Former US President Bill Clinton on Monday hailed recent collaboration between the United Nations and the private sector, saying they should work together more closely.
Mr. Clinton was addressing business leaders in his capacity as the UN Special Envoy for the Tsunami Recovery at a conference on Advancing Public Private Partnerships in Response to Global Disasters at UN headquarters in New York. He cited a recent partnership agreement between UN-HABITAT and the German firm BASF for reconstruction in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Clinton said the response to Asia's tsunami could serve as a model for future disasters if donors made sure the stricken region recovered.
“If you do something that works well, then other people will copy it,” Clinton said. “If you don't focus on doing one project well (then) we won't have a model we can then use to do the same thing in other areas.”
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT said: “I am encouraged by President Clinton’s recognition of the UN’s efforts and especially UN-HABITAT’s innovative partnerships with the private sector to solve the problems of reconstruction in the Tsunami affected region. I hope that this will lead to more such collaborative programmes for housing and human settlements so that we can, in fact, make living conditions even better in these areas. The important question is how we translate this extraordinary effort into long term support for the many silent Tsunamis that are killing the poor on a daily basis.”
Although most of the discussions focused on UN partnerships for humanitarian support, there was a consensus of the urgent need to address the critical issues of recovery and reconstruction. Mr. Michael Klein, CEO of CitiGroup Global Banking, said the world’s top 500 companies, which regularly mobilize 50 percent of global output equivalent to US$10 trillion, could assist in post-disaster management and development strategies.
The aim of the meeting was to learn from the past and build for the future. Worldwide, the response to the Tsunami disaster has been breathtaking, with the US private sector contributing over US $450 million, representing the single largest fund-raising effort by US companies in history.
The overall discussions looked back at the experiences of the Tsunami response and asked how the relationship between the private sector and the UN agencies could be improved in the future. Mr. Hank McKinnell, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc., who helped organize the meeting, said it was important that the tsunami partnerships forged should help prepare the private sector for the next calamity.
Officials in the United Nations and in the private sector, he said, should know whom to contact.
Mr. McKinnell, who is chairman of the Business Roundtable of 160 leading corporations, added: “We in the private sector want to do the right thing and in times of crisis we want to do it quickly.”
Summarising the discussions, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Jan Egeland, suggested that the UN create an open channel for engagement with the private sector to support operational agencies in the next five years with systematic and planned inputs of cash, in kind contributions, services and personnel.
“For example, each and every day, 1,000 people die in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from largely preventable causes – a tsunami death toll every few months for years on end,” he said.