14 July 2005
“Transition from Relief to Development”, Special Relief Assistance Focus, as ECOSOC Opens Humanitarian Affairs Segment
NEW YORK, 13 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council began the humanitarian affairs segment of its 2005 substantive session today with a special panel exchange on the transition from relief to development, followed by a consideration of special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
The transition from relief to development was examined in two contexts, first through a session on post-conflict situations and then one on disaster recovery activities. Council Vice-President Johan C. Verbeke (Belgium) chaired the first session and Council Vice-President Jaime Moncayo (Ecuador) chaired the second.
Margareta Walhlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, moderated the session on the transition from relief to development in post-conflict situations. She said the key to the transition was national ownership in people-centred activities. The challenge was to balance short- and long-term efforts.
The panellists for the post conflict session were: Paul Gustave Magloire, Minister of the Interior and Territorial Collectives of Haiti; Sally Fegan-Wyle, Director of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Jacques Forster, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and James Adams, Vice-President of Operations Policy and Country Services of the World Bank.
Introducing the panellists, Vice-President Verbeke also said national ownership of the transition process was critical. Assistance efforts that included national actors in rebuilding and strengthening national capacities were very complex. They required a delicate balance of different types of assistance. A great deal of progress had been made in learning to cope with the complexity.
Ms. Fegan-Wyles of UNDG said the development group she headed delivered assistance in three basic areas: “quick-impact projects” aimed at making visible progress quickly as an incentive to maintain peace; national capacity-building to help governments get on their feet; and national capacity-building to help governments assume the management of their own affairs. The last stage was the most complex, since it included such elements as needs-assessment, priority-setting and helping governments mobilize international assistance. A “needs-assessment tool” and a “transitional results matrix” had been developed to simplify the process and improve the result.
Also taking part in the debate were the representatives of United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Netherlands and Brazil.
The panel’s second session on post-disaster recovery was moderated by Jean-Jacques Graisse, the Senior Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). Panellists were Barbara Carby, Executive Director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management of Jamaica; Kathleen Cravero, Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the United Nations Development Programme; and Nils Kastberg, Regional Director for Americas and Caribbean Region of the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF).
Speaking as a representative of a region facing difficulties from meteoric events, Ms. Carby of Jamaica said her country’s disaster management programme focused on preparedness and minimizing the loss of life. Reconstruction centred on removing persons from vulnerable locations, helping them resume livelihoods and providing support to the vulnerable. Recovery was seen as an opportunity to integrate risk reduction into the development process. The international financial institutions could help by giving incentives to developing countries for implementing risk-reduction measures and programmes.
Also taking part in that debate was the representative of Cuba.
Council Vice-President Johan C. Verbeke (Belgium) opened the afternoon meeting on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. He drew attention to a draft being prepared for improving humanitarian operations as a guideline for next year’s work.
In opening remarks, Jan Egeland, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that the emergency situations needing a global response had grown in complexity recently. Funding had to be made more predictable and timely. Measures to provide immediate access to start-up funds could be established or funds could be set up to cover unforeseen developments. Flexibility should be built in to promote equity of response, since many African emergencies were under-funded. The Council should give support to the Secretary-General’s recommendation to expand and improve the Central Emergency Fund.
A representative of the World Tourism Organization spoke as a Council guest on the recent tsunami’s effect on the tourism industry in Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives and Sri Lanka. He said the damage had been limited, thanks to support from regional neighbours and the worldwide international community. Still, 70 per cent of the Maldives income came from tourism and hotel occupancy rates were at only 30 per cent. Now the countries needed the communications and promotional communities to visit and broadcast the message that the area had been rebuilt and made safer in a campaign themed “Travel with a Heart”.
In statements on special assistance, Canada’s representative said the Indian Ocean tsunamis had shown the need to improve the coordination mechanisms of the OCHA for using military assets in natural disaster contexts, since an impressive number of States were willing to participate. The support should be driven by demand and not supply, under United Nations leadership.
Mexico’s representative said his own country’s vulnerability to natural disasters made it particularly sympathetic with the devastation that Cuba and Haiti had recently suffered from hurricane Dennis. States in vulnerable locations must be given international assistance to manage the challenges without being penalized by a lowering of other forms of assistance being given them. Also, the selective attention given to disasters was disturbing. It betrayed signs of politicization and that was never acceptable.
Also taking part in the afternoon debate were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), India, Australia, Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, United States, Norway and China, as well as the Observer for the Holy See.
Finally, a representative of the International Committees of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC) addressed the Council, as did a representative of the Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IGO).
