Annan: 5-10 Years to Rebuild from Tsunami

Annan: Let me say that before Iraq, we had done many crisis operations and we have not had the kinds of accusations which have come up with regards to Iraq where we're dealing also with a very special leader and a very special circumstance. So we've run many operations without these kinds of accusations. And I think we're going to be able to run this one in the same effective manner with our partners with the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, local organizations and national governments and our international partners.

Stephanopoulos: From all of your experience with crises in the United Nations as secretary-general, your previous work in Kosovo and Bosnia, what lessons do you draw -- positive and negative -- from those experiences that you can bring to bear … on this crisis?

Annan: I think one of the major lessions now says that we should pull in the nationals, the individuals, much more quickly. We sometimes go in and we want to build shelter and houses for everybody.

In Kosovo, we tried an experiment. [head of the U.N. administration in Kosovo] Bernard Kushner was the one who suggested, he said give the nationals the material and a bit of money and let them build their own houses. And that will verify because there was a vested interest. It wasn't waiting for someone else to do it for you.

And so this is -- if you engage the community, which has a real vested interest in it, you can move faster and you can also, perhaps, do it much more cheaply. So we should engage the community.

But it's also important that the international community must be absolutely coordinated so that there's not … duplication of efforts and competition, unnecessary competition, between each other. If we have a common objective and coordinate that approach, and we pool our efforts, we are going to have much more effective impact on the crisis and offer the people the relief they deserve.

Stephanopoulos: And if you do that, could this crisis, as horrible as it is, become an opportunity for the U.N. to prove to the world what it can do?

Annan: It could be, and I would hope so. I would hope so. We want to help the people in need. We want to do it as effectively as possible. We have only one U.N. It's not perfect, but we have to be efficient and effective. And we are going to try to do that.

Stephanopoulos: Mr. Egeland described himself as the bad conscience of the world. Is that how you see your job now?

Annan: To some extent, we both have that job. But I say Jan puts it -- since he's the humanitarian coordinator, and it's often both of us speaking out for the poor, the voiceless, and the weak, trying to get assistance to them, you tend to become conscience of others. And nobody wants you to be their conscience. And sometimes it can be irritating for them.

Stephanopoulos: But yet that irritation at least seems to have had an effect this week.

Annan: It sometimes helps.

Stephanopoulos: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you very much.

Annan: Thank you.

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