It is not my purpose today to review past operations, but rather to look to the future. At ways in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and its worldwide network of member National Societies will be working with the United Nations and others in the international community as the Tsunami operation moves forward and as lessons learnt are applied elsewhere in the world.
The first point that we would like to make, in fact, is that lessons learned seem to continually be re-learnt rather than put into action. One such lesson, and a key point for the International Federation and its members, is that better preparation for natural disasters at the community and local level is the single most important contribution governments and the international community can make to the security of nations and their people.
This was emphasised by our statement on 26 June to mark 6 months since earthquakes struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering tsunamis which brought devastation to 12 countries in the region. In responding to the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, Sri Lankan and Indonesian Red Cross volunteers provided the real local strength on which communities depend.
An important conclusion in Sri Lanka is that there need to be more well-trained volunteers, capable of intervening at the community level, if the country is to be able to withstand such calamities in the future.
We have spoken many times about the paramount importance of community-based disaster preparedness. We underlined this issue after the Earthquake in Bam, Iran at the end of 2003, for it was very clear that the main burden for search and rescue and subsequent assistance was carried by the volunteers of the Iranian Red Crescent.
One example of excellent community-based preparedness is Bangladesh, where the Red Crescent Society is a member of the Government's National Disaster Planning Committee and is active in developing the capacities of high-risk communities to minimize and respond to the impacts of cyclones and floods.
In Bangladesh, the well-coordinated action of government agencies, the Red Crescent and civil society results in the kind of national ownership and leadership mentioned in paragraph 31 of the Secretary-General's report.
This, along with local community awareness of the actions to be taken before, during and after a disaster, results in a considerable reduction in the suffering inflicted by the cyclone season.
This is a model we hope to see replicated worldwide. This is also one of the main targets of the IFRC's long-term plan for Tsunami recovery. Our recovery plan, which is well described in the Tsunami Emergency and Recovery Plan of Action 2005-2010 on the IFRC website , has drawn considerable praise for the way it recognises coordination imperatives within the recovery program.
Mr. President, The IFRC is profoundly engaged with the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the staff of OCHA and of other UN Agencies in the search for ways to make our work together more effective and efficient.
We recognise that our role is special, and that while the United Nations system is generally accountable to governments for its work, the IFRC is accountable to the vulnerable people themselves. However, we see a natural connection between our work and that of our colleague institutions in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
As a result, we are looking at ways to strengthen these connections through discussions on a variety of the reform proposals being considered in the United Nations. We are also, as we said in the High Level Segment of this Session of ECOSOC, elaborating ways in which we ourselves will work in the future, and preparing for discussions in the IASC of the review of humanitarian response capacity.
The connection between our work is also relevant to another important contribution we make to international humanitarian capacity-building - the International Disaster Laws, Rules and Principles Programme (IDRL).
IDRL is now recognised as having particular relevance to the strengthening of humanitarian coordination, for as the Secretary-General's report notes in its paragraph 60, ECOSOC has supported the work being led by the IFRC in this area. General Assembly resolution 57/150 emphasises the need for intergovernmental attention to IDRL, and the following brief comments are offered in this spirit.
I hope we will be able to elaborate on our work in more detail once more progress is made on the issues at our own General Assembly session in November 2005.
One crucial element of disaster preparedness must be "legal preparedness" for disaster response. This is particularly true with regard to international relief, as general laws and policies designed to ensure orderly control of entry of persons, goods, and transport are frequently not attuned to disaster situations and become fatal blockages at times of greatest urgency.
In 2003, the IFRC's IDRL Programme began the world's first comprehensive compilation of the rather disparate corpus of existing international instruments in this area, and the gathering of case studies on the practical challenges and best practices in legal preparedness for national disaster response.
While continuing its work in both of these areas, the IFRC is now also embarking on an exploratory process involving states, national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the international humanitarian community and other stakeholders. The aim of this initiative is to determine how best to synthesize the basic principles and lessons learned about IDRL.
Continued attention from ECOSOC and other UN bodies is strongly needed if the current disparate legal framework is to be further developed into a consistent body of law which reflects best practice and successfully addresses currently unresolved challenges in the field.
This is an important issue, which is highlighted in several different parts of the documentation provided to ECOSOC by the Secretary-General this year. We are, therefore, grateful to the Secretary-General for noting its relevance in the report's chapter on the impact of humanitarian resolutions.
Mr. President, We believe that timely exchange of information is crucial when a disaster strikes. At the World Summit on Information Society in Tunis in November 2005, we will stress the importance of "e-preparedness" - the effective use of information and communications technology as an asset in the building and maintenance of community resilience and for disaster preparedness and response.
We have sought here to deliver as our main message that humanitarian coordination must be extended to all levels of the communities it is designed to support and that lessons learnt must be incorporated into practice. That is not in itself difficult to digest, but what is important is that all governments and all members of the international community recognise that words are not enough and action is necessary.
For us this means that governments need to act with more determination to fulfil the commitments they have made at International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent,: to include their Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their national disaster planning committees.
This involves the purposeful implementation of the status that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies enjoy as auxiliary partners to the public authorities in the humanitarian field.
At the same time we call upon UN Agencies at the country level to also include the Red Cross or Red Crescent into their disaster coordination mechanisms.
The importance of utilising the countrywide resources and expertise of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies when developing international disaster response plans or any other humanitarian activity is now increasingly recognised by the UN system.
The IFRC signed new cooperation arrangements in the past year with the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, and is planning to update some of its others. In general, we consider such arrangements to be a vital component in the efficient coordination of humanitarian response.
Coordination must be accompanied by effective implementation. This is not an empty observation, but a factor of utmost importance. It is an issue which has also been brought forward by this year's edition of the World Disasters Report (WDR).
The WDR, which will be launched, worldwide, by the IFRC on 5 October, will pick up several of the points that have come forward in the Secretary-General's Report to ECOSOC. These include the need for effective and value-adding coordination and the important role played by information and communications technology during preparation for and response to disasters.
We encourage everyone to pay careful attention to these points, and will be returning to them at all available opportunities, including at the launch of the World Disasters Report.