|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
press conference on high-level central emergency response fund meeting
Happy to bring some good news at his last press conference as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland announced today that 50 donors had pledged an “astounding” $345 million to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
He said some 100 delegations had just concluded the second meeting to build and develop CERF. Among the donors were countries that had received assistance from the Fund, such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Philippines and Timor-Leste. Together with its existing $50 million loan facility, CERF had $395 million. That was an example of how the United Nations could reform, was willing to reform, but also had to reform. CERF was now a well-funded vehicle that could provide immediate financing to operations.
In the eight months of its existence, CERF had funded 320 projects, including some involved in providing water sanitation to 1 million people and immunization of 3 million children, he said. Whereas only 16 per cent of previous pledges had been received during the first month of an emergency –- the most critical period in which lives could be saved -– with CERF, funding could come immediately, thereby avoiding “pipeline breaks”.
He said that, after three-and-a half years in his current capacity, he was gratified by the success of the reform effort. Not only was funding now predictable, but as a result, humanitarian assistance had become better organized, which meant the United Nations was also more predictable in its humanitarian assistance. Moreover, thanks to a standby pool of humanitarian coordinators, leadership had also become more predictable. “We win through this more predictable and reformed system, and we will be able to save more lives like never before,” he added.
Masoud Haider, President of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), thanking Mr. Egeland for his willingness and ready availability to the media, said the United Nations press corps would certainly miss him.
Answering questions, the outgoing Under-Secretary-General described CERF as one element in the Secretary-General’s reform package, which also included the Peacebuilding Fund and the Democracy Fund. CERF was the first one to be launched and effectively used, in large part because of its “very generous” donor support.
Some countries were “amazingly generous”, he added, noting that the United Kingdom had pledged $78 million and Norway $57 million, or $12 per capita, while the world average was still a few cents per capita. Sweden and the Netherlands had pledged more than $50 million.
There had been 30 to 40 donors from the South, he said, adding that the Maldives had given $1,000, despite having been devastated by the December 2004 tsunami. It was encouraging that countries acceding to the European Union, such as Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic and Hungary, had also made pledges. Even though the United States and Canada had made no big pledges, there was reason to believe the delay was caused by their cumbersome budgetary processes, and that their pledges would come in later.
Many donors tried to become more predictable, contrary to what had happened in the past, when money was only pledged if a disaster was seen on television, he continued. It was gratifying that only 1 per cent of pledges went unfulfilled. The total funding was available on the CERF website, http://cerf.un.org.
Noting that Saudi Arabia’s pledge of $20,000 should have been higher, he said Qatar, a small country, had pledged $2 million. The problem was that private charities were more popular in those countries. CERF would be looking for corporate donors, but that was a long-term project. Apart from the Gates Foundation and other such entities, most corporate donors were still at the stage of reacting to something seen on television.
Asked about a statement, by a representative of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, that those failing to pray five times a day would be beheaded, he said he had not received systematic confirmation that Shariah law was being implemented in that organization’s areas of influence, but that there were worrying signs that fundamentalists were abusing human rights. The main worry in Somalia was the security “void”. That country, in addition to Darfur, Chad, Iraq and large parts of Afghanistan, were life-threatening for human rights workers and journalists. The worry in Somalia was that several parties were moving head on into a military confrontation that would have disastrous consequences for the civilian population of a country that was already suffering from droughts and floods.
Somalia, Chad and Darfur formed a triangle that was in “free fall” because of the security void, he continued. The situation in Somalia was as bad as it had been for many years. While there were indeed fewer conflicts worldwide, abuse of civilians was up.
Answering personal questions, he said he had been inspired, at 17, by a Catholic priest from Colombia, who had made a television appeal for youths to help him. On his 19th birthday, he had found himself, therefore, with an Indian tribe in a guerrilla-controlled area. That had been his inspiration.
Asked whether he could give any advice, he said it would be: “Do not refrain from taking risks or doing controversial things.” That had been the success of northern Uganda, an area in which he would remain involved.
He responded to a question about his greatest frustration and proudest accomplishment by recalling his having started with Darfur in the fall of 2003, when it had been a forgotten and neglected emergency. One of the positive things he had been able to do was to bring that situation to the attention of the Security Council and the media, thus breaking down the “Berlin Wall” around Darfur, to which there had previously been no access. Now, Darfur had the biggest and most effective humanitarian operation in the world. The predictable lack of political and security action there was, perhaps, the biggest frustration. It was also gratifying to be able to cast light on such forgotten emergencies as those in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda.
* *** *For information media • not an official record