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m., Thursday, 14 July, when it will continue the humanitarian affairs segment of its current session by taking up the question of lessons learned in regard to special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
The Economic and Social Council met this morning to begin the humanitarian affairs segment of its 2005 substantive session by holding a panel discussion on the transition from relief to development, followed by a consideration of special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. (For background on the Council’s current session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154 issued on 23 June.)
Introduction of Segment
JOHAN C. VERBEKE (Belgium), Vice-President of ECOSOC, said that, in the aftermath of disasters, transition from relief to development did not happen in a purely linear fashion. For a time, many kinds of assistance were needed, aiding the return of the displaced, for example. Ultimately the range of interventions that were needed were as broad and varied as the societies they were seeking to help.
He said that national ownership of the transition process, whether from disaster, economic transformation or conflict was the key to successful and sustainable recovery, development and lasting peace. Assistance efforts must seek to work with national actors to rebuild and strengthen national capacities. The task was exceedingly complex, requiring a delicate balance of different types of assistance efforts. But a great deal of progress had been made in learning how to cope with the complexity and to better manage transition through better assessment, analysis, planning, financing and coordination.
MARGARETA WAHLSTRÖM, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, agreed that the key to transition from relief to development was national ownership, as well as making transitional efforts people-centred. The key question was how to balance the short-term and long-term efforts. A strong commitment to a collaborative approach and good coordination practices was necessary, requiring funding that could be converted from relief to longer term. She, then, introduced the panellists.
Statements of Panellists
PAUL GUSTAVE MAGLOIRE, Minister of the Interior and Territorial Collectives of Haiti, said that last year his country underwent disastrous flooding, exacerbated by poor land planning. Around 1,500 people died and around the same number were missing, with 6,000 homeless and much agricultural infrastructure destroyed. Two thirds of the annual income was lost in the affected area; agricultural workers lost their livelihoods completely. In addition, drinking water was lost and sanitation systems destroyed.
In October of last year, the Government began working with international donors to create programmes to assist victims, he said. Health services and transportation were targeted. Through bilateral assistance from Norway, Cuba and the United States, among others, along with non-governmental organizations, that infrastructure was improved along with agricultural structures. In the transition, raising environmental awareness was a crucial factor.
Disaster management had now become a national effort, he said. Early warning systems should focus on local areas and not be centralized. Steps had been taken to prevent the loss of communication links and sensitize the population. The absence of a joint coordination mechanism, particularly for funding, meant, however, that some projects were not meeting the essential needs of the people and much of the work was fragmented.
He said that long-term efforts to prevent further disasters included reforestation, the protection of areas at risk, zoning and planning reform. It was not the natural threats themselves, but the work of humans that affected people’s lives.
SALLY FEGAN-WYLES, Director, United Nations Development Group (UNDG), said progress had been made in the speed of delivering assistance to people in post-conflict situations. The Group often entered as soon as a peace agreement was signed. Coordination and collaboration with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had also improved. UNDG no longer stepped in as OCHA left without addressing the transition. Finally, UNDG was working with the World Bank in mobilizing development activities and also complementing humanitarian support.
UNDG delivered assistance in three basic areas, she said. One was in the form of “quick impact projects” set up as soon as a conflict was over. Those were often in the form of road construction or water restoration work and were aimed at making visible signs of progress to give people an incentive for peace and to reduce the conditions for conflict to resume.
The other two areas were variations of national capacity-building, she said. The first was to help governments get on their feet and the other was to help them manage their own affairs. Activities of the first kind involved direct assistance, such as paying civil servant salaries so governments could get started. It also involved regular capacity-building to create the conditions that foster a workable government, as was the case in Somalia.
The second type of national capacity-building was to help governments manage their own affairs. Identifying the causes of the conflict to begin with could be very difficult. Working with governments to address those conditions and implement curative measures was a big part of UNDG’s mandate. It included needs-assessment, priority-setting, coordination with development partners, such as the World Bank, and helping governments mobilize the full range of international assistance on their own behalf. To assist in that, UNDG had developed a “needs-assessment tool” and a “transitional results matrix” to measure progress on the priorities the government had set out for itself.
Continuing challenges remained, she said, primarily in the area of being able to do more to help governments help themselves. As in the situation of Haiti, the international community was still too slow to come through on commitments. And while coordination and the building of partnerships had improved, it could be much further improved.
JACQUES FORSTER, Vice-President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said ICRC aimed to implement assistance strategies during transition periods that created a sound basis for future development, as they protected people who have suffered the physical and psychological effects of living through an armed conflict.
