United Nations

Nations Unies Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery

Statement by Eric Schwartz, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, on his 28-29 August Visit to the Maldives:

Eric Schwartz, who serves as Deputy to Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, visited the Maldives on 28 and 29 August to assess the state of the recovery effort there. While in the Maldives, he traveled to the islands of Kudahuvadhoo and Dhiggaru to view reconstruction activities, and also witnessed the damage caused by the tsunami on the island of Gemendhoo. In Male’, he met with President Gayoom and with ministers involved in both the recovery effort and the political reform process, as well as with representatives of Maldivian civil society and representatives of the MDP.

This morning, Mr. Schwartz issued the following statement:“Nearly two years into the tsunami recovery effort, there are encouraging signs of rehabilitation in the Maldives. Reconstruction or repair is either ongoing or has been completed on some 4000 homes, and the government and its international partners are committed to seeing that all of the citizens displaced by the tsunami receive housing. A broad variety of livelihood schemes are underway, and the acceleration of economic growth will further enhance prospects for employment.

I also welcomed concrete progress on the goal of “building back better,” such as  a  new  UN  project to develop – in each atoll – teacher training centers that will link teachers,  students and communities to worldwide education resources through the internet. Such efforts put communities on a better development path.To be sure, with more than 10,000 Maldivians still displaced, serious reconstruction challenges remain, and affected populations will take many years to recover from the kind of devastation I witnessed on the now-abandoned south-central island of Gemendhoo.At the same time, I’m very hopeful that the reconstruction effort will be successful, especially if the spirit of community engagement and participation I witnessed in Dhiggaru can be replicated elsewhere.

I will look forward to reporting back to President Clinton on the progress I witnessed on that island, which was supported by the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund.I also appreciated the chance to examine issues related to the political reform agenda, because the goal of building back better is most effectively and credibly achieved with transparent and accountable political institutions.I welcome the progress achieved thus far in the Westminster House discussions, including prisoner releases and a stated commitment to peaceful political dialogue and to greater political tolerance. I also encourage the authorities to continue their efforts to promote compliance with international human rights standards, such as through accession to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It is important that this process continues and accelerates in the weeks and months to come, and my discussions with senior government and opposition officials left me hopeful about the prospects for continued progress.  On the other hand, the very recent reported arrests and other incidents relating to the events of 17 August demonstrate the fragility of this process and raise serious concerns. Although details of these events are still emerging, I urge all parties to reaffirm their support for freedom of assembly in accordance with internationally recognized standards, peaceful political dialogue, and prompt movement on reforms such as creation of a Police Integrity Commission. And by continuing to actively include voices from civil society and to engage the support of the international community, all parties can help safeguard the momentum of the reform process.”


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