Continuous Improvement: Enhancing the ASCEND Framework and Developing ASCEND Sustainability Strategy

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On 14-15 September 2023, the AHA Centre successfully conducted the Workshop on the Review of the ASCEND Framework and the Development of ASCEND Sustainability Strategy in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. The two-day activity is essential in shaping the future of the ASCEND Programme as it focused on refining the ASCEND Framework and charting a course toward ASCEND’s long-term sustainability.

The ASCEND Framework, endorsed by the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) in 2017, is a foundational document that shapes the structure, institutional arrangements, and processes governing the ASCEND Programme’s implementation. One of the workshop’s core objectives was to update this document, incorporating the lessons learned from previous ASCEND activities and studies, and addressing the evolving needs and challenges faced by the programme. Through group activities, the participants discussed the gaps in the existing ASCEND Framework and brainstormed how to address them. They also offered recommendations for improving the revised framework.

In addition to the framework revision, the workshop also delved into the critical issue of sustainability for the ASCEND Programme. While ASCEND aims to evolve into a regular regional certification programme, its full support from dialogue partners will eventually cease, and ASCEND must be able to stand on its own. Thus, the AHA Centre must secure innovative and diverse funding streams and institutional support to maintain the programme’s continuity. Participants engaged in thoughtful discussions, brainstorming, and survey sessions to generate a list of initial strategies and further inputs on selected sustainability variables such as funding, certification process, marketing and publication, and institutionalisation that would safeguard the future of the ASCEND Programme.

Mr. Krishna Putra Tanaja, the Deputy Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), emphasised the importance of this undertaking. He stated, “As a pilot project, we have anticipated many adjustments during the ASCEND initial implementation and expect more stability over time. For this reason, your input is crucial for updating the ASCEND Framework – to redirect the implementation of ASCEND toward its intended objective and stay relevant in the ever-changing humanitarian landscape. We would also like to hear your input on how to secure and diversify funding sources and institutional support to maintain the programme’s continuity.”

Representing the Republic of Korea, Mr. Wonseob Lim, Director of the Korean National Fire Agency, expressed his optimism about the ASCEND Project. “There is a saying in Korea that the beginning is half of every work. This ASCEND Project has already been carried out for more than two years, with contributions from various stakeholders. By the time this project is completed next year, the ASEAN declaration on responding to disasters, ‘One ASEAN One Response’ will be one step closer. I really appreciate all AMS and the colleagues for their hard work and contribution.”

Forty-four (44) representatives from the ten ASEAN Member States, the ASEAN-Korea Programme Management Team (AKPMT), Korean National Fire Agency (KNFA), ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC), and the AHA Centre actively participated in the activities. The workshop concluded with a shared commitment among stakeholders to implement the workshop’s recommendations and ensure the ASCEND Programme remains a cornerstone of disaster management in the region.