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UN Appeals for Governance Funding for Tsunami-Affected Countries

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Donor nations have responded to the appeal for tsunami aid with unprecedented generosity, sending troops, helicopters, food, medical supplies and even water tankers. But United Nations officials are lamenting the lack of necessary funds for governance, which they say is a vital component for implementing recovery efforts.

An appeal for such seemingly mundane items as desks and office supplies for bureaucrats does not generate the publicity and compassion compared to necessities for survival. But the United Nations Development Program says if it is not able to place local civil servants back in their chairs in tsunami-ravaged regions, the recovery plans that will come out of this U.N.-sponsored disaster conference can not be realized.

The chief of the UNDP's Disaster Reduction Unit, Andrew Maskrey, told reporters at the conference in Kobe Friday that governance funding is most important in Indonesia's Aceh Province and Sri Lanka, both plagued by separatist rebellions.

"In Aceh Province and certainly in parts of Sri Lanka one of our main priorities is actually helping getting basic local government back on its feet again," said Mr. Maskrey. "Until you do that how can one possibly plan and manage a recovery process when you don't have local government structures in place?"

Mr. Maskrey says working in regions of conflict is a double-edged sword. Being insensitive to opposing armed parties can exacerbate conflict. However, he says, experience, such as in Colombia, where flooded rivers spill across divided regions, has shown disaster relief and subsequent prevention work can reduce animosities.

"We've been able to use the issue of disaster risk management as a way of bringing people together on what seems to them to be a neutral, apolitical subject," added Mr. Maskrey. "This has really helped in a number of regions in that country [Colombia] to, in a sense, rebuild dialogue, confidence and reconciliation between opposing communities."

The scale of the destruction in the 12 countries hit by last month's earthquake and tsunami was enormous. Development officials here say, for the future, it is vital to make and enforce laws limiting habitation in quake fault zones and the seaside. But they acknowledge that, around the world, those who suffer the worst are usually the poorest who are living ad hoc and outside the scope of most government regulation.
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