As we convene here in New York, some 300 000 Pakistanis are facing the coming winter in Kashmir without the necessary shelter and assistance. At the same time, an estimated 10 million people are facing drought and severe food shortages in southern Africa. In both cases, the response from donors to UN appeals has been slow.
We have to face the fact that we have failed.
We believe that these two humanitarian crises could have been handled differently – and more effectively – if the UN and OCHA had been equipped with the necessary tools when up against the fierce forces of nature – or of man.
The UN’s role in emergency humanitarian assistance is increasingly important because its services are in great demand. Strengthening the coordination of the UN’s humanitarian assistance is called for because we have an obligation to supply help to those in need. Providing the UN with the necessary resources is essential because we want the UN to be a strong coordinator.
Norway therefore welcomes the upgrading of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF), which will make it a permanent emergency fund that can quickly respond to – and possibly prevent – crises like the one in southern Africa. We are anxious to see the upgraded CERF operational as early as possible in 2006.
In line with the UN humanitarian reform agenda, the main purpose of the fund is to improve the international response capacity. This means improving the speed, equity and predictability of humanitarian response on the ground. This is indeed called for. Increasingly, the UN and the donor community are faced with demands for quick and flexible responses to sudden-impact, complex emergencies. Furthermore, an upgraded CERF is necessary in order to ensure better and more systematic focus on neglected emergencies. It will provide funding that will allow agencies to respond to appeals that donors collectively have not yet been able to fund to the extent needed.
The new CERF is not a goal in itself. For Norway, the key success criterion for humanitarian reform is that it more effectively meets humanitarian needs on the ground. The fund is an important step towards this goal, and we intend to cooperate closely with OCHA, relevant UN agencies and member states to ensure that CERF becomes a successful financial mechanism. But we will not be able to provide flexible and speedy funding unless certain conditions are met:
It will require an unbureaucratic and flexible advisory group structure. It will require clear criteria for the allocation of resources. It will require both strong leadership and a high degree of consensus on how the criteria are applied in practice – both between the UN and donors, and between the UN and NGOs. It will require accurate needs assessments. It will require appropriate accounting and reporting mechanisms.
We would also like to see a better and more systematic dialogue with NGOs on how we can improve our response capacity. Good humanitarian donorship is not least about the adequacy of humanitarian financing, as well as flexibility and predictability. The new CERF provides an opportunity for us to encourage higher levels of donor funding – and to demonstrate in practice the true value of our humanitarian principles. Our goal - our mandate - is improved humanitarian response, not financial redistribution.
The time has come to break with the perpetual underfunding of standby and preparedness mechanisms. The Norwegian Government has therefore pledged NOK 200 million to the fund. These are additional funds and we urge other donors to inject the same.