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Emergency Response
2004 SE Asia Tsunami Rescue, Relief and Recovery

The dimension of accounting and accountability ... The perspective from IBLF with Peter Burgess / Tr-Ac-Net feedback


Peter Burgess

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Tsunami Rescue, Relief and Recovery
The dimension of accounting and accountability

The perspective from IBLF with Peter Burgess / Tr-Ac-Net feedback
About Business Response to the Tsunami Crisis
The immediate response to the Tsunami disaster was impressive. Within four weeks some $4 billion had been pledged to Tsunami rescue, relief and development. Concerns that Tr-Ac-Net had about the accounting and control of these huge fund flows however went unheeded.
[GKD] South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster

In a message dated 1/4/2005 4:50:48 PM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

Subj:Re: [GKD] South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster
Date:1/4/2005 4:50:48 PM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Colleagues,

I am copying you with this situation brief on the Asian coastal disaster and business engagement in relief and recovery. This went out from IBLF today in Australia, London, Hong Kong and USA and distributed by our IBLF International Tourism Partnership (whose corporate members have 100s of properties in the region), and will be published elsewhere. It draws on our experience in working with CEOs of the major global tourism and hotel companies. However, it is relevant to all business operating in the Indian Ocean rim and concerned to review what to do in backing up official and agency rescue, relief and recovery efforts. In our conversations with the World Bank and emergency aid services and others it is clear that the human losses will mount considerably and how things are approached for the longer-term is critical. Please feel free to forward it on to colleagues and contacts who may find it useful.

The brief was issued in New York, London and Hong Kong with a media advisory with the kind assistance of Edelman Worldwide Media Services and the document can be downloaded. Download from IBLF / Edelman
Download from this site

We would value your feedback.

International Business Leaders Forum
International Tourism Partnership


What role for business leadership in the wake of Asia's coastal disaster?

The undersea earthquake off Indonesia and the resulting freak surge of tsunamis across the Indian Ocean, swept thousands of unsuspecting villagers and holiday-makers to their deaths and left devastated communities and tourism facilities. As the death toll climbs, hotels have become makeshift morgues, communities mourn, health risks rise and authorities and agencies engage in the relief task. Industry leaders in the region and across the world may ask what they can do to assist?

Business cannot escape getting involved in the rescue and aftermath for both humanitarian and business reasons. Tourism is essentially community based and engaged in the fabric of poor communities around the world. The challenge for regional and international business leaders will soon be to take a lead and engage in support of the public authorities in an even more critical role - aligned to their valuable management and logistical skills and infrastructure, applied to relief and recovery. That is to help save economies and communities from a further wave of social and economic catastrophe. This situation brief drawing on experience of the tourism industry aims to help managers and business leaders think through their longer term role.

Robert Davies
Chief Executive Officer, International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF)
15-16 Cornwall Terrace, The Regents Park
London NW1 4QP, United Kingdom
T: +44 (0)20 7467 3666/7 F: +44 (0)20 7467 3665
Email: IBLF website

GKD is solely supported by EDC, a Non-Profit Organization
Archives of previous GKD messages can be found at:

0001 Comment: Peter Burgess, January 2005

About Business Response to the Tsunami Crisis

I was pleased to see a message from Robert Davies, Chief Executive Officer, International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and material prepared by IBLF and the International Tourism Partnership in response to the coastal disaster in Asia. The message was prepared just a couple of weeks after the tsunami hit.

It was good to see the clarity of their paper in identifying the three phases of the crisis: (1) Rescue; (2) Relief; and, (3) Recovery. This is a good way to think about crisis and emergency.

But I felt there was something missing, something wrong. I could not put my finger on exactly what it was. Maybe it was because tourism often flourishes in beautiful places in little enclaves surrounded by grinding poverty. Maybe it is because the business model for tourism success is high prices, high profits and leave very little of value in the local economy and the host country. Maybe it is because tourism is often associated with a certain level of sexual entertainment that we don't often talk about. Somehow, something is missing.

So while I am glad to see leaders in the international business community and the tourism industry writing about the crisis, I have a concern which is not easy to explain.

