Cablegate: Apcss Outreach Seminar in Brunei


DE RUEHBD #0239/01 2200713
R 080713Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: A four-day disaster management workshop co-sponsored
by the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) attracted
Cabinet-level support from the Government of Brunei (GOB),
widespread participation from over two dozen GOB agencies, and
extensive media coverage. Participants produced a set of specific
objectives aimed at significantly increasing the GOB capability to
respond effectively to national disasters, both domestically and
regionally via multilateral operations. An improved GOB capability
to inter-operate effectively with USPACOM forces in combined
disaster relief operations will be one of the positive effects of
this APCSS outreach event; it also paid dividends as a practical
example of the ongoing USG commitment to an active and constructive
partnership with this Muslim-majority country and the Southeast
Asian region. END SUMMARY.

2. APCSS and Brunei's National Disaster Management Center (NDMC)
co-sponsored a disaster management workshop in Brunei from July 30
to August 2. The primary objectives were to further develop a
strategic plan for disaster management within Brunei and facilitate
improved command, control, and coordination by the Government of
Brunei (GOB) in the event of a disaster striking the country. This
was the first APCSS outreach event in Brunei.

3. The idea of APCSS partnering with the GOB on an outreach event
was initially discussed by Deputy Minister of Defense Pehin Yasmin
and APCSS Director LTG (Ret.) Ed Smith during the Director's visit
to Brunei last year. Yasmin suggested a workshop on disaster
management as an appropriate topic, and helped to arrange for the
Ministry of Home Affairs and NDMC to act as co-sponsors given their
lead responsibility for disaster management within the GOB.

4. The timing for the workshop proved fortuitous. The NDMC was
just beginning to find its footing after its establishment several
months ago. Only a week earlier it had coped with its first
real-life small-scale disaster, a severe wind and rain storm that
damaged nearly 200 houses in Bandar Seri Begawan's "water village"
of structures built over the Brunei River, and left many families
homeless. GOB officials were left with a keener appreciation of the
challenges inherent in disaster management as a result of that
event, and so were highly motivated to use the workshop to share the
lessons they had learned and improve the government's response

5. APCSS recruited an impressive roster of international
facilitators and disaster management specialists for the workshop
from the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, Pacific Disaster
Center, a private consultancy, and APCSS itself. NDMC brought in 49
Bruneian participants from 26 government agencies (including a niece
of the Sultan who is attached to the Foreign Ministry, where her
father, Prince Mohamed, is Minister). The Minister of Home Affairs,
Ambassador, and APCSS Director Smith all spoke at the opening of the
workshop, signaling the high level of support that it received from
both governments. Local media provided extensive coverage.

6. After four days of presentations and team-based game scenarios,
Bruneian participants agreed on three major findings and 30
"next-step" objectives. The three general findings were that
disaster management must be a priority commitment of the GOB at all
levels; support for this effort was required from the whole of
government, with NDMC taking the lead; and, resources applied to
this effort had to be targeted based on an agreed set of priorities.
The specific objectives fell under the categories of identifying
vulnerabilities, sharing information, improving intra-government
collaboration, and expanding international coordination. They
ranged from immediate creation of a multi-agency action planning
team to construction of a national disaster management command
center in the GOB's 08-09 fiscal year, and included recommendations
for increased participation in regional disaster management
exercises held under the auspices of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional
Forum (ARF).

7. Beyond the agreement on findings and objectives, the most
significant outcome of the workshop may prove to be the attitudinal
shift among its Bruneian participants. Although the NMDC was
originally conceived as an inter-agency coordinating body, in
reality it had been little more than a branch of the GOB Fire and
Rescue Department. By building on the cooperation forged during the
recent e storm and highlighting the need for a whole-of-government
approach, the workshop accelerated the process of transforming the
NDMC into a true government-wide lead agency for disaster response.
The NDMC Director pointedly addressed his closing remarks to the GOB
"disaster response community," and went on to say that only a week
earlier he would not have been able to use those words, since such a
"community" did not exist until APCSS and the workshop it
co-sponsored had facilitated its creation.

8. Comment: This APCSS outreach event produced several positive
effects. The GOB and USG have already worked together in a relief
operation, in Aceh following the December 2004 tsunami, and the
process of upgrading GOB disaster management skills and response
capabilities that began with this workshop will have a direct impact
on the ability of the GOB to inter-operate effectively with U.S.
forces in similar combined disaster relief operations in the future.
In addition, this commitment of time and effort by a DOD-sponsored
institution was a powerful symbol of the USG commitment to an active
and constructive partnership with this Muslim-majority country and
with the ASEAN region. Embassy commends and thanks APCSS for a job
exceedingly well done. End Comment.


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