The Tsunami, Ireland and the Recovery Effort Report: Presentation.

The next matter on the agenda is the presentation by our former colleague and Minister of State emeritus, Mr. Chris Flood, the Government's special envoy on the tsunami. Mr. Flood is accompanied by Ms Mary Sutton and Ms Anne Holmes. I thank them for attending this meeting to discuss progress made in the aftermath of the tsunami.

As members will be aware, the Government appointed Mr. Flood as a special envoy in the aftermath of the tsunami which devastated a wide region in the Indian Ocean on St. Stephen's Day 2004. The Government's response to the disaster was to put in place an aid package valued at €20 million and to appoint a special envoy to assess the recovery effort in each of the affected areas. Having received a copy of the envoy's report, we are reasonably familiar with its general outline and consider it to be very valuable.

I advise the witnesses that, whereas Members of the Houses enjoy absolute privilege in respect of utterances made in committee, witnesses do not enjoy the same privilege. Accordingly, caution should be exercised, particularly with regard to references of a personal nature. I invite Mr. Flood to make his presentation, after which the meeting will be open to members.

Mr. Chris Flood

I thank the Chairman for scheduling this item on today's agenda because Ireland's unprecedented response to the tsunami and the report thereon warrant discussion at this forum. The contribution of the Government alone amounted to €20 million, the largest single contribution to a single crisis event. Many lessons, both positive and negative, have been learned by the international humanitarian community from its engagement in the tsunami relief effort and I hope the findings and recommendations in the report presented to members today will ensure that those lessons are constructively applied.

In my role as the Government's special envoy to the tsunami region, I visited the region on three occasions. I went to Sri Lanka and Indonesia in February 2005, Thailand and Sri Lanka in April 2005 and Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka in July 2005. I am most grateful to all who assisted me with my task, including the staff of Irish Aid, officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs serving in the region and the many Government Ministers and officials, United Nations representatives and national and international non-governmental organisations who gave so generously of their time to brief me on my visits.

The tsunami was a unique emergency for a number of reasons that are detailed in the report. It was a massive and sudden catastrophe which affected more than a dozen countries. In two of the worst affected locations there were pre-existing conflicts that had already displaced communities.

The death toll was massive in a matter of hours. It was initially estimated at 300,000 but thankfully has been reduced over time to 228,000. For the survivors, the trauma of what they witnessed in terms of the scale of the death and destruction is difficult to overstate. Whole families and whole villages simply disappeared. There was an unprecedented public and official response to this crisis owing to the scale of the destruction, the time of year, the media coverage and the fact that many victims, particularly in Thailand, were tourists from the United States and Europe.

It is estimated that at least €12 billion was raised in formal international assistance. Unofficial estimates of the cash and material support provided by local communities and unrecorded international donors could be as much as a further €3 billion.

In the wake of the tsunami there was an enormous influx of non-governmental organisations from around the world, most of them experienced, professional organisations but many newly formed groups moved to respond. In Aceh province in Indonesia there was only a handful of foreigners prior to the tsunami. This was because the province was under a state of emergency due to the conflict between the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, and Government of Indonesia forces. Within a matter of days a handful became 5,000 foreigners working with the 300 NGOs, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Given the huge resources at their disposal, the NGOs came to play a central role in the relief and recovery effort. While the process of recovery is largely state-led, NGOs, UN bodies, and multilateral banks are providing crucial support.

The worst affected countries were those defined by the United Nations human development index as being of medium human development. As such, when compared to countries with low human development ranking, such as Sudan or Somalia, they had the capacity to mount substantial relief operations themselves. The immediate emergency response was undertaken by local communities and local authorities, including the military, and was then augmented by the international community. The overall effect was successful. There were no disease outbreaks and no food shortages. No unnecessary deaths were recorded and as such the humanitarian objective of saving lives was achieved. By the time of my first visit, eight weeks after the tsunami, the emergency phase was, by and large, over.

