The Case for Establishing a Civil-Military Disaster-Relief Hub in Northeast Asia

The Case for Establishing a Civil-Military Disaster-Relief Hub in Northeast Asia

by Harold Wescott, Deogsang Ahn, James Newberry, and John Bradford
July 19, 2012

This article argues that Asia-Pacific security would be enhanced by the establishment of a properly designed, configured, and resourced civil-military disaster-relief hub in Northeast Asia.



Improving the capacity for cooperative civil-military disaster response has emerged as a priority on the Asia-Pacific security agenda. However, international disaster-response cooperation in Northeast Asia has lagged behind that taking place in Southeast Asia, where relevant initiatives have been led by ASEAN. In this context, establishing a hub for civil-military disaster-relief activities in Northeast Asia would provide a noteworthy opportunity to strengthen regional capacity. Regional government officials and members of the humanitarian community have discussed the establishment of such a hub, but analysis regarding the vision for a facility remains limited in the wider policy community. This article suggests disaster-relief functions for a hub and provides an analytical framework for evaluating options regarding its organization and location.

  • Establishing a humanitarian logistics node in Northeast Asia could enhance disaster-response capability in the subregion and complement the capabilities present in other areas.
  • Including command-and-control facilities in a disaster-response hub could provide improved opportunity for interface between disaster-relief providers, forces, and resources.
  • A disaster-relief hub could serve as a fusion center for the archiving, sharing, and development of humanitarian expertise.
  • A disaster-relief hub could be best developed as a bilateral or trilateral effort by national governments, with the sponsoring governments building cooperative relationships with partners throughout the humanitarian community.
  • Given the proactive policy stance that Japan has taken toward developing a disaster-relief hub and Japan’s growing role in disaster-relief activities, the U.S.-Japan alliance may provide the preferred foundation for a hub.
  • No location will optimize the opportunity to fulfill all the potential functions of a civil-military disaster-relief hub, but specific evaluation criteria could guide determination of the most efficient and effective location.

Asia Policy 14 is supported in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

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