|Former US President Bill Clinton chairs session with tsunami partner agencies. UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (left) delivered a message on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.|
By Tim Ledwith
NEW YORK, USA, 15 November 2006 – Former US President Bill Clinton, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, chaired a session at UNICEF headquarters with partner agencies today to assess progress in the massive rebuilding effort.
In opening remarks, Mr. Clinton lauded the successes achieved so far to ‘build back better’ in areas devastated by the December 2004 Indian Ocean disaster, which killed more than 200,000 people, displaced millions and destroyed entire communities. He highlighted lessons learned by the Global Consortium for Tsunami Recovery and stressed the urgent need to bolster emergency preparedness at the local and national levels.
Mr. Clinton acknowledged the particular impact on children in all of the tsunami-affected countries. “I appreciate the work that UNICEF has done throughout the region,” he said.
Also at the meeting, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman delivered a message on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – who thanked Mr. Clinton for making “a profound difference to the well-being of millions of tsunami survivors” and for infusing recovery programmes with a commitment to long-term economic and environmental sustainability.
|© UNICEF video|
|At the Global Consortium for Tsunami Recovery meeting held at UNICEF headquarters in New York, former US President Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, makes opening remarks.|
Putting communities in charge
Today’s meeting was the fifth held by the tsunami consortium, which includes UN agencies, international financial institutions, the Red Cross movement, non-governmental organizations, donor countries and the governments of India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand – the five countries most seriously affected by the disaster almost two years ago.
Mr. Clinton said the lessons from the consortium’s experience would inform the ongoing tsunami recovery effort as well as emergency responses to come.
“Governments must start preparing for future disasters now,” he asserted, urging greater support and funding for local disaster-management authorities. “Our aid programmes must put the local communities in charge, because families and communities drive recovery.”
But even as local capacity is strengthened, noted Mr. Clinton, aid projects “must be based on an accurate assessment of needs” and should “promote equity and avoid exacerbation of inequality” in societies where disaster strikes.
Mr. Clinton also called for better coordination by the United Nations, the World Bank and other multilateral agencies in disaster recovery – as well as a greater role for the private sector and a “more active and sophisticated effort to engage the entrepreneurial talent of people in reconstruction and development.”
In assessing overall tsunami recovery programmes to date, Mr. Clinton said “much progress” has been made, though developments such as renewed fighting in Sri Lanka have hampered progress in some places. “Of course,” he added, “to finish the job takes a long time, and many challenges remain.”