27 May 2008
I have come back from a humanitarian mission with two distressing but encouraging visits, one to the displaced victims of cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and one to earthquake-stricken China, witnessing with sadness two terrible tragedies.
Before I say more about my trip, let me briefly make a statement:
I regret the decision of the Government of Myanmar to extend for a sixth consecutive year the detention under house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD). The sooner restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures are lifted, the sooner Myanmar will be able to move towards inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and full respect for human rights. In this regard, I expect my Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, to continue on my behalf the process of political dialogue that he has begun with both the Myanmar authorities and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the context of his good offices mandate.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My visit this time in Myanmar was to address the aftermath of cyclone Nargis while almost two million human lives are still at stake. I went there with a message of solidarity and hope, telling the survivors that the world is with you and the world is ready to help you. I extended my heartfelt condolences to the people, of Myanmar and of China, expressing my admiration for the courage and resilience of the survivors and all those trying to help them.
Flying over the Ayeyarwady delta, I saw first hand the effects of Cyclone Nargis. In China I visited the town of Ying Xu in the District of Chendgu, at the epicenter of the earthquake. The United Nations must work together with other Member States of the United Nations, to bring help and support to the people of both countries.
Few countries possess the capacity and resources to cope on their own with disasters of this magnitude. That is why we convened the international pledging conference. Under difficult conditions, the Government of Myanmar and the people of Myanmar have put together a functioning relief programme, together with the international community including ASEAN, that has taken the lead in our relief efforts. But much, much more needs to be done.
We have seen an outpouring of sympathy and support from the international community. In Thailand, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej launched the Don Muang airport logistical base for help for Myanmar and planeloads of relief items have already been flown to Yangon. The government of Canada and others have agreed to transport the helicopters to be used in Myanmar. I am sure that my Humanitarian Aid coordinator, Mr. John Holmes, has given you the details of what is being put into place for the relief efforts needed in the next 6 months, and to help the Myanmar people in rehabilitating and reconstructing their country.
I have been much encouraged by my discussions with Myanmar's authorities in recent days. Senior General Than Shwe agreed to allow all international aid workers to operate freely and without hindrance. We agreed to establish several forward logistics hubs and to open new air, sea and road links to the most affected areas.
The Myanmar government appears to be moving toward the right direction, to implement these accords. Some international aid workers and NGOs have already gone into the regions of the Ayeyarwady delta, without any problem. I hope and I believe that this marks a new spirit of cooperation and partnership between Myanmar and the international community as a whole.
Prompt and full implementation will be the key. I will be fully, continuously and personally engaged. I look forward to returning, before too long, to see for myself the progress we have made.
Sunday's pledging conference was a good beginning. Apart from the tens of millions of dollars pledged by the Member States, it was an important exercise towards building greater trust, confidence and cooperation between the Government of Myanmar and the international community. I saw a strong unity of purpose and a sense of urgency at the meeting.
There was unanimous agreement on the need to scale up urgently and very significantly the current relief efforts. The participants also expect the Government to act in the spirit of that new agreement.
We have, here, a chance for a new beginning. We should make the most of it.
I will be traveling again tomorrow to attend the first annual review of the International Compact with Iraq, which will be held in Sweden - a five-year package of economic and political reforms launched last May in Egypt. Upon return from Stockholm, I will again head to Rome this Sunday to attend the FAO summit meeting to deal with another serious issue: the global food crisis.
Thank you very much for your support, and I will be happy to answer your questions.