|Address by Special Representative of the Chinese Government, Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang at the United Nations Meeting On the Humanitarian Assistance to Tsunami Affected Communities|
|(Geneva, Switzerland, 11 January 2005)|
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The year 2004 ended with the sudden tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean, which has brought about untold suffering and pain to the countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. It has little parallel in terms of the number of people and scope of areas affected. Here, please allow me to express once again, on behalf of the Chinese Government and people, our deepest condolences to the victims and the most sincere sympathy to those who lost loved ones.
The tsunami disaster tests the conscience and wisdom of mankind. In the wake of the catastrophe, an unprecedented global humanitarian emergency relief effort has unfolded and the international community has displayed exceptional solidarity and a sense of responsibility. The United Nations, on its part, has played an important role of leadership and coordination in this regard. Today the UN is once again convening this meeting to appeal for donations and contributions, which further embodies mankind's humanitarian spirit of pulling together in times of adversity.
Since China is a natural disaster-prone country, we have suffered tremendous loss of life and property as well as great mental agony. We have also received generous assistance from the international community. This time, as a friendly neighbor of the afflicted countries, we have been filled with anxiety and sympathy for their plight. A foreign disaster relief operation, the largest ever in China's history, was immediately launched. China pledged RMB 21.63 million (equivalent to 2.6 million US Dollar) of assistance on the very next day. Later on, in view of further developments, the Chinese Government committed to contributing another RMB 500 million (equivalent to 60.5 million US Dollar) and would like to give positive consideration to relieving and reducing the due governmental debts of the hardest-hit countries. The Chinese government has decided to write off all due governmental debts of Sri Lanka. Individual donations by the general public in China have exceeded RMB 100 million( equivalent to 12.1 million US Dollar). In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), more than 500 million HK dollars (equivalent to 62.5 million US Dollar) have been raised and the Macao SAR has sent a rescue team to the disaster-hit area. By 7 January, the total amount of government and individual donations exceeded RMB 1.1 billion (equivalent to 133 million US Dollar) and the latter is still growing. In addition, the Chinese Government has dispatched medical and rescue teams to the affected areas at the shortest notice and several batches of relief supplies have already arrived in the relevant countries.
China is a developing country and it is not rich. Our assistance is sincere and selfless, with no strings attached. This has been the abiding principle of our foreign aid over the years. The Chinese people value credibility and are faithful to their commitments. Whatever promise we make will be honored. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has announced that by the end of this month, more than half of our pledged assistance both in cash and in kind will have been put in place.
At the Special ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on Aftermath of Earthquake and Tsunami five days ago, Premier Wen Jiabao announced that the Chinese Government would respond to the UN appeal with a donation of USD 20 million for multilateral relief and reconstruction efforts within the UN framework. Here I would like to confirm this commitment on behalf of the Chinese Government and brief you on a preliminary plan for its use.
The Chinese side will contribute this USD 20 million, via the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to the UN agencies including UNDP, WHO, WFP, FAO, UNICEF and UNFPA and IOM for their operations of emergency relief, post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Chinese side will consult with the Office on a detailed program to distribute the aid and, in light of the needs of the affected countries, give priority to food, sanitation, drinking water and infrastructure restoration. We also hope that our contribution can be added to the UN support for setting up an early warning and response mechanism for regional disasters. Given the urgency of the relief operations, a first sum of USD 5 million will be paid within a week while the remaining USD 15 million will be gradually delivered according to the program to be worked out through consultation with the Office.
As a Chinese saying goes, "when one place is in trouble, assistance comes from all quarters". The Indian Ocean tsunami disaster again shows us that closer international and regional cooperation serves as an effective means to cope with natural disasters. I would like to take this opportunity to offer a few suggestions on post-disaster relief and reconstruction efforts:
First, to honor pledges in real earnest and ensure that relief operations are conducted in a highly efficient, orderly and sustained manner. Following the tsunami disaster, the international community has pledged more than USD 4 billion in aid. The top priority at the moment is to substantiate these pledges. First and foremost, we should take into account the actual needs of the disaster-stricken countries, respect their wishes, and address such pressing issues as water and medicine supply as well as food security. Second, we need to integrate short-term emergency relief with long-term reconstruction in a bid to help tsunami victims rebuild homelands and recover the economy. Moreover, special attention should be paid to the interests of vulnerable groups like women, children and indigenous people by helping them overcome practical difficulties.
Second, we should strengthen coordination and bring into play the leading and coordinating role of the UN. The UN has apparent advantages in disaster prevention, relief and preparedness and boasts abundant experience and adequate mechanism in formulating policy, and designing and implementing programs. The Chinese Government strongly commends and supports the UN's leading and coordinating role in providing relief to the tsunami-hit countries and in their reconstruction. China stands ready to further strengthen cooperation with the UN and take an active part in the relief and post-disaster reconstruction work within the UN framework. The Chinese side supports ASEAN's initiative of convening a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on tsunami disaster and hopes that all parties could make joint efforts to ensure its success.
Third, we should focus on the key areas and enhance the capacity building of developing countries. Developing countries are vulnerable to natural disasters. The tsunami disaster has once again highlighted the urgent need for enhancing the capacity building of developing countries. Efforts should be made to help them establish, as soon as possible, international and regional monitoring, prevention and evaluation mechanisms for serious natural disasters. In this connection, China is going to hold a China-ASEAN Workshop on Tsunami Early Warning scheduled for January 25-26 in Beijing and is willing to host the Asian Conference on Disaster Reduction. China is also going to put forward some initiatives on establishing the monitoring, prevention and evaluation mechanisms for serious natural disasters during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction scheduled for January 18-22 in Kobe, Japan. Up to now, 25countries have co-sponsored the draft resolution of the initiative. We hope consensus will be reached among all parties on the basis of close consultation and cooperation.
Fourth, we should build consensus and promote international cooperation for development. The solidarity of the international community as evidenced in the post-disaster assistance is truly encouraging. However, achieving common development and the Millennium Development Goals is a long-term task for the international community. The tsunami disaster has once again proved that only through development, can developing countries wage a more effective fight against the scourge of natural disasters. Therefore, the tsunami disaster should be turned into an opportunity for all of us to sum up experience, take a long-term perspective, ensure the stability and predictability of development assistance and help developing countries achieve their Millennium Development Goals.
As an old Chinese saying goes, "man is bound to conquer nature". I believe that as long as the international community unite as one and pool their wisdoms and resources, the disaster-hit countries are bound to surmount all difficulties and rebuild their homelands as soon as possible.
Thank you all!