Statement on the earthquake in Turkey and cooperation between Municipalities

Meeting of the Socialist International Committee on Local Authorities, Cartaxo, Portugal 10-11 September 1999

The earthquake which hit Turkey on 17 August was centred around the city of Izmit in the Marmara region. It claimed more than fifteen thousand lives and left tens of thousands injured. The consequent material and human devastation has been unimaginable.

Thousands of people are now living in tents and in makeshift shelters. The opening of schools in the region has been postponed until October as many schoolbuildings are in ruins.

We, as socialists, must draw our own conclusions from this and must take the lead to push the process of further developing solidarity with the Turkish people. As socialists, this has always been our duty. This earthquake has sharply reminded us of this once again.

As the SI Committee on Local Authorities, we have obtained direct firsthand information about the present situation in Izmit and have been able to address what we can do to help.

It is fundamental to initiate decentralised cooperation to help municipalities in crisis as a result of such disasters.

Faced with such situations, the recent earthquake which affected several municipalities in Turkey, deserves a strong expression of solidarity from our Committee, as well as an urgent appeal for aid from other municipalities within the international community.

This aid could be humanitarian, but could also focus on technical and material support for the reconstruction of basic infrastructures, such as the provision of water, health and hygiene control, systems for sewerage and refuse and the construction of housing.

Such cooperation efforts should seek to work in conjunction with action undertaken by NGOs and by the governments themselves.

It is incumbent on us as representatives of local authorities to evaluate the situation and take decisions so that in future the impact of this type of crisis on our cities is minimised.

The main lesson to be learnt from a catastrophe such as the recent one in Turkey is the need to construct quality buildings, correctly administer town planning and development, and coordinate measures for civilian protection.