Press Releases

    20 November 2002


    NEW YORK, 19 November (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the launch of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for 2003, Bern, Switzerland, 19 November:

    Let me start by thanking the Government and people of Switzerland for hosting this event. This is yet another example of their strong commitment to the United Nations and long tradition of humanitarianism.

    Today, in cities throughout the world, the United Nations system and its humanitarian partners, including donor countries, non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross movement, come together to launch the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals Process (CAP) for 2003 on behalf of many millions of victims of conflict, natural disaster and other emergencies.

    We are here to raise awareness of their plight. We are here to ask for help in providing food, shelter, medicine and other life-saving assistance. We are here to reaffirm our commitment to improving the delivery of humanitarian assistance. And finally we are here to stress again the fundamental importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and upheaval.

    In recent years, the Appeals have focused on the needs of women victims of conflict, and on efforts to improve humanitarian access to vulnerable populations. This year's theme, "hope for the future", underscores the need to remember that humanitarian assistance is not an end in itself, but must be accompanied by efforts to build a bridge from disaster to development, and from the ravages of war to the resumption of normal life. We must bring not only material relief but also, and above all, hope.

    The CAP is not a document prepared at headquarters offices. Each of the individual appeals is the product of a process that begins in the countries affected by emergencies, where agencies work together with governments, local authorities and other stakeholders to identify needs, develop a response strategy, and determine what programmes and funds are needed to carry out that response.

    The CAP is the primary tool for ensuring greater efficiency, less overlap and a more strategic use of donor resources. Created by the General Assembly of the United Nations, it is designed to meet the demands of emergencies that exceed the mandate or capacity of any single agency, and which thus require a coordinated, system-wide approach.

    The countries included in the CAP are those which have the most acute humanitarian needs: complex emergencies or natural disasters usually characterized by extensive violence and/or loss of life, massive displacements of people, the disruption of economic activities and widespread damage to infrastructure; where the provision of assistance may be complicated by political and military constraints; and where there may be significant security risks for humanitarian relief workers. Just because a country is not included in a CAP does not mean that humanitarian needs do not exist there. But the CAP addresses situations where there is a need for large-scale, multifaceted humanitarian assistance.

    Today and tomorrow, at events around the world similar to this one, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the heads of the World Food Programme and United Nations Development Programme, and other senior United Nations officials will appeal for funds to meet emergency needs in the world's most critical crisis areas. Each of those events -- in Brussels, Canberra, The Hague, Luxemburg, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. -- will provide a picture of global needs and shine a spotlight on a number of particular situations. Here in Bern, you will soon hear first-hand accounts from United Nations humanitarian officials about the suffering, the struggle for survival, and the prospects for peace in the Northern Caucasus, Guinea and the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Two major crises in Africa also merit your urgent attention. In southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, drought has become so prolonged, so pronounced and so profound in its impact, that almost 30 million people could be in need of assistance, mainly food aid, in 2003 in these two regions alone. But food is only part of the problem. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed heavily to the growing famine by killing vast numbers of agricultural workers, forcing children to drop out of school, and placing an extraordinary burden on families and health systems. The combined magnitude of these regional crises, and the fact that they are occurring simultaneously, presents the humanitarian community with an unprecedented catastrophe to which I hope there will be a quick and generous response.

    Few of the countries covered in this year's Appeals are new emergencies. For almost every one of the countries for which appeals are being launched today, an appeal was presented to you last year -- and for most, the year before that as well.

    Still, there are places where enough progress has been made that the emergency phase has ended. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one such place. A decade after that conflict erupted, Southeastern Europe is by and large in a post-conflict phase of increasing stability. Therefore, no CAP is being launched for that region this year. Of course, humanitarian and development actors, in concert with the relevant government entities, continue to work together to ensure that lasting solutions for refugees, internally displaced persons and other marginalized groups are sought within broader community development and poverty reduction programmes. There, as elsewhere, it is vital that assistance be sustained and that the international community remain politically involved.

    This year's CAP covers the needs of more than 50 million people in 30 countries and regions, and asks for $3 billion.

    I hope that donors will increase the amount of their contributions. While the past year has been a relatively strong one for the CAP, the funding received is still just over half of what is needed. Overall levels of humanitarian funding have remained the same for the past decade, despite increasing levels of need. And efforts to address the fallout of major crises often divert resources from other appeals, instead of prompting the new aid flows that are needed.

    I also urge donors to make their contributions on the basis of need, and to uphold the principles of impartiality and the universal right to assistance.

    Often, because of media attention or political and strategic considerations, certain emergencies are better funded than others, leading to serious inequities between countries. In recent years, the two emergencies that have received the most media attention have captured almost as much funding as all the others combined. In other words, donors have demonstrated a real capacity to help roll back human suffering -- most recently in Afghanistan, and before that in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Rwanda. But the international community has been far less forthcoming in other cases where there is equal need, but less publicity. The civil conflict in Burundi, for example, is a forgotten emergency that has elicited scant attention. Yet it has claimed the lives of as many as 300,000 civilians.

    While food aid is often the most urgently needed form of aid, food aid alone is not enough. To be truly effective, food aid also requires clean water for its preparation, as well as seeds, tools and mine clearance that allows people to resume growing their own food instead of having to rely on aid.

    The health sector, too, is often underfunded. Yet it is vital, especially since disease and epidemics are opportunistic, spreading through previously healthy populations in times of war and instability. Sixty-five per cent of epidemics occur in complex emergency situations. Between 1999 and mid-2001, two-and-a-half million people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not from bullets or machetes, but from preventable diseases such as malnutrition, diarrhoea, and malaria. Lack of funding in this area may, in turn, reduce the overall effectiveness of other relief and humanitarian programmes, especially those involving water, sanitation and food.

    Properly directed and effectively used, relief aid can make the difference between life and death, and between dignity and despair. I thank the donors for their past contributions, and urge them to do even more to show the caring face of the international community. Indeed, let us all do our utmost to give the suffering millions of our world hope for the future. Thank you very much.

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