ECOSOC ENDORSES DECISION TO ESTABLISH WORLD SOLIDARITY FUND TO ERADICATE POVERTY AND PROMOTE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

11 July 2003
ECOSOC/6072

ECOSOC ENDORSES DECISION TO ESTABLISH WORLD SOLIDARITY FUND TO ERADICATE POVERTY AND PROMOTE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

11/07/2003
Press ReleaseECOSOC/6072

ECOSOC ENDORSES DECISION TO ESTABLISH WORLD SOLIDARITY FUND

TO ERADICATE POVERTY AND PROMOTE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Panel Held on Financing and Effectiveness of Humanitarian Assistance

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 11 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted a resolution this afternoon endorsing the decision of the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish the World Solidarity Fund to eradicate poverty and to promote social development in developing countries.

By the terms of the resolution, ECOSOC requested that the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme take measures to operationalize the World Solidarity Fund by establishing a high-level committee whose task it would be to define its strategy.  The Administrator was also requested, and interested Member States were invited, to publicize the World Solidarity Fund and raise awareness of its existence among public and private sectors as well as within civil society.  Developing countries were invited, as soon as resources were made available to the Fund, to identify projects to be submitted for financing by the World Solidarity Fund. 

The ECOSOC also held a panel discussion on humanitarian financing and effectiveness of human assistance, moderated by Carolyn McAskie, the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.  She told the Council of the recent unspeakable atrocities she had witnessed in Africa and the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the needs of suffering people were met. 

One of the panellists, Jan Berteling, Director of Human Rights, Humanitarian Assistance, Good Governance and Peacebuilding in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said the pattern of donor behaviour was a patchwork of policies and activities, which taken together, did not provide the basis for a coherent or effective system for financing humanitarian needs.  He suggested that Consolidated Appeals Processes (CAP) be funded as such, and not the individual activities or agencies.  This would lead to better donor coordination, more effective aid and better humanitarian financing.   

Magnus Lennartsson Nakamitsu, Deputy Director and Head of the Humanitarian Section in the Department of Global Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said humanitarian assistance was peculiar in its very nature since it relied almost entirely on voluntary contributions.  Despite recent improvements in funding, planning and coordination, there was still a need to address several areas such as predictability, timeliness, flexibility, transparency, equity, adequacy, burden sharing and accountability in funding.

Focusing on the least funded area in the humanitarian community, Jean-Jacques Graisse, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme, said more was required in the field of contingency planning and preparedness.  There was no logic in waiting until people were sitting on the roofs of their houses needing immediate help before beginning a consolidated appeals process.  

Simon Mechale, Commissioner on the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission of Ethiopia, echoed this sentiment and said that because of the diversity of needs of affected populations, contributions in kind -– food products, clean water, shelter, livestock -– were as important as cash contributions.

Kamel Morjane, Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) viewed humanitarian intervention in a holistic manner –- a process of peace consolidation and development.  However, in order to maximize the international community’s response to humanitarian emergencies, greater coherence among all actors –- United Nations system agencies, non-governmental organizations, host governments and affected communities –- was needed. 

In a subsequent interactive segment, speakers brought up issues related to fair and impartial humanitarian needs assessments; donor fatigue and protracted emergencies; worrisome trends of politicization in humanitarian assistance; the role of diaspora contributions to humanitarian aid; conditionalities and favouritism; as well as how ECOSOC and donor countries could support non-traditional donors in areas such as transportation.  

Participating in the interactive segment were representatives of Pakistan, Denmark, Jamaica, Kenya, India, Ethiopia, United States and Nepal.  

Also this afternoon, the Council took note of documents submitted by the Secretary-general, the Joint Inspection Unit, the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Population Fund.

The ECOSOC will reconvene on Monday, 14 July, at 10 a.m. when it will hold a panel discussion on the transition from relief to development. 

Action on Resolution and Other Action

The Council adopted a resolution on the World Solidarity Fund (document E/2003/L.21) in which it endorses the decision of the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish the World Solidarity Fund to eradicate poverty and to promote social development in the developing countries, while stressing the voluntary nature of the contributions and the need to avoid duplication of existing United Nations funds; requests the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to take further measures to operationalize the World Solidarity Fund by establishing on an urgent basis the high-level committee whose task it is to define the strategy of the Fund; requests also the Administrator of the UNDP and invites interested Member States to take all necessary measures to publicize the World Solidarity Fund and to raise awareness of its existence among the public and the private sectors as well as the civil society; and invites developing countries, as soon as resources were made available to the Fund, to identify indicative projects to be submitted for financing by the World Solidarity Fund and requests the UNDP to cooperate with national authorities in this regard. 

Also this afternoon, the Council took note of the following documents:  note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled “Extension of water-related technical cooperation projects to end-beneficiaries:  bridging the gap between the normative and the operational in the United Nations system (case studies in two African countries)” (document A/57/497) and its addendum including comments by the Secretary-General and the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination; report of the Secretary-General on comprehensive statistical data on operational activities for development for the year 2001 (document E/2003/57); annual reports of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2003/13). 

