Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy
See to the United Nations
at the Economic and Social Council Substantive session
Humanitarian affairs segment
on Special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief
New York, 13 July 2005
we consider the lessons to be learned from the response to the Tsunami of 26
December 2004, let me start by congratulating the agencies of the United Nations
on their swift response to the emergency. It should also be said that, to this
unprecedented crisis, there came an unprecedented humanitarian response which
saw ordinary people meet and even surpass the pledges of their own governments
in the face of a terrible and widespread act of nature.
the Tsunami struck, the Holy See was able immediately to provide over $4m in
emergency relief. Dozens of Catholic agencies quickly followed this up, with
projects for the reconstruction of homes and schools in India, Indonesia,
Myanmar, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Globally,
it is estimated that around $650m has been made available by agencies related to
the Holy See to the peoples affected by the Tsunami, to say nothing of the work
still being done by a number of local religious institutions present and active
in humanitarian and developmental projects throughout the region.
funds just mentioned were firstly applied to the most urgent emergency needs:
safe drinking water, food, shelter, clothing, trauma and health care, medical
follow-up, hygiene and sanitation, cooking equipment and disease control.
Refugees, IDPs and women and children especially vulnerable to human trafficking
and exploitation, were among the first to be helped.
After the emergency phase, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects were
begun, including the rebuilding of homes, schools and hospitals, not to mention
the provision of agricultural and fishing equipment to restore independent
livelihoods, and help in transportation and educational programmes.
Reunification of families and support for them both continue to be of vital
this context, the Holy See is convinced that religious and spiritual support is
integral to any genuine human healing, though it is a dimension that is all too
often overlooked. We are committed in all circumstances to respect religious
and cultural differences, and to working amicably to facilitate greater trust
among believers of all faiths and non-believers. Interreligious cooperation and
peacebuilding initiatives will continue to form an important element of the
Church's work there.
judge, then, from the remarkable reaction throughout the world to the crisis, it
would appear that the first and most important lesson to be learned is that
there is a very great deal of good will among ordinary people which often lies
untapped. The natural and heartfelt solidarity of the peoples of the world was
there for all to see and, at a time when the international media help make the
world ever more like a global village, it is heartening to know that a deep
sense of our common humanity showed itself quickly and positively in favour of
the survivors of this tragedy. As the international community helped real
people in real situations of need, a spontaneous understanding of the centrality
of the human person, with a broad sensitivity and respect for people's cultural
and religious circumstances, became clear.
Another lesson to be learned is in the field of funding for emergencies and for
development. With such substantial amounts of money available and an urgent
need to deliver aid, there is always going to be an inevitable temptation to use
up precious resources without proper planning. In this sense, our agencies and
institutions in the areas affected by the Tsunami specifically examined ways of
avoiding the creation of a bloated bureaucracy to deal with the emergency, in
order to ensure the delivery of the greatest amount of funding to its proper
final destination. Streamlining and coordination are crucial in avoiding the
careless attribution of resources.
Mention should also be made of the need to increase international cooperation in
order to create and strengthen national, sub-regional, regional and
international mechanisms for prevention, preparedness and mitigation of natural
disasters. Renewed commitment to the implementation of initiatives for
improving early warning capacity is to be welcomed.
Finally, we note that the tragedy, having generated so much attention, good will
and financial support, has actually presented the affected governments and
peoples with an unprecedented opportunity for reconstruction and development.
The internal, bilateral, north-south and south-south cooperation which was seen
at the time is a platform, not to be squandered, but to be built upon for the
good both of the survivors and of all the peoples of the region.
Thank you, Mr President.