World Bank President urges Tsunami reconstruction be driven by the affected

Posted on January 13, 2005  /  21 Comments

The press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Washington DC of the World Bank President, Mr. Wolfensohn is available in its entirety via Audio and Video streaming.

More details on post-Tsunami reconstruction effort can be found on World Bank’s website.

Detailed damage assessments will follow initial estimates

WASHINGTON, January 12th, 2005-World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn said Wednesday that reconstruction in the tsunami-hit countries of Asia and Africa must be driven by the local communities affected by the disaster, adding that the process of rebuilding should be transparent and ensure accountability for
the funds pledged.

Mr. Wolfensohn returned this week from a visit to the disaster-affected areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, three of the twelve countries in Asia and Africa that were battered by the effects of an earthquake and subsequent tsunamis on Dec. 26th.

The World Bank President praised the relief efforts of the governments of the countries he visited, by the United Nations and other relief agencies, and by the troops of the donor countries that have rushed to help. He said the transition from emergency relief to reconstruction will be guided by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, with the aim to help each country rebuild lives for their people that offer greater hope and opportunity than they faced before the disaster.

“We need programs that will go beyond the issue of not replicating slums and address the challenges of poverty, and of reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfensohn said.

As an immediate response to requests for assistance, the World Bank has announced it will provide $300 million in initial financial support to Indonesia, $100 million to Sri Lanka, and $12 million to the Maldives. Mr. Wolfensohn reiterated Wednesday that the Bank could provide more than $1.0 billion, and perhaps as much as $1.5 billion, for longer-term reconstruction efforts in the affected countries.

However, the World Bank President stressed that it is critical to conduct comprehensive damage assessments to guide the reconstruction effort, and that each dollar of aid is used to the greatest benefit of the survivors.

“I think it’s important that we not be driven by the numbers of the possible supply, but that we start with the issue of what is the demand, what are the real needs,” Mr. Wolfensohn said, adding that it could take another
two-to-three months before detailed damage assessments can be completed.

He said initial damage evaluations currently underway and due within the next two weeks will provide an early road map for donors’ meetings in coming weeks, but that more detailed assessments will be critical in ensuring the international community approaches the reconstruction effort with a clear list of priorities.

The World Bank President said the reconstruction effort must take into account the culture and special needs of each community, for example balancing the need to reduce the vulnerability of fishing communities with their tradition of living close to their boats, which are their livelihoods.

This balance, he said, should be determined by those in the communities.

“It’s my judgment that to hurry that process without getting the people involved is probably not going to work. Their involvement is also an essential part of the healing process for the survivors,” Wolfensohn said. “There’s no plan that we can invent in Washington or in Tokyo that’s going to work for these fishermen, or for the agricultural workers, or for the salt workers in the south of Sri Lanka.”

In addition to ensuring community involvement, Wolfensohn said the international community and each government in the tsunami-effected countries will discuss ways to ensure the funds raised for reconstruction can be easily distinguished from other development finance and tracked from donor to community, with progress tracked on the Internet.


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