10 March 2006

Establishment of Emergency Fund "Statement of Conscience" by International Community, Says Secretary-General at Headquarters Launch

NEW YORK, 9 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the launch of the Central Emergency Response Fund in New York, 9 March:

I am delighted to join you today at the launch of the upgraded Central Emergency Response Fund.

As you know, for far too long, humanitarian assistance for disaster victims has remained a reactive process.  Relief funds have been sought only after disaster has struck.  This has meant that, despite the best of intentions, lives which could have been saved were lost.

Today, we mark a change.  We meet to launch a fund which is proactive rather than reactive.  The CERF will provide a ready pool of resources that better empower the United Nations in funding immediate relief efforts in the aftermath of disasters.  It will ensure that, in the critical realm of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations will do more, and do it sooner.

The CERF's targeted $500 million in stand-by resources will allow relief agencies to jump-start life-saving assistance.  Instead of waiting for money to trickle in, the Fund will enable us to deploy staff, goods, and services immediately, when most lives are at stake.  Equally important, the CERF will be fair.  Through it, both headline disasters and forgotten crises will receive emergency aid to address basic humanitarian needs.  It will provide assistance anywhere, and save lives everywhere.

The CERF is, of course, first and foremost a tool for emergency humanitarian work.  But it carries significant implications for the fight against poverty, and for our achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Poor communities and fragile economies are ill-equipped to absorb the shocks of natural disasters and violent conflicts.  By providing timely aid, the CERF can enable relief before crises spiral out of control, allowing faster transitions to recovery and rebuilding.  In this the CERF can help save not just lives, but livelihoods; it can keep children immunized, families and livestock fed, and water-borne diseases at bay.

This approach can be particularly effective in instances of slow onset natural disasters, like the drought affecting millions in the Horn of Africa, where timely assistance could halt, if not reverse, downward trends in standards of living.  Because of this, the CERF can help us maintain momentum in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially in those regions where progress is most needed.

The CERF will save lives, and it will be fair.  But you also have my commitment that it will be transparent. Through full disclosure and up-to-date tracking, the CERF will set new standards for accountability, not simply to Member States, but to the public as well.  A dedicated CERF website will report all expenditures and programme results to the General Assembly, donors, and the public.  You will see where your donations are being used, and you will see how they are impacting lives.

Of course, for the international community, the CERF is not simply a fund; it is a statement of principle.  It is a statement that in a world of plenty, unnecessary and avoidable suffering is inexcusable.  It is a statement that though disaster victims may be unseen, they are never forgotten.  It is a statement that suffering anywhere is a threat to humanity everywhere.

It is, quite simply, a statement of conscience.

Today, as we gather to act on our conscience, our commitments must reach deep into our wallets.

The financial generosity of the world's wealthiest countries is critical.  But let me also recognize the developing countries that have pledged precious resources.

I realize that funds are scarce and your contribution to the CERF competes with the fight against poverty at home.  But your statement of solidarity is important, and your contributions especially welcome.

The World Summit resulted in many important, even historic, decisions.  But few of those decisions evidenced as clear-cut a consensus, and as immediate a potential for saving lives, as an operationalized CERF.  That is in part why the CERF was the first World Summit decision to be implemented by the General Assembly.  That is also why we are all here today.

So I urge you once again to be generous in your support.  It will prove to be, I believe, one of the very best investments you could make.

Thank you.

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