Secretary-General, in message to Tsunami Early Warning System launch, commends Indonesia's leadership in reducing vulnerability of citizens, neighbours


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message to the launch of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System, as delivered in Jakarta today, 11 November, by Sálvano Briceño, Director of the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction:

Congratulations on the historic launch of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System. This is a major step forward for countless people in the region.

We all remember the terrible destruction inflicted by the Indian Ocean tsunami at the end of 2004. The death toll was horrific. Hundreds of thousands of survivors were left injured and exposed to disease. Poor communities were thrust deeper into poverty.

The tragedy was burned into the world's collective memory. But for people in coastal communities, the terrible after-effects, and especially the fear of another catastrophe, remain a daily reality. They are wondering, what if it happens again? How will we survive?

Fortunately, Governments from around the Indian Ocean heard these pleas. They worked with the United Nations to form a powerful network of tsunami warning and mitigation systems. This cooperation was based on partnerships, technology and community development. These are the essential ingredients in achieving the "end-to-end" coverage the international community called for to prevent another tragedy, and to get accurate tsunami warnings to vulnerable communities in time for residents to leave.

The Indonesian Government has shown great leadership in this arena, as well as a broad commitment to the Hyogo Framework for Action on building resilience to disasters. Indonesia's hard work is making its citizens less vulnerable while helping its Indian Ocean neighbours, too.

The countries of the region are forging partnerships in technology, sharing data, communicating in real time and helping communities to prepare. Together, they are cutting risks to vulnerable communities.

I urge all of you to maintain this progress and your commitment to working with the United Nations not only to prepare for a possible tsunami but to deal with all natural hazards. Even small disasters can keep poor communities trapped in poverty and underdevelopment.

The 2004 tsunami drew a great deal of welcome international attention. Among the many people who came to the region to help rebuild was a United States football player named Amani Toomer. When he arrived, he said he was struck by how much damage the disaster had caused. But he was even more amazed by the people. "It is encouraging to know," he said, "that they have more than enough character to help each other through the process."

Today's launch has been made possible by that kind of determination to help each other. The United Nations, for its part, will continue to work with all partners to ensure that we are ready when disaster strikes. In that spirit, I offer my congratulations on this important achievement.

For information media - not an official record