Mr. Forster described the advantages that independent, impartial and neutral humanitarian action could offer a damaged community during the transition after an armed conflict. Humanitarian workers whom did not take sides during a conflict could act as a neutral party between former enemies and build on the trust created from remains on the ground during the conflict to help and protect people. Humanitarian groups might also have a network of contacts built up during the conflict that could help them coordinate projects involving former enemies and contribute to the reconciliation process.
And an independent and neutral humanitarian organization such as the ICRC was in the best position to help people who remained at risk from acts of vengeance from their former enemy. People at risk, such as former detainees, returnees or members of minority groups, frequently could not receive protection from law and order agencies, because the agencies had not yet been set up, he added. He also stressed the need for humanitarian organizations to uphold their principals -- neutrality and independence -- even as tensions diminished among former enemies, in order to gain the trust of the people and maintain credibility in the community.
JAMES ADAMS, Vice-President of Operations Policy and Country Services, World Bank, said helping recovering nations build strong government institutions was one of the most effective ways to help those countries develop after a conflict.
The Bank, whose role in financing the reconstruction of nations went back decades to the Second World War, has constantly developed new financing strategies and methods to provide assistance. He stressed that those new strategies must be flexible and creative and not undermine the recovering nation’s long-term capabilities to govern itself. He added that the Bank also has strengthened its links with other institutions in the United Nations system and other donors to coordinate assistance to areas recovering from conflicts and disasters.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked how an integrated post-conflict approach could cover all aspects of the United Nations family, as well as national efforts. In addition, he asked how the priority of humanitarian principles could be ensured. Noting that the period three to six months after conflicts or disasters was a crucial one, France’s representative asked how more focus could be placed on countries’ needs during that period.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that prevention of natural disasters should be primary. He supported integration of key elements of the International Strategy on Disaster Reduction into national development programmes. In order to ensure smooth transition from relief to development, the coordination functions of the United Nations were crucial. Lead agencies should be named for sectors in a timely manner, and, from the outset of emergency relief, it was necessary to focus on mid-term and long-term needs, and to provide funding that went beyond the framework of the consolidated appeals process in an accountable manner.
Regarding post-conflict situations, he said that the interaction between peacekeeping, political, operational and humanitarian efforts should lead to a situation in which the humanitarian component was integrated into multidimensional peacekeeping operations, while preserving the humanitarian space. That interface should be ensured not only through timely preparation of exit strategies of the humanitarian agencies, but also through the involvement of United Nations programmes and funds into post-conflict rehabilitation efforts at the earliest stages.
The representative of the Netherlands said that, despite much progress, transitional problems had not yet been solved. In the tsunami situation, it was not clear who was coordinating the common approach. He also pointed out the connection between the spread of HIV/AIDS and post-conflict situations, and said that stronger cooperation on the issue was necessary, as it was now treated as an afterthought.
Brazil’s representative said that resources tended to dwindle, as efforts moved to future recovery and development, leading to forgotten emergencies in which populations continued to live in precarious situations. He asked how more attention could be drawn to such situations.
Ms. FEGAN-WYLES, UNDG, replying to the comments and questions, said that it was important to tweak all parts of the United Nations system to ensure a united approach, including non-resident parts of the system. The discussion of the integrated mission would be influenced strongly by the results of ongoing peacebuilding discussions. Resident coordinators were essential as well. She agreed that transitional needs were often the orphan child of disasters, since early humanitarian needs were usually met.
Mr. FOSTER, ICRC, said that in various situations independent action had its advances; in others, integrated action had its advantages. There were a number of steps that could be taken to reduce the risks caused by integrating humanitarian workers with military components. In that case, military components should be clearly defined and should be trained in humanitarian law and the roles of key players in the field. The ICRC was prepared to coordinate with all humanitarian actors on the ground to make sure all needs were met.
Mr. ADAMS, World Bank, said that trust funds and other funding mechanisms were being developed to ensure that resources were provided for transitional periods. He allowed that coordination with the United Nations was still a “work in progress.” Another big challenge in the transitional period was moving more toward national leadership.
JAIME MONCAYO (Ecuador), Council Vice-President, opened the second session of the panel on “Disaster Recovery”, moderated by Jean-Jacques Graisse, Senior Deputy Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).
In his opening remarks, Mr. MONCAYO said post-disaster recovery differed from post-conflict transitions in several important ways that affect how the transition period was managed. One difference was that post-disaster recovery was usually broader in scope, as natural disasters hit several countries at the same time and post-crisis planning must begin within weeks of the crisis phase.
