From tragedy can come wisdom' -- Lessons that open minds, save lives, says UN SG, at Tsunami Lessons Learned event
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks at the Tsunami Lessons Learned event in New York, 24 April:
Helen Clark, our new UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Administrator. Welcome to the UN family. We are happy to have you on board. I count on your leadership and commitment.
Your Excellency Mangkusubroto,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Of all policy challenges, crisis response might seem to offer the least space for reflection. Disaster strikes. Lives hang in the balance. Every minute counts.
Yet, after the waters recede and the earth stills, there is much we can learn from the response. From tragedy can come wisdom -- lessons that open minds, lessons that save lives.
Stepping back and sharing those experiences takes a special kind of leadership. That is why what we are doing here is so important. I salute the countries that have pooled your knowledge to share your lessons with the world.
The tsunami of 2004 captured the world's attention. It generated a remarkable spirit of solidarity and generosity -- and that has helped infuse and guide this effort.
I welcome this report and the lessons learned for many reasons.
First, we owe it to the many victims: to the 228,000 people, citizens of 40 countries, who perished in the waves. By making the most of this opportunity to rebuild, we honour their memory.
Second, we need concrete benchmarks of performance. The world pledged $13.5 billion for recovery. We vowed to do more than pick up the pieces. We pledged to build back better.
Yes, we did and the evidence can be seen across the Indian Ocean Rim.
Yet, as important as this progress is, today's report poses a fundamental question: What about tomorrow?
Disasters caused by natural hazards are taking a heavy toll on communities everywhere. I have seen that firsthand with Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the Sichuan earthquake in China, as well as in Haiti and West Africa.
In the last month alone, we have seen a tragic earthquake in Italy...Tropical Cyclone Jade in Madagascar...and severe floods and landslides in Colombia, Peru and, again, Indonesia.
Yet humanity is not the helpless victim of nature. Our capacity to cope with natural disasters is much greater than we realize.
We cannot prevent such events, but we can diminish their potential for disaster.
Doing so requires foresight and advanced planning, not just emergency relief.
And again, that is why this report is so important.
It builds on the Hyogo Framework for Action, adopted by Governments three weeks after the tsunami, to reduce disaster risk.
Experience has shown that good building designs, proper land-use planning, public education, community preparedness and effective early warning systems can reduce the impact of severe weather events.
Many countries have shown the way by investing in flood control measures, hurricane-proof building design and protection of coastal ecosystems, including mangroves and coral reefs.
We have learned the importance of building local capacity, focusing on the needs of women and the poorest, community participation, and accountability and transparency.
Above all, we know recovery requires committed leadership and strategic coordination.
The tsunami recovery was unique in this respect. All Governments have emphasized coordination.
India has established a National Disaster Management Authority.
Indonesia has created a Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Board.
In Maldives, the Government set up a National Disaster Management Centre, while in Sri Lanka, the tsunami was a catalyst for the creation of the Ministry of National Disaster Management and Human Rights.
Thailand enacted a Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act and a high-level command for disaster response.
The United Nations matched the effort by establishing a "One UN" office for Recovery Coordination in Aceh and Nias.
Coordination is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity.
More than 2,000 NGOs [non-governmental organizations] -- large and small -- participated in these efforts. The entire UN system was mobilized. Some 99 bilateral partners were involved.
Many are here today. Thank you once again for your contribution.
As we look ahead, effective action will require tackling two simultaneous crises: climate change and the world economy.
Climate change is increasing both the number and intensity of weather-related disasters.
At the same time, the world is in the grips of recession. We will have fewer resources to confront a longer list of global problems.
Great as the challenges may be, we have an opportunity to address them simultaneously.
Our response to the economic crisis must advance climate goals. This, in turn, will advance goals in disaster risk reduction.
At the recent G-20 [Group of Twenty] meeting in London, leaders took some encouraging steps towards what I would call a Green New Deal.
They pledged to promote energy efficiency and a transition to clean, low-carbon technologies and infrastructure.
Just as important, they reaffirmed their determination to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year.
Our experience with the tsunami only reinforces the importance of sealing a deal later this year.
For your information, this morning in Belgium, I launched the 'Seal a Deal' campaign so that the international community can agree on a global deal by the end of December this year in Copenhagen. I hope you will all participate in this campaign -- 'Seal a Deal' campaign.
The challenges that lie ahead are real. So is the potential for change.
By working together, we can use the lessons of today to change the course of tomorrow.
For information media - not an official record