3 March 2006

Nineteen Governments Donate to United Nations Emergency Fund

NEW YORK, 2 March (OCHA) -- In one week, the United Nations will formally launch the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  The goal of the Fund is simple; to provide aid workers with sufficient funding to jump-start lifesaving relief operations and to immediately deploy staff, goods and services for people in need, when most lives are on the line.  The Fund was approved by the General Assembly in December of 2005, and marks another milestone in the United Nations reform process.

"Too often, aid resembles a lottery, in which a few win, but most lose, based on considerations other than need.  We must move from lottery to predictability, so all those who suffer receive aid," said Jan Egeland, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

So far, 19 Member States have pledged a total of $188 million to the CERF, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Finland, France, Greece, Estonia, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Liechtenstein, Grenada, Armenia, Mexico and Pakistan.  In addition, a contribution was made by the Disaster Resource Network.  Because the CERF is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) urges more Governments, the private sector and individuals to donate to CERF, to eliminate delays in funding.

The CERF will save lives by providing quick initial funding for life-saving assistance and rapid response in sudden onset emergencies, rapid deteriorations, and neglected emergencies.  It will, thereby, help rectify the existing imbalance in global aid distribution, as a result of which, millions of people in so-called neglected or forgotten crises, remain in need, while others benefit from better funded programmes.

The Fund adds a grant facility of up to $450 million to the existing Central Emergency Revolving Fund loan mechanism of $50 million.  Up to two thirds of the grant facility can be allocated to rapid response, with the other one-third devoted to addressing under-funded emergencies.  When donor funds are in the pipeline, the loan portion will be used, when not -- the grant portion.

Jan Egeland, who manages the Fund on behalf of the Secretary-General, will disburse funds within three to four days after the request of a Humanitarian or Resident Coordinator.  He will be guided by an Advisory Group of 12 independent experts.  While United Nations Agencies and the International Organization for Migration are able to draw on the Fund, non-governmental organizations may also receive CERF funds, as partners of these agencies.

The Secretary-General's report In Larger Freedom recognized that further improvements to the humanitarian system were needed, to introduce more predictability in overall humanitarian response, given the increasingly complex humanitarian environment, including the increased frequency and vulnerability to natural disasters and the significant humanitarian impact of armed conflict.  In addition to the CERF, other key humanitarian reforms include strengthening the response capacity and field coordination of the humanitarian system.

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

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