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Opening Remarks by Assistant Minister Cui Tiankai at the China-UN Review Session on Tsunami Emergency Relief


Mr. Khalid Malik,
Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to this seminar. I would like to thank Mr. Malik, UN resident coordinator and UNDP representative in China for co-chairing this seminar.

Two years ago, the Indian Ocean Tsunami inflicted serious damage on some countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. This prompted large-scale rescue and relief operations undertaken by the international community, in which the UN and its agencies played important leadership and coordinating role. The Government and people of China engaged in the biggest-ever foreign aid operations and offered over 1.3 billion RMB of assistance to disaster-stricken countries and regions through multilateral and bilateral channels. In particular, for the first time, the Chinese Government provided US$ 20 million through the UN framework to the disaster-hit countries for relief and reconstruction.

Today, we are having this seminar for two purposes. One is to review and sum up both lessons and experiences for improved cooperation between China and the UN in the future; the other is to take this opportunity to explore new thinking and new approach to cooperation between the two sides on development.

Dear Colleagues,

In the age of globalization, international humanitarian cooperation has undergone new changes and is facing new challenges.

First, humanitarian problems have become more acute. In 2005, 157 million people fell victim to disasters worldwide and economic losses amounted to US$ 159 billion. Direct causes included armed conflicts, infectious diseases, environmental degradation and natural disasters. Transcending national borders, humanitarian problems have become typical of globalization.

Second, humanitarian cooperation has become more difficult to coordinate. As humanitarian issues concern political, economic, social and environmental aspects and involve players at international, regional, country and community levels, it is imperative to step up coordination to ensure continuity and consistency in policy and action.

Third, humanitarian assistance suffers serious shortfalls in core resources. Because of severe shortage of capital and imbalanced distribution and other problems, assistance can hardly be carried out in an effective, timely and predictable way.

At stake in humanitarian assistance is not only the survival of the most vulnerable groups in the world, but also world peace, stability and development. Hence, the international community must assume a global perspective and take global actions. This is the shared responsibility of all countries and is in the common interest of the international community.

There are four top priorities.

First, improve the mechanism for global cooperation. This includes facilitating the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for international humanitarian cooperation and improving the UN-centered humanitarian assistance system. The UN General Assembly, Security Council and ECOSOC should enhance regular reporting and coordination as well as policy guidance and supervision. UN specialized agencies and Funds should draw on their own strengths, improve coordination and avoid duplication. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) should continue to be an effective coordinator for all parties involved. UN resident coordinators also need to contact the residence country and the UN Headquarters more frequently to make relevant operations more timely and focused.

Second, adhere to the principle of "humanity, neutrality and impartiality". In capital use and project design and execution, it is necessary to fully respect the ownership of recipient countries and their right of participation and ensure that the assistance projects can be integrated into their medium and long-term development programs. Meanwhile, recipient and donor countries should assume greater accountability to each other and increase transparency in their measures to use assistance capital more efficiently.

Third, enhance capacity-building. Humanitarian assistance should employ advanced science and technology and means of communication, establish an early-warning mechanism and improve ability in stockpiling supplies and rapid deployment and delivery. The international community should tilt more in favor of humanitarian assistance in terms of resources, mechanism and personnel. At the same time, assistance should address both symptoms and root causes by focusing on poverty reduction, infrastructure development, education and human resources training to promote sustainable economic and social development of countries concerned.

Fourth, secure sufficient funding. Developed countries should continue to increase donation to ensure the long-term stability and predictability of assistance, especially core capital. The Central Emergency Response Fund recently inaugurated can provide necessary funding to launch emergency assistance actions. China endorses this initiative and has pledged US$ one million?Moreover, the international community should work even harder to explore innovative forms of financing and expand the sources of capital.

Dear Colleagues,

China places high importance on and actively takes part in international humanitarian cooperation. China has always endeavored within its capacity to provide large amount of humanitarian assistance to the disaster-hit countries and regions, including emergency food aid, emergency disaster relief assistance, settlement of refugees and post-disaster reconstruction assistance. Last year, we held the China-ASEAN Workshop on Earthquake-Generated Tsunami Warning and the Asian Conference on Disaster Reduction, called for establishing regional mechanisms on surveillance, prevention and assessment of severe natural disasters at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, and facilitated the establishment of the Asian research center on catastrophic disasters. In the wake of the strong earthquake in South Asia, we did our best to give assistance to Pakistan. This year after the earthquake struck Yogyakarta in Indonesia, we actively took part in the rescue and relief effort. This has fully demonstrated China's commitment to international cooperation in disaster reduction and humanitarian effort.

China is a country prone to natural disasters. Thanks to years of exploration and fieldwork, we have initially put in place a fairly developed disaster reduction and relief system that suits China's national conditions. We adopt a scientific outlook on development in our economic and social programs. We work hard to properly balance the relations between disaster reduction and economic growth, social progress and environmental protection. And we have already incorporated China's international cooperation in disaster reduction and other relevant areas into China's Eleventh Five Year Plan.

In the course of our development, we have often benefited from international assistance and support. I wish to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to the UN agencies in China and other parties. Being a developing country, China still has a quite low GDP per head, dozens of millions of poor people and many development challenges ahead. We hope to continue to have the support and assistance from the international community in the relevant areas.

As an old Chinese saying goes: "Being poor, one should try to take care of himself; being rich, one should try to reach out and help others." As a big country that is becoming more and more developed, China will work with the international community and continue to provide emergency disaster relief assistance to the best of its ability to the countries that need such help and support. We will continue to support international efforts in disaster relief and reduction. With regards to China's participation in the UN's multilateral humanitarian assistance effort, we are willing to enhance cooperation with the United Nations and we hope such cooperation can be developed beyond the context of donor and recipient parties and extend to a wider range of fields including exchange and sharing of experience, disaster emergency management and emergency assistance.

To conclude, I hope our colleagues from home and abroad will have a free flow of ideas and pool together their wisdom and recommendations to strengthen China's cooperation with the United Nations. I wish the seminar a great success.

Thank you.

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