8 March 2006

Twenty-Three Governments Donate to United Nations Emergency Fund

NEW YORK, 7 March (OCHA) -- With the Governments of Iceland and India making pledges to the new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the number of Governments supporting the Fund has risen to 23.  The Government of Iceland has pledged $150,000, and the Government of India has offered $2,000,000.  The new pledges come days before CERF is formally launched on 9 March.  The Fund was approved by the General Assembly in December of 2005 and marks another milestone in the United Nations reform process.

The 23 Member States that have pledged a total of $196 million to CERF include the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Finland, France, Greece, Estonia, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Liechtenstein, Grenada, Armenia, Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Iceland and India.  In addition, a contribution was made by the Disaster Resource Network, as well as by the Prefecture of Hyogo (Japan).  Because 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.

"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.

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 underfunded 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 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, tel.:  +1 917 367 5126, mobile:  +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, tel.:  +41 22 917 2653, mobile:  +41 79 473 4570.

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