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Tuesday, January 04, 2005
More UNreality . . . But the Dutch Get It
Well, dear friends, we're now into the tenth day of the tsunami crisis and in this battered corner of Asia, the UN is nowhere to be seen -- unless you count at meetings, in five-star hotels, and holding press conferences.
Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent aircraft with supplies.
The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just today the city's Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative requesting a meeting for "Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries." Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really, really special because she has the word "coordinator" twice in her title!
The letter, in typically modest UN style, goes on to explain that "Ms. Wahlstrom's main task will be to provide leadership and support to the international relief effort. She will undertake high-level consultations with the concerned governments in order to facilitate the delivery of international assistance." Oh, and she'll be visiting from January 4-5.
Once, again, a hearty Diplomadic "WOW!" She's going to do all that in two days! The Australians and we have been feeding and otherwise helping tens-of-thousands of people stay alive for the past ten days, and still have a long, long way to go, but she's going to wrap the whole thing up in a couple of days of meetings. Thank goodness she's here to provide the poor lost Aussies and Yanks with leadership. The Diplomad bows in awe to such power and wisdom. The letter is signed, by the way, by the same UN official who suggested a couple of days back that the Australian and US air traffic controllers in Aceh should don UN blue (see our post of January 2.)
Ok, enough with the UN; you get the picture. Now to the EU. The EU could copy the Australian-American model of acting quickly and effectively to save lives, or they could copy the UN model of meeting at a leisurely pace to plan for the possibility of setting up a coordination center that will consider making a plan for the possibility of an operations center to consider beginning to request support for the tsunami's victims. Ah, my wise friends, guess which model of "action" the EU chose? No need to emulate those "cowboys" from Australia and the USA with their airplanes and loading crews working round-the-clock; oh, no, much too tacky, sweaty and dirty. No need to feed into the system those goofy Aussiyankeebushowardian New World Anglo-Saxons already have created. No, they'll follow the much more elegant Kofi Annan model. A couple of EU planners have shown up to begin making arrangements for an assessment team to arrive, etc., etc., you know the rest. Meanwhile, people die.
But all is not lost. The Dutch, who on occasion show the great common sense for which they were once justifiably famous, have signed up with the Aussiyankeebushowardian Core Group. Thanks to a European Diplomad (Yes, The Diplomadic insurgency has gone international!) we have in our possession a short situation report circulated by the Dutch at the most recent EU meeting here in this corner of the Far Abroad. This January 2 report is written by local Dutch diplomats who traveled to Aceh and saw the reality on the ground. We will cite the two principal paragraphs, and leave them unedited in their original rather charming Dutch-English,
The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organize the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven't been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note: this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation.
The US, Australia, Singapore and the Indonesian military have started a 'Coalition Co-ordination Centre' in Medan to organize all the incoming and outgoing military flights with aid. A sub-centre is established in Banda Aceh."
Isn't that nice? Europeans with a sense of reality.
The only fault The Diplomad can find with the Dutch report is that it understates the role of the Australians in the relief effort -- they deserve considerably more credit than this report gives them. It's hard to praise the Aussies too much for what they have done in the wake of the tsunami. They are absolutely splendid -- too bad they've got that thing about that weird game, uh, cricket, is it?
Anyhow, soon I will return to my habitual corner of the Far Abroad and leave my colleagues here to deal with the UN, the EU and their Coordination Efforts.