The disasters frequently wipe out critical infrastructure, government capacity and hard-won development gains. That means the transition phase must include sustained support to restore livelihoods and basic socials services, as well as develop preparedness measures that reduce future vulnerability to the disasters. And all that must be done together with the affected governments and communities.
Mr. GRAISSE, WFP, said properly managing the post-disaster recovery period with effective strategies had become more crucial, as the number of natural disasters skyrocketed around the world. For example, the number of natural disasters had tripled in the 1990s, compared to the 1960s. And in 2002, more than 608 million people, many of them extremely poor, were affected by natural disasters. The transition from relief to development after a natural disaster posed an extra challenge, as relief agencies helped people rebuild their lives, as well as plan ahead to reduce their vulnerability to the next natural disaster.
He added that extensive investment was needed to manage the risks and create contingency plans and he noted how poverty, hunger and disease, especially HIV/AIDS, undermined people’s ability to cope with the disaster.
BARBARA CARBY, Office of Disaster Management, Jamaica, said the Caribbean region last year had gone through a difficult time in terms of meteoric events. Her country’s disaster management programme focused on preparedness as a major component. It included training and public education to keep people aware of potential disasters throughout the year, since natural disasters came not only in the form of weather, but also earthquakes. The focus was on minimizing the loss of life. The focus during reconstruction was to remove persons from vulnerable locations, help them resume their livelihood and provide support to vulnerable families. Recovery was seen as an opportunity to integrate risk reduction into the development process, such as by incorporating new building code standards when rebuilding and using post-impact grants to advance sustainable development.
She said her country’s institutional capacity had improved to the point where further steps in preparedness could be taken. One such activity was the preparation of a national hazard map that would eventually include the entire country. An improved technological system was also helping to increase the accuracy of predictions. International financial institutions could help by giving incentives to developing countries for implementing risk-reduction measures and programmes, as in giving favourable lending rates.
KATHLEEN CRAVERO of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said that disasters were exacerbated by development problems. That truth was often masked by the emergency period, which was a kind of equalizer. Afterwards, however, long-term recovery must be seen as a development challenge in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. Settlements and services must be improved in a process that was very delicate and must be nationally owned.
Recovery could be tailored to local needs only if it used local capacity, giving local institutions and individuals the ability to manage their own resources. National and local governments must take the lead. The United Nations country system must realize that recovery was a long-term process. Roles and responsibilities must be clear, and the Resident Coordinator must have the technical abilities needed to support the government in the recovery process. Training must not only be provided for local capacity-building, but also to United Nations staff in order to provide that support.
NILS KASTBERG, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that without a transition to development, countries affected by natural disasters could slip backwards in socio-economic progress. It usually was the very poor, particularly women and children, who were most affected, and small economic measures could make a large difference. The international financing system often moved too slow to make a difference in the crucial transitional period.
He said that the Latin American and the Caribbean region had been coordinating its efforts to prepare for the hurricane season and a joint regional office might be established to give consolidated support to United Nations country team and strengthen the national capacity for response. ECOSOC could help expedite the availability of resources and ensure that risk-reduction work was integrated into recovery. A transitional funding mechanism would also fill a much-needed gap.
Council members asked a variety of questions that ranged from the sharing of disaster-recovery knowledge among nations, to methods for building local standby capacity, to insuring that any recovery activity is grounded in the needs of the local communities.
The representative of Cuba wanted to know how countries that had made the transition from natural disasters, as well as countries providing aid, could share their information. She said a meeting to discuss South-South cooperation and the work of nations providing relief would be helpful.
Ms. CARBY, of Jamaica, said her country’s disaster management structure was set up to consist of two branches, one an emergency response force and the other a recovery team. That enabled work on recovery to begin even while the emergency force was still engaged in immediate response efforts.
Mr. KASTBERG, of UNICEF, said he took a regional approach toward response and recovery, for example, by stocking emergency supplies in a number of key locations in the region for rapid deployment when needed. Also, the elements to be considered in the early recovery phase after a crisis went beyond humanitarian considerations into areas such as the political environment. All factors needed to be addressed in a consolidated manner.
Ms. CRAVERO, of UNDP, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), said the statement issued by the G-8 after their recent meeting addressed the question of early warning. Funding for relief efforts in the early stage of recovery was hampered by the funding system, as set up at present. The international community responded better to emergency appeals than to transitional appeals, because the latter called into play too many mechanisms. Consolidated appeals covered some of the overlapping activities, but the timelines for the activities were different. Much that needed to be done for recovery, therefore, went undone.
