ASSEMBLY CALLS FOR CONTINUED GENEROUS RESPONSE TO EL SALVADOR EARTHQUAKE EMERGENCY

26 January 2001
GA/9853

ASSEMBLY CALLS FOR CONTINUED GENEROUS RESPONSE TO EL SALVADOR EARTHQUAKE EMERGENCY

26/01/2001
Press ReleaseGA/9853

Fifty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

90th Meeting (PM)

ASSEMBLY CALLS FOR CONTINUED GENEROUS RESPONSE

TO EL SALVADOR EARTHQUAKE EMERGENCY

Recognizing the lamentable loss of life and serious damage to El Salvador's infrastructure caused by an earthquake on 13 January, the General Assembly this afternoon urged all Member States, the United Nations system, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations to continue responding generously to that country in its emergency.

As it met this afternoon to continue its programme to strengthen the coordination of the Organization’s humanitarian and disaster relief assistance activities, the Assembly took that action by adopting a resolution on assistance to El Salvador.  The representative of Colombia, speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, introduced the text.

By that text, the Assembly also asked the Secretary-General to make every effort to continue mobilizing and coordinating the humanitarian assistance being provided by the United Nations system in support of the efforts of the Government of El Salvador.

El Salvador's representative said his country had now begun the second stage of its rehabilitation and reconstruction process.  In order to attain the goal of comprehensive rehabilitation, the Government had started a decentralization programme to effectively distribute the assistance sent from abroad.  Local leaders were now in charge of disseminating that assistance to El Salvador’s 97 municipalities.  Funds were also being distributed for housing repairs.

Canada's representative said over the years, the international humanitarian system had had to cope with enormous and multiple pressures.  Events in

El Salvador were a tragic reminder of the serious humanitarian challenges.  Such emergencies placed considerable strain on the global response capacity.  He also highlighted the importance of working together in providing assistance to populations in need, building on experiences and putting in place preventive measures to mitigate the devastation and loss of life caused by natural disasters.

At the beginning of the meeting the Assembly observed a moment of silence in tribute to the memory of the late President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who passed away on 18 January.  The Assembly also conveyed its condolences to the Government and the people of that country and to Mr. Kabila's bereaved family.

Also this afternoon, The Assembly extended its deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage to the Governments and the

peoples of El Salvador, India and Pakistan who were recently struck by disastrous earthquakes.

The President of the Assembly, Harri Holkeri (Finland), drew attention to a letter from the Secretary-General in which he informed the Assembly that 38 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.

[By the terms of Article 19, a Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.]

Statements were also made today by the representatives of Mexico, Israel, United States, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum), Yugoslavia (on behalf of the Eastern European States, Nicaragua and Myanmar (on behalf of the Asian States).  The representative of India also made a statement after adoption of the resolution.

The Assembly will meet again at a time and date to be announced in the Journal.

Assembly Work Programme

As part of its continuing programme to strengthen the coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, including special economic assistance to individual regions or countries, the Assembly met this afternoon to consider the situation of El Salvador following the recent earthquake in that country.

The Assembly had before it a draft resolution on assistance to El Salvador as a result of the earthquake of 13 January (document A/55/L.72).  By that resolution, the Assembly, recognizing the lamentable loss of life and serious damage to El Salvador's infrastructure, urged all Member States, specialized agencies and other organs of the United Nations system, together with international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations, to continue responding generously to El Salvador in its emergency.  Member States and specialized agencies and organs were further urged to continue to respond generously to El Salvador's rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks and programmes, in order to maintain the present political stability and prevent the effects of this natural disaster from becoming an impediment to the economic and social development of the country.

Further by the resolution, the Assembly requests the Secretary-General to make every effort to continue mobilizing and coordinating the humanitarian assistance being provided by the specialized agencies and other organs of the United Nations system in support of the efforts of the Government of El Salvador.

The resolution was sponsored by Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Statements

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States and co-sponsors, introduced the draft resolution on assistance to El Salvador as a result of the earthquake of 13 January.  For his region, he said, today’s meeting of the Assembly represented a show of solidarity towards their brothers and sisters in El Salvador.  He hoped that the unanimous adoption of the resolution would go a long way to ending the suffering of those made homeless following the devastating effects of that earthquake.

JOSE ROBERTO ANDINO SALAZAR (El Salvador) expressed the gratitude of his Government at the prompt convening of today’s meeting of the Assembly.  He expressed further gratitude to the Secretary-General and all Members States for their heartfelt condolences and prompt assistance initiatives.  He said that following the devastating earthquake, his Government had activated the necessary mechanisms aimed at coordinating emergency efforts.  It had also hired the services of international auditing services and requested the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to monitor how assistance funds would be used.