The recovery phase has proven more challenging. Recovery processes are necessarily more complex and difficult to define and implement. This would be the case for any country — we only have to look at the example of New Orleans and hurricane Katrina. Here the complaints and frustrations of flood-affected communities mirror almost exactly those expressed in Aceh and in Sri Lanka. The past year, 2005, was a year of considerable learning for many organisations. Many had only limited previous experience of working in the disaster affected areas and in order to effectively engage in the more complex and participatory process of recovery they had to learn how local administrative, legal, financial and communication systems function and about local methods of working. Misconception and, on occasion, mistrust about the role and capacity of the many actors in the recovery process led to mistakes being made and inevitable delays. Delays were encountered because the scale of the destruction was enormous and local and international capacity limited. Delays still occur in Indonesia where the scarcity of legally sourced timber means that construction programmes are continually being stalled. Across the region, pressure on available human resources at national and international level continues to cause significant delays in the achievement of recovery objectives. In spite of this, major steps have been made over the course of the past year towards building local and international capacity to respond. The process of sustained recovery has gathered momentum.

The political situation in Sri Lanka is worrying. I had the privilege of meeting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on two of my visits, the last occasion being July 2005. His assassination in August last year was shocking and a major blow to an already fragile peace process. There was an attempt to develop a joint management mechanism for the internationally allocated funds for the tsunami response in Sri Lanka. This would have included representatives from all communities affected by the tsunami, including those from Government and LTTE controlled areas, and the intention was to ensure equitable and needs-based distribution of the recovery funds. The establishment of this mechanism has been plagued by problems reflecting the political tensions in the country.

Also in Sri Lanka, there has been confusion about policy on the buffer zone, the area close to the seashore within which it is not permitted to rebuild. Yesterday protestors took to the streets in the mostly Muslim area of Ampara, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, expressing frustration at the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to thus far identify when and where some homes will be rebuilt. On the positive side, temporary housing has been provided for all the survivors in Sri Lanka. Three quarters of all families have regained their main source of livelihood, tourism earnings are climbing, and definite progress has been made towards the construction of 82,000 of the 98,000 permanent homes that need to be rebuilt.

This progress has been overshadowed by the state of the peace process. While an agreement on the resumption of talks has been reached, NGOs implementing programmes funded by the Irish Government are reporting cases where work is being hampered by the increasing conflict tensions in certain parts of the country.

Regarding conflict, the situation in Indonesia is more optimistic. In what many people feel has been a positive outcome of the tsunami, a peace agreement was signed in August and significant steps have been made towards implementing the terms of the agreement. Local elections are scheduled for April this year and while some commentators feel that this may be too soon in the peace process, there is a general feeling that peace, the fundamental foundation for recovery and development, remains on the horizon for Aceh.

Yesterday the official development assistance programme of the Irish Government changed its name from Development Cooperation Ireland to Irish Aid. My report notes many positive features of the response of Irish Aid. Some €19.9 million of the €20 million committed by the Government of Ireland was allocated by June 2005. There is continuing active engagement by technical staff in monitoring and evaluating this expenditure. The visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, in January and my visits to the region have been very well received and the continuing engagement after the initial phase of the response is well regarded.

Irish Aid's programme of response is multi-faceted and includes partnerships with United Nations agencies, multi-donor trust funds, the Red Cross family and Irish and international NGOs. The response of Irish NGOs made an outstanding contribution in terms of funds raised and activities undertaken. The Irish NGOs raised €80 million, a hugely creditable response. For all involved, there were major co-ordination challenges and some inappropriate responses. However, as I noted, the humanitarian community has learned much over the course of 2005 and I am positive this knowledge will be usefully applied to the recovery process as it continues in 2006.

My report offers four principal conclusions. First, co-ordination is a constant theme in my report and other reports and remains a major challenge. The issue has become somewhat less problematic with the passage of time as many of the small, informal organisations which were present for the initial response have departed. It is, however, still a major concern for the tsunami and all humanitarian responses.

Second, with regard to the pace of the recovery effort, there have been failures of policy direction, for example, on the buffer zone. In addition, inappropriate responses have been made in terms of temporary shelter and some of the shelter provided in the immediate aftermath has had to be rebuilt. Staff turnover was high within many of the organisations which responded to the tsunami. Structures are now in place in Aceh and Sri Lanka to enable the pace of recovery to speed up and we expect faster progress in the coming year. We must, however, bear in mind the scale of the task. The number of permanent housing units required region-wide is estimated to be 308,000.

Third, with regard to land, issues of legal title, access, zoning and allocation of land have been among the most contentious and problematic for all parties to the relief and reconstruction effort. Fourth, with regard to conflict, the critical situation in Sri Lanka has potentially enormous implications for tsunami affected communities.

