Following is the statement on the tsunami’s first anniversary by the UN Country Team.
December 26 this year, the first anniversary of the tsunami, is when all will gather to commemorate those who lost their lives and stand in solidarity with those who have survived. It is also a time to say thank you to the tremendous and unprecedented national and worldwide response to a national disaster.
As it happens during an anniversary it is also a time to assess what has been achieved and examine issues that hampered progress to ensure the reconstruction and rehabilitation process moves forward expeditiously.
The Government and all stakeholders involved in the recovery effort, have examined the successes and setbacks in relief, recovery and reconstruction interventions and the result of this collaborative approach is the report “Post Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction – Progress, Challenges, Way Forward” released by the Government on 24 December.
The report looks candidly at many issues faced in this first year of recovery and reconstruction and among others the need to strengthen the dialogue with the affected communities, to build capacity to fast track rebuilding programs and to ensure benefits accrue to every affected family.
The collective view that this report offers show that much has been achieved this year with almost 250,000 of internally displaced moved from the emergency camps to some 54,000 transitional shelters and the ongoing reconstruction of permanent housing picking up pace. But more needs to be done.
A crucial element is to ensure that no one is left behind. The government has now been able to convert 70 percent of all pledges into commitments, a commendable achievement as this is well above previous international averages after similar devastating disasters.
The United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka (which includes all UN agencies, International Organization for Migration, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank) would like to reiterate the key findings in the report: The emergency response has been a success and the recovery process is progressing but more effort needs to be put into closing the gaps across sectors and districts.
People need to be informed about entitlements, next steps forward, complaints and redress procedures. We need to ensure that every affected family should know what their future entails, in terms of housing, employment, ongoing relief support, education for their children and health care.
People must be consulted about how best to get back to their homes and livelihoods.
Equity issues require attention. It is the shared responsibility of the Government and development stakeholders to ensure that all needs have been covered and that no group or community has been left behind.
Local and district government levels need continuous support to ensure coordination and maximise results.
Despite the initial success, we now have to work together to ensure that all pledges must be converted into commitments and all commitments into disbursements that show results on the ground.
Above all the Government and supporting agencies should recognise the vital need to integrate all reconstruction initiatives with sound national developmental goals, in turn strengthening the peace process and providing lasting security benefits and deveopment for all communities in Sri Lanka.
On this one year anniversary the United Nations Country Team is committed to ensuring that all people in Sri Lanka are on their way to a better and safer development path than they were prior to the tsunami.