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Tsunami follow-up Event - Statements by EU Commissioners Ferrero-Waldner and Michel

Summary: Tsunami follow-up Event - Statements by EU Commissioners Ferrero-Waldner and Michel (20 December 2005: Brussels)

Statement by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy



The tragedy of the Tsunami is still vivid in our memories, as is the generous, compassionate and unprecedented international response. The EU, and above all the citizens of Europe, have been at the forefront of this international response.

Today, one year later, we are proud to say that the European Union in general and the Commission in particular, have delivered on their promises.

The money we promised has been put to work and is making a difference to conditions for survivors. Our assistance has ensured access of tsunami survivors to health, shelter, food and sanitation. Humanitarian assistance was made available instantly, and we are making a significant contribution to reconstruction, which is now well underway, regenerating communities, livelihoods, and infrastructure.

The European Union (Commission and Member States) is delivering efficiently on its pledge of more than €2 billion to assist tsunami-affected countries.
Of course we are aware of the dire conditions in which many people are still living. Many will continue to need our help in the months ahead, and we intend to make good our commitments in full.

Reconstruction in a disaster of this unprecedented scale brings enormous challenges.

The first challenge was that of co ordination. Generosity needs to be matched by efficiency. That is why we are strongly involved in boosting that co-ordination. In Indonesia, the Commission is co-chairing the multidonor trust fund (to which the EU provides 85% of the funding) – which is helping to make coherent planning and contacts with the government of Indonesia possible.

The first results of our intervention are now visible. For example, in Aceh, children are back at school, health and education facilities are being re-built, housing reconstruction has started.

Any rate of progress would be too slow for people who are still homeless. But it is important that reconstruction should not only be speedy, but wise. Governments’ wish to "build back better" means some time has to be invested in taking good decisions.

To take another example highlighted in the film you have just seen: reconstruction means first establishing property rights. This is a complex business in which we are making a significant contribution.

A year ago, another factor which threatened to hold up reconstruction efforts was the continuing conflicts in both Aceh and in Sri Lanka. We have been very active in seeking conflict resolution in both areas, and our contribution to the peace settlement in Aceh is a real political achievement. Without a sustainable peace, meaningful reconstruction would be impossible.

The Commission helped to finance the mediation activities which led to the signing of the peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement and the Government of Indonesia. In addition to the Monitoring mission underway we are helping to make the peace sustainable with a range of programmes, including for the reintegration of GAM combatants.

In Sri Lanka, despite some progress on reconstruction, the ultimate success of reconstruction, in particular in North and East Sri Lanka, will depend on the peace process and on a consensus between the Government and the Tamil and Muslim communities on how to spend aid. As a Co Chair with other international partners contributing to Sri Lanka’s development, we will continue to play our part very actively.

Looking ahead to 2006 :

Humanitarian aid
will continue to be required throughout next year and perhaps beyond – and Louis Michel will, I know, be ensuring that we continue to make a major contribution here.

For Reconstruction, 2006 will be a decisive year. The Commission will be completing our pledge of €350 million. Projects started this year should be able accelerate and we aim to be able to balance the current focus on immediate needs with bigger infrastructure and housing projects.

The thousands of EU citizens who showed such generosity last Christmas can be satisfied that the EU has lived up to the level of commitment they showed to those affected by the Tsunami.

BUT I am determined that we will continue to seek ways of improving our internal procedures and our co operation with others to ensure that we perform even better in response to future disasters.

************************

Humanitarian Aid: lessons from the 2005 “annus horribilis”



By Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

From a humanitarian viewpoint, 2005 has been an annus horribilis. The Indian Ocean tsunami, the South Asia earthquake and many other less publicised crises add up to an unprecedented burden on implementing agencies and donors alike.

The humanitarian community has responded with professionalism and commitment. But this exceptional year has rightly stimulated an intense debate among the various actors, including within the UN, on how to improve the international humanitarian system. The European Commission and other donors, the UN agencies, the Red Cross/Crescent movement and the NGOs are all committed to the same objectives; to boost the effectiveness, speed and equity of their humanitarian response.

We must maintain the momentum created this year. In 2006, I hope we can turn ideas into concrete action. Put simply, we must do more and we must do it better.

We need something like the Millennium Development Goals in the humanitarian domain: perhaps we could call them the Millennium Humanitarian Goals. The challenges, as I see it, are as follows:

1. To increase overall humanitarian funding

There should be a commitment from donors to increase the global volume of humanitarian aid. We have a 0.7% target for development aid. Why not a specific target for humanitarian aid? It should be easier to achieve, because we are talking about smaller amounts. I am convinced that around €2 billion extra in humanitarian funding annually would make a huge difference. This corresponds to a 30% increase in overall humanitarian funding, commensurate with the 30% rise in humanitarian needs observed recently.

The increase should be underpinned by three basic principles:
The Commission will remain a key humanitarian donor. In the context of the EU’s 2007-2013 financial perspectives, it proposed bringing the level of EC humanitarian aid (including emergency food aid) to more than €900 million per annum.

2. To ensure equity in the response to humanitarian crises

This is a direct reflection, at donor level, of the basic principle of non-discrimination in aid delivery. All crises must be addressed and there should be no discrimination among victims based on political agendas or the amount of media attention. Only the level of needs and the degree of vulnerability should be considered.

Currently, there are ‘orphan’ crises that few care about. This is not acceptable. Each donor should agree to free up funding for such crises. And when new emergencies arise, there should be no question of shifting funds already committed to existing needs. No robbing of Peter to pay Paul!

The Commission has long given priority to forgotten crises. DG ECHO has developed a methodology (the Global Needs Assessment Indicator) which has been shared with other donors. We hope it may contribute to more equity in funding policies.

3. To improve response capacity in humanitarian emergencies.

This depends on factors going beyond the availability of funds. The tsunami and South Asia earthquake showed us the main loopholes and what needs strengthening. For me, the priority issues are:
The Commission has already shown its commitment to the task of improving humanitarian response capacity. Through its thematic funding for major institutional donors it has financed a wide range of actions including training for emergency response teams and support for prepositioning of stocks.

4. To improve risk reduction and preparedness strategies

“Prevention is better than a cure” is no cliché. And where we cannot prevent a catastrophe we can at least do more to mitigate its effects on the human beings who are caught up in it. The Commission is already working along these lines, in what is a two-track approach:
The European Commission will remain actively and constructively engaged in the reform of the humanitarian system. I hope that the ideas I am advocating can usefully contribute to the process. We need to build a strong consensus and for this, it is important that implementing agencies and donors discuss these issues together to understand each other’s constraints. The Commission is ready to help and to organise such a dialogue.

  • Ref: EC05-440EN
  • EU source: European Commission
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 20/12/2005


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