Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Summit to discuss post-tsunami issues

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

The Lake Toba summit, scheduled to officially begin on Thursday, will be an important forum for Indonesia to learn how to promote sustainable development following the Dec. 26 earthquake and subsequent tidal waves that devastated Aceh and North Sumatra.

North Sumatra Governor T. Rizal Nurdin said here on Wednesday that delegates of regional governments from developed countries would share their experience and expertise with participants from the disaster-hit provinces on how to rehabilitate and reconstruct their affected areas.

"The summit is an important forum for local administrations in Aceh to exchange information on how to spend huge funds from donor countries to rebuild the affected areas, resettle their survivors and promote an environmentally friendly development program," he said after opening a cultural event held in line with the summit.

The governor said almost all 30 provincial governments and more than 430 regental and municipal administrations would be represented at the summit, where they were expected to gain more information on sustainable development.

"All delegates, especially from developed countries, have been asked to share with Indonesian participants their experience and expertise on how to promote sustainable development," he said.

Aside from that, Rizal added, Indonesia would seek the developed countries' commitment to promote sustainable development in tourist resorts around Lake Toba.

"North Sumatra has great potential to develop ecotourism in tourist resorts around Lake Toba. But we cannot do it due to a lack of ideas, human resources and funds. We want developed countries to lend a hand to help preserve the ecosystem and cultural heritages in the province," he said.

Summit steering committee chairman Nico Barito said that after identifying all problems and hindrances in carrying out sustainable development, all the participants would be grouped into three discussion panels on the second day before they present their recommendations and action plans on the concluding day.

"On the second day, three panel discussions will be held simultaneously. The government panel, to be held in Parapat -- a tourist resort near Lake Toba -- will discuss networking among regional governments within the UN system on disaster prevention and risk management. It will also discuss how to create quality human resources to empower local administrations and regional legislatures," Nico said.

A special forum featuring businesspeople from member countries will be held in the North Sumatra capital, Medan, to discuss how to develop business and intensify economic activities without damaging the environment.

"Indonesian businesspeople should learn from developed countries how to promote sustainable business," said Nico.

He said experts from the United Nations and developed countries would present their papers on how to promote sustainable development in developing countries, especially in tsunami-affected South Asia.

The speakers include UN Habitat chairwoman Anna Tibaijuka, UN Environmental Program (UNEP) executive director Klaus Toepler and UN Institute Training and Research (UNITAR) executive director Marcel Boisard.

Meanwhile, Nurlisa Ginting, secretary of the conference's organizing committee, said that so far two provinces in Germany and another in Spain had bolstered cooperation with fishery and tourism businesses in North Sumatra.