I offer 12 recommendations based on my experience of the response. Ireland should continue to acknowledge and support the special role of the UN co-ordination function in all future emergencies. The Government should engage the public, media and formal humanitarian community in an effort to work towards much greater co-ordination for future crises. It is imperative that the proposed charities legislation be enacted without delay to reassure donors and protect reputable NGOs. There is limited scope for engagement by the Army, particularly in countries which have well developed institutional frameworks. The findings of the independent audit of Ireland's civil protection assets will be very useful in crafting future policy on the use of these assets in emergency response overseas. Ireland should continue to support multilateral and NGO partners to improve their own emergency response mechanisms and capacities. It should develop a register of people with skills which could be applied in a humanitarian emergency.

The comprehensive strategy for response adopted by Development Cooperation Ireland, now known as Irish Aid, is recommended as a model for future responses. Ireland should seek to support and engage with multi-donor trust funds in future emergencies. It should continue to explore options via diplomatic and programmatic channels through which it can contribute towards the resolution of conflict and land issues. Disaster risk reduction measures, in particular those which build upon the inherent capacities of communities at risk, should be addressed in an holistic way throughout the entire development co-operation programme. Sufficient resources have been committed by the Government for the recovery process and in the event that major humanitarian needs arise, these can be considered within the usual response framework. I recommend that Ireland remain engaged with the monitoring and evaluation of the recovery effort.

I am pleased to report that progress is already being made as regards the implementation of several of these recommendations. For example, work is ongoing in the Department to develop the proposed rapid response register. Previous registers and those operated by other countries are being examined with a view to informing how best the new Irish initiative can function. To facilitate the effective functioning of the register discussions are ongoing with potential partners for this initiative, including the United Nations joint logistics centre and UNICEF.

On the issue of the holistic approach to disaster management, tangible progress is being made. A series of background papers have been drawn up and disseminated among staff of the Irish Aid programme. These have specifically examined the issue of linking relief and development — a necessary precursor to effective and coherent disaster risk reduction. The issue has been included in the agenda for several country strategy planning sessions and a day long high level workshop is scheduled for tomorrow, 1 March, to facilitate further discussion as to how best this approach can be incorporated into Irish Aid's programme.

On the issue of humanitarian co-ordination, Ireland has provided consistent support for this key role of the UN. Most recently, €1.25 million was allocated to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs for its programmes in Sudan, the Great Lakes Region and Chad. Furthermore, Ireland has actively promoted the revision and upgrading of the UN central emergency response fund which is administered by the Office of the Emergency Co-ordinator. Ireland's support for this initiative was expressed through the commissioning of an independent study to facilitate the reform of the structure and followed by the pledge of €10 million in funding support. This pledge was made in advance of the official launch of the fund to act as an indication of Ireland's support and to help mobilise other contributions from the donor community. Further concrete progress has been reported to me as regards other recommendations in the report.

I repeat my thanks to the Chairman and extend our appreciation to all present for taking the time to attend and to engage in discussions. I look forward to hearing comments and to exchange views which may arise.

I thank Mr. Flood. That was a comprehensive review on top of the report he gave us. It was quite extraordinary that there were no disease outbreaks. The longer report stated that in spite of the sewage flushed to the surface, the chemicals from ruptured containers, the destruction of wells, the contamination of ground water and the disruption of food supplies, transport and of local government and basic services, there were no major outbreaks of disease, not much malaria and little acute hunger. That was a great testimony to the work done and the speed with which it was undertaken. I had intended to ask for how long the aid would last but Mr. Flood said there would be an involvement for some time. That is particularly important.

Another issue which struck me was the question of psychological assistance and counselling. There must be a tremendous need for counselling. It tends to be overlooked in the immediate aftermath of the event when everybody rushes to fill the holes in the dykes. However, such events continue to affect people as we have seen in Ireland following a number of disasters, particularly the Stardust disaster. Counselling was not part of the major accident plan at the time but it was brought in subsequently. It was not, however, adequate in the long run because 25 years ago, we did not realise for how long the trauma would continue to affect people. That issue needs to be considered in the long term.

Mr. Flood raised a number of interesting issues, one of which was raised with me funnily enough by a ten year old over the weekend. Having seen some of the information on the tsunami, he asked how we could avoid these things in the future. He asked what we were doing to ensure they would not happen again. I had to look down at the small child and say the world shook. Will we be prepared to deal with such massive catastrophes in the future? Since the world is now largely a global village, we must look at issues in that way and make sure others do so too.

