Monday, January 03, 2005

UN assesses Damage In Emergency Summit

It'll take billions and 10 years: UN

By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta, and Penelope Debelle
January 3, 2005

The head of the United Nations is expected to use an emergency summit this week to tell world leaders that the $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) pledged for tsunami relief is not enough to fund an unprecedented recovery effort that could last a decade.

The UN has come under a lot of fire in the last few years from both conservative and liberal sectors, each accusing the UN of being the others tool. I have always maintained that although the UN could be improved it does fill a significant role where global cross-border events are concerned. This is one of those events. My concern is that UN resources are currently stretched by war and monitoring human rights abuses while also providing relief in the event of natural disaster.

There is no doubt the world needs an independent body that can bring countries together on relatively neutral territory during a tense global period to provide assistance. The UN certainly seems to be filling that role honestly and openly in this case, coming into it's own as it accesses shortcomings and musters support in an instance where the rest of the world reels in shock.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is going to Indonesia and Thailand this week but it is unclear whether he will attend the summit.

This concerns me. While the US can afford Rumsfeld the expense of a Christmas tour addressing US troops in Iraq, it cannot afford the expense of it's current Secretary Of State to attend a summit organising relief for a global event of this magnitude.

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, yesterday gave his support for UN leadership in the crisis and revealed that Mr Bush had clearly told him that "he wanted the UN to be in the lead".

Evidently the US has overstretched it's resources by engaging in war with regions rich in raw natural resources. US administrators seem only to happy to pass global responsibility on to others in an unprofitable scenario.

Yes, I am highly critical. I cannot excuse an administration that claims to be a global interventionist yet cannot put it's muscle where it's mouth is in regions that are currently suffering. If US defense forces weren't tied up in war they could be employed in cases of civil emergency such as this. The Asia Pacific is an ocean region and the US military has extensive naval resources that could be employed in shipping help to these areas. Why is it not offering this assistance?

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