Working to improve emergency response and risk reduction was the topic of a workshop held March 10-14 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The Mongolian participants, all key leaders in the energy sector, focused their discussions on how The Mongolian government coordinates and synchronizes appropriate steps to build national disaster resiliency while reducing risk. Also, in the event of disaster how it would manage relief and humanitarian-assistance efforts conducted by the whole of government, international organizations and registered non governmental organizations.

The workshop centered on two key components of crisis management: response and prevention. The discussions on response considered: (1) managing Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response (HA/DR) requirements; (2) understanding the various dimensions of the disaster; (3) coordinating and supervising internal government and non-government response efforts; and (4) managing the interface with external organizations. The participants derived over twenty specific recommendations for immediate action from their discussions of preventative options.

Thirty-seven participants attended the workshop including representatives from eight ministries and seven other agencies of government, representatives from the National University of Mongolia, and observers from USAID, World Bank, Asia Foundation and other key development agencies and non-governmental organization.

Deputy Prime Minister Miyegombo Enkhbold and Ambassador Mark C. Minton provided opening remarks for the workshop. Their remarks were followed by framing comments from APCSS Deputy Dean Dave Shanahan and the new NEMA High Commissioner Tsvegmid Amgalanbayer.

Presenters included: Jim Petroni, who offered “International Best Practices”; John Livengood of the Pacific Disaster Center who presented information on Vulnerability and Assessment Visualization, and George Mayberry from the Alaska Dept of Homeland Security and Emergency Management who compared the costs of mitigation efforts built into the Alaska pipeline with the payoff benefits seen during a recent earthquake that devastated the adjoining road network but left the pipeline intact.

Following the presentations and a day of scenario-driven exploration of the current state of Mongolian preparedness, the heart of the workshop was the 3rd and 4th day subgroup discussions led by APCSS Professors Herman Finley and Col. Charlie King. These discussions identified the most important actions needed to respond to a crisis were it to occur, and more importantly to better prevent such a crisis from happening in the first place. Professor Finley commented: “the depth of these discussions represented an almost unprecedented willingness to share information across agencies within the Mongolian government-a real step forward.”
The workshop closed with presentation of results and recommendations to the Minister of Fuels and Energy and the Deputy State Secretary for the Cabinet. The Deputy Prime Minister will receive the results of the workshop through his Advisor for Emergency Matters who attended elements of the workshop.

According to Shanahan, “the output was unprecedented in its candor and might actually be catalyst of needed change depending on the flow of the political situation over the coming months.”

In addition, “many commented that our workshop was a unique opportunity for mid-senior officials involved in the Energy and Disaster fields as well as other ministries to come together in common cause,” said Shanahan.

The five-day workshop was sponsored by government of Mongolia and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies with assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, the Pacific Disaster Center and the Institute for Strategic Studies.