I do not know whether to congratulate Mr. Flood or Irish Aid. The Minister told us DCI embodies our approach to development co-operation and that from the point of view of the recipient, it was a good thing. We are there to co-operate and work with people in partnership. The name DCI will be changed to Irish Aid which will make things clearer for people at this end. I presume the impact has been tested at the other end, that it is an acceptable term for the recipients. As as been said, DCI has become Irish Aid as of yesterday and we must be prepared for that change.

I welcome our former colleague, Mr. Flood, and his colleagues, Ms Holmes and Ms Sutton. This report, coming shortly after the first anniversary of the tsunami, is interesting, raises many important issues and covers everything. The witnesses recommended that we develop a register of people with special skills. Do they propose that the Government establish a civilian corps, a quick-response unit of civilian support with UN initiatives? How would they see that developing?

I note the reference to inappropriate interventions. Many well-intentioned people were shocked by the event and were anxious to help but initiated inappropriate interventions such as sending clothes and items that were alien to the people's culture. There was a lack of consultation with organisations on the ground. Now that the television cameras have left the affected areas have organisations on the ground tended to disappear and move on to the next catastrophe? This committee has examined the level of aid to African countries and the incidence of corruption. Is Irish Aid satisfied local and international agencies have safeguards to ensure that the resources raised through people's generosity are being focused and targeted to the most needy and to the most credible and effective projects? I congratulate Irish Aid on its work to date.

Deputy Carey wished to speak but he has had to go to another meeting.

The report is good and different from other reports we receive in that it has an independence of mind that has made it stronger and better. One of the issues that arises in response to an event such as the tsunami is that, as Mr. Flood suggested, we learn from it and become more strategically placed to respond to disasters. It is essential we be able to offer observations and make criticisms and that they be taken in a positive spirit. There is evidence that people in our culture find it difficult to accept even the mildest suggestion or criticism without firing themselves into a flurry of self-defensive statements. Mr. Flood has identified the lessons we can learn from this. I get the impression from his presentation that media behaviour was slightly better than the obscenity displayed as regards the Somalian famine, for example. I was in Somalia a week before President Robinson's visit and was covered in dust as four-wheel drive vehicles flew past in a race to get to a food station to get their logos in position before the President arrived. This issue is also addressed in Mr. Flood's report. The early days immediately following a disaster require sophisticated and morally informed coverage as regards the media. Otherwise, wonderful organisations can become distorted as regards what they do.

I am pleased the report is positive as regards Irish NGOs, in particular in relation to some of those about which we have been critical in recent times. They are described as very quickly knitting into local co-ordinated efforts. One point that struck me, which is also covered in Mr. Flood's report, is that we tend to pay insufficient attention to the thousands of families who are on ground, as regards their habitations, to which they have no title. There is an unaddressed issue on our agenda, namely, the massive problem that arises from the rapid urbanisation of people into slums in various parts of the world. If only temporary structures are put in place, it raises issues of title which inevitably will slow the reconstruction process. I found the comments on temporary structures which had to be replaced very valuable, and getting title and clearing local bureaucracy is one of the reasons for this.

Another issue, which was raised with me by people who had been to Aceh, is the need to recover local confidence in the schools and the difficulties for families in enabling their children to return to school. It was suggested to me that in some places the immediate post-tsunami response concentrated more on new commercial possibilities rather than recovered social realities as regards children being able to attend school again.

I do not understand why we are still discussing the charities legislation. The reality is that it affects the goodwill of donors and is an important instrument for the achievement of full transparency. We should have dealt with this legislation long ago.

The Chairman will excuse me for saying I cannot muster the enthusiasm he has for the change in the name to Irish Aid. I believe it has yet to be established and proven. I fail to understand, logistically and otherwise, how Development Cooperation Ireland — which includes the concept of development — will be improved by the concept of Irish aid. It is somewhat metaphysical, and there are those who will argue we spent much time making the transition to where we were, Development Cooperation Ireland, and we are now off again in pursuit of a different brand name. However, I do not wish to be negative. If there is a serious strategy behind this name change I am open to hearing what it is and to seeing it implemented, whatever it may be.

