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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Our Collective Challenges

Bill Clinton on where things stand one year after the earthquake and tsunami that killed over 230,000 people:

Clinton: Where we stand one year later, by William Jefferson Clinton,  International Herald Tribune: One year ago, ... the earth shook for eight terrifying minutes, unleashing a gigantic wave that struck 12 countries across the Indian Ocean. Over the next 24 hours, more than 230,000 people died, 2 million were displaced, and thousands of children were orphaned. The tsunami devastated over 5,000 miles of coastline, ruined 2,000 miles of roads, swept away 430,000 homes and damaged or destroyed over 100,000 fishing boats. ...

Recently I traveled to Aceh, Indonesia, and Trincomalee in northeastern Sri Lanka where I met with survivors who had lost everything ... I was reminded again of the pain that so many continue to endure. ... In both countries, I was struck by the survivors' spirited determination to rebuild their lives despite the unimaginable losses they have endured and the often desperate conditions in which they live. I was also encouraged by the many significant accomplishments over the last 12 months: Epidemics were prevented; many children are back in school; tens of thousands of survivors are employed and earning money once again; ongoing food assistance is being delivered; a common system of financial tracking is available online; and a regional tsunami warning system is expected to be in place next summer.

There is still a lot left to do. In Aceh and neighboring Nias alone, over 100,000 people still live in unacceptable conditions and with minimal access to job opportunities. ... there are pressing needs today to provide durable temporary shelters, upgrade existing transitional living centers and assist host families sheltering victims. The tsunami presents the international community with a critical challenge: Will we stay the course in the recovery process even after the world's attention has turned to other crises? ... This effort will take years, and we must see it through.

Now more than ever, I am convinced that recovery must be guided by a commitment to "build back better"... In 2006, I will focus on three priorities to make sure that we do build back better... First, we need to ensure that this uniquely well-resourced recovery effort keeps faith with the most vulnerable populations: the poorest of the poor, children, women, migrants and ethnic minorities. ...

Second, we need to ensure continued progress on disaster risk reduction in 2006. An Indian Ocean early warning system is a welcome development, but is only part of the answer. Less than one month after the tsunami struck, 168 countries came together in Japan and ... set strategic goals, priorities and concrete steps for governments to reduce disasters over the next ten years. These include national education campaigns to ensure that populations recognize the early signs of impending disaster, better planning for the use of land to avoid investments in disaster prone areas as well as agreement on standards for disaster resistant construction and restoration of essential environmental prevention like more grove trees. ...

Third, we cannot ignore the importance of political reconciliation, peace and good governance to successful recovery. In Aceh, the tsunami forced political leaders to recognize that the issues that fueled conflict in the country were far less compelling than the factors that united the Acehnese. The peace settlement has greatly enhanced prospects for reconstruction in Indonesia. Reconciliation in Sri Lanka would have a similar result. Across the region, political reforms will be critical components to sustainable recovery. ...

The tsunami and its aftermath demonstrated both the fragility of human life and the strength and generosity of the human spirit when we work together to begin again. One year ago, millions of ordinary people across the globe rallied to the immediate aid of communities devastated by the tsunami. Now our collective challenge is to finish the job...

Much of what is written here also applies to New Orleans, a commitment to build back better, keeping faith with the poorest of the poor, implementing better planning and education to avoid the potential for future disasters, the need for political reconciliation, the need for better temporary shelters during the transition, the need for help for families and regions housing those that were displaced, better warning systems, and so on. Now our collective challenge is to finish the job set forth by The Promiser in Chief.

    Posted by on Saturday, December 24, 2005 at 01:44 AM in Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (7)

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