The General Assembly, gravely concerned at the extensive damage and devastation caused by tropical cyclones and floods in Madagascar, requested States and international organizations to provide additional emergency support to that country to alleviate the economic and financial burden of its people during the emergency and rehabilitation periods.
Acting without a vote on an orally amended resolution, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to make all necessary arrangements to mobilize and coordinate humanitarian assistance from the specialized agencies and other organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, with a view to supporting the Government's efforts. It also asked the Secretary-General to assist the Government in its rehabilitation efforts.
Following adoption of the resolution, Madagascar's representative expressed his gratitude for the resolution, which had reflected the international community's deep concern at the critical situation of developing countries affected by natural disasters. The frequent occurrence of cyclones and other natural disasters, such as the invasion of locusts and drought, had undermined food security and severely damaged resources and the national infrastructure, making the prospects for development even more uncertain. Once the immediate shock had passed, the scope of assistance for natural disasters should focus on rehabilitation. On its own, his country would be unable to meet the needs of the affected populations.
Introducing the resolution on behalf of the African Group of States, the representative of Egypt noted that the efforts of the international community, States and organizations to assist Madagascar in its "hour of need" were deeply appreciated. Those parties were urged to continue to provide emergency assistance to mitigate the severe damage to Madagascar, the exact magnitude of which had not yet emerged. Government estimates, to date, had prompted an emergency appeal for $3.7 million.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, and Nigeria, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China.
The Assembly is expected to meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 15 March, to consider a draft decision on implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and a draft resolution on its Millennium Assembly.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider granting assistance to Madagascar following the tropical cyclones it recently experienced. (Under agenda item 20 (b), the General Assembly would consider the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance: special economic assistance to individual countries or regions.)
It had before it draft resolution (document A/54/L.80) by which it would request States and international organizations to provide additional emergency support to Madagascar with a view to alleviating the economic and financial burden which its people would have to bear during the emergency period and in subsequent rehabilitation. By further terms, it would request the Secretary-General to make all necessary arrangements to continue mobilizing and coordinating humanitarian assistance from the United Nations to support the efforts of the Government. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, in conjunction with the relevant agencies, organizations and bodies of the Organization, and in cooperation with the government authorities, to assist the Government in carrying out its rehabilitation efforts.
Further, the Assembly would express its solidarity with the Government of Madagascar, and it would note with satisfaction the efforts of the Government and of the people to provide rapid relief to the victims through their own means. It would also express its gratitude to the international community, including the United Nations, for the measures taken to support the efforts of the Government to carry out relief operations and to provide emergency assistance.
Introduction of Draft
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft resolution on assistance to Madagascar (document A/54/L.80). He drew attention to a minor revision in operative paragraph 7, which should read as follows:
"Requests the Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-fifth session under the item on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance through the Economic and Social Council at the next humanitarian segment of its substantive session in 2000 on the implementation of this resolution".
He said the exact magnitude of the disaster had yet to emerge. The two recent cyclones had caused severe damage both to the country's infrastructure and agricultural capacity. More than 10,000 people had been left homeless by the floods and more than 170 people had already lost their lives. In addition, the Government had estimated that some 500,000 people had been affected, for which an emergency appeal totalling $3.7 million had been launched.
The efforts of the international community, States and organizations to assist Madagascar in its "hour of need" had been deeply appreciated. They were urged to continue to provide emergency assistance to mitigate the severe damage that had resulted and to respond generously to the appeal launched by the Government of Madagascar. He fervently hoped that the Assembly would support the draft.
He read out following co-sponsors: Algeria, Barbados, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Norway, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay and Venezuela.
NUNO BRITO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that assessment missions were already under way and were also being planned, including a mission by the European Community Humanitarian Office. Only then would the effects of the disaster become clear. The European Union was waiting for the appeal to the international community - soon to be launched -- before it decided on its future assistance to Madagascar. The Union also placed importance on the humanitarian work of the United Nations and was ready to contribute to adopting a common position in that regard. However, that process would be facilitated if the European Union would be allowed to become involved during the early stage of the drafting of resolutions, such as the current one on Madagascar.
AUSTIN PETER ETANOMARE OSIO (Nigeria), on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, pointed out that natural disasters continued to take their toll. Every member of the Group had pledged a commitment to support the efforts for a concerted universal solution to the problems being faced by Madagascar after the disaster, although that solution could not prevent future occurrences of such natural disasters.
The Acting President of the Assembly, THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland), announced that Andorra, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, Libya, Lithuania, Malta, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, San Marino, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates had also joined as co-sponsors of the draft.
Action on Draft
The draft was adopted, as orally revised, without a vote.
JEAN DELACROIX BAKONIARIVO (Madagascar), speaking after the vote, expressed his gratitude for the convening of the meeting and the adoption of the text. The consensus adoption of the draft had shown that the international community had been deeply concerned by the critical situation of developing countries that had fallen prey to natural disasters. It had also demonstrated the international solidarity enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Particularly gratifying was the display of sympathy and solidarity shown by the General Assembly members and the draft's co-sponsors. He also thanked the representative of Egypt, who in his capacity as chairman of the African Group this month had decided to present the draft. He also warmly thanked those who had contributed from the beginning of the disaster towards assisting his country in that difficult time, including the Secretary-General, who had launched an appeal in the wake of the tropical cyclones.
Efforts made on the way to the economic development of Madagascar had, unfortunately, been hindered by the frequent occurrence of cyclones, he said. They had undermined food security and severely damaged the national infrastructure and resources. This year, Madagascar had been struck by two cyclones. Some of the preliminary figures indicated that 25 per cent of the health service infrastructure had been destroyed and 560,000 people had been victimized. The country had also been affected by other natural disasters, such as the invasion of locusts, drought, and marine erosion, making its prospects for development even more uncertain. Given the scope of the damage and the state of its economy, his country, on its own, had been unable to meet the needs of the affected populations.
He said that the scope of assistance for natural disasters should not ignore the inherent limits of that kind of action -- once the immediate shock had passed, it was necessary to focus on rehabilitation. Thus, he wished to draw the attention of the international community to the economic and financial difficulties encountered by his country in its efforts to rebuild, against a particularly unfavorable background. His delegation would raise those issues within the appropriate United Nations bodies, but one concern had been the agricultural damage, which had decreased exports and, thus, worsened the balance of payments. He hoped the international community would look favourably upon measures aimed at reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes.