TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORT MUST BE DONE RIGHT, USED AS MODEL FOR FUTURE, SAYS SPECIAL ENVOY AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE

25 April 2005
IHA/1038

TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORT MUST BE DONE RIGHT, USED AS MODEL FOR FUTURE, SAYS SPECIAL ENVOY AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE

25/4/2005
Press Release
IHA/1038

TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORT MUST BE DONE RIGHT, USED AS MODEL FOR FUTURE,


SAYS SPECIAL ENVOY AT HEADQUARTERS CONFERENCE


UN Humanitarian Affairs Office, Business Roundtable

Host Meeting on Public/Private Partnership in Disaster Relief


The international community must finish the job it began in providing relief for East Asian tsunami victims, “do it right”, and use that effort as a model for the future, William J. Clinton, United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and former President of the United States, said today at a Headquarters disaster relief conference.


The one-day gathering, entitled “Advancing Public-Private Partnership in Response to Global Disasters”, was hosted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of leading United States companies, representing more than 10 million American workers.


Mr. Clinton told the gathering relief efforts must first receive promised funds, coordinate and “build back better”, reconstructing communities with improved housing, education and health care.  Second, he would try to convince donors that the money already given was being honestly and effectively spent.


Third, the risk inherent in new disasters must be reduced, primarily through an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.  While he was encouraged with increasing regional cooperation on that issue, communities would be encouraged by a national agency that could minimize the impact of disasters and maximize response time.  He hoped to produce a set of best practices, which could be used as a handbook in other areas. 


Many of the needs revolving around the tsunami disaster could not become reality without help from the private sector, he continued.  Participants at today’s meeting should provide input on how all parties could better contribute, and what they intended to do until the crisis was over.  He hoped it would be possible to do more good over the next decade for the world’s poor by moving from relief to reconstruction, and by leaving behind a handbook for alleviating global poverty. 


Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, noted that aid was one of the most cost effective investments possible, providing a priceless return on investment.  For just $2, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others could now treat an adult with malaria, which claimed more than 1 million lives and $12 billion in productivity in Africa every year.  For just $1, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) could immunize a child against measles, which claimed more children’s lives each year than wars, famines, and natural disasters combined.


With its cost-effectiveness and efficiency, he said, the private sector could play a key role in meeting the world’s enormous humanitarian needs, working with them to provide a new generation of partnerships to solve problems past generations have failed to solve.  He stressed, however, the need for a more systematic, streamlined and efficient approach to private sector participation in humanitarian work.  The United Nations must be proactive in creating an infrastructure for private sector partnerships by identifying points of contact within each agency and company.  Humanitarian organizations should also create stand-by arrangements and rosters of available resources, so that the next time a crisis hits, the international community can mobilize immediately.


Similarly, Hank McKinnell, Chairman, Business Roundtable, and Chairman and CEO, Pfizer Inc., stressed the importance of stronger partnerships among Governments, non-governmental organizations, charitable groups and private enterprises in providing humanitarian relief.  The tsunami relief and recovery effort had shown that each partner could bring special skills and resources to those in need, having a “multiplier effect” on the abilities of all. 


“The massive and sudden devastation [of the tsunami] led us all to rewrite the rule book on how we could work more purposefully together”, Mr. McKinnell said.  Organizations like the United Nations could harness the wide-ranging skills of those who worked in Business Roundtable member companies.  Companies that could track a package from one end of the globe to another, build subways, skyscrapers and bridges, or coordinate the “just-in-time” delivery of thousands of parts to assembly lines, could certainly provide more “people power” in times of need. 


Introductory Statements


HANK MCKINNELL, Chairman, Business RoundTable, and Chairman and CEO, Pfizer Inc., welcomed participants to the conference, saying that today’s focus was on a simple but critical question.  “When it comes to huge disasters, such as the one the world has just experienced, how do we bring the greatest amount of relief, to the greatest number of affected people in the shortest possible time?  At a time when every minute counts, how can we speed relief in hours, not days or weeks, and begin recovery in weeks, not months or years?” 


There were many possible approaches to those goals, but they all rested on one foundation -- greater engagement by both public and private organizations and stronger partnerships among Governments, non-governmental organizations, charitable groups and private enterprises, he said.  The tsunami relief and recovery effort had shown that each partner could bring special skills and resources to those in need.  Together, a diverse group of partners could have a “multiplier effect” on the abilities of all to contribute.  Last December’s tsunami crisis illuminated the power of partnership and magnified the importance of each partner in supporting the others. 


While it was hard to see anything positive in the tsunami crisis, he said, “we can take heart in the global response”.  “The massive and sudden devastation led us all to rewrite the rule book on how we could work more purposefully together.  The cries of the afflicted led us to demolish the walls that separate us and to put a premium on speed.”  As a result, it was possible to get more aid, more quickly, to more people, than ever before.  The question now was whether there was the will, resolve and energy to sustain that progress and build on it. 


“If we do, it’s because this baptism of fire in the beginning of the year has helped us to move to a new level of trust”, he said.  For many companies in Business Roundtable, its long relationships with the United Nations and with various Governments and non-governmental organizations helped shaped their response.  Pfizer’s goal was to turn on the tap of cash and medicine as quickly as possible, and the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and others worked with it to cut through bureaucracy and streamline the donation process.  What everyone learned, from the first few hours of the disaster to the recovery efforts going on today, was that partnerships were powerful.  He hoped today’s conference provided continued momentum in forging effective partnerships, and in preparing for any crisis in the future. 


