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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Introduction/Humanitarian

Mr. Co-Chairman,

1. When confronted with the Tsunami, one is reminded of the fragility of humankind in the face of nature. Some 300,000 are dead and a further million people have been displaced. Vital ocean-related economic sectors, such as fisheries, maritime infrastructure and tourism were severely impacted. The waves damaged seagrass beds, coral reefs, mangroves and associated ecosystems.

2.The response to the Tsunami has been extraordinary. Local people came together with great courage to rescue neighbours and tourists alike. The international community, including the EU, came quickly to the countries’ aid with logistical, humanitarian and longer-term reconstruction aid. Donors have pledged some USD 7 billion. The EU has been the largest donor with about USD 2 billion. Private donations directly to NGO’s have been huge at around USD 2.5 billion.

3. On 31 January 2005, the EU has adopted a Tsunami Action Plan intended to encompass all the initiatives taken, or to be taken, by the Union and its Member States. The principal aim of this action plan is to better co-ordinate all the available resources at all levels and in all areas to deal effectively with the consequences of such events now and in the future.

4. The EU recognises the need to link Union action to the special responsibilities conferred upon the United Nations and its bodies and organisations such as OCHA, UNICEF, UNEP, FAO and WHO. Furthermore, the EU emphasises the importance of fully associating NGOs and civil society partners in the EU and in the countries affected.

5. One of the main challenges for the EU is to ensure a coherent and efficient response to the demands when a disaster occurs in a third country. The Community Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates the mobilisation of specialised resources from the EU Member States (Bulgaria, Romania, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland also contribute to the Mechanism) for disaster relief. Currently the EU is examining possibilities for enhancing co-ordination and improving military capabilities to support and complement disaster relief by civilian organisations.

Prevention and early warning

Mr. Co-Chairman,

6. The EU Tsunami Action Plan proposes a strategy for prevention and early- warning, including the establishment of an early-warning system for the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The EU follows with interest the work of the IOC in building a Tsunami early-warning system in the Indian Ocean, in line with the mandate given to it at the Kobe conference in January 2005. ECHO has contributed EURO 2 million to the work of the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat in evaluating and strengthening of early-warning systems in the Indian Ocean.

7. The states of the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable to tropical storms, and have also in the past been affected by Tsunami. The Community is contributing EURO 13,2 million to a regional radar-based early-warning system under its development co-operation funds. More widely, currently the European Commission is discussing the ACP secretariat’s initiative to establish a natural disaster facility under the Cotonou Agreement. This would focus on strengthening national capacities for managing early-warning systems and ensuring proper communication of alerts to the population.

8. However, early-warning systems will reduce damage only in a limited way. There are also risks involved in the destruction of the natural protection against the oceans. Tropical coasts are protected by coral reefs and mangroves. The destruction of such natural phenomena means that the effects of a Tsunami will be much more devastating than necessary. A balance needs to be sought between a rapid reconstruction of the infrastructure, and a well-considered investment in re-starting economic activities and the restoration of the natural coastal defences. Therefore, the EU welcomes the decision of UNEP in February 2005 to develop in close consultation with all parties concerned, an environmental approach to the identification and assessment of areas which are potentially at risk from natural and human-induced disasters.

Reconstruction and sustainable fisheries

Mr. Co-Chairman,

9. In selecting reconstruction and rehabilitation programs and projects to be funded, the Commission and EU member states are determined to abide by the priorities defined by the governments of the countries concerned. At the same time, the EU will ensure that the reconstruction effort is environmentally friendly and designed to prevent or mitigate the effects of such catastrophes in future. We note that NGO’s have combined forces towards social and ecological reconstruction. Plans already exist for the reconstruction of coral reefs and mangroves, as well as the restoration of traditional fisheries. In all reconstruction efforts we consider the involvement of the business community to be of importance, and we invite them to demonstrate their support for sustainable development.

10. It is the EU’s view that FAO is best-suited to co-ordinate the elaboration and implementation of an international fisheries rehabilitation plan. The Rome declaration on fisheries and the Tsunami, adopted by the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries in March 2005, recognised the role of FAO in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the fisheries and aqua-culture sectors in the affected areas. FAO Ministers emphasised the need to focus on rebuilding the livelihoods of fishers and fish farmers, providing adequate protection from this and other environmental threats, and improving sectoral efficiency, sustainability and governance. Ministers emphasised the need to protect the rights of fishers and fishworkers, particularly those involved in subsistence and small-scale and artisan fisheries

11. The EU considers that the sustainability of fisheries must be at the core of the rehabilitation strategy. This should be in line with the principles of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in order to properly respond to the changes in the marine eco-systems that took place. The EU created a legal framework within the European Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance allowing the transfer of small vessels from member States to the countries affected by the Tsunami. The EU is committed to ensuring that assistance will be provided on the basis of the demands of national administrations. FAO’s contribution is crucial in this respect to properly assess which vessels and in what quantities should be transferred.

12. Sustainable fisheries are clearly linked to sustainable resource management. Therefore, restoration of critical habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves, should receive particular attention. These habitats, apart from increasing the resilience of the coastal defence system, are important both for the productivity of inshore fishing grounds as well as for the potential for aquaculture rehabilitation.

Thank you, Mr. Co-Chairman.


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