In a region where over 2,000 languages are spoken, 21 nations, large and small, have come together to discuss Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on “Raising Awareness and Promoting Cooperation on CBRN Risk Mitigation,” March 6-8.
Organized by the Philippines, U.S. and Canada, this workshop is one of Pacific Command's largest multilateral events of the year; with the goal of face-to-face communication creating stronger relationships, and a better understanding of interoperability in regard to bio-preparedness.
Building and maintaining relationships were a major focus for Philippine, U.S. and Canada facilitators of the ARF.
Many other delegates echoed remarks, saying the lack of purposeful communication networks between countries was a barrier for effective collaboration. Many representatives from each nation had solid plans for their own nations, but were very new to regional information-sharing on bio-preparedness.
In addition to information-sharing improvements, recommendations to ASEAN Ministers will include a proposal to establish legal, security and travel agreements between countries in specific regions to speed up biological disaster response.
“We made significant strides this week and I hope personally that it doesn’t stop here,” said Michael Minor, Defense Threat Reduction Agency program integrator. “I hope we take what everyone learned here and keep moving forward.
“The CBRN problem set is a real one that everyone recognizes. I will say that as a result of the work that we have done here this week we’re getting closer to solidifying more cohesiveness and regional approach to how we address the CBRN issues.”
“This is my first time attending an event like this,” said Rikujō Jieitai (Japan Ground Self Defense Force) Lt. Col. Tomoya Oyamada, Japan Ministry of Defense Ground Staff Office CBRN officer. “It’s a very meaningful workshop; each country has a potential problem involving CBRN.”
“In Japan we’ve had two big incidents, the sarin gas attack and the Fukushima nuclear accident. My mission is to make our experience known to the ASEAN countries so they can learn from it and help create a common strategy in the region.”
“It’s really important in this association that we meet and gather to talk about our common interest and our common challenges so that we know in the association that we will be able to contribute to one another,” said Flávio Simões, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste advisor to the prime minister. “The most important part of the association is that you just don’t meet, talk and have coffee with a smile, but to look at the challenges that we commonly face and try to solve them. This is very central to the stability of the region”
“The problems in a specific country can be quite different,” said Simões. “We don’t have earthquakes or threats of CBRN events on the same level as Japan, however we are in the era of globalization and interconnectedness. Whatever is happening in Japan can also happen in Timor-Leste. Also to be able to have precautions in place to know how a small country can contribute to the big country or a big country to a small one.
“Despite our different histories and backgrounds, when there is a common goal or challenge it becomes a common ground for us to communicate with each other,” said Simões. “Historical conflicts can cause challenges at times, but if we focus on what is the main challenge and on our future we will be able to actually surpass those challenges and communicate for the betterment of our goals.”