Press Releases

    SG/SM/9696
    IHA/1008
    1 February 2005

    Secretary-General’s Message to Phuket Meeting Offers Close UN Partnership in Effort to Create Tsunami Early Warning System

    NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Ministerial Meeting on Regional Cooperation on Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements, delivered by Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance to Tsunami-Affected Communities, in Phuket, 29 January:

    It is symbolic and appropriate that you have gathered in Phuket, one of the world’s most beautiful holiday destinations, which, just a month ago, experienced unprecedented devastation and suffering.  Terrible images of men, women and children, locals and tourists alike, being swept away, were broadcast around the world and have become deeply imprinted upon our collective awareness.  Yet these images had an essential complement:  stories of exceptional solidarity within Thailand and the other affected countries.  These images, which spoke so eloquently of the determination of survivors to overcome the disaster, will also stay with us.

    An important need for the region, and one that could have saved many lives if it had been in place prior to 26 December, is a tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean.  Such a system has now been requested by the affected countries at the Jakarta Meeting earlier this month, by those attending the Mauritius meeting on small island developing States, and by the United Nations General Assembly.

    The topic was also high on the agenda of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe-Hyogo.  Three points emerged from the discussions in Kobe that are particularly relevant to your discussions today:

    First, a regional tsunami early warning system must be tailored to the specific circumstances and the individual requirements of the countries of the Indian Ocean.  Those countries must be the ones to determine the shape and nature of the system.

    Second, efforts to establish a regional early warning system for tsunamis should strengthen existing efforts to reduce risk, and be part of broader efforts to increase resilience.

    Third, a regional tsunami early warning system should be under the coordination of the United Nations.

    Our challenge now is to ensure that all the elements of an effective early warning system are integrated and cohesive, especially since so many different actors will be involved.

    We have all seen how this disaster has cut deep into the heart of our common humanity.  But I am encouraged by the way we have been working together to bring services and hope to those working so heroically to recover and rebuild.  The United Nations system looks forward to continuing to work closely with Governments, civil society and others in this critically important endeavour.  It is in that spirit of partnership that I offer you my best wishes for a successful meeting.

    * *** *