Tsunami-affected countries need to do even more to protect rights of victims: UN

1 March 2006 –

Although countries devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami have much to be proud of in their respect of the basic rights to shelter, health services and education of victims, the United Nations envoy to the region today urged more be done to protect such rights.

“These basic rights are spelled out in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,” said Eric Schwartz, Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery on the Protection of Vulnerable Communities in the Tsunami Region today at the end of his 10-day assessment mission to the region, where approximately 220,000 people were killed and two million displaced by the disaster.

“Officials throughout the region have recognized that they are responsible not only for ensuring access to adequate shelter and housing, education, and medical services, but also for involving the affected populations in the critical decisions impacting their future well-being,” he added.

In improving on that effort, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies all have a role to play, he said, stressing that the difficult problems of permanent housing and employment cannot be solved overnight.

“But experience demonstrates that when people are adequately consulted in recovery processes, policies are broadly accepted and are more likely to endure,” he said, emphasizing that efforts to engage women and traditionally marginalized communities should be accelerated.

During his mission, the fourth in the last six months, Mr. Schwartz visited the Aceh region of Indonesia and the North Chennai region of India, where he met with various government, UN and other officials, civil society leaders, affected communities and representatives from the private sector.

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