The Council also took note of the Annual Report of the Executive Directors of the World Food Programme (document E/2003/14), and the United Nations Children’s Fund to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2003/48).  It also took note of reports of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Children’s Fund on its first regular session of 2003 (document E/2003/34 Part I), of the World Food Programme on its first, second and third regular session and its annual session of 2002 (document E/2003/36), and of the United Nations Development Programme and of the United Nations Population Fund on its second regular session of 2002 (document DP/2003/1) and its first regular session of 2003 (document DP/2003/9). 

The ECOSOC also took note of the report of the Administrator of UNDP on strengthening consultations with the Member States on the Human Development Report, in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 57/264 (DP/2003/17) and the Decisions of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Children’s Fund on its annual session of 2003 (E/2003/L.8).  Finally, ECOSOC took note of the report of the High-level Committee on the Review of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC/13/4). 

Statements

CAROLYN MC ASKIE, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Council of the unspeakable atrocities she had recently witnessed in Africa and the responsibility of the international community to ensure that the needs of suffering people were met.  Yet, worse than scenes of horror were those things one did not see; across the lines, around the corner, behind unmarked and ever more violent warfronts, there were millions more to whom the international community had no access and who could not be helped.  Thus, there was a twofold purpose to be pursued:  to ensure humanitarian action was adequately financed and to ensure its effectiveness.  There was a need to define a common concept of what was needed and what could be done to meet those needs, to get appeal and response in sync.  Assistance must be given on the basis of need and risk rather than supply and political interest.

This endeavour, she noted, would not succeed unless the members of the international community could rebuild their trust and confidence in each other.  Donors needed to have faith in agencies’ work; agencies needed to have faith that donors would finance in accordance with identified priorities; recipients needed to have faith that agencies and donors were accountable in their response.

JAN BERTELING, Director of Human Rights, Humanitarian Assistance, Good Governance and Peacebuilding in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, asked the Council whether the international community as a whole was meeting the basic needs of those affected by humanitarian crises.  What could be done to ensure that these needs were being met, he continued.  Three studies were recently finalized on humanitarian financing.  These were studies that had been commissioned to answer basic questions about needs, appeals and allocations, the equitable distribution of humanitarian funds; the assessment of the impact of humanitarian assistance; and whether humanitarian activities were effective.  The studies had focused on the practice of needs assessments, on where the money was currently going, and on donor behaviour.  Some of the findings were that the pattern of donor behaviour was a patchwork of policies and activities, which taken together, did not provide the basis for a coherent or effective system for financing humanitarian needs.

Donor agencies depended on voluntary funding to such an extent that this pattern of donor behaviour in a sense produced a system that did not consistently deliver responses proportionate to need and which was liable to neglect some of the most urgent cases.  It was added that donors’ funding decisions were not solely -– or sometimes not even primarily -– based on need since domestic and foreign policies and politics dominated.  On the other hand humanitarian agencies seemed to assume needs more often than they diagnosed them.  Collectively, the international donor community lacked adequate data on financial flows, was weak on accountability, and suffered from a degree of mistrust between donors and humanitarian agencies and vice versa. 

He wanted to take donor participation in the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) to new heights.  During the Friends of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs meeting in The Hague and the Good Humanitarian Donorship meeting in Stockholm, this idea to jointly select a CAP-country, jointly asses needs, jointly fund, and jointly evaluate, had gained some ground.  A key element would be funding the CAP as such, and not the individual activities or agencies.  This would be a good way to strengthen the role of the humanitarian coordinator, or the country team, while they set priorities, or revised priorities during the year.  This would substantially increase the effectiveness of aid planning and delivery and it was hoped that such an idea could lead to better donor coordination, more effective aid and better humanitarian financing.   

MAGNUS LENNARTSSON NAKAMITSU, Deputy Director and Head of the Humanitarian Section in the Department of Global Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that over the last two years a lot of work had been done to get a better understanding of what was actually happening in the world of humanitarian financing and whether the needs of victims of emergencies were being met:  the international community had discovered that measuring humanitarian assistance was complicated.  Donors’ funding decisions did not always seem to be based solely –- or even primarily -– on need, and there was concern about how well humanitarian funds were used.

At the Stockholm meeting on Good Humanitarian Donorship, he said, 15 top Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors had endorsed Principles and Good Practices and had elaborated an implementation plan that sought to address a broad range of issues it was hoped would strengthen donor accountability and coherence of response.  Specifically, the principle that humanitarian funding should be allocated in proportion to needs and on the basis of needs assessment was endorsed.  Other endorsements were agreed on to ensure that the funding of new crises did not adversely affect ongoing crises and on the need for a more flexible predictable response.

Humanitarian assistance, he added, was peculiar in the aid sphere in that it relied almost entirely on voluntary contributions –- the top ten DAC donors alone accounted for over 90 per cent of all humanitarian assistance.  Although there had been considerable achievement in the past decade, particularly in regard of improved instruments for funding, planning and coordination that had increased transparency and effectiveness of response, there was still a need to address several areas such as predictability, timeliness, flexibility, transparency, equity, adequacy, burden sharing and accountability in funding.

