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In an instant the 26 December 2004 earthquake and tsunami devastated the lives of millions living in the coastal communities of 12 countries around the Indian Ocean. We are still grappling with the magnitude of the losses and the enormity of issues underlying the reconstruction needs. With considerable determination, local communities have joined national and international organizations and governments to bring relief and start the recovery work. We are now gradually moving past immediate relief efforts to focus on sustainable reconstruction.

FAO has taken up the task, together with several other international and national organizations, in fielding experts in several sectors, including fisheries, agriculture and forestry, to assess the damage, identify critical needs, and bring them to the urgent attention of the international community. In the process, it has become apparent that there are many organizations in the forefront, with good intentions and doing high-quality work, but often without the benefit of exchanging information and lessons learned, collaborating fully, or coordinating effectively. To help remedy these gaps, FAO organized a regional coordination workshop on Rehabilitation of tsunami-affected forest ecosystems: strategies and new directions.

The overall goal of the workshop was to strengthen and enhance forest-related rehabilitation efforts in the tsunami-affected areas. Work can clearly be strengthened through better exchange of information and knowledge related to the impacts of the tsunami on forest ecosystems, strengthening coordination and collaboration among the various agencies involved in environmental rehabilitation, and developing a regional framework for coordination and action.

I am very pleased to note that, despite the short notice and preparation time, almost all the major organizations involved in forest and ecosystem rehabilitation efforts were able to attend the coordination workshop. Several very useful recommendations emerged from the workshop, including a proposal to form a regional partnership to foster further collaboration and coordination in undertaking forest-related rehabilitation efforts. Such a partnership would help support responses in a cost-effective and comprehensive manner, with sound and proven technical interventions. This is particularly critical – under the circumstances, poor planning, misguided approaches, and inappropriate measures are simply unacceptable.

Emerging from the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami is an opportunity to once again take a look at the way we are handling our environment – especially the coastal ecosystems – and to reintroduce sustainable practices that will ensure environmental stability and sustainable livelihoods. FAO, working together with other international agencies and affected countries, will continue to respond to the challenges of reconstruction that lie ahead. The regional coordination workshop, and the resulting report which comprises this publication, provide an important foundation for working together effectively on these important tasks.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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