Rescue and relief has been done very well. Not perfect, but an impressive local and international response. From my perspective, I see a level of expertise and commitment in the international emergency response community that is very encouraging. The large international NGOs have a lot of experience and good people. Organizations like UNHCR do a wonderful job in crisis situations. Local organizations and ordinary people in a crisis do quite extraordinary things. And when the military is used for emergency logistics instead of dropping bombs and doing destruction, they also are amazing. In fact, its almost worth having the military budget big just so that they can perform in these emergency situations. On balance I have to say that local and international response to handle rescue and relief has been extraordinary.

But recovery is another matter. How does the tsunami crisis rank in the global development arena? How does one go about having success in development around the world and success in the long term post tsunami recovery phase? I am an optimist about what is possible, but very pessimistic about what will actually happen. Already there are the first reports of scams, rip-offs and obscene profiteering that usually emerge quite quickly in any crisis, and this is no exception.

In terms of obscene profiteering, the reports of child abductions are most sickening. To maximize profit from exploitation of children, free children is about as good as it gets! Sick. But exploiting children is big business. Scams and rip-offs will happen, and most organizations are not well equipped for transparency and accountability that would make it much more difficult for scammers and rip-off artists to operate.

As the recovery phase begins, there are a lot of questions, and few easy answers.

What is the impact of the SE Asia's tsunami crisis on the rest of the world? Will resources for recovery in the tsunami crisis be incremental or will they merely be diversions of resources from other critical programs. What is the impact going to be on, for example, the global health and HIV-AIDS crisis. We are not seeing many images of the AIDS crisis in the world media at the moment, yet the death toll in three weeks related to AIDS is numerically about the scale of the tsunami deaths to date. Again ... in three weeks, death from AIDS related causes is estimated to be around 150,000.

Will the tsunami crisis sensitize the world to the plight of poor people? Will it get more people to ask questions about poverty and the failure of world leadership and the development community to make progress in the elimination of abject poverty. Around the world, maybe half of the population is terribly poor ... some 3 billion people. Around the world, countries and their governments are essentially bankrupt and therefore unable to deliver any services that rich countries now routinely expect their government to provide. It really is a mess. In many parts of the world, poor people can more easily get hold of a gun than a good meal!

What the rescue and relief performance does show is that amazing things can be done, and done very quickly.

It would be wonderful if the tsunami recovery process was done in a way to demonstrate that recovery and development can be successful. The tsunami recovery can be done well. But history suggests that the recovery or development phase will be either over funded or under funded, and the priorities determined in the worst possible way. This need not be. It can be done well, but it requires a different approach from what has usually been done. Success in development is unlikely to be best when it is driven by the prevailing development mindset of the international donors with government the driver of recovery implementation. The most promising way to implement the recovery stage is a community centric approach that takes full advantage of local resources and possibilities.

In community centric development, the priority is community progress with external investment as beneficial as it can and used so that people are facilitated to do what they can do. Equity needs to be addressed, and that can probably best be done by a loan regime of assistance rather than grants. A single thematic focus is probably wrong, because each community is going to have a different set of needs. And external investment should be brought in on terms that are advantageous to the local community. This is where the international business community, foreign direct investment and government controls have historically failed, and the repeat of past errors should be avoided. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the international business and investment community really is committed to the idea of investment in combination with a value chain that makes local communities economically successful. I wish I was wrong, but the facts seem to suggest that corporate stockholders are far more important than corporate citizenship and host community citizens.

What is the goal of recovery? First, to start moving back to a working local economy. But it should be much more. Merely to re-establish the level of poverty previously enjoyed by the communities is not enough. Recovery and development should facilitate something more ambitious. I like to think this is something that is going to happen. And I also like to think that this is what should be happening with development everywhere.

So back to the beginning. I am delighted to have the leaders of the business community thinking about the tsunami disaster, and want to see them engaged in the operation of a productive economy. But I also hope that they can be a big part of community development success, rather than being, more than they should, a part of the problem of endemic community poverty.


Peter B
Peter Burgess
Tr-Ac-Net / WISPforD / CCCDO in New York
Tel: 212 772 6918
Blog: http://taame.blogspot

Peter Burgess
January 4, 2005
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