Displacement Caused by Tsunami Points to need for Cooperation in Disaster Preparedness

Walter Kälin
Walter Kälin Former Brookings Expert

December 28, 2004

The Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons joins with others in the international community in expressing his deep concern and sadness at the enormous loss of life by the devastating earthquake and tidal wave that struck the South Asia region. In particular, he is concerned about the plight of the more than one million persons displaced by this disaster.

This tragedy which occurred in a single day demonstrates that natural disasters can be as devastating as the internal conflicts and communal strife occurring over months and years that have also forcibly displaced millions in the South Asia region.

Further, it illustrates the need for cooperation at the national, regional and international levels to prevent crises of internal displacement. In particular, had a South Asian regional alert system been in place to warn of the impending tidal wave, many thousands of lives could have been saved.

The broad international response to the disaster is gratifying. It underscores the importance of international access to those displaced and the need to respect the full spectrum of human rights of those affected. In particular, it is important for governments to cooperate with the international community, especially in areas like Aceh, Indonesia, which up to now have been largely closed to international aid.

It is essential too that return to home areas be in conditions of safety and sustainability, as set forth in international standards restated in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.