|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SWITZERLAND , 26 OCTOBER
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan flew overnight from New York to Geneva, arriving in the morning of Wednesday, 26 October, to give the opening speech at the Conference on Assistance to Communities Affected by the Earthquake in South Asia. This took place at the Palais des Nations.
He first received a briefing on the earthquake relief needs in the region from the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland.
Prior to speaking to the Conference, the Secretary-General met separately with senior officials from India and Pakistan to discuss the relief effort.
He and Mr. Egeland met first with a delegation headed by Mohammedmian Soomro, Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate. The Secretary-General expressed his deep concern for the people of Pakistan, and said he hoped that the Conference would encourage Governments, individuals and the private sector to give more assistance. He noted that the Economic and Social Council was considering a resolution that would encourage heightened assistance.
The Secretary-General added that, over time, he intended to appoint a Special Envoy who would not only help to raise money, but would also focus on long-term needs. He and the Pakistani delegation also discussed efforts by India and Pakistan to work together to assist the earthquake-affected population on both sides of the Line of Control.
The Secretary-General then met with Oscar Fernandes, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation of India, who told him that India would pledge aid to Pakistan at the Conference that would place it among the top ranks of donors. The Secretary-General responded that he hoped India’s offer would encourage other Governments to come forward.
In a press encounter afterwards, the Secretary-General told reporters that the sort of generosity seen during the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami is needed to deal with the earthquake. “Let’s show solidarity with the people in need. It is urgent; it is desperate”, he said.
In response to a question, he said the disaster showed the urgent need for a Global Emergency Fund, otherwise, the United Nations was in the position of having to put out fires while only getting resources once the fire had begun.
He also said, in response to another question, that funds were needed to respond to the damage created by the hurricanes in Central America, where to date only a fraction of the $22 million sought had been received.
The Secretary-General then addressed the Conference, saying that the need to provide aid and shelter to the earthquake-hit areas of South Asia before winter approaches gives a new meaning to the concept of a race against time. “I believe it is a race that can be won, and must be won”, he said.
He told donors that what is required is a dramatic escalation on all fronts, from helicopters to rescue the injured to shelter to save families from the ravages of winter. One thing should already be clear, he added: that with the world’s supply of winterized tents nearly exhausted, the need for other forms of shelter is acute. (See Press Release SG/SM/10185.)
Mr. Egeland presented to the gathered donors a revised flash appeal to respond to the earthquake, amounting to nearly $550 million for six months. About two thirds of the increase in requirements since the original flash appeal issued on 11 October was because of the extraordinary logistical challenges imposed by the terrain, and by increased needs for shelter, health and water.
The Secretary-General returned to New York that evening.
* *** *For information media • not an official record