28 April 2006 United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery Bill Clinton said today that despite substantial progress in reconstruction following the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, formidable challenges remain and the former United States President called on all involved in the recovery process to sustain their efforts.
Speaking at the fourth meeting of the Global Consortium on Tsunami Recovery, which was held in New York, Mr. Clinton said “we are now in what may be the most challenging part of the recovery process, as governments implement longer term reconstruction and economic development efforts.”
“There is substantial progress to report in areas like home and school construction and a welcome rebound in tourist arrivals but we still face formidable challenges, from addressing the housing needs of displaced persons, to increasing timber supplies without endangering forests, to addressing the remaining $100 million funding gap in the Maldives,” he said.
In addition Mr. Clinton called for an all-out effort to get the last 40,000 people out of tents in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island in Indonesia, in the next two months, and also expressed concern about the increased violence in Sri Lanka, and its impact on the recovery process.
Citing the progress that had been made over the past 16 months, the former US President noted among other achievements, some 100,000 new homes that have been built or are under construction across the tsunami-hit region, with tens of thousands more in the pipeline, and in addition, some 550 permanent schools either completed or under construction.
At today's meeting, which involved government representatives of countries that were hit by the tsunami, as well as delegates from donor countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international financial institutions and UN agencies, each of the affected countries shared “best practices,” focusing on parts of their own recovery processes in which significant progress had been made.
Thailand's delegate spoke of land management issues, while her Indian counterpart focused on risk mitigation and disaster reduction measures. Representatives from Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia briefed respectively on owner-built housing reconstruction, revitalization of the tourism industry, and community development and consultation in the recovery process.
In a related development, Eric Schwartz, the Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, heads to Thailand next week on a regional tour of the tsunami-hit countries to launch a new initiative for the survivors of the disaster.