16 December 2005

Under-Secretary-General Welcomes General Assembly's Adoption of New Central Emergency Response Fund

NEW YORK, 15 December (OCHA) -- The General Assembly's endorsement of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was a key achievement that would do much to help strengthen the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance, Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said today.

The Under-Secretary-General was welcoming the General Assembly's adoption by consensus of the resolution on Strengthening the Coordination of the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations this morning, which established the CERF.  The new fund supersedes the previous Central Emergency Revolving Fund, a loan facility of $50 million established by the Assembly in 1991, augmenting it with an additional $450 million grant element.

"As we have seen in 2005 -- a year bracketed by the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan -- the world has no time to lose.  2005 showed us that, in our interconnected world, a disaster local in origin can be global in impact", Mr. Egeland added.

Predictable funding for humanitarian emergencies is a key component of the Secretary-General's reform package, proposed ahead of September's World Summit.  The new CERF will save lives by providing immediate funding for initial life-saving assistance during the early days and months of an emergency.  Most lives are lost in the first days following an earthquake, flood or other disaster; to save lives, aid workers need immediate cash and supplies.  Late funding also costs donors more money, since a faster response is a more cost-effective response.

The new emergency fund will also help to ensure resources to support life-saving aid in crises that are overlooked and seriously underfunded so that all those who suffer receive assistance according to need, rather than creed, politics or media attention.

"Although this is an important step forward, we need to do more in other areas", Mr. Egeland emphasized.  "We recognize that we need to improve coordination and to ensure that countries invest in cost-effective disaster preparedness and early warning systems, which can save countless lives."

Important next steps to get the fund up and running include the establishment of a 12-member Advisory Group, comprising eight representatives of contributing countries and four experts appointed by the Secretary-General.  United Nations internal and external auditors will monitor the upgraded CERF on an annual basis.  Additionally, grant-receiving United Nations agencies will carry out their own audits.  A CERF web site, including financial and expenditure tracking, will provide real time updates to the public on how funds are used.

The new CERF will be launched in mid-January 2006 and should be fully operational by March.  The fund currently has $173 million in pledges, with another $40 million in the pipeline.

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 5126, mobile:  +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 9262; Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, tel.:  +41 22 917 2653, mobile:  +41 79 473 4570.

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