WASHINGTON– Commissioners of the U.S. Helsinki Commission expressed today their gratitude for aid that has been dispatched to the United States by the participating States in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
“It’s heartening to see the outpouring of support provided by OSCE countries and others in the international community in this time of need in America,” said Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “The human tragedy that has unfolded here transcends barriers of language, borders and the things that usually divide us.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
“The unified response that we have seen by countries and citizens throughout the OSCE region to the tremendous needs of Hurricane Katrina’s victims is greatly appreciated,” remarked Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). “Almost four years ago, we witnessed so many expressions of solidarity following the terrorist attacks of September 11 and today we see a similar outpouring of support in the face of this overwhelming natural disaster.”
In addition to nearly a billion dollars in financial assistance, the participating States in the OSCE have sent medical and rescue teams, tents, water treatment equipment and other types of logistical and material aid. The Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe is composed of the countries that are signatories to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
“It overwhelms you when you see countries like Bosnia that are trying to rebuild their own societies, sending aid to the United States. It’s moments like these when you see the true brotherhood of the human race,” added Commissioner Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Hurricane Katrina hit the United States Gulf Coast on August 29, bringing destruction to an area the size of Great Britain, including the city of New Orleans. It is expected that it will be three months to a year before flood waters in the city have been pumped out and basic services restored. The surrounding area may even take longer to rebuild.
“We have a long hard slog ahead of us, but with the aid of our friends in the OSCE and the international community, I am confident that New Orleans and the surrounding region will be rebuilt and will be able to make a strong comeback,” added Brownback.