Ms. CARBY, of Jamaica, said much of the immediate response could be arranged on a bilateral level within a region, as her country had done in situations with Cuba.
Afternoon Panel Discussion
Mr. VERBEKE (Belgium) opened the discussion, “Strengthening of the Coordination of the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance, including Capacity, as well as Organizational Aspects”. He said it was critical for the Council to come to agreement on a pending resolution that endorsed practical improvements to humanitarian operations and guided the humanitarian efforts during the coming year.
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, introduced the proposals presented in the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. He said the last few years had seen a series of humanitarian crises, each of which had been more complex, in its own way, than the previous. Mobilizing and coordination of resources for those emergencies were done with varied degrees of success.
To improve emergency response, he said that, first of all, core technical and logistical capacity must be strengthened, over a broader base, with clear sectoral leadership. Strengthening that core capacity also meant systematically building and sustaining national capacity in disaster-prone countries and regions. That, in turn, often meant strengthening the political will of governments with response capacity, so that they put their assets and expertise at the disposal of the global humanitarian response system. The operations and capacity of non-governmental organizations must be supported, as well.
In addition, more predictable and timely funding of emergency activities was necessary, including immediate access to start-up funds and funds that covered unforeseen developments. Funding must also be flexible in order to promote equity of response; many African emergencies were underfunded. In order to fulfil some of those needs, the Secretary-General had recommended an expansion and improvement of the Central Emergency Fund through voluntary contributions. He asked for the ECOSOC’s support and endorsement for that proposal.
The best use of existing resources must be made, he said, through improved coordination of human, financial and material resources at all levels. The private and public sectors must be key partners in that effort, and standby arrangements were crucial. Maximizing the full capacity available required partnerships with regional, national and local organizations. It also required more consistent engagement and more formal standby agreements, particularly with governments, private corporations and military partners.
Improved leadership at the field level for humanitarian coordination was needed, which required better selection, expanded training and greater delegated authority. Overall, he concluded, the key to an effective humanitarian response was predictability. For that purpose, the humanitarian system must examine and strengthen its current tools and competencies.
XU JING, Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific of the World Tourism Organization, said the recent tsunami had adversely affected four countries heavily dependent on the tourism industry: Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives and Sri Lanka. To relieve the situation, the communications and promotional community must be persuaded to broadcast the message that it was time for the tourist community to return to those destinations.
Governments and the international community had taken steps to return the area to an amenable environment, he said. Relief efforts had focused on the small to medium tourism sector; training or retraining programmes had been carried out; the sustainable coastal green belt had been redeveloped; and an early warning system had been put into place that would lead to the development of additional crisis management measures in the long term.
Thanks to support from regional neighbours and the worldwide international community, he said, the impact of the disaster had been limited. The total volume of business lost was less than 3 per cent of that earned under normal conditions. However, tourism accounted for 70 per cent of the Maldives income. Hotel occupancy rates in the affected area ranged from 30 to 40 per cent. The summer tourism income had been lost and the next season would not come until November.
Those concerned with the region should send out the message that those places were ready for business in line with a “travel-with-a-heart” theme being promoted, he urged. The press should be encouraged to go and provide visual coverage of the recovery. It should advertise the fact that Thailand had already put in an early warning systems to reassure the tourist community.
ARIEL BOWEN, (Jamaica), speaking of behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China said the Group wished to reiterate its support for the guidelines contained in the annex to resolution 46/182 of 16 December 1991 as the basis for all responses to humanitarian emergency requests for assistance. The Group welcomed the Secretary-General’s recent report on humanitarian missions and believed that more attention should be placed on strengthened financial mechanisms and the creation of predictable funding for all emergencies, particularly neglected emergencies that do not received strong media coverage.
She supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to expand the use of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF) to address a variety of financial gaps needed to meet the rapidly growing needs in the initial phases of an emergency. The Group also noted the efforts of the Secretary-General to establish guidelines for humanitarian missions that respond to complex emergency situations. But the Group noted the need to ensure that humanitarian organizations work, as appropriate, with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to insure that multidimensional peacekeeping operations encompass humanitarian components.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said he saw scope for further work in improving coordination in the aftermath of disasters, including in the area of civil-military cooperation, bearing in mind relevant guidelines on the use of civil-military defence assets. Now that reconstruction planning following the Indian Ocean tsunami was completed and agreements were in place, he hoped to see more rapid progress in restoring livelihoods and in reducing the need for temporary shelter. The Union would continue to remain engaged and had pledged 2.3 billion euros for humanitarian programmes and reconstruction combined.
