Singapore’s Mercy Relief (MR) shared its perspectives, based on its works across Asia, at last week’s 4th Asia-Pacific Housing Forum (APHF) organised by Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI).  The theme for this year’s biennial Forum was ‘Housing as a foundation for breaking the poverty cycle’.

Philippines’ Vice President, H.E. Jejomar C. Binay, officially opened the Forum and delivered the keynote address.Commending HFHI’s efforts for keeping the vital issue of shelter for the poor at the very center of the global conversation on poverty, he said, “This is particularly important within the context of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda which I hope in its final form, will explicitly address the interrelated issues of poverty housing and slums, disaster risk reduction, and the poor’s access to basic services and jobs.”

The three-day Forum brought together humanitarian players, corporate giants, opinion leaders and influencers from across sectors and around the world under one roof, and attracted more than 700 participants.  The Vice President added, “Each country faces a unique set of circumstances and realities. This effectively sets each state on different stages or degrees, as far as adopting sustainable housing solutions is concerned.  No ‘one size fits all’ solution exists for us.  Neither is there an overnight remedy to the region’s housing ills.  However when we speak of housing, we are no longer just speaking of housing infrastructure.  Sustainable housing is not providing accommodation of poor standards, in places that are removed from economic activities and deprived of basic services.  Indeed, we share the same conviction that dignified housing is about giving people the means to live decently as well as a fair chance of building a productive life.”

 

(left) H.E. Jejomar Binay delivering the keynote address.

Speaking alongside ASEAN’’s Deputy Secretary-General, Alicia Bala at the plenary session on ‘Disaster Risk Reduction and Management and the Roles of Institutions’, MR’s chief Hassan Ahmad, shared that while most institutions are acquainted to their respective roles, there is however, a great and real need for better coordination of resources to ensure effective implementation and avoid duplication of efforts which would lead to wastage of already-limited resources.  He also highlighted the need to court more corporate groups since substantial assets reside within the private domain, and these should be made more accessible for development and risk reduction efforts.

At a separate track discussion on ‘Disaster Risk Management and Household Behaviours’, Hassan recounted MR’s experiences at the Asian tsunami, the Mount Merapi volcanic eruptions, the Tohoku tsunami and typhoons Ketsana and Storm Washi which hit the Philippines. The affected communities responded differently to risks and crises. He reiterated that national disaster risk management strategies cannot be a ‘one size fits all’, and it is crucial that policies and strategies are adapted to the varied and inherent characteristics (including creed, culture, customs) of different communities at regional, provincial, district and village levels.

Another Singaporean speaker at the Forum was renowned housing and development maestro, Dr Liu Thai Ker, Chairman of Centre for Livable Cities, who shared a panel of distinguished personalities including former US Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros and Secretary Dinky Soliman of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development.

  

(left & centre) The track discussion on household behaviours that mould mindsets on disaster risk management, attracted substantial exchange of first-hand and unique experiences.

(far right) Dr Liu shared on Singapore’s public housing strategy and experience which seeks to provide a home for all citizens and include common spaces for social interaction and integration

About Mercy Relief

Mercy Relief is a Singaporean humanitarian organisation which engages in both disaster relief and sustainable development programmes. It was established in 2003 as an independent non-governmental humanitarian charity responding to the human tragedies in Asia. Mercy Relief’s aid programme focuses on providing timely and effective assistance to disaster-stricken communities and has maintained the delivery of emergency aid within 72 hours from the point of appeal for assistance. 

In the past 12 years, Mercy Relief has disbursed over S$32 million in aid across 40 disaster relief and 53 sustainable development initiatives. Mercy Relief has impacted an aggregate of 2 million lives in 24 countries and areas, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal,  Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

For more information, you may call us at 6514 6322 or email corporateaffairs@mercyrelief.org