Columbia University's SIPA program presents at the ADMM-Plus EWG for HADR

May 15, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM) collaborates frequently with leading academic institutions to facilitate research in the field of civil-military coordination, linking academia directly with developing operational initiatives and stakeholders. The objective is to inform the thinking of military leaders, government officials, and civilian practitioners as they seek to address regional coordination challenges.

The ongoing cooperative arrangement between CFE-DM and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) has resulted in two separate research projects that focused on civil-military coordination for ASEAN programs and initiatives. The most recent project culminated in a keynote presentation by a SIPA research team at the tenth meeting of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) Expert Working Group (EWG) for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

The ADMM-Plus EWG was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 11-12. It was co-chaired by the Malaysia's Ministry of Defense and the United States’ Department of Defense and included delegations from all 10 ASEAN member states, eight "plus" countries, the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre, and the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The current focus of this EWG is the development of the ASEAN Militaries Ready Group (AMRG) for HADR.

SIPA graduate students Josh Szimonisz and Aphinya Siranart presented their team's research on the Caribbean's multilateral military disaster response model as a precedent for regional military coordination during disaster response operations. The presentation provided lessons applicable to the AMRG and was also notable as the first time an independent academic institution had been invited to present at the ADMM-Plus EWG for HADR.

The SIPA team conducted in-person interviews with the senior leadership of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU), as well as international partners to determine lessons that could be learned for ASEAN as it seeks to operationalize the AMRG. The resulting brief provided an in-depth comparative case study on the CDRU and the AMRG concept. The findings will be utilized in future EWG meetings to inform ASEAN's development of a Standard Operating Procedure for the AMRG. The presentation by SIPA resulted in a follow-on invitation to present their findings to relevant staff officers at Thailand's Ministry of Defense.

Szimonisz is a U.S. Marine Corps officer with experience supporting disaster response operations in the Asia-Pacific. He is currently a dual degree graduate student at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and School of Social Work. His focus is on humanitarian affairs with a research emphasis on forced migration and refugees.

Siranart previously worked at the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly. She is currently a Master of Public Administration (MPA) student at SIPA. Originally from Thailand, she received her undergraduate degree in law from the London School of Economics and Political Science and also holds a Master of Law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Creating opportunities, such as this one, is a unique contribution of CFE-DM as it straddles not only the civil-military sectors, but also academic research and operational capacities.


Josh Szimonisz and Aphinya Siranart (middle), graduate students pursuing a master's degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, stand with Jennifer Smoak, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and Ahmad Nadzri bin Mohd Hassan, Undersecretary for Policy, Malaysian Ministry of Defense, at the ASEAN Defense Minister's Meeting-Plus Experts' Working Group for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief May 12. Sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, Szimonisz and Siranart presented research on the Caribbean Community Disaster Response Unit as a case study to identify applicable lessons for developing the ASEAN Militaries Ready Group.




News Archive