While humanitarian response to the tsunami-affected region was reliable and effective, that could not always be said for responses to other emergencies, particularly those in Africa, he said. In that regard, he agreed with the Secretary-General that cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders at the field level was crucial in ensuring that the system-wide capacity worked effectively. Such coordination could be greatly enhanced by strengthening the quality and leadership of United Nations humanitarian coordinators, who should lead the development of more inclusive and strategic common humanitarian action plans and consolidated appeals.
Also, he continued, the speed of deployment in humanitarian emergencies was essential in ensuring effective coordination and timely service delivery and he supported efforts to mobilize technical expertise rapidly, as well as essential common services, including at the regional, national and local levels. He looked forward to receiving recommendations on that in the context of the humanitarian response review. Recognizing the need for more equitable, flexible and timely funding for humanitarian crises, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to improve the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, and hoped progress could be made on that at the forthcoming Assembly session.
An essential element of a successful recovery from a natural disaster was disaster risk-reduction efforts, both as a preventive measure and during reconstruction, he said, calling on Member States to give more weight to disaster mitigation and preparedness in development planning and poverty-reduction strategies. Regarding integrated missions, he noted that there was no blueprint as to how “integrated” United Nations structures should be in the field; rather the form of a mission should follow the function it was expected to carry out. In all cases, the mandates and practice of integrated missions must be organized in such a way that ensured respect for humanitarian principles for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
RUCHI GHANASHYAM (India), aligning her statement with that of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed appreciation for the self-critical approach of the humanitarian response system. As funding was one of the most important gaps in humanitarian response, she said that the proposal for the expansion of the Emergency Revolving Fund required serious consideration.
At this point, she said, it would also be useful to make an assessment of the extent to which military assets were made available to the United Nations humanitarian system for disaster response. The use of such assets should be at the request of, and with the consent of, the receiving State and in accordance with relevant provisions of international and national law.
She expressed concern, however, at an attempt to dilute the principle of State sovereignty through humanitarian mandates which allowed humanitarian operations without government consent. Moreover, some recent reports spoke of humanitarian agencies continuing to substitute for national authorities, rather than developing national capacities in post-conflict transitions. Developing national capacity should be a primary goal.
NATASHA SMITH (Australia) supported international efforts to ensure emergency response mechanisms were as timely and effective as possible. Greater predictability in funding, improvement of standby capacities, and the setting of benchmarks for the delivery of humanitarian responses were practical ways in which the humanitarian response system could be strengthened. She agreed that more needed to be done to ensure that expertise and capacity was available in all humanitarian sectors, including protection.
She also agreed with the need for heightened coordination between all humanitarian actors. In that light, she said that that the role of humanitarian coordinators in the field should be strengthened. Coordination structures needed to be set up before crises set in. In the transitional period after the emergency, humanitarian action was also critical. Sustainable solutions to assist displaced communities were a high priority for Australian support to its neighbours.
Saving lives was only a beginning, she continued. Recovery must be a shared priority for humanitarian, development, peace and security actors. She highlighted the need for strengthening administration and governance systems in the transition phase to ensure solid foundations for development. Further work was also needed to integrate disaster preparedness and mitigation measures into national development strategies. In that context, Australia was pleased to play a leading role in developing the Indian Ocean tsunami warning and mitigation system.
VASSILY NEBENZYA (Russian Federation) said the United Nations system should focus on strengthening its coordination functions in the field to insure a smooth transition from relief to development after natural disasters and complex emergencies. The transitional programmes should integrate the national priorities for medium- and long-term development of the affected country. And it was also important that humanitarian activities incorporate disaster prevention elements into their programmes of recovery and rehabilitation.
He said he supported the United Nations “complex approach” to post-conflict situations, meaning the integration of humanitarian components into multidimensional peacekeeping operations under the relevant mandate of the United Nations Security Council. And, he supported the nomination of a resident coordinator/humanitarian coordinator as a Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the affected country.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said the leadership and performance of the resident coordinators/humanitarian coordinators should be strengthened, in order to improve the overall response of the UN system, as well as the response between UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to expand the Central Emergency Revolving Fund as a way to enable an immediate response to sudden disasters, fund neglected emergencies and address sectoral gaps.
South Africa also supported the recommendations to improve the humanitarian system’s rapid response capacity, along with the setting of targets, he added. Those targets would measure and support the timeliness of the response, the speed of disbursement and the predictability of the support.
