Main Navigation

Statement by Markku Niskala, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for the meeting of government leaders of the ASEAN and other countries in Jakarta

Friday January 7, 2005

The Asian earthquake and tsunamis have been the most devastating natural disaster in modern times. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives; millions are very dramatically affected in the region and around the world.

There has been a massive response by the peoples of the world with in many cases Governmental support being matched or surpassed by the contributions of individual citizens and corporations. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement would like to thank all those who have responded so generously. This is a global expression of empathy for people whose families and livelihoods have been destroyed.

The scope of this disaster calls on all governments and the world's humanitarian agencies to act quickly, effectively and with a long term perspective.

The unique nature of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, with volunteers in local communities in 11 of the 12 directly affected countries, means that we were there in the first minutes and hours, and will remain focused on assisting the affected communities for months and years to come. Our National Societies are also hard at work on the impact of this disaster on communities in the many indirectly affected countries, eg in tracing missing persons.

Through the Federation and the ICRC we are able to ensure that the global response of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is best coordinated and most effective.

Today our focus is very much on moving more assistance to people in need, but we are also already planning for the longer term.

We aim to bring some stability to the affected areas and target communities through the relief and recovery phase within three to six months, then moving to the longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction components through 2010 and beyond. These activities will consume the bulk of more than CHF 500 million (USD440mn) already raised by Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world and this figure is rising as I speak.

We are currently working with our member Societies in each of the affected countries on a broad frame of our programming plans. The Red Cross Red Crescent primary focus in rehabilitation and reconstruction will remain to rebuild the subsistence and resilience of the local communities based on their local capacities and needs which are different in many places.

But it also means for us the rebuilding and strengthening of our local Red Cross and Red Crescent capacity in disaster risk reduction, prevention and relief. As I mentioned earlier, it was the strength of the local and volunteer networks already in place, which enabled the Red Cross Red Crescent to make such an effective intervention even before the scale of the disaster became apparent to the rest of the world. We will, therefore, direct resources to building this capacity still further, with particular focus on enhancing disaster management systems and strengthening community preparedness. We are working with the Maldives Government for the establishment of a National Society in the only country of the region still without a permanent Red Cross/Red Crescent presence.

We call on all Governments concerned to integrate in their rehabilitation and reconstruction plans support for their local Red Cross or Red Crescent Society, not only in terms of financial and material resources but also in terms of creating, through legislative and other action, an environment that enables the National Society to fulfil its authentic role as auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field, providing a safety net for increased numbers of people exposed to health and disaster risks as a result of socio-economic hardship or deteriorating living conditions. We also call on Governments, within their national disaster coordination responsibilities, to design a clear mandate for their National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society, in the context of the already available infrastructure. This call for action by governments builds on commitments already existing from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference. The same message will be delivered the following week at the Kobe World Conference on Disaster Reduction.

We do not forget that the Red Cross Red Crescent intervention is part of a much wider and global response effort. Effective coordination with the UN and other international bodies is a prerequisite to a dynamic and successful relief operation. The International Federation, as an active participant in the Inter Agency Standing Committee, is committed to contribute to this coordination. We also look forward to the UN lead in the proper use of civil defence and military assets in relief operations in view of protecting where necessary the independent, neutral and impartial nature of humanitarian work.

As the Federation of all Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we anticipate total spending to exceed CHF650mn (USD575mn) over a time span of more than 5 years.

Our current estimates are that our programming requires:

  • CHF100mn (USD88mn) for the relief operations over the next few weeks;

  • CHF150mn (USD133mn) for longer term relief;

  • CHF150mn (USD133mn) for the recovery initiatives; and

  • CHF250mn (USD220mn) for rehabilitation, disaster preparedness programs and reconstruction.

With our well-established record of managing the response to major disasters, the Federation acts with speed responsibility and flexibility to meet the needs of all those affected by the earthquake and tsunamis. We will also continue to address, and seek support for those other critical humanitarian challenges that continue to leave communities at risk around the world.

On behalf of the Movement I wish to thank the Indonesian government for hosting this conference.