The Tsunami Legacy

01 May 2009 | News story

To better respond to natural disasters, governments should invest more in risk reduction for vulnerable communities and make sure to reflect gender concerns in the recovery processes - says a report launched on 24th April 2009 at the United Nations. According to the “The Tsunami Legacy – Innovation, Breakthroughs and Change” report, involving local communities in the recovery process is as instrumental as installing high-tech early warning systems. The report also highlights the need for governments to incorporate disaster risk reduction measures in national development plans.

The report was commissioned by The Tsunami Global Lessons Learned Project, an organization that includes representatives from five of the hardest-hit countries, (India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand) in addition to the UN, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It was coordinated by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Chair of the Tsunami Global Lessons Learned Steering Committee and former Director of the Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (BRR) for Aceh and Nias. The report was presented to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to former U.S. President Bill Clinton by H.E. Dr. Marty Natalegawa, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the UN and by Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP.

Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon stated that,”Our capacity to cope with natural disasters is much greater than we realize. Yes, we cannot prevent the events. But we can diminish the potential for disaster. Doing so requires foresight and advanced planning, not just emergency relief. That is why this report is so important”. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark stated that the “tsunami recovery effort has showed that by working together, and by collaborating with local communities at every stop along the way, we can indeed build back better”. She added that “one of the principal lessons drawn early on from the tsunami is that all countries need to be better prepared for when natural disaster strikes. What is needed is bold action – from governments, the UN and other partners – to make sure appropriate disaster risk reduction measures are instituted”.

Clinton, while appreciating the effort to produce the report, stated that if we want to sustain the gains, we have to learn lessons on how to re-build better and strengthen capacities. He stated that he had the honor of launching the Mangroves for the Future Project in December 2006. This project, he stated, has grown into a unique regional platform supported by the United Nations, IUCN, various NGOs and donors as well as the private sector. This project, he emphasized, empowers citizens, improves governance and finances other projects to restore coastal resources and improves livelihoods. After his speech, IUCN UN Permanent Observer Narinder Kakar had the opportunity to thank President Clinton for acknowledging IUCN’s role, and introduce Don Macintosh as the MFF Coordinator, at which point President Clinton immediately said “I hope you continue to plant trees”.

The report also highlights certain difficulties encountered, for example, the distribution of aid at times ignored victims of conflict raging in Sri Lanka and Indonesia at the time. “However, most post-tsunami organizations largely ignored the post-conflict context, in part due to donor-stipulated restrictions on how they could use their funds”. This led to local grievances over perceived inequalities in aid provision.