Defence ministers establish protocols for disaster relief

Other News Materials 1 June 2008 08:22 (UTC +04:00)

Defence minister and senior officials from 27 countries agreed on "norms of behaviour" for offering disaster relief amid the slow pace of delivering international aid supplies to cyclone-devastated Myanmar, the dpa reported.

With the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum, scheduled to conclude on Sunday, the ministers agreed that timely delivery of humanitarian assistance was critical.

Three guiding principles were proposed for multilateral cooperation, said a statement from Singapore's Defence Ministry.

The first principle stressed the responsibility of disaster-hit countries to quickly and effectively bring humanitarian relief to people in their territories.

Where necessary, they should facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid from other countries and international organizations.

Any external help shall have the consent of the affected countries, and it should come under their overall control and supervision, said the third.

The guidelines, which were reached on Saturday, lack the force of a formal agreement. Among those agreeing were representatives of Myanmar.

"Countries should be able to work together with the international community and other countries to bring prompt relief aid," said Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Earthquake-hit China is a "very good, positive example," Teo told reporters. Resources were mobilized quickly and Beijing sought the international community's help when needed.

Referring to Myanmar, Teo said, "I think most of us would agree that we would have preferred to see a different outcome, where the aid flow available from the international community might have been put to more prompt and effective use."

Four weeks after the disaster on May 3, the UN says less than half of the 2.4 million people affected have received any form of help from either the government or international aid groups.

An assessment team from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is scheduled to spend two weeks in Myanmar determining how best to help the survivors from the cyclone that left 133,000 dead or missing.