enior officials from Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) members and leading experts from ASEM partners, the United Nations and regional and international organisations gathered in Hanoi on November 11 for an ASEM high-level meeting on disaster prevention and relief in response to climate change.

The event is to implement the Vietnamese Prime Minister’s initiative adopted at the ninth ASEM Summit in Laos 12 months ago.

Opening the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh noted that entering the 21st century, natural calamities have turned out to be much more extreme, with an exceptional increase in frequency, scale and impact.

2013 is likely to be among the 10 warmest years since global records began in 1850. Global warming is causing changes in biological systems, thus leading to abnormal catastrophes, he said citing the recent Provisional Statement on Status of Climate in 2013 of the World Meteorological Organisation.

Asia and Europe are the two continents most often hit by natural disasters. The Asia-Pacific region alone has recorded almost 70 percent of the world’s disasters and nearly two thirds of the victims are in Asia, he added.

“Such catastrophes will continue to be one of the most challenging non-traditional security threats in this century,” he emphasised.

“They will continue hindering our efforts to improve the quality of life of our people, to accelerate economic recovery, to promote sustainable development and to strengthen international economic integration.”

As an indispensable inter-regional forum with 51 partners from Asia and Europe, and with vast economic and technology potential, ASEM has the capacity and responsibility to contribute to international efforts in responding to natural disasters, he affirmed.

The Deputy PM proposed the meeting focus on best practices and lessons learnt in response to natural disasters, while putting forward the most practical measures to promote ASEM cooperation in disaster risk reduction, management and mitigation.

He asked to discuss and set up a network of research institutes and early warning systems among ASEM partners, between Asia and Europe, and with those of regional and international organisations.

“Now it is imperative for ASEM partners to work together with the international community for bolder action in implementing the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action’ endorsed by the United Nations,” he stressed.

The meeting held a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of super typhoon Haiyan that recently swept through the Philippines, Vietnam and China.

During the two-day meeting, 120 delegates will discuss disaster risk reduction and mitigation, a development agenda beyond 2015, and research, policies and practices in building recovery capacity and strengthening Asia-Europe cooperation in response to natural disasters.

In addition to the ASEM workshop on water resources and river basin management in Can Tho in March, the meetings are two major activities of the cooperation mechanism hosted by Vietnam this year.

The meeting is also among 18 initiatives proposed by Vietnam at ASEM, contributing to the Asia-Europe cooperation process as well as demonstrating the country’s role and responsibility in the international community.-VNA