Students, Citizen Networks, Think Tanks, and Nonprofits Combine for Virtual Dialogue with Tsunami-Affected Region

March 24, 2005


Megan Rabbitt

On the evening of March 28, people around the United States and Australia will sit down face to face with victims of the South Asian tsunami for a live videoconference dialogue. The event is designed to strengthen public awareness of the need for development in South Asia and ensure that the generosity inspired by the disaster continues even after the region leaves the headlines. This videoconference will feature speakers from Sri Lanka and is intended to commemorate the third anniversary of the tsunami that has killed upwards of 175,000 people and spawned the largest United Nations relief effort in history.

Reporters can attend the videoconference from 9 to 11 p.m. EST on March 28 at the World Bank Office at 1818 H St., NW, in Washington, D.C. The D.C. site will be linked via live video with Colombo (Sri Lanka), Canberra (Australia), Berkeley (CA), Houston (TX), San Antonio (TX), Palo Alto (CA), Norman (OK), and San Francisco (CA). The videoconference will feature opening reports by Sri Lankan leaders and citizens. After these opening reports, American and Australian students and citizens will be able to ask questions and share comments.

The nine-city videoconference is the second global videoconference taking place as part of an ongoing series that seeks to sustain public awareness about the tsunami-affected region and to ensure long-term international support for rebuilding. The first videoconference took place on the one-month anniversary of the tsunami, January 26, and linked together twelve cities across the eastern U.S. and the United Kingdom. The third videoconference will take place on March 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. and will feature a virtual dialogue between students and citizens in India. That discussion will focus particularly on the recent UN Millennium Report and examine wealthy countries obligations to promoting global development.

The series, called Partners for Progress, has brought together a rare coalition of organizations — student groups, civil society organizations, think tanks, and international relief NGOs. The goal behind this diverse coalition, organizers say, is to allow citizen to citizen dialogue, but at the same time to inform that dialogue with cutting-edge research and up-to-date information from the ground. The coalition includes Americans for Informed Democracy, the United Nations Foundation, Action Against Hunger, the Center for Global Development, Church World Service, the Democracy Collaborative, the Global Interdependence Initiative, International Relief and Development, Inc., NetAid, Refugees International, OrangeBand Initiative, and Women’s Edge Coalition.

Seth Green of Americans for Informed Democracy, a global student organization, said the idea for the initiative came out of an e-mail he received from a colleague questioning how the tremendous outpouring of sympathy after the tsunami could be sustained over the long-run. Green and others believed that allowing citizens in the U.S. to talk directly with citizens in the tsunami-affected region could help ensure that the rebuilding effort there continues to have a “human face.” Green also said that the ongoing nature of the videoconference would allow citizens to see how their contributions are creating real progress for people half a world away.

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Journalists can RSVP to (202) 270 6268.