Statement  by Ambassador J. Enkhsaikhan,
Permanent Representative of Mongolia to  the
United Nations  on  agenda  item  5  entitled “Special economic,
humanitarian and disaster relief assistance”
at the substantive session of theEconomic and
Social Council,

New York, 21 July 2000

 

Since the previous speakers have already dwelt extensively on the content and merits of the Secretary General's report entitled "Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations", I shall be brief. We believe that the report is well structured, well documented and quite concise.  The Mongolian delegation fully supports the pertinent observations and practical recommendations mentioned therein. I would also like to thank the Emergency Relief Coordinator for her contribution to the debate on this item. My delegation believes that the Council would  be able to adopt agreed conclusions on this question on the basis of this discussion and the concrete input by delegations.

The growing number of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, drought as well as creeping desertification and ever expanding deforestation are affecting more and more people and causing huge damage. That is why the United Nations is increasingly engaged in the efforts to help countries cope with these disasters as well as taking, where possible, preventive measures.

Like many other natural disasters, the evolving disaster "dzud" or the extreme harsh winter in Mongolia is closely related to the climatic changes registered and occurring throughout the world. This "dzud" is recognized as a multiple one, i.e. a cumulative result of the drought of the summer of 1999 and the extremely harsh and cold winter that followed soon thereafter. As things stand today, there is a high probability of another drought this summer that could then be followed by another extremely harsh winter. With livestock that barely survived the "multiple dzud" and is already weak, the consequences could be catastrophic.

The heavy snow storms and the extreme cold winter of 1999/2000 in Mongolia have lead to the loss of not only 2,4 million heads of livestock  (or over 7% of the nation’s entire livestock population), but also of precious human lives. Besides the direct loss of livestock,  the "dzud" had other enormous economic and social consequences, adding further difficulties to the efforts to reduce poverty that is already engulfing over one third of the country's population.

In a country where animal husbandry produces more than 30 percent of the GDP and on which every third person directly depends for food, clothing, transportation, heating material and purchasing power, this natural disaster has had severe impact on everyday lives of   herders as well as reduced domestic production and export earnings. According to some experts, at least 3-4 years would be required to overcome the consequences of the disaster and even more time would be  needed for replenishing lost livestock. This means that the living conditions of herders will remain very harsh for some time. The Government and the people of Mongolia are taking all possible measures to overcome these difficulties, as reflected in the OCHA's situation report No.9 on the Mongolian "multiple dzud". The Government is also addressing some of the medium and  long-term problems arising from the devastating consequences of dzud. Overall, the preparedness and disaster response need to be further improved.

Bearing in mind Mongolia’s weakness, extreme vulnerability, it is obvious that a well organized and coordinated international assistance is very important both for the immediate relief as well as to cope with the dzud`s long-term consequences. It is for this reason  on 11 February of this year the Mongolian Government appealed for immediate international assistance, and by 1 June, the international community, including the UN agencies, have pledged a relief assistance to Mongolia in the total amount of  $7.4 mln., mainly in the form of cash, food, clothes, medicine, fodder and other materials.

Taking this opportunity I would like to express on behalf of my Government and the people of Mongolia our sincere gratitude to those organizations, Governments and individuals that have rendered valuable assistance in time of need. My special thanks also goes to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as well as the UN Disaster Management Team (UN/DMT)  in Ulaanbaatar.

 The past relief operation in Mongolia offers some lessons which should be taken into consideration in future work of such nature and dimension, if the assistance is to be most effective. Thus there is a need for  quicker reaction to appeals, faster assessment of the disaster damage and of needs and faster implementation. Time should not be lost between the pledges of assistance and its practical delivery. The simple reason is that every hour or day lost is a lost opportunity to save lives or reduce the suffering. In this regard we fully support the suggestion made earlier in this debate to promote a culture of disaster prevention and reduce to the minimum the time for immediate relief activities.

The Mongolian case clearly shows, as it is rightly indicated in the Secretary Generals' report, that national authorities have primary responsibility for coordinating relief efforts following natural disaster. However,  in many cases that is not enough.  In many cases bilateral and multilateral support acquire special importance  in alleviating  the suffering and speedily overcoming the consequences. Because of geological structure of the land and weather-related factors, Mongolia is a disaster prone country.  Therefore, my delegation would like to underline the importance of strengthening early warning systems and of having comprehensive vulnerability analysis in reducing the vulnerability of the country to natural disasters. In case of Mongolia, the geographical location with its severe climate, the vast territory and small population, poor infrastructure and communications  are some of the factors affecting the vulnerability.  In this case introduction and application of modern and advanced technology would make a huge difference.

In conclusion, I would like to express my delegation’s hope that the United Nations and the Member States will continue their efforts to maximize the effectiveness of international responses to natural disasters and of international cooperation.

Thank you.