23 May 2001


(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 22 May (UN Information Service) -- Six months after the United Nations Consolidated Appeals for 2001 were launched by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the executive heads of leading humanitarian agencies, the United Nations is providing a tour d’horizon of the current situation in some of the most troubled areas of the world.

It is an analysis of salient trends affecting countries and regions crippled by conflicts and disasters in a never-ending spiral. It is also a crucial moment to redress possible distortions in the common strategic planning of United Nations agencies.

For 2001, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are seeking $2.8 billion to reach an estimated 44 million persons in need of life-sustaining assistance in 19 complex emergencies. The review process, presented today in Geneva with representatives of donor nations and aid agencies, shows that as of mid-May, only 23 per cent of those needs are being met. The trends show once more that unbalanced and inadequate funding persist and sectors such as health, water and sanitation, education, are and remain chronically underfunded.

In fact, emergency food aid continues to receive the bulk of donor contributions, while equally essential programmes in the non-food sectors -- projects to safeguard livelihoods such as agriculture and education -- are woefully underfunded.

"The costs of preventing further conflict is much less than picking up the pieces." With these words, Ross Mountain, Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, addressed representatives of United Nations Member States and partner agencies at the review meeting held in Geneva. Mr. Mountain insisted on the importance of also looking beyond the immediate needs dictated by crisis situations and remarked that "the infamous gap between relief and rehabilitation yawns even wider and our efforts to make the bridge to the future are constantly falling short without funding".

The humanitarian community is confronted by numerous challenges and an environment that is becoming more and more insecure. An increasingly dangerous and hostile situation for humanitarian workers is among the elements emerging from this analysis of the 19 crises spanning regions from Angola to Afghanistan, from Chechnya to Burundi, from Somalia to Tajikistan and passing through many other regions and countries to include Macedonia, the Sudan and Maluku islands. Access to the most vulnerable people is increasingly more difficult because of security threats. "Humanitarian space is shrinking and providing assistance while minimizing risks to humanitarian workers and beneficiaries is an ongoing challenge", said Mr. Mountain.

The latest trends clearly indicate that while natural resources can be a basis for economic development, in many African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola, they have become the very source of the conflict. The revenue from diamonds is used to purchase weapons that fuel the fighting. Sanctions against countries and individuals involved in illegal activities must be closely monitored and run the risk of harming innocent victims.

The mid-year report concentrates also on the rights of displaced people. Millions of persons are on the move in all corners of the world. They are fleeing the escalation of fighting in West Africa, drought and conflict in Afghanistan, and floods and war in Angola. Internally displaced persons often do not have access to food, health, water and sanitation. Forced displacement, looting, physical assault and forced recruitment remain major preoccupations in many conflict areas. The report also highlights new phenomena characterized by the perverse combination of natural disasters and conflicts-induced displacement.

At the Geneva mid-year review, United Nations agencies concerned by the prolonged dependence on humanitarian assistance of dispossessed communities and weak States, renewed their commitment of working together towards the rehabilitation of war-torn societies, in parallel with development actors and partners. International assistance will have added value -- it was remarked -- if the benefits last into the next generation.

The mid-year review seeks to encourage donors to provide timely funding to avert the worsening of some of those 19 crises under scrutiny. Ultimately, early warning and contingency planning have little meaning without sufficient funding to respond to impending crises.

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