14 April 2005

Former United States President Clinton, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Call for Renewed Commitment to Tsunami Region

NEW YORK, 13 April -- Former United States President Bill Clinton and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan met today to discuss the daunting task of rebuilding people’s lives in the tsunami region.

President Clinton was appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery last month by the Secretary-General and has begun working to keep the international community committed to the recovery effort. He convened a meeting of United Nations experts yesterday to assess the status of the humanitarian relief effort and the challenges which remain.

“We must remember that reconstruction does not happen overnight. It takes time and requires patience and determination”, President Clinton said. “More than three months after the tsunami killed an estimated 300,000 people, the challenge is not just to rebuild communities, but to rebuild them better. And that means rebuilding schools which are child-friendly, health-care services which are accessible to all and setting into place early warning systems so that such massive loss of life can be prevented in the future.”

In an effort to sustain the momentum on tsunami recovery efforts the Secretary-General noted that “the response to our appeals for funds has been truly amazing. But ... it’s vitally important that we have someone capable of sustaining international interest in the fate of the survivors and their communities -- and someone with the vision and commitment to ensure that this time the international community really does follow through and support the transition from immediate relief to longer-term recovery and reconstruction. Too often, in the aftermath of previous natural disasters, that has not been the case”.

Referring to the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the nations of the world in 2000, President Clinton added, “At a time when the international community has already committed itself to upholding minimum standards of development, we cannot replace poverty with poverty, and leave people as vulnerable to tragedy as they were before. We must do better, and by working together, we will.”

The former President’s Deputy, Erskine Bowles, just returned from the region where he saw first-hand the impact the tsunami had on people’s lives. He consulted with a wide range of partners -- from government, United Nations agencies, civil society groups and the business community -- to solicit ideas on how the Office of the Special Envoy can best assist in the recovery effort.

“I have seen humanitarian workers at their finest hour. And I have talked to countless people -- at the government, civil society and community level”, said Mr. Bowles. “I am convinced that we will only do the millions of people affected by the tsunami justice if we involve communities on the ground in the decision-making process. And we must never forget that when we rebuild the physical infrastructure, we must do so in a way that is protective to the most vulnerable -- the displaced, the women and the children.”

The Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery was created last month at the request of the General Assembly in an effort to sustain global attention and cooperation in the long-term recovery and reconstruction effort of the region.

For further information, please contact: Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, Office of the Special Envoy on Tsunami Recovery, tel.: 212 906 6904, e-mail:

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