4 December 2008

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Replenishment Conference for the Central Emergency Response Fund in New York, 4 December:

We meet at a time of great global anxiety.  We have a chance, here today, to help those most vulnerable to war, strife, hunger, drought, floods and other disasters.

When calamity strikes, millions of people around the world look to the United Nations for relief.  Our goal is to work with all partners to make sure that the victims, no matter where or who they are, get the emergency assistance they need.

The world has high expectations of the United Nations.  As soon as a crisis hits, whether it is a cyclone or a firefight, people want to know “where is the United Nations?”  And indeed, often we are on the scene before the question can even be asked.  At other times, we rush in as soon as possible.  And we always stand ready to help in any way possible.

We can be proud of our record, but we still have to work to deliver aid more quickly, equitably and effectively.

Before the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was established, we struggled to provide funds in time to have the greatest impact.  Any aid worker can tell you that, in a disaster, delays are deadly.  It is in the earliest hours of a crisis that the most lives are saved –- or lost.  Tragically, humanitarian funds were coming too late for some victims.

Now we have CERF, which approves funds in as little as 48 hours -– a fraction of the time it used to take.

Moreover, CERF funds are allocated more equitably.  The sad fact is that it is easier to raise funds when there are television cameras to broadcast suffering around the world.  Without the media spotlight, the same degree of pain does not get the same compassionate response.

CERF helps redress this injustice by setting aside one third of funds for what we call “forgotten” crises.

In its first three years, CERF has provided more than a billion dollars for food, shelter, clean water and health care for tens of millions of people, from Afghanistan to Zambia.  Sixty-seven countries have received CERF funds. 

Even more are contributing:  93 countries, nearly half of the United Nations membership.  I thank all those who are part of this life-saving Fund.  And I urge all other countries to give what they can.

Many States now contributing to CERF have also received its donations.   Bangladesh, China, El Salvador, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Syria are among them.

And numerous Group of 77 members are also contributors, such as Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

CERF is truly a Fund by all, a Fund for all.  It shows the United Nations taking immediate action to alleviate acute human suffering.  I saw this myself during my recent visit to Bangladesh and Nepal, where CERF funds are helping to deliver real results to real people in real time.

The Fund is also improving coordination and strengthening partnerships.  This ensures that we get the most out of every high-energy biscuit and every drop of clean water.

Responding to humanitarian disasters is not just a moral imperative; it is critical for development.

This year’s floods in Central America showed how natural disasters can destroy in seconds what took years to build.  The strife in Kenya proved the same point.  If we move quickly to reverse such damage, we have a much better shot at long-term development.

The financial crisis, climate change and population growth are likely to increase demands for relief aid in the future.  We will need more resources to meet those demands.

Already, nearly 20 per cent of CERF funds are being used to help people suffering from extreme weather and other disasters caused by climate change.  When food prices spiked earlier this year, I set aside $100 million from CERF to help more than 16 million people who could not afford enough to eat.  Those funds have been used; in fact, we could have used three times that amount.

The needs are tremendous, but I believe that your generosity can match them.

There are millions of lives at stake.  So I appeal to you, on behalf of these suffering people, to contribute as much as possible to the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Your contributions will make it possible for CERF to save countless lives in emergency situations around the world.

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For information media • not an official record