Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos - Remarks at the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami commemorative event in Phang-Nga, Thailand, 26 December 2014

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Your Excellency, Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

We are together here in Phang-Nga to commemorate the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Ten years ago today when the tsunami hit land it killed 230,000 people, and ruined the lives of many more. Entire villages were destroyed, wiping out people’s livelihoods and decimating infrastructure. The human cost was immeasurable. It is a day that the survivors and those who lost loved ones will always remember. I salute the courage and bravery of survivors and those who lost family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and who have spent the past 10 years rebuilding theirs and their families’ lives.

From the destruction and devastation of the 2004 tsunami we have learnt many things - the boundless generosity of people, local communities working to save and support each other, the support of people across the world with pledges of one billion dollars per week, in the month following the disaster.

And people also offered their knowledge, their skills - individuals, civic action groups and aid agencies, local, national, regional and international - supporting government response efforts. The large numbers of those volunteering to help posed a major coordination challenge. How best to avoid duplication? Maximize the support offered.

In the years since the tsunami response we have learnt the importance of making coordination work and the value of partnerships.

The lessons we learned in supporting government response to the tsunami kick-started major reforms in the international humanitarian sector. These reforms continue today. The tsunami illustrated that help is needed before, during and after a disaster hits. It highlighted the importance of putting in place early warning systems and disaster preparedness before crises occur in order to save lives; and the need to help families and communities long after a crisis, so that they can fully recover. We can see the impact of that long-term help in Thailand today. The government and partners have worked to rebuild communities and help them better prepare for future shocks.

But the job of improving how we work together to save lives and rebuild communities after disasters such as the 2004 tsunami is never finished. We learn from each experience and try to do better each time. While mega-disasters, such as the one we saw here ten years ago are thankfully relatively few, their potential impact increases as the world becomes more crowded and competition for resources grows. The next two years will see a series of discussions and meetings to put into place a new framework for disaster risk reduction. These discussions must build on the important and sobering lessons that were learned as a result of the Indian Ocean tsunami and its terrible impact on the people of Thailand and many other countries around the world.

Today is a day of remembrance. It gives us an opportunity to honour those who lost their lives, and stand with the survivors who withstood so much. It is also an opportunity for us to recommit to doing more together to make sure that future generations will be better prepared.
We must live up to that challenge.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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