Director-General

Consolidated Appeal Process

Geneva, Switzerland
11 January 2005

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

This meeting gives us an opportunity to pause in the intense efforts going on to respond to the effects of the tsunami in South-East Asia, and to see the situation in the broader perspective of international humanitarian assistance.

Last week, I was in the devastated areas of Banda Aceh in Indonesia, and Galle and Ampara in Sri Lanka. I saw for myself the enormous extent of the damage. I was impressed by the energy and resilience with which the people who lived in those areas were already working to rebuild their homes and means of livelihood.

The other impressive phenomenon is, of course, the upsurge of international support that this disaster has triggered, from governments and other institutions and the public.

We are witnessing the world's largest peacetime relief operation, and we need to make sure it combines effectively with the local and national activities in progress. This means fully involving the recipients of aid in planning and organizing the work of survival, recovery and reconstruction.

What these efforts are demonstrating is that humanitarian assistance is as much about human solidarity and understanding as it is about saving lives. The Consolidated Appeals Process can make a very important contribution to this by developing the systems and principles needed for effective cooperation.

A danger we are all aware of is that the magnitude of the current tsunami crisis will divert attention from other areas of extreme human distress. Places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda, to name only three of them, need continued and consistent support.

The $ 1.8 billion raised by mid-October last year for fourteen of those areas covered only 52% of the assessed requirements. We must make sure that those resources continue to be made available where they have been committed, despite the new and very urgent demands we now face.

Finding ways to be both flexible enough and predictable enough is an ongoing challenge for all of the UN agencies, the donor agencies and the international community as a whole. Your discussions here today will help us to find solutions for some of the immediate dilemmas.

At the same time, we are all involved in our different areas in the much longer process of building up systems for international cooperation and support. These have been evolving at least since the first Red Cross Society meeting was held in Geneva in 1863. That vision of shared responsibility for human life continues to produce a growing body of humanitarian law, principles and institutions, which give hope to the world. These are well recognized today as an indispensable asset for the future of humanity.

An outcome of this understanding is that a large and complex array of partners are at work in disaster areas today. The national authorities, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the UN and its Specialized Agencies, military and civil defence units, and nongovernmental organizations all have a vital role to play. This presents challenges for coordination on the ground, which are reflected in the decision-making processes for providing international support. I would like to suggest three guiding principles for your discussions on meeting these challenges of coordination. The first is that international support must be country-led, country-centred and country-coordinated. This means working with the local and national authorities and members of the affected communities themselves, from the first needs assessment to the last evaluation. The second is that we have to focus primarily on the most vulnerable groups. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled and those with chronic illnesses have special needs, and preventing further loss of life means attending to these as a priority.

Third, self-reliance and reconstruction are the longer-term objectives of our efforts, even in the early days of relief work. We have to aim for a situation in which people not only recover their livelihoods but are less exposed to danger than they were before. Early warning systems, disease prevention, and disaster preparedness are an essential part of the reconstruction effort.

In Abuja last month, the High-level Forum on health-related Millennium Development Goals discussed the challenges faced by fragile states. These are countries which have not only suffered crises but have so far been unable to recover because they are seen as too much of a risk for investment.

Just as vulnerable people need special attention, so do vulnerable countries. It is vitally important that development and humanitarian agencies should define priorities on this basis. We have to make the appropriate services available without prejudice, financial barriers or other deterrents.

Recent events have propelled the international community into a phase of accelerated learning, construction and development. The tsunami disaster is a major tragedy that has demonstrated humanity's vulnerability. But, it has also revealed enormous strength, solidarity and determination to recover.

I think your discussions here this morning should especially keep that strength in mind and focus on how to apply it most effectively.

Thank you.

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