World leaders gathered in Djakarta, Indonesia, on 6 January to set up a rescue and reconstruction plan for the tsunami-stricken countries in South-East Asia and Africa.
Participants agreed to set up a rapid alert system to warn people of any future tsunamis in the Indian Ocean area. In the final declaration of the conference, they also welcome initiatives to cancel the debt of tsunami-hit countries.
Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, called upon the international community to gather $977 million: "In the six-month period covered by this appeal, we will need: $977 million to cover the humanitarian emergency needs of an estimated 5 million people; $29 million for food and agriculture; $122 million for health care; $61 million for water and sanitation; $222 million for shelter and other urgent non-food items; $110 million for the early restoration of livelihoods."
To date, the international community has pledged to donate $4 billion over a period of four years, whereas private donations amount to $630 million worldwide.
"The governmental response has been matched by unprecedented generosity from the general public," said Mr. Annan. "Consider the six-year-old boy in Shenyang, China, who donated his life savings of 22 dollars. Or the citizens of Sweden, a country of 9 million inhabitants, who have raised more than 70 million dollars for the relief effort in Asia, while struggling to cope with the fact that almost 2,000 of their compatriots are still missing in the tragedy."
Towards a debt freeze
The Special ASEAN Summit opened with five minutes silence as a mark of respect to the 150,000 victims of the tsunami disaster. Following this tribute to the victims, the World Health Organisation (WHO) opened the summit, warning that water shortage could rapidly cause cholera and dysentery epidemies in certain areas.
The summit gathered, amongst other participants, the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yunichiro Koizumi, his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Amercian Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Besides emergency assistance, leaders discussed the possibility of a debt cancellation for tsunami-hit countries, as well as the establishment of a rapid alert system. According to experts, this type of alert could have saved numerous lives.
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, whose country currently holds the presidency of the G7 said he has full support from the group of leading industrial countries for the immediate freezing of debt repayments from countries affected by the Asian tsunami disaster.
In addition to the €100 million that have already been committed, the European Commission committed to another €350 million for the tsunami-hit countries and proposed a €1 billion lending facility to be managed by the European Investment Bank.
Powell announced that donations from the United States should exceed the $350 million that have already been committed "as soon as all consequences of this terrible catastrophe will have been better assessed."
Private and company donations in the United States amount to $200 million.