I have little else to say except to comment on the difference between the initially announced funds for the post-tsunami response, the second level of committed funds and the funds drawn down. It was rather like a pyramid in that the funds got smaller as one went up. I accept I am an outsider looking at the issue but on examining some of the reports of the multilateral agencies, it appears many countries did not come up with a fraction of the money they had pledged. Some wealthy economies donated as little as 20% of what they had promised, which would give one cause for concern.

I am very glad the report mentions the return of livelihoods. I will end my contribution by being controversial. The report refers to the need for care in regard to the impact on fishing stocks for those communities which make their living from fishing. One would need to spend a great deal more than was spent in the response to the tsunami to do as much damage as our great floating monster off the shores of Mauritania.

Hear, hear.

The ship should never have been licensed. It has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of families in Mauritania. This is a scandal. It is affecting the inshore livelihoods of the Mauritanian people at the very time we are discussing the right of our own people in fishing communities to enjoy a livelihood.

That said, the crucial point stressed in Mr. Flood's report concerns the importance of co-ordination in the provision of aid. I do not see why people would ever get upset about this. The non-governmental sector must be as flexible as the state-assisted and multilateral sector. An interesting paragraph in the report refers to how one should hold rigidly to the boundaries of humanitarian assistance, structural assistance and so forth. The better the co-ordination and the greater the trust created between the different sectors in response, the more flexible one is allowed to be. Being flexible is not a demerit. The entire field of aid has not been enormously assisted by people who suffer from a bureaucratic Weberian madness. It is far more important to be professional but at the same time to be able to meet needs.

Although this is beyond the remit of Mr. Flood, sometime in the lifetime of this committee I would like to see a map of the agencies to which Ireland sends representatives, the FAOs and so forth. This is a dark mysterious pond which is only understood by those who live in Iveagh House. I would like to know how we send people to the agencies concerned, how they are structured and if we are to make a contribution by way of response, how we might make our own suggestions as to how we co-ordinate with each other. I am one of the longest serving members of this committee and would welcome seeing some kind of map or chart. How are such positions advertised? Is it by way of a notice board, an advertisement in The Irish Times or some other method? This is a necessary first step in establishing the register. At the rate we are going, by the time we have the register half the people listed in it will be dead. We have been promised a register for about 20 years. This does not mean it should not happen. I hope we will all be alive when it eventually appears.

I very much welcome the critical intelligence at the centre of Mr. Flood's report. We are indebted to him. I hope it is the beginning of this sort of reporting. We get too much blandness when we need material with an edge so we can improve things and I appreciate the efforts of those involved.

Irish Government funding went from €1 million on day one to €2 million——

I am not talking about the Irish funds, I am talking about nations like Japan and some of the Scandinavian countries. I remember looking at the list and later seeing the amount they actually delivered.

The way our contribution increased rapidly was interesting. It went from €1 million immediately to €2 million within a matter of days to €10 million within the week and then to €20 million. Of that, €19.9 million has been delivered. The public's contribution was approximately four times as much, totalling a figure of €100 million overall, which must be one of the highest per head of population in the world. That has been commented on.

I noted the Deputy's comments about a map of agencies and will see if we can get information on that. The question of Irish Aid we will have to get used to for the moment. DCI placed emphasis on development co-operation while Irish Aid obviously emphasises where the money is being spent.

That is not very clear.

That is probably what is happening. To join the two together, one would have IADC, Irish Aid in development co-operation. We will proceed with Irish Aid and see how it goes.

I welcome our former colleague, Mr. Chris Flood, to the committee together with Ms Mary Sutton and Ms Anne Holmes and congratulate them on this clear report. I agree with Deputy Higgins, the tone and pragmatism of the report is welcome and it is obvious that it came from a former politician because it is honest, straightforward and does not flinch from making recommendations and criticisms of the entire endeavour, however well motivated the world was in response.

There were shortcomings and it is important, as international efforts continue in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region, that people are honest about those shortcomings, the way forward and the need for co-ordination. The fact that 12 countries were affected by the tsunami, with 228,000 deaths, meant it was a disaster on an unprecedented level and put huge strains on the international response. Given the scale of the disaster, it is useful to see how we might do it better in future.