TONI FRISCH, Deputy Director, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said the protection of civilians in crises was an area to which his Government gave priority. It was the prime responsibility of national authorities to ensure the protection of persons in situations of duress. Those authorities must also ensure the access of humanitarian organizations to civilian populations in compliance with humanitarian principles. Regrettably, such access was still too frequently obstructed, at times wilfully, by both State and non-State actors. Also, he emphasized the need to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action of 2005-2015 in order to develop a genuine culture of prevention in the area of disaster reduction. Disaster reduction, humanitarian action and sustainable development were mutually reinforcing objectives.
With regard to “integrated” missions, he said that the result of integration could not be the subordination of humanitarian actors to a political mandate and structure. It was crucial that humanitarian action continue to be based on humanitarian principles in all circumstances. Humanitarian actors, beginning with OCHA, needed to participate fully in the strategic and operational preparation and planning of the so-called integrated missions. Switzerland would continue to support strengthening the coordination of humanitarian action at the local and international levels. It supported efforts to build up human resource capabilities on the ground at the country team level. That would help to improve the credibility of the humanitarian system by providing OCHA with a sufficient number of qualified personnel to carry out demanding tasks which humanitarian coordination required in situations of emergency and transition.
CATHERINE BRAGG (Canada) said the humanitarian system must improve its ability to respond to concurrent large-scale crises and to provide predictable response capacity in key sectors. The United Nations standby arrangement system must be made more robust, including through arrangements to deploy national resources to support the United Nations emergency response. The Indian Ocean tsunamis had shown the need to improve the coordination mechanisms of OCHA for using military assets in natural disaster contexts. An impressive number of States were willing to deploy such assets. Such support, however, should be demand-driven, rather than driven by supply. It should be rendered with clear guidance and coordination by the United Nations.
She said she supported proposals for strengthening the country team system, including the functions of the humanitarian and resident coordinators. She also supported steps to increase the predictability, flexibility, timeliness and equity in humanitarian funding. Changes should be made in the international peace and security architecture to increase the United Nations human rights capacity and to address the issues involved in making the transition from relief to development through mechanisms such as the proposed Peacebuilding Commission.
HYUN CHO (Republic of Korea) applauded the solidarity the international community had shown in its timely response and unprecedented support for tsunami-affected countries. To improve the humanitarian response, the most prominent need was the coordination of relief bodies with local and national levels of administration in disaster-affected countries. For that reason, strong national and local institutions were required.
In addition, he said, key partnerships must be strengthened and overlapping areas of responsibility between actions must be clarified. For that purpose, the Republic of Korea had organized a “Public-Private Assistance Partnership Forum.” Education and preventive planning was also essential and required the active involvement of the populations at risk. His country had taken various initiatives to enhance disaster preparedness capacity. In light of the huge amount of funding made available after the tsunami, he supported the creation of a transparent financial tracking system. He said he would also like the Central Emergency Revolving Fund to be strengthened as a mechanism for increasing available cash funds during a crisis.
MIRIAM HUGHES (United States) underscored her country’s dedication to effective humanitarian response and preparedness, and agreed with the five humanitarian goals stated in the draft outcome document for the upcoming General Assembly. She also recognized the need for timely and flexible funding for humanitarian response.
She emphasized the needed to strengthen assistance to displaced persons and protection for at-risk populations. She also looked forward to working out details for the efficient deployment of humanitarian personnel in response to crises. She said that recent crises demonstrated the need for clear lines of authority, responsibility and control among United Nations agencies from the moment an emergency unfolded.
Humanitarian needs required strong international support, she said, and the United States remained the single largest donor in that area. She called for increased support from all donors, especially in regard to the food crisis in southern Africa. The United Nations must improve the world’s knowledge of such needs in all regions. The tsunami crisis demonstrated the world’s enormous generosity; it also showed the risks of inadequate preparedness and lack of early warning capacity.
SUSAN ECKEY (Norway) highlighted two important issues on the humanitarian agenda -- “humanitarian space” in integrated missions and an expanded Central Emergency Revolving Fund. There was still reluctance about integrated missions because of “humanitarian space” concerns and a feeling that “integration” had been too synonymous with “subordination”. That perception was particularly strong in non-United Nations humanitarian organizations, but was present in United Nations humanitarian bodies as well. While strong integration might increase intra-United Nations cohesion, it risked undermining the position of the United Nations in the wider humanitarian coordination. The planning processes of integrated missions should be as inclusive as possible from the start, and the field level should be involved.
Also, she continued, coherent planning required coherent financing. All activities included in the mission mandate should be financed by assessed contributions. Among the recommendations of the Humanitarian Response Review, to which Norway contributed financing, was the need to revise the Central Revolving Emergency Fund as a means of improving the financing of humanitarian action. Her Prime Minister had announced that Norway was prepared to come up with a contribution of about $15 million next year, provided that the General Assembly adopted the necessary changes in the statutes of the Fund. The urgent need for better financing of humanitarian action was evident.
