22 December 2005
New Fund Enables United Nations to Offer Rapid Assistance in Crisis Situations
UK, Sweden and Norway among Major Donors so Far
VIENNA, 22 December (UN Information Service) -- In the process of implementing the decisions emanating from the 2005 World Summit, the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly have established a new Peacebuilding Commission. The Commission aims at preventing countries emerging from conflict from falling back into chaos.
Other tangible outputs of the 2005 World Summit are the new whistleblower protection policy and a state-of-the-art financial disclosure mechanism, to help increase transparency, and a new relief fund that will respond with instant financial aid in the case of humanitarian disasters. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson stated that by the Assembly's action "we have fulfilled the mandate given by our leaders, who last September called upon us in the Summit outcome document to make concrete improvements in the humanitarian response system, including the timeliness and predictability of humanitarian funding".
The new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) replaces the smaller Central Emergency Revolving Fund and aims at a total volume of US$500 million in grants and loans, which will be made available within three to four days of a disaster situation. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recognises this fund as a "sign of true solidarity" and notes that through it, the United Nations will be able to assist "in crisis situations which may not be on television screens, which may not be in strategic areas, but are no less pressing".
Media attention can produce an imbalance in global aid distribution. This became apparent in the international response to the Darfur crisis, where delayed funding led to mortality rates rising above emergency levels, while other crises prompted an unprecedented international response.
A lesson that can be drawn from prior efforts at alleviating humanitarian disasters is that providing quick initial funding "simply will save lives", as the Secretary-General said, and that delay of such provisions exacerbates human suffering considerably. Delayed interventions also increase the cost of the humanitarian operation. For example, in February last year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) made an appeal of US$ 9 million to spray locust larvae and prevent their spread. By the time the international community provided an adequate response (four months later), the locusts had spread to eight countries and FAO had to revise the appeal to US$100 million.
The new fund should be operational by March 2006 and Governments with capacity to donate will be urged to contribute swiftly. The Secretary-General is confident that "between now and March, the Governments of the world will not be found wanting" and that "they will pay up". Major contributors to the fund are so far the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway with pledges of 70, 40 and 30 million US$ respectively. The Austrian foreign ministry reckons that Austria will make an effort to contribute appropriate funds as soon as the budgetary cycle permits it, and after examining how this fund is being handled.
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