"Member economies have gained so much experience in terms of effectively responding to major disasters and dealing with risks on multiple fronts," explained Xiaoning Zhang, co-chair of the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group, in a press release on Monday.
"However, we need to improve our risk disaster governance to fit the current situation by encouraging risk-informed development strategies, improving disaster risk monitoring and early warning capacity for better risk identification so that we can response more comprehensively," he added.
On top of the current covid-19 pandemic, the region is continuing to experience high losses from a number of various natural events from typhoon, cyclones and floods to earthquakes, landslides, disease epidemics and plagues.
According to recent data presented at the APEC Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum in late May, total damages in the APEC region reached USD 116.9 billion in 2020.
These costs have yet to include the amount for covid-19 pandemic, which will be a complex exercise to uncover.
In the forum last month, APEC member economies shared disaster risk reduction policies and measures that are being implemented to manage the pandemic including emergency declarations, mask mandates, new guidelines and protocols for managing evacuation centers as well as new protocols for crossing borders amid travel restrictions.
Despite all that, challenges remain high.
The region’s emergency management capability and capacity has been stretched to unprecedented levels, making the reliance on local communities more important than ever before.
Members are looking at collective investment in resilience measures across the region, including empowering local communities to act during disaster, especially when there are lockdown measures that prevent workers like first responders from travel.