ZHANG YISHAN (China), supporting the statement made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that given the huge catastrophe created by the Indian Ocean tsunami, it was highly necessary for ECOSOC to hold a lessons-learned panel on disaster relief. In that light, OCHA should further strengthen the coordination of relief work, in order to give full play to the comparative advantages of various relief agencies.
In providing humanitarian assistance, the United Nations should strictly follow the guiding principle of “humanity, neutrality and impartiality” and carry out humanitarian relief operations on the basis of the consent of the countries affected. He also called on OCHA to intensify its resource mobilization activities, calling on developed countries to increase their contributions.
Prone to natural disasters, China often suffered from earthquakes, flood and drought, which every year resulted in huge losses of life and property. Nevertheless, China provided $20 million in assistance for tsunami-affected countries, in cash and kind, through the United Nations system, beside other assistance to developing countries. China would further strengthen its cooperation with OCHA in the future.
JUAN MANUEL GÓMEZ ROBLEDO (Mexico) said the safety of emergency assistance teams must be insured. The guiding principles of resolutions related to the matter must never violate the right of humanitarian workers to be protected in carrying out their duties. In situations where the State was unwilling or unable to insure such safety, all efforts must be made to achieve a peaceful resolution. Once those efforts were exhausted, the international community had a responsibility to protect civilians. If necessary, the international court system could be relied upon.
He said his own country’s vulnerability to natural disasters made it particularly sympathetic to the devastation that Cuba and Haiti had recently suffered from hurricane Dennis. States in vulnerable locations must be given international assistance to manage the challenges, without being penalized by a lowering of other forms of assistance being given them. Also, the selective attention given to disasters was disturbing. It betrayed signs of politicization, and that was never acceptable. He supported the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission and said mechanisms to improve the reliability of funding should continue to be explored. The debate on protecting vulnerable group should no longer be put off.
CELESINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said international cooperation should be increased in order to strengthen all types of mechanisms -- from the regional to global levels -- to prevent, prepare and mitigate natural disasters.
He welcomed the international community’s renewed commitment to initiatives that could improve the early warning capacity of disasters. He added that the tragedy had handed the affected governments and its citizens an unprecedented opportunity for reconstruction and development. He said cooperation among all countries and agencies served as a platform to help the survivors and all people affected by the tsunami.
IBRAHIM OSMAN, Director, Policy and Relations Division of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that better preparation for natural disasters at the community and local level was the single most important contribution governments and the international community could make to security of nations and their people. An important lesson from Sri Lanka following the tsunami was that there needed to be more well-trained volunteers, capable of intervening at the community level, if the country was to be able to withstand such calamities in the future. His organization had spoken many times about the paramount importance of community-based disaster preparedness, an excellent example of which was found in Bangladesh.
One crucial element of disaster preparedness must be “legal preparedness” for disaster response, he said. That was particularly true with regard to international relief, as general laws and policies designed to ensure orderly control of entry of persons, goods and transport were frequently not attuned to disaster situations and became fatal blockages at times of greatest urgency. In 2003, the IFRC’s International Disaster Laws, Rules and Principles Programme began the world’s first comprehensive compilation of the rather disparate corpus of existing international instruments in that area. Continued attention from ECOSOC and other United Nations bodies was needed, if the current disparate legal framework was to be further developed into a consistent body of law which reflected best practice and addressed challenges in the field.
Believing that timely exchange of information was crucial when a disaster struck, the Federation would stress, at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November, the importance of “e-preparedness” -- the effective use of information and communications technology as an asset in the building and maintenance of community resilience and for disaster preparedness and response.
REMIGIO MARTÍN MARADONA, representing the Convention/Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Food Microalgae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (CISRI-ISP), spoke about how microalgae foods could be used to prevent malnutrition and alleviate extreme hunger during emergency humanitarian relief efforts, as well as in non-emergency situations. Microalgae Spirulina is an aquatic algae that provides proteins, vitamins and minerals and can add value to other rehabilitative measures, such as cereals and oral salts, to counter hunger and starvation.
Mr. Maradona urged Member States to sign the Treaty on the Use of Microalgae Foods Again Malnutrition as a way to take concrete steps to alleviate malnutrition and extreme hunger. Based in Rome, CISRI-ISP is a catalyst intergovernmental institution in the fight against malnutrition and extreme hunger.
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