Kofi Annan: This global catastrophe requires a united response

From a speech at the emergency tsunami summit in Jakarta, by the Secretary General of the United Nations
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The Independent Online

What happened on 26 December 2004 was an unprecedented, global catastrophe. It requires an unprecedented, global response. For the United Nations, it is the largest natural disaster the organisation has had to respond to on behalf of the world community in the 60 years of our existence.

From the nameless fishing villages of Sumatra to the modern tourist resorts of Thailand; from the beaches of Sri Lanka and India to the coastal communities of the Maldives and Somalia; the disaster was so brutal, so quick, and so far-reaching, that we are still struggling to comprehend it.

The past 11 days have been among the darkest in our lifetime. But they have also allowed us to see a new kind of light.

We have seen the world coming together. We have seen a response based not on our differences, but on what unites us. We have seen an opportunity to heal old wounds and long-running conflicts. We have seen everyone pull together - North and South, East and West, governments and citizens, the media and the military, business and religious leaders, non-governmental organisations and international institutions. Let us now show that we are committed for as long as it takes.

When I hear the heart-rending stories of those struck directly by the disaster, I am moved by one thing, time and again: their will and ability to recover seems to be determined not only by how they were affected themselves, but by what they were able to do to help others. It is as though, in that way, they were able to prove their humanity and give themselves hope.

Let us now ask the same of ourselves.Together, we will restore strength and faith. Together, we will rebuild. Together, we will recover.