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ASEAN Climate and Security Cooperation Continues

No better friend: Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference

Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)

By Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs

The security implications of climate change are particularly acute in the Asia-Pacific region. It therefore comes as no surprise that this issue was raised several times during the August 2-8 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila, Philippines.

At the ASEAN Plus Three (or APT: ASEAN plus China, South Korea and Japan) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Monday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano indicated that expanding regional cooperation on climate security issues would be on the agenda.

He said, “Our meeting will affirm our comment to broaden the APT cooperation in addressing traditional and nontraditional security issues such as terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crimes, cyber security, climate change, disaster management, food security, energy security, and pandemic diseases.”

Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato’ Sri Anifah HJ Aman also reaffirmed in the same meeting, that with regard to security cooperation with the US, “ASEAN would like to see this relation enhance for our common benefit. Our cooperation in regional and international issues as well as traditional and non-traditional challenges continue to deepen to cover myriad of issues including terrorism, cyber security, climate change, migrants and maritime matters to name a few,” he said.

While climate change was included in this array of non-traditional security threats, it is unclear whether discussion encompassed an appreciation of the nature of climate-related security threats to the strategic environment, beyond an increased need for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

In addition to the statements around matters for discussion in the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Canada and Vietnam agreed to elevate their bilateral cooperation on non-traditional security issues, including climate change and environment issues.

Two new EU-ASEAN agreements were presented; EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and 10 ASEAN Ministers adopted a new EU-ASEAN Plan of Action for 2018-2022, covering maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping operations. The EU and ASEAN also issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to implementing the Paris climate agreement.

While climate-related matters were not explicitly integrated into the security cooperation framework, it will establish the types of structures necessary to successfully manage climate security risks. Taken together, these joint actions reaffirm that managing these risks will require more than implementing the Paris agreement, and that ongoing regional cooperation to address climate security risks, particularly in a vulnerable region like Southeast Asia, will also require greater cooperation and coordination amongst the security and foreign policy communities.

For more on climate and national security in the Asia-Pacific see: The Asia-Pacific Rebalance, National Security and Climate Change.


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