He highlighted the importance of the outpouring of support and solidarity on the part of the international community.  El Salvador had now begun the second stage of its rehabilitation and reconstruction process.  In order to attain the goal of comprehensive rehabilitation, the Government had started a decentralization programme to effectively distribute the assistance sent from abroad.  Local leaders were now in charge of disseminating that assistance to

El Salvador’s 97 municipalities.  Funds were also being distributed for housing repairs.

He said he was certain that the international community would continue to provide solidarity in this phase of El Salvador’s rehabilitation, with the same spirit of understanding as it had immediately following the disaster.  He reiterated the profound gratitude of the people of his country for the outpouring of support.  His country was committed to making greater efforts to overcome, as soon as possible, the effects of the earthquake on the country’s most vulnerable populations.

JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said only a few months ago, the heads of State and government attending the Millennium Summit had highlighted the importance of addressing the devastating effects of natural disasters on the most vulnerable populations, including women and children.  By taking up the current resolution aimed at addressing the situation in El Salvador following the recent earthquake there, the Assembly was reaffirming its willingness to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.

He was convinced that it was vitally important for the international community to persevere in the establishment of creative and effective strategies for prompt responses to natural disasters.  That would ensure that such responses would not be isolated.  The entire international community knew the devastating effects of natural disasters.  Just this morning, a tragic earthquake had struck India and Pakistan.  There was sufficient need to develop mechanisms that could be counted on to provide rapid and prompt relief.  Such mechanisms should include prevention, early warning, rehabilitation and reconstruction components.  The United Nations should play a key role in developing such initiatives.

He went on to point out that El Salvador, a country that had suffered years of civil war and internal strife, had been able to maintain peace following the effects of the earthquake.  The country now faced the enormous task of rebuilding its infrastructure.  That task required the immediate attention of the international community.  He hoped that the draft resolution could be adopted unanimously as a sign of new solidarity on the part of the United Nations Member States.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said the earthquake that struck El Salvador on

13 January was a tragedy of immense proportions.  Such a disaster prompted the international community to act immediately to provide relief and supplies to those who were suffering.  In the aftermath of the earthquake, Israel dispatched a medical team and a shipment of medicines and medical supplies to assist the victims.  In addition, the Israeli humanitarian aid organization, Latet -- meaning to give –- had collected approximately 22 tons of clothing, blankets and assorted aid for homeless refugees in El Salvador.

He said Israeli assistance to El Salvador reflected a long history of partnership, cooperation and friendship between the two nations.  El Salvador was one of the few countries in the world that actively tried to save European Jews threatened by Nazi Germany.  Israel's assistance to that country also stemmed from a strong Israeli tradition of providing humanitarian aid and relief in every corner of the globe in times of emergency and natural disasters.  He strongly encouraged other Member States to act with determination to provide assistance and relief to the greatest extent possible.  He hoped that with a concerted international effort, the human tragedy could be curtailed and the pain and misery quickly overcome.

CAMERON HUME (United States) expressed deepest sympathy for the enormous losses suffered by the people of El Salvador as a result of the earthquake on

13 January.  He also said that today's devastating earthquake in India was a reminder that no country in the world was immune from such disasters.  "They underline our common humanity and unite us in efforts to cope with the destruction they leave behind."  His country had assisted in the disaster response effort in El Salvador.  It had deployed members of the Miami Dade Fire Department to help develop site plans for search and rescue and to assist with safety measures.  The United States had also provided a total of $5.7 million in humanitarian assistance and supplies. 

No amount of aid, however, could erase the pain and anguish felt by the Salvadorian people, he said.  His country would continue to assist El Salvador and hoped that other Members of the United Nations would do the same.  His Government commended the European Space Agency, the Global Disaster Information Network and the Relief Web of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for their invaluable work in sharing important operational information.  Those efforts saved lives because they provided vital information to those who delivered blankets, food and medical supplies.

PIERRE SCHORI (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said that the Union was profoundly moved by the loss of human life and the damage caused by the recent earthquake in El Salvador.  It expressed its deepest sympathy to the victims and their families.

The Union, he said, had responded immediately and would continue to address the urgent needs of the affected population.  It would also consider rehabilitation and long-term reconstruction activities.  Efficient coordination among donors and international organizations could not be overemphasized.  In addition to immediate relief and humanitarian assistance, it was essential at this stage to organize support for long-term reconstruction and development, including further strengthening of local response capacities.

JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum member States of Australia, Fiji, Marshal Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, expressed sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake which struck India yesterday and to the Government of India.  He went on to convey deepest sympathy to the Government and people of El Salvador for the loss of hundreds of lives and extensive infrastructure damage as a result of the earthquake on 13 January.  As a sub-region that was extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, the Pacific Island Forum joined others in expressing support and solidarity with the Government of

El Salvador in its efforts to cope with the consequences of that disaster.

He said contributions, including emergency humanitarian relief provided by Member States, United Nations specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations would bring comfort to the people of El Salvador at this difficult time.  That country needed concerted international support as it began its rehabilitation and reconstruction.  The United Nations had demonstrated its comparative advantage in soliciting international attention and mobilizing a concerted and timely response to such situations.

He went on to say that the increasing incidence and magnitude of natural disasters confirmed the need for and importance of, among other things, efficient coordination at all levels in disaster preparedness and emergency response, information sharing, and above all, a ready pool of resources that could be deployed and utilized immediately.

VLADISLAV MLADENOVIC (Yugoslavia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States, conveyed deep sympathy to the Government and people of

El Salvador at the tragic loss of life and extensive destruction of property and infrastructure caused by the 13 January earthquake.  That natural disaster would undoubtedly pose a major setback to the country's economy.  The international community, which had responded swiftly and generously in El Salvador's hour of crisis, must stay the course because the tasks of rehabilitation and reconstruction would be as daunting as those posed by immediate relief.

He said it was imperative that all countries, specialized agencies of the United Nations, as well as international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations respond urgently and provide emergency relief, as well as assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of El Salvador.

MARIO CASTELLON DUARTE (Nicaragua) said the devastating effects of the recent earthquake in El Salvador might hamper the significant progress that country had made following years of civil war.  The international community had supported the first stages of emergency aid and rescue efforts.  His own country had responded with emergency relief initiatives.  Nicaragua's President had also visited the most devastated areas.  Despite the prompt response, more needed to be done.  Indeed, the terrible effects of the earthquake would be felt for years to come, and El Salvador would need assistance to build housing units, clean rubble and rehabilitate agriculture and infrastructure.  All measures aimed at addressing those and other problems required urgent action by the international community, particularly financial and technical assistance.  He also called on the international community to consider the re-negotiation of El Salvador’s foreign debt.

WIN MRA (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Asian Group, said they were shocked and grieved to learn of the devastating earthquake that struck El Salvador on 13 January.  While he commended the efforts made by the Government of that country to attend to the immediate needs of the disaster victims and to alleviate their suffering, he underscored that national efforts alone were not sufficient in the face of a monumental problem.  Domestic efforts needed to be complemented by emergency assistance from the international community to enable the Government to carry out the rehabilitation and reconstruction process.

On behalf of the Asian Group, he conveyed solidarity and support for the Government and people of El Salvador in their difficult hour, and extended full sympathy, understanding and encouragement to the victims of the disaster.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said that given the extent of the damage in El Salvador, his Government responded immediately by donating $1 million in humanitarian aid to assist victims of the earthquake.  In addition, two Canadian cargo planes containing 30 tons of emergency relief supplies arrived in

El Salvador on 15 January.  On 17 January, his country announced an additional contribution of $1 million to be used by local non-governmental organizations for continued emergency efforts.  Individual Canadians had also shown their solidarity by donating $550,000 to date to the Canadian Red Cross, which launched an appeal throughout his country to help the people of El Salvador.  Canada would continue to work closely with Salvadorian authorities and other partners to ease the suffering of the victims.

He said events in El Salvador tragically reminded the international community that it continued to face serious humanitarian challenges.  Over the past years, the international humanitarian system had had to cope with enormous and multiple pressures.  The scope of those emergencies was placing a considerable strain on the capacity of the global system to respond.  It highlighted the importance, not only of working together in providing assistance to populations in need, but also in building on experiences and putting in place preventive measures to mitigate the devastation and loss of life caused by natural disasters.

The President of the Assembly, HARRI HOLKERI (Finland) then informed Members that the following countries had joined as co-sponsors of the resolution:  Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, France, Gabon, Italy, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, Slovenia, Syria and Yemen.

The resolution was then adopted without a vote.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said India now found itself in a situation similar to that of El Salvador.  He thanked the Assembly President as well as all Member States for the understanding, support and solidarity expressed at the death and destruction caused by the earthquake that had struck the western part of his own country today.  He assured the Assembly that the Government of India had mobilized rehabilitation mechanisms on an emergency basis.

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For information media. Not an official record.