I am interested in one of the key recommendations of the report, that the delay in introducing legislation to regulate the charity sector must be overcome. The delay with this legislation is now incomprehensible, it cannot be postponed any longer. The aid budget this year is more than €665 million, of which 20% will go through NGOs and agencies. This is taxpayers' money and the fact that the charity sector is unregulated is dangerous. Many questions have been raised in terms of the danger that Irish taxpayers' money will be misspent in Third World countries, whether by governments or through funding other activities in the developing world. In this jurisdiction, there is little to prevent public moneys from going astray because the entire sector is unregulated. While I strongly agree with Mr. Flood's analysis that the regulation of the charity sector is extremely important, similar recommendations have been made for so many years that legislation on this area has become a political joke. I am beginning to wonder where the problem lies.

As a Minister of State, I called for regulation of the sector after conducting a year-long review of the programme of official development assistance. When that review went before the Cabinet, a decision was made to significantly expand Ireland's aid budget with the quid pro quo that the sector would be regulated, yet there is still no sign of legislation several years later.

The matter was previously the remit of the former Department for Social, Community and Family Affairs and was subsequently transferred to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, although I would have thought it a matter for the Department of Finance. As a Government Deputy and a Whip, I have asked internally about legislation on the matter but have found it to be deeply buried in the bowels of some Department. Unless there is political will to dig it out, an unholy disaster in this area will arise. The Irish Aid budget is €665 million this year and a large percentage of that will be spent through NGOs and the broader charity sector. In addition to the Third World sector, other charities based here operate without giving due protection to moneys contributed by the public. Perhaps this committee could pass a resolution to exhume the legislation from wherever it is buried.

I am amazed at the generosity of the Irish public. The official Government response of €20 million was in itself a respectable figure but the donations from ordinary members of the public brought the total Irish contribution to €100 million. That is a huge sum of money.

The report describes the level of activity by various NGOs in terms of tsunami relief and notes the need for greater co-ordination. I ask Mr. Flood to enlarge on the criticisms he made in his report of the response effort. I am aware that he strongly supports the role of the UN as a co-ordinating body. While NGOs frequently express misgivings about that organisation and claim that they can do better by themselves, those of us with experience of the management of emergency responses will agree that the UN should remain the principal co-ordinator.

I again want to stress that legislation on the charity sector can no longer be postponed.

We will request the legislation. I drafted a Bill 12 years ago which I would have published if I had continued in office for a little longer. One could argue that the legislation would be adapted or amended in the House. It is substantial legislation but given that the Bill I drafted more than a decade ago was almost ready, I do not understand what is delaying it.

In 1992 the aid budget was €40 million. It is currently €665 million and will steadily increase to reflect our commitment to reach a target of 0.7% of GDP by 2012. For this reason, postponing the legislation is no longer sustainable.

The figure amounts to approximately €1.5 billion in current terms and does not include the internal side. There was a strong emphasis on the internal side when we drafted the legislation. The joint committee will pursue the matter.

I agree with my colleagues in respect of the charities legislation. I am intrigued by an anomaly in the tax relief available for charitable donations. If a PAYE worker avails of this measure when donating €1,000 to a charity, the relief will go straight to the charity in question, whereas it will go straight to the individual who avails of the relief if he or she derives any income from self-employment. This is a most peculiar position and I do not believe it is what was intended when the measure was introduced. It would not require a major change in the Finance Bill to ensure that the same regime applies to both sets of circumstances.

Mr. Flood has produced a fine report and genuine evaluation. As the Chairman noted, members of the public donated €80 million in addition to the Government's allocation. They would love someone of the stature of Mr. Flood to assure them that their funds were spent with vigilance and independent evaluation. Will Mr. Flood comment on the manner in which these considerable sums of money were spent? We have already learned of the co-ordination problems that arose with regard to the Government's funding.

I am intrigued that some of the Government funding allocated to Sri Lanka and Indonesia was processed by the World Bank through its multi-donor trust fund. Is Mr. Flood certain that this funding did not displace funds which would have been spent at any rate? I am also intrigued by the donation of €500,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross for tsunami victims in Burma. While not suggesting that the ICRC is unreliable, is it possible to ascertain whether this money was genuinely spent on tsunami victims? The nature of the Burmese regime means that we do not even know how many people in that country were victims of the tsunami. According to the report, the figure could be 59 or 600.

