19 November 2003


NEW YORK, 18 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today at the launch of the 2004 Humanitarian Appeal:

It is a pleasure to be with you today to launch this annual Appeal on behalf of the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations, and non-governmental and Red Cross partner organizations.  We are appealing to donors to provide $3 billion for 21 countries.

Why?  Because 45 million civilians urgently need humanitarian assistance.  They are struggling to survive displacement, loss, and severe disruption to their lives in the world’s wars, conflicts and natural disasters.  These 45 million are not a statistic, but real people with real needs.  Most of them are children, women and the elderly.

What they hope for and need is not our pity, but our support.  They have been forced to flee their homes and their communities, and have lost almost everything they owned.  But they are not waiting helplessly for aid.  And they are not waiting for us to take care of all their needs.  Most of them are working hard, doing anything they can to survive, drawing on all their capacities and resources to recover and resume a normal life.

We are here today to show our solidarity with them.  We must support them in their struggle.  We must help them survive until they can rebuild their communities and care more completely for themselves.

But let me be clear:  the aid we give them is not charity, it is their right.  Victims of natural and man-made disasters have the right to the fulfilment of their basic needs.  And donors and citizens who can help have not only a moral responsibility to provide emergency and life-sustaining assistance, but an obligation to do so under international humanitarian and human rights law.

I am sure that every one of us would expect such assistance, and consider it our right if we were in a dire situation like the people to whom I lend my voice today.

No one should die because they lack food and medicines that are available in surplus elsewhere.

As we have seen time and again, people respond generously when they see on their television screens a hungry child, a dying mother, a desperate father.  But let us not forget that many of the world’s most serious crises happen far from the cameras, and that even when a crisis or conflict is over, countries continue to need support during the critical transition period leading to peace and development.

I know that the world’s wealthy nations understand their responsibility to help people in need and uphold people’s rights.  They rightly see the assistance they provide as a simultaneous investment in security.  A world where, amid increasing global prosperity, millions still live in desperate conditions will not be a world at peace.  Indeed, timely aid to those who need it most can do much to help prevent conflict.

Yet, despite generous contributions, the financing of humanitarian aid too often remains inadequate and unpredictable.  The Consolidated Appeals for the current year so far received only 66 per cent of the amount required.  And this figure itself is misleading.  It is misleading, as funding levels remain uneven.  While the amount requested for Iraq, for example, which represents more than one third of the total Appeals, was 91 per cent funded, Burundi, for instance, received only 28 per cent, and Liberia, 24 per cent.

We must do better, and we must forget no one who depends on us for help and for hope.  If we were able to collect nearly $2 billion for Iraq alone, surely we can raise the $3 billion we are asking for the rest of the world next year -- $3 billion for the rest of the world.  We have raised $2 billion for Iraq alone.  That is the equivalent of little more than $3 per person in donor countries -- the cost of a magazine or two cups of coffee.  With that amount we will help save lives in 21 of the world’s most serious crises -- from Chechnya (Russian Federation) to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and many countries and regions in Africa.

The Consolidated Appeals Process is designed not only to alleviate immediate suffering, but also to identify the deeper and longer-term needs.  Of course, it cannot and does not provide solutions to the crises themselves.  We all need to make greater efforts to address the underlying causes of these crises, and to prevent other crises before it is too late.

Together, we can make a difference.  So, I ask you to hear the voices of the victims of these crises, wherever and whoever they may be, and to fulfil your responsibility towards them by responding swiftly and generously to our appeals.  Let us give them a helping hand in their efforts to help themselves.  Thank you very much.

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