UN message to tsunami relief workers and donors: thanks, keep it coming

USG Jan Egeland briefs correspondents

5 January 2005 – Praising the enormous global outpouring of pledges for the victims of last week’s devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland today delivered “a few messages” of thanks, caution and pleas for coordination.

Firstly, he hailed the “immense” efforts of the governments in nearly a dozen countries to assist their own people. “In some of the societies affected it will go down in history books as the most effective assistance and relief effort ever locally and nationally,” he told a news briefing in New York. He asked them to ensure clear lines of command and focal points “so that we can be effective.”

He conveyed a second message to the warring parties in Aceh in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Somalia. “Suspend your conflict and work together to help your own people,” he urged. “The unprecedented show of compassion and solidarity, nationally and internationally, is a confidence-building measure that should be used now to bring peace, lasting peace to all of these societies.”

In a message to the 50 or so donor nations that have pledged between $3 billion and $4 billion in relief aid, Mr. Egeland said “thank you” for the money, relief supplies, helicopters and airplanes, adding: “Be with us in the long haul and as donors recognize and respect the international coordination as we undertake it now in the United Nations and in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent family.”

He addressed a fourth “thank you” to the agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local agencies. “We say ‘keep up the good work and also keep up the respect for the rules of coordinating!’” he added. “I’ve never seen before so many organizations spreading so quickly out over so big territories. Please let us stay in a coordinated manner.”

Turning finally to his own UN colleagues, Mr. Egeland said: “We must not fail. This is the time we must show that we live up to the mandate we are given and we must, a year from now, be able to say, this was the moment that we showed the world that we could and we did do what we’re put to do by the community of nations, namely make it all work as a United Nations helping each other.”

Time and again he stressed the need for the aid to be long-running and for the pledges not to be deducted from the annual development aid budgets of donor nations. “If the world…takes all the money for the tsunami victims out their normally allocated purse for humanitarian relief, it would be destruction for programmes in Africa,” he said.

“The year could start with unprecedented generosity and start with unprecedented stinginess at the end to some of these catastrophes if this is not additional monies. If it was a zero sum game it would be very bad news for Guinea and Congo and Sudan.”

Asked about rumours in the Arab world that the cause of the tsunami was some sort of nuclear experiment by Indians, Israelis and the United States and that this is stopping aid from the Arab world, Mr. Egeland replied: “I would like to try to stop it here and now. The seismic surveillance people around the globe know exactly what happened. This is a fault line.”

In a related development today the UN Security Council today observed a minute’s silence in tribute to the tsunami’s victims, expressed their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and hailed the efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Mr. Egeland to respond to the crisis.

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