Statement made by Sri Lanka (by Dr. Dayaratna Silva), at Economic and Social Council of the UN, Substantive Session Under Agenda Item 5 on Humanitarian Affairs Segment on 17th July 2006, Geneva

I would like to begin with by expressing my Delegation’s sincere appreciation for the excellent work done by the UN Secretariat in preparing for this meeting. At the same time I thank you in leading the efforts of this important Humanitarian Affairs Segment in this years’ substantive Session of ECOSOC.  

My delegation would also like to associate with the statement made by distinguish representatives from South Africa on behalf of G77 and China. Our thanks are also due to Mr. Jan England, Under Secretary General and Humanitarian relief coordinator for his comprehensive statement delivered yesterday.  

Mr. President,

The Secretary General’s Report ‘’Strengthening emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction, recovery and prevention in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster’’  is timely and helpful as Tsunami reconstruction now enters its second year, in particular as to how we should tackle challenges ahead. The report provides with us an update of recovery process in affected countries and have made some useful recommendations in a number of areas based on lessons learned.

Mr President,

Having suffered from the tsunami tragedy that devastated livelihood of millions of people and also having observed how UN system spurred in to action for helping countries affected, this subject is critically important to my country not only to help ourselves for recovery but also to share our experience in handling this unprecedented disaster, with a view to strengthening UN efforts at developing effective disaster management strategy.

In Sri Lanka we have made an objective assessment of post tsunami relief, recovery and reconstruction intervention and the way forward. This exercised was carried with our development partners and the joint report titled ‘post-tsunami recovery and reconstruction’ was issued in December, 2005 is now available on website .The report has identified several important issues by drawing upon lessons from the past year’s achievements and shortcomings.  I wish to  highlight a few of them..

Firstly, it underlines that equity as primary guiding principle of the tsunami programme in Sri Lanka taking into account both overall poverty alleviation objectives and the special needs of the conflict affected areas.

Second, with sheer number of actors and the size of the reconstruction needs, the coordination, monitoring and evaluation have posed a huge challenge. One clear lesson learned is the need for communication not just through the media but  with the affected communities particularly on gender issues.  We note that SGs report has raised the issue of need for greater coordination and recommended a flexible model for support in recovery coordination that could be quickly employed in a post disaster setting.  The issue of coordination became important as we observed during our recovery efforts that there was a high degree of duplication even among the UN agencies. This overlapping on the one hand resulted in a high avoidable overhead costs and on the other, created some degree of confusion who is doing what. Such unnecessary waste of resources can be avoided with greater coordination. At the same time by using local material and human resources the cost of relief, rehabilitation could be reduced. 

We are happy to note that ‘the issue of better utilization of resources’ through improved coordination on the ground is very rightly so included , as an integral component  in ‘three part humanitarian reform programme’. The cluster approach suggested by USG Mr. Jan England is indeed a welcome move and it can bring solutions to the issues we have identified if properly implemented. In this regard inter-cluster coordination to achive greater efficiency and in their  work is also important.

Third, disaster management has now become a national priority with the creation of a new Ministry and the development of national early warning and protection system which will be coordinated by the Meteorological Department which works round the clock. Links have been established with other international early warning systems.

Fourth, building local capacity has been identified as the main objective for sustainable international interventions. We reckon that UN and International efforts should support but cannot be a substitute for both government and local civil society efforts. Moreover, the international donor community must fully utilise local human resources and local procurement as a means to contribute to national economic development and poverty alleviation.

Let me now return to some specific issues and recommendations addressed in SG’s report.

My delegation note that SG’s report has raised the issue of transparency and accountability to donors. This is a very important issue. We consider the current recommendation is only preliminary and needs further discussions at refinement. It is our view that UN has a role in greater coordination of all donors including NGO community. It may be timely for OCHA to ascertain as to how UN could design a set of global guidelines that can be used by the governments’ donor community as well as public to make NGO both nationally and internationally more accountable to the affected countries, communities, donor countries including individual donors.

Another important area that needs attention is the acceleration of the implementation commitments by all donors. If not the delivery of final product will be adversely affectedboth in term of quality and quantity due to  factors such as inflation and donor and recipient fatigue.  

It is equally important that rehabilitation efforts and livelihood go hand in hand in order to ensure the sustainability of the latter and sustainable development of affected communities and areas. We further believe that restoring livelihood needs constant monitoring

 with regular surveys of affected communities.

Before I conclude I take this opportunity, once again to convey our appreciation for all assistance received and pledged for Sri Lanka and for the excellent coordination and supportive efforts of the UN led by OCHA at President Clinton, UN special envoy for Tsunami Recovery.

I thank you Mr. President

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