-prone region in the world.While countries in this region have developed disaster management capacities at varying levels, many remain vulnerable and at risk due to rapid urbanisation, unregulated land use and environmental degradation. This became particularly obvious in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. In addition, there are serious humanitarian concerns and preparedness needs that arise from existing and emerging complex emergencies in the region.
OCHA in 2005 set out the agenda for the Regional Disaster Response Advisor for South Asia. In response to the need for more comprehensive coverage of the region and following the Indian Ocean tsunami OCHA established the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) in Bangkok in early 2005. As of 2006, the office covers 37 countries in the region and provides support to the RDRA in Suva and OCHA’s presence in Papua New Guinea, as well as assisting the RDRA’s office in Kobe, which is a constituent element of the regional office. The regional office assists in determining requirements and responds with targeted technical assistance and surge capacity to support governments, RC/HCs and UNCTs. The ROAP also works closely with OCHA’s field offices in Indonesia, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- Strengthen UN system coordination and capacity to respond to humanitarian requirements, including vulnerable groups affected by complex emergencies, by supporting RC/HCs, UNCTs and OCHA offices
- Facilitate disaster response preparedness and management at the national level by providing technical advice and by mobilising regional and international support
- Promote regional cooperation among governments and international organisations to enhance disaster management and emergency response capacities
In May 2005 the ROAP supported country-level lessons-learned workshops relating to the Asian tsunami response in Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Participants came from national governments and the humanitarian community. A regional workshop was subsequently organised to share these experiences among countries affected by the tsunami. ROAP also contributed to the tsunami response by providing a Public Information Officer to support the RC/HC and UNCT in Thailand. The office represented OCHA management at regional events organised to coordinate tsunami response and recovery.
The regional office supported UNDAC missions and reinforced OCHA field office capacity by deploying staff following the earthquakes in Nias, Indonesia and Pakistan. The office participated in UNDAC missions in Mongolia and the Philippines to enhance national response preparedness, and supported contingency planning exercises related to both natural and conflict related threats in Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal and Papua New Guinea. These missions identified gaps in the inter-agency preparedeness and response mechanisms of UNCTs and governments. Advisory support and coordination was provided to UNRC offices in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. ROAP worked closely with the Early Warning Unit and the Papua New Guinea UNCT in order to generate an early warning country analysis and develop documents on potential scenarios and preventive action entry points.
ROAP played an active part in needs assessments of disaster response coordination via UNDAC deployments in the region. The office assisted RC/HCs and UNCTs with inter- contingency planning exercises related to natural disasters and conflict-induced vulnerabilities to assess and enhance response preparedness. ROAP provided capacity that was otherwise unavailable at the country level.
The regional office provided specific training for UNDP Deputy Resident Representatives on disaster response and strengthened UNDMTs in the region.
Between August and November, the regional office participated in joint inter-agency missions for avian influenza preparedness planning in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. It was agreed that ROAP would support the Regional Coordinator of the Office of the UN System Influenza Coordinator (UNSIC) in 2006. ROAP was actively involved, in cooperation with UN partners, in preparing national contingency plans on Avian and Human Influenza in three high-risk countries (Cambodia, Laos and VietNam).
The regional office’s Information Management Unit undertook data-preparedness and mapping projects in the Maldives and Vanuatu, and conducted an evaluation of the HIC in Sri Lanka. The deployment of IMU staff to Pakistan was instrumental in establishing the HIC there in response to the South Asia earthquake. The IMU also participated in conferences and training workshops hosted by bilateral partners in the region, and held initial discussions with key agencies of the Thai government.
ROAP established technical resources, software and equipment to support a range of information management activities, including spatial analysis, mapping and printing. A data preparedness strategy intended to support early warning, contingency planning and rapid response is now being used to support missions to RC/HCs in the region. Improved information management has aided decision making in the region and at headquarters by ensuring a comprehensive overview and effectively prioritizing information.
The regional office also deployed IMU staff to establish and maintain the post-earthquake HIC in Pakistan.
The office was a key supporter of the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN) of NGOs by functioning as advisor to the ADRRN board and facilitating training in areas such as humanitarian principles, good governance, advocacy and transparency.
ROAP provided training for the military on humanitarian principles and the roles and responsibilities of UN humanitarian agencies in Singapore, and participated in the regional ‘Cobra Gold’ military exercise in Thailand.
The regional office became fully operational during 2005 in support of UNCTs and OCHA field offices in the region. ROAP tested its surge capacity by fielding staff twice in 2005 to Pakistan and Indonesia, when regional office staff added value by bringing additional skills and experience, and by providing a bridge between in-country and regional structures. The office demonstrated its flexibility and its ability to provide essential support without disrupting its own operations.
The office undertook UNDAC preparedness missions in the Philippines and Mongolia to strengthen national capacity for disaster management. As a result, governments have adopted recommendations for priority actions including a closer integration of international response in national contingency planning, the need for standardised operating procedures and a clear line of command and responsibilities in disaster preparedness and response situations.
The regional office developed an informal network of technical partners in GIS and information management to collaborate on joint projects, providing access to otherwise unavailable data and an overview of regional capacity.
ROAP initiated formal introductions with Thai government ministries and regional donors, which served as a model for greater collaboration with governments and organisations region-wide.