There was untapped opportunity for all to work together in more systematic and effective ways, he stated.  He was enthusiastic about how organizations like the United Nations could harness the wide-ranging skills of those who work in Business Roundtable member companies.  Companies that could track a package from one end of the globe to another, build subways, skyscrapers and bridges, or coordinate the “just-in-time” delivery of thousands of parts to assembly lines, could certainly provide more “people power” in times of need.  Such an influx of skilled people could complement the ranks of relief agencies and quickly focus aid on where it was most needed. 


During the tsunami crisis, he said Pfizer and other companies opened their employee rosters to relief agencies, sending experts skilled in everything, from water purification to supply logistics, to the front lines.  Those efforts worked out far better than most people believed they would, and provided a model for a more coordinated response in the future.  The dramatic images of the devastation should spur everyone to progress in their partnerships.  Commitments such as the United Nations Global Compact had shown that private and public organizations could move towards both stronger partnerships and positive change.  “Working together, as partners, we can bring more help, and more hope, to those thrust suddenly into a vortex of misery.  Along the way, we can help fulfil the vision of the United Nations -- to put aside our differences, build on a common foundation, and serve every member of our human family.”


JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that international response to the tsunami disaster should serve as a model for all humanitarian crises -- both natural disasters and human conflicts.  There were tremendous humanitarian needs in the world today that demanded attention.  The greatest challenge in combating suffering was not nature, but human nature -- human indifference to the plight of one’s fellow man.  For example, 1,000 people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo every day from largely preventable causes -- a tsunami death toll every few months for years on end.


He said aid was one of the most cost-effective investments possible, providing a priceless return on investment.  For just $1, UNICEF could immunize a child against measles, which claimed more children’s lives each year than wars, famines, and natural disasters combined.  For less than $2, the WHO and others could now treat an adult with malaria, which claimed more than 1 million lives and $12 billion in productivity in Africa every year.  What greater return on investment could there possible be than to save a human life?


The private sector could play a key role in meeting the world’s enormous humanitarian needs by mobilizing attention and resources.  With its notions of cost-effectiveness and efficiency, it could work together with humanitarian organizations to provide a new generation of partnerships to solve problems past generations have failed to solve.  In today’s global economy, successful businesses must respond quickly and effectively to changing needs, and get results on the ground.


However, there was a need for a more systematic, streamlined and efficient approach to private sector participation in humanitarian work, he said.  The United Nations must be proactive and create an infrastructure for private sector partnerships -- by identifying, for example, points of contact within each agency and company.  It must also create stand-by arrangements and rosters of available resources, so that the next time a crisis hits, the international community can mobilize immediately.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, stressed the need to “finish this job, do it right and use it as a model for the future”, saying “the really hard stuff starts now.”  The good news, he said, was that the world knew how to do assistance to poor countries in ways that was not known a decade ago.  In many countries today, there was an intercountry capacity and an ability to coordinate and get results, such as in fighting HIV/AIDS.  Most important, he noted, was what had happened after the tsunami -- an unprecedented outpouring of aid.  Over $2 billion had been provided by private sources, representing a quarter of all the funding received.  About $1 billion had been received from the United States, with hundreds of millions from individuals.  He was extremely grateful to the American people and the corporate sector for what they had done.


Turning to his role, he said he had been enormously impressed with the quality of people with which he had worked in the United Nations.  Among his roles was to ensure that everyone was working together.  Most importantly, he was trying to champion basic principles, such as “build back better”.  One thing that could be done was to build villages back with better housing, education and health care, and alternative livelihoods.  It was quite challenging in small, rural areas, because such villages in such areas often depended on fishing-based economies.  It was hard to tell them to diversify their economies. 


First, it was necessary to try to get the money promised and coordinate and build back better.  Second, he would try to convince those that had given money that the money already given was being well spent -- honestly and effectively.  Third, it was necessary to reduce the risk inherent in other disasters.  The most visible sign of that had been the need to have an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.  He was encouraged with the increasing cooperation in the region on that issue.  However, it was much more involved than that, he said, noting how people in the United States took for granted the federal emergency management agencies.  Communities would be encouraged if there was a national agency that could minimize the impact of disasters and maximize response time.  Finally, he hoped to produce a set of best practices, which could be a handbook for other areas. 


Much of that could not be done without help from the private sector, he continued.  He hoped participants at today’s meeting would look at what had been done, and provide input as to “how to use you better, and how you could use us better”.  He also hoped members of Business Roundtable would elaborate on what they intended to do until the crisis was finished.  He added that no one at the United Nations expected the private sector to give any money without full accountability.  The United Nations must be able to track the progress, and to tell where the money went.  He hoped to take the build back better spirit to other emergencies and the poor of the world.  “If you do it, and it works well, other people will copy it”.  It was necessary to leave something that could be copied in other areas.  He hoped it would be possible to do more good over the next decade for the world’s poor, “by doing this right”, by proving that it was possible to go from relief to reconstruction and by leaving behind a handbook for alleviating global poverty.  He asked participants to stay the course until the job was done.


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For information media. Not an official record.