Does Mr. Flood envisage that the growing number of NGOs in a particular area will become counter-productive at some point? A new Irish NGO appears to emerge every time the dust settles on a major world crisis. While I agree that competition in the marketplace probably generates additional funds, it must at some stage become counter-productive. Despite considering myself reasonably well informed, I have not heard of at least one of the organisations which feature in the appendices setting out NGO responses. How many more NGOs will emerge? Does Mr. Flood have any view on that given what he has seen? I liked his comment on the Minister in Sri Lanka mentioning the 300 SUVs that had landed in a country which had perfectly good roads. It is a very pointed illustration of the need for thought about aid. It is a good report and well worth the effort of recruiting somebody of Mr. Flood's calibre to do it.

I join in the welcome to Mr. Flood and his team. I support what has been said about the charities legislation which I hope will be enacted shortly. It is not the first time we have heard that there was enough funding from the international community and that what is needed is the careful management of the funds. Concern was the first NGO to state that it had enough funding and that it was a question of the management of the funds. I would like to hear Mr. Flood's views on that in the context of the considerable number of NGOs involved in the effort to bring assistance to the regions. Was there a question of there being too many chiefs, or too many NGOs? Some NGOs were quick to say there was enough money, although others were not. Mr. Flood stated in the report that there was sufficient funds.

There was some hope that the conflict in Sri Lanka was coming to an end but the report states that the situation has deteriorated. There are a few people from Sri Lanka in my constituency and they often ask me about this issue. Can Mr. Flood tell us anything about the efforts to get the peace process back on course again? I thank Mr. Flood for a fine report.

Mr. Flood

I thank the members and the Chairman for the kind remarks to me on the report. Those who assisted in the compilation of the report are mentioned at the beginning of it and I pay tribute to those who went to the region with me and who had great experience in this area upon which I was able to draw. The report was compiled by a number of individuals, some of whose names are mentioned.

The Chairman asked about the timeframe for engagement. We expect it to be a further 24 months. He also raised the serious and important issue of counselling. It was apparent to us in the early stages that individuals who presented themselves as counsellors were, in our opinion, inappropriate and coming from a totally different culture. That brought to the fore the need to train local people in counselling. Irish Aid funded a WHO programme in Sri Lanka assisting 500 community therapy officers to be trained. That is an example of what work has been done. Counselling has been an extremely important issue.

The Chairman also raised the question of disaster risk reduction. Through UNESCO, a tsunami early warning system for the region has been, or is in the process of being, provided. Irish Aid, on behalf of the Irish taxpayer, has provided assistance of €500,000 towards that disaster reduction mechanism.

Deputy Allen raised a number of issues, the first of which was the register. The register would be expected to include civilians with special skills and expertise and also members of the Defence Forces who, when called into action in a disaster struck area, would act as civilians and be under civilian authority in the work they would do overseas.

Deputy Allen also raised the issue of some organisations leaving the area while other members raised the issue of the appearance of new organisations. The professional experienced organisations which have had experience in other disaster areas are in the area and have shown that they will be there for the long haul. Other organisations were there. Although they were well-motivated they did not have the skill and expertise to deal with the wide range of issues with which they were confronted, which included those of co-ordination, appropriate responses, etc. As I referred to in the report, many of them left the area fairly soon although they probably made a contribution. However, it is the more experienced organisations that are there for the long haul which have made the greatest contribution.

On the question of whether aid given to the tsunami affected region has affected aid given to other regions, it probably has. One can note the response given to Pakistan which, from a financial point of view, was very limited. Although I had no involvement in carrying out investigations in that area, I believe the response there was limited in comparison to what was given to the tsunami affected region. Only time will tell whether the impact of the resources given to the tsunami affected region will have affected what is likely to be made available to other areas.

Deputy Allen referred to the issue of safeguards and corruption. A debate has already taken place on the need for charities legislation and this issue further enhances the urgent need for such legislation to be brought forward. I hope that will happen given that, as members said, it has been long-promised. For the safety of established NGOs and others, it is important that it would be brought forward.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins raised a number of issues, including the question of the need to learn from the tsunami crisis and to offer helpful criticism to enable us to learn from how we have dealt with the crisis. The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition is a fairly widespread coalition of UN agencies NGOs, governments and experts which are carrying out an evaluation of how the tsunami response was developed and implemented. From that evaluation, which is to be published during this year, I hope we will be able to learn from whatever mistakes were made.

