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In Need of Implementation: Climate Change and Security in Southeast Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has in several declarations drawn attention to the threats posed by climate change. Yet, despite the urgency, there has been slow progress in moving from analysis to concrete actions, particularly in mitigating the effects of natural disasters. This was the key finding of the seminar on the International Security Implications of Climate Change that was jointly organized by the Philippine government and the European Commission in Brussels on 18 and 19 November 2010. Representatives from 21 countries, including India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar, attended the seminar along with experts from Europe and Southeast Asia.

This was the second seminar devoted to the issue. While the security risks posed by climate change were the focus of the first seminar held in March 2009 in Phnom Penh, the Brussels seminar emphasized risk prevention. Growing climate variability and the resultant potential for natural disasters are perceived as a threat to economic development. Access to food and water no longer appear assured. In the long term this may weaken governments in the region and impact regional cooperation. Many of those present however doubted that this would result in violent conflicts.

ASEAN has issued several political declarations in response to climate change, which seek to intensify regional cooperation. The establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance can play a key role in this context. One of the Center's primary tasks will be to promote regional coordination in disaster management and emergency assistance in Southeast Asia. The participants underlined the need for resolute implementation of existing political declarations. There was also a call for more research into the complex linkages among climate change and other economic and social trends so as to develop effective crisis prevention measures. Greater interaction and the implementation of joint projects by research institutions from the EU and ASEAN were suggested for this purpose. (Achim Maas)

More information on the ASEAN Regional Forum is available at

The ASEAN statement on climate change can be downloaded under

Published in: ECC-Newsletter, December 2010