Annan, Wolfensohn Tour Devastated Sri Lankan Regions

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and World Bank President James Wolfensohn continued their tours to parts of Asia devastated by last month's tsunami with a visit to Sri Lanka. Each pledged continued support to Sri Lanka, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly waves.

Secretary General Annan said he and World Bank President Wolfensohn came to Sri Lanka to learn from the people what they need to recover from the tsunami.

World Bank officials say the worst-hit parts of Sri Lanka are poor areas, or those that have that have been most affected by the country's two decade long conflict between the government and rebels from the Tamil Tiger guerrilla group.

Mr. Wolfensohn said the disaster may put some of those differences between the two sides into perspective. "It does represent an amazing opportunity to use this moment, when all of us are really seen as 'ants on a planet' - when you look at the power of this tsunami, it's hard to think in terms of parochial issues," he said. "Because regardless of who we are or where we were, nature made us recognize that fundamentally we're all the same."

Mr. Wolfensohn met with Sri Lankan officials to discuss ways to restructure roughly $100 million in existing funding for immediate release for emergency use. In addition, the World Bank has made $75 million available to the government, 40 percent of which takes the form of a grant to help it cope with the disaster. Another 10 million was released at the start of the crisis for emergency medical help.

The assistance may not stop there for Sri Lanka, or the other 11 nations affected by the tsunami. "When we get to the question of reconstruction, what I have told the governments is that we are going to be there for them," said Mr. Wolfensohn. "We could ourselves go up to a billion dollars without any great difficulty in terms of both new and converted funds for this purpose."

Mr. Wolfensohn and the UN secretary-general came to Sri Lanka after attending an international donors conference in Indonesia, where some $3 billion in assistance was pledged to help nations affected by the tsunami.

Next to Indonesia, which lost more than 100,000 people, Sri Lanka was the worst hit, with more than 30,000 people killed. At least 150,000 people across the region were killed.

Despite requests to the Sri Lankan government, Mr. Annan did not visit parts of Sri Lanka under the control of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. The group has been engaged in a 20 year campaign for greater rights for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority.

Since the tsunami, the two sides have traded accusations that the other is preventing aid from reaching people in need on opposite sides of front-line areas.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs