Mr. Harald Aspelund
Deputy Permanent Representative of Iceland
to the United Nations
Fifty-ninth Session of the United Nations
Agenda item 39: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
New York, January 2005
First, I would like to join all my colleagues in expressing deepest condolences to the victims of the tsunami tragedy. No continent has escaped fully the effects of this violent natural phenomenon, though countries in the Indian Ocean and South East Asian regions have been particularly badly hit. In some of these countries whole communities have been swept away and survivors left with severe psychological trauma as well as being exposed to the risks brought by destroyed infrastructure and lack of essential supplies. There is a risk that development will be put back several years if the necessary aid is not forthcoming.
Iceland would like to commend the rapid action taken by the UN humanitarian agencies and also by the many NGOs. We also commend the actions of all contributing nations and in particular of the authorities of those nations most badly effected.
The immediate humanitarian emergency continues. The Icelandic Government has already donated a total of around 2.5 million US dollars. Of this, over half a million US dollars will go to UNICEF, WFP and a number of NGOs for immediate humanitarian work.
But we are also very aware of the long term needs in these countries. As part of a significant across-the-board increase in Iceland’s development aid, Iceland had already decided to allot 25 million Icelandic krona for development cooperation with Sri Lanka. This aid already will be tripled to 75 million krona (1.2 million US dollars). Our development aid agency will carry out a reassessment in light of the recent disaster with a view to contributing as effectively as possible to reconstruction.
The Icelandic people as a whole have also shown solidarity with the victims of the tsunami. So far some 4 million US dollars have been collected by NGOs from public donations. This is about 13 US dollars for every Icelander.
As a country well aware of the impact of earthquakes and other natural disasters and of the destructive power of the sea, Iceland will continue to follow developments and will seek to contribute where it can. We support the importance attached to establishing as quickly as possible an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.