Ban urges Member States to rally behind Chilean quake relief efforts

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10 March - United Nations Member States must play their part to help Chile rebuild after last month's deadly earthquake and tsunami, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he announced he has tasked senior UN officials with ensuring coordinated support for the emergency and recovery phases in the wake of the disaster.

Briefing an informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban noted that Chile had been extraordinarily generous in helping Haiti during its time of need when a catastrophic earthquake struck that Caribbean country in January.

The Secretary-General said that now is the moment for the UN and the international community to stand with Chile and its people.

Hundreds of people were killed and numerous buildings and roads were destroyed or damaged after one of the most powerful earthquakes in history, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, struck the South American country on 27 February. A subsequent tsunami inundated part of the coastline.

Mr. Ban, who visited Chile last weekend to assess the situation first-hand, said today that as the magnitude of the devastation becomes clearer in the days and weeks ahead, the UN should be ready to increase its engagement with the Chilean Government to help with relief and reconstruction efforts where required.

He said he has asked John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, to ensure there is coordinated support both in the emergency phase after the quake and in terms of longer-range disaster management.

Mr. Ban has also tasked Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to work closely with the Chilean Government, the World Bank and others to launch a post-disaster needs assessment.

Meanwhile, in an address yesterday to the McDonnell International Scholars Academy in New York, the Secretary-General said the recent experiences of Chile and Haiti demonstrated the worth of disaster risk reduction and national capacity. Far fewer lives were lost in the Chilean quake, even though the tremor was much stronger than the one in Haiti.

He added that he hopes that the international outpouring of support for Haiti following its disaster will continue “long after the media focus shifts elsewhere – and in other places that don't attract such attention.”

In a related development, a UN expert panel in Geneva earlier this week stressed that the rights of the displaced must be “an essential component” of Haiti's recovery and reconstruction processes.

An estimated 1.9 million Haitians are internally displaced persons (IDPs), two months after the quake struck, and the panel said those people's rights “should serve as benchmarks for all recovery efforts.”

The panel included Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General's Representative on the Human Rights of IDPs, and Michel Forst, the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti.