I thank you all for your interest in my column. Please continue to send me your questions at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
Many of you have heard about the extremely large storm that hit the East Coast of the United States over a week ago. Hurricane Sandy, dubbed “Frankenstorm” because it wreaked havoc during Halloween, was one of the largest storms to ever make landfall in the United States. Although it did not directly affect us here in Cambodia, I know many people here, including myself, have family on the eastern seaboard. I hope that everyone’s family is safe and sound, and that if they are in a storm affected area, they are getting the help they need.
In the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, it’s important for partisan politics to be pushed aside and for officials to cooperate to ensure assistance quickly reaches those in need. For example, President Obama joined New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to meet with storm victims in the New Jersey town of Brigantine. President Obama, then the Democratic Party’s nominee for re-election to the U.S. presidency, and Governor Christie, an outspoken supporter of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, came together to ensure the safety and welfare of American citizens.
Governor Christie commended President Obama for close cooperation even before the storm hit in forging “a great working relationship to make sure that we’re doing the jobs that people elected us to do.” Likewise, Obama praised Christie for being “aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm” and thanked the Governor for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.
As an American, I feel proud when I see how well leaders from opposing political parties can work together to take care of what is truly important. Like President Obama said, “The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together. We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbors. And we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately and with swiftness.”
Responding to a natural disaster is always complicated, which is why advance planning and practice is so important. For instance, U.S. and Cambodian armed forces routinely conduct joint exercises to hone their abilities to work together in the event of a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. The U.S. military plays a key role in responding to disasters in the United States, and I am glad to know that exercises in Cambodia may have helped them be better prepared to provide relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Cambodia’s own natural disaster response capabilities are steadily growing. Pacific Partnership and Pacific Angel are strong examples of U.S.-Cambodia humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises that enhance techniques and the ability to respond quickly to the needs of Cambodian citizens in the event of a catastrophe. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy works with the Cambodian National Committee on Disaster Management, Ministry of National Defense, National Police, Royal Gendarmerie, and Cambodian Red Cross to provide civilian and military workshops on response to natural disasters. The United States supports an annual humanitarian assistance and disaster relief computer simulation workshop, and this year, the topic will be flood response. Next year, Cambodia will host a regional disaster response exercise with participants from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as the annual Pacific Airlift Rally,which will bring together 24 countries to practice an international relief response to a flood disaster.
Once again, thank you for the time you take to read my weekly column. Next week, I’ll write about the lead up to the East Asia Summit. Is there anything else you’d like me to discuss in my column? Please send your ideas to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and follow my blog at http://blogs.usembassy.gov/todd.
William E is Todd, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia