29 July 2003


NEW YORK, 28 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the fortieth anniversary of the Skopje earthquake, delivered by Frode Mauring, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative for The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 26 July in Skopje:

Forty years ago today, a massive earthquake struck Skopje in the early morning hours, destroying your homes, devastating your city and upending your lives.  Over 1,000 people died.  Over 3,000 people were seriously injured.  Three-quarters of the inhabitants of the city were left homeless.  I join you today in remembering those who were lost and in recalling the great suffering of the survivors.

It is a testament to your resilience, and to your country’s spirit of multilateralism, that you have transformed the fortieth anniversary of this catastrophe into an opportunity to pay tribute to the international support that was offered at that time.  In the days after the earthquake, 35 nations asked the United Nations General Assembly to put relief for Skopje on its agenda, and a campaign directed at national governments and international agencies began to identify resources to assist in recovery efforts.  As the General Assembly stated in resolution 1882 of 14 October 1963, the spirit of international solidarity demonstrated in the aftermath of the Skopje earthquake transformed the reconstruction effort into a symbol of friendship and brotherhood among peoples.

By the beginning of 1964, an international consultative board, jointly appointed by the United Nations and the Yugoslav Government, had been established to support national and international reconstruction efforts.  Also, by that time, four projects were put in place which formed the basis of United Nations technical assistance.  The United Nations is proud of the role it played in shaping the reconstruction of Skopje, in particular through the Special Fund and Skopje Urban Plan projects.  I am also pleased that, following a recommendation from the consultative board, the Institute of Earthquake Engineering, Engineering Seismology and Urban Planning (IZIIS) was established in 1965, and that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) played a part in assisting local authorities to bring this about.  The Institute is today recognized as a leader in earthquake research, urban planning and disaster management.

More recently, your country has been affected by the fault lines of political upheaval and ethnic conflict, both next door and at home.  The United Nations again joined hands with you to try to prevent violence, to minimize humanitarian suffering and to promote post-conflict stability.  Your country, and the region, continues along the challenging path of transition.  The United Nations will remain engaged in supporting you along that path.

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