Deputy Higgins also expressed the view the media's behaviour in dealing with a crisis such as this one has probably somewhat improved. This is an important aspect. It is an important area given that, as members will recall, two issues arose in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami. First, it was suggested by experts that there would be a significant loss of life through disease, etc. This was reported by the media and it greatly worried and upset people but, as has been shown, that did not happen. Second, while media attention on the tsunami affected region was intense in the immediate aftermath of tsunami, despite the fact that great difficulties continue to be experienced in the region generally, there is not the same level of media attention on the area in terms of bringing to the attention of the wider world the issues that continue to confront communities in the region.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred to the fact that many families have land for which they do not have title. This is a most serious issue, particularly when families who survived the trauma sought to have a home provided or to provide their own home where possible. The question of ascertaining legal title to land left a tremendous amount to be desired and, as the report shows, has caused some delays in the provision of the reconstruction of houses. That is an area where perhaps the international community, through its legal experts, might be able to help in the future. We should recognise that this is an important issue which has had severe consequences.

The reopening of schools turned out to be a major challenge. This turned out to be a major challenge because, apart from the destruction of schools, etc., in some areas 40% of teachers had lost their lives, as did 40% of government officials. It was difficult for schools to reopen to receive students. I understand considerable progress has been made in the reconstruction of schools damaged and the replacement of those destroyed.

I do not need to repeat what I have said about the charities legislation. Ireland quickly committed almost all of the €20 million it had promised in the early stages. There has been a complaint that international funds promised by governments do not always materialise. Some members of the committee have more experience than I of this "tradition". This must be carefully watched, although there is no suggestion there is a shortage of funds committed to the region.

Deputy Michael Higgins raised the important issue of fishing stocks. At first there was a possibility that governments would take the opportunity presented by the tsunami to "reorganise" the fishing industry. In other words, large factory ships would be allowed rather than returning the waters to those who had worked them in single boats. However, the force of national and international public opinion persuaded governments that the right way forward was to present new small single boats such as those traditionally used to fishermen. That is happening, although there was an early attempt to interfere seriously with the capacity of individuals to return to earning their own livelihoods through the fishing industry.

Deputy Higgins also referred to the serious issue of co-ordination, which was lacking in the early stages as organisations competed with each other in project and service provision. I detected a lack of willingness on the part of many organisations to engage and work with and through UN bodies, and thereby their colleague organisations, to provide for the best possible results in the provision of services and infrastructure. Co-ordination remains an issue to be tackled internationally.

I agree with Deputy O'Donnell on the delay in the introduction of the charities legislation. She mentioned a figure of €525 million, being a substantial portion of the money delivered through NGOs, etc. It is in their own interest, apart from that of the Government, that the appropriate legislation is put in place. For example, we met the Tamil relief organisation in Sri Lanka which the UK Government treats as a terrorist organisation. Ireland, however, follows the EU line and continues to work with it. The difficulty lies in being sure that funds go to an appropriate organisation. In this case, as far as Ireland is concerned, the Tamil relief organisation is an appropriate one but the attitude of the United Kingdom brings into focus the need for the charities legislation.

As I outlined, the main source of disappointment was in the fishing industry, although this appears to have dissipated. In some cases, people received more boats than they had owned prior to the tsunami. Individuals appeared to take possession of more boats in circumstances where they were being supplied from different sources. The end result was that other folk who wanted to fish became enslaved to the boat owners and this is a problem in the area.

There was disappointment regarding the type of shelters initially provided, some of which were totally inappropriate for use in the monsoon rains that arrive in April and May. The provision of western-style clothing was an issue, as were anecdotal reports of the provision to the region, perhaps by well-intentioned individuals, of inappropriate and out-of-date medicines.

I thank the Chairman and members for giving us the opportunity to discuss the contents of the report. I thank those who were involved with us in drafting it and in carrying out the investigations which we were asked to pursue.

I thank the delegation. Mr. Flood is to be commended on his work and on the report, which will provide many lessons for future policy. This committee will give urgent consideration to the issue of legislation for charities, which is crucial for the work of Irish aid. I thank Ms Anne Holmes, Ms Mary Sutton and the others involved for their work in preparing for this meeting. I wish the members of the delegation every success in the future.

Mr. Flood

We did not have time to respond to the points raised by Senators Ryan and Kitt. We will write to both Senators to ensure that their questions are properly answered.

I invite Mr. Flood to send copies of those answers to the clerk to the committee and they will be circulated to members.