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South Asia: Clinton meets with DEC members

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LONDON, 17 May 2005 - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton today met the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) - an umbrella group of 13 leading UK-based humanitarian agencies including Concern - for talks aimed at ensuring that aid reaches the people hit hardest by the tsunami as swiftly and as efficiently as possible.

The former President, appointed UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery last March, met aid agency chiefs who explained how plans are now being drawn up to boost spending as the lasting economic impact of the disaster and the local challenges become clearer.

"The members of DEC are on the frontlines of the recovery effort working directly with the affected communities," said President Clinton. "As we transition from relief to recovery it is imperative that local communities participate in the decision-making process and that the needs of families, and especially children, are at the heart of the recovery agenda."

DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said the DEC was allocating a further £40 million to member aid agencies working in the field to help the millions of people affected by the disaster which killed an estimated 300,000. The DEC has already given £112 million to fund emergency work in the field from the £350 million raised by its emergency appeal from the amazingly generous UK public. It is now upping this to £152 million in response to agencies' expanded plans to rebuild housing, schools and clinics and other long-term reconstruction work over the next six months.

"President Clinton could play a crucial role in being sure agencies are able to use this money as swiftly and as effectively as possible on the ground, cutting through bureaucracy and helping local governments respond to people's needs," said Brendan Gormley.

"Because of his standing, President Clinton is able to create the necessary space for discussions at the highest level."

President Clinton said that the involvement of NGOs on a community level in the affected countries provided "a tremendous opportunity to establish innovative and efficient mechanisms for the recovery effort."

"Now is the time to combine the creativity of the NGOs with the mandate of the UN to establish an effective coordinated model which can be used now and in future emergencies."