JEAN-JACQUES GRAISSE, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said one of the least funded elements of the humanitarian community was that of contingency planning and preparedness.  It was essential to be better prepared and to allocate more resources to preparedness, he said.  One could not wait until people were sitting on the roofs of their houses expecting help to begin a consolidated appeals process.  He thanked the Government of the United Kingdom for having supported the WFP through its Department for International Development over the years, allowing the Programme to come to the assistance of people in crises.  He stressed the need for increased flexibility, assessment and timeliness within the humanitarian community, and within the WFP itself.  Concerning the debate between priority for food and priority for non-food, he said that it was necessary to strike a balance.  Under exceptional circumstances, the WFP had needed to get involved in other sectors.  He appealed to States not to ignore the “forgotten crises” where the suffering was acute, particularly in refugee camps.  New donors such as India and the Russian Federation had appeared and showed their generosity over the year.  However, it was important that such support be supplemented by traditional donors in terms of transport and infrastructural assistance.  

SIMON MECHALE, a Commissioner on the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission of Ethiopia, said that as head counts during the assessment of populations affected by humanitarian emergencies were not possible, effective financing depended on the level of trust given by the donor community to estimates of emergency requirements.  He also noted that governmental donors contributed by far the largest share of humanitarian assistance and that one needed to make a difference between kind and cash contributions.  Because of the diversity of needs of affected populations, contributions in kind –- cereals and other food products, clean water supplies, the provision of shelter materials and livestock –- were often needed as much as cash contributions. 

When cash contributions were made, it was important to have agreement with the donors on their use, he said.  Among the more beneficial approaches, sometimes donors were willing to operate on a flexible basis so that cash contributions could be converted into contributions in kind through the purchasing of supplies, which might be produced in surplus in one area, but desperately scarce in others.  Urging the United Nations to proceed with its consolidated appeals process, he said that the donor community had often been confused by multiple, overlapping appeals from various agencies in the past.

Among the constraints on the funding of humanitarian operations, he cited the unpredictable nature of donations –- although the past year’s donations had been surprisingly generous –- and the difficulty of assessing non-food requirements.  However, as the representative of a recipient State, he was able to say that, at least in food aid terms, it did not matter how food aid was channelled to the recipient State, as long as the effort was coordinated.  Finally, he pointed out that although Ethiopia received one the largest shares of relief aid in the world, this statistic was reversed when it came to development assistance.  Although the international community should not ignore a current crisis, it should not ignore the causes of next year’s crisis either.

KAMEL MORJANE, Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the UNHCR viewed humanitarian intervention in a holistic manner, as part of a larger process of peace consolidation and development.  Spending on humanitarian operations should be viewed as an investment in the future and not an unrecoverable cost.  Moreover, in order to maximize the international community’s response to humanitarian emergencies, there also needed to be greater coherence among all actors -– United Nations system agencies, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, host governments and affected communities; a better understanding of the larger financial picture; and a loosening of the dichotomy between emergency relief and development assistance.  Emergency programmes should be designed, not as open-ended, charitable operations, but as the foundations for future development.

Moving to consider specific issues, he said that the UNHCR welcomed the conclusions of the Stockholm International Meeting on Good Humanitarian Donorship.  Under the partnership initiative of the High Commissioner, the UNHCR had engaged in a thorough review of its annual programme budget, in order to strengthen cooperation with its operational partners to better meet the needs of refugees by minimizing the current gaps in material assistance.  Furthermore, the UNHCR was playing an active part in the UNDG/ECHA Working Group on transition and had launched a Convention Plus Initiative to facilitate the drawing up of special agreements to complement the 1951 Refugee Convention.  The UNHCR also welcomed Norway’s initiative to open a budget line for transitional situations, a similar move by Denmark aimed at enhancing protection and assistance in refugees' regions of origin, and the American and Japanese models for providing clear indications of non-governmental organization funding for refugee programmes.  The UNHCR would also continue its efforts to broaden its donor base.

Interactive Segment

In a subsequent interactive discussion, one speaker commented on what had been noticed from donors –- a reluctance to provide assistance without assessments and evaluations.  It was pointed out that in a crisis situation, one could not assess matters efficiently in a manner that would satisfy donors.  Questions were also raised about the politicization of assistance, both in terms of development and humanitarian assistance.  Panellists were also asked about other potential sources of assistance. 

Another speaker referred to the improvement of needs assessment and why the possibility of using privatized needs assessment had not been considered.  On funding sources, he asked about levels of diaspora funding and whether there were additional figures on this trend.  Finally, about donor politicization, he stressed the need to systematically assess needs on the donor side, as well as the need for recipient countries to attack their structural problems and internal politicization.

What could be done to correct the situation of politics impinging on processes that were completely driven by needs, asked another speaker. 

One speaker asked if programmes such as those providing food for work had been optimal. 

Political considerations were unavoidable, one speaker said, however, he had been puzzled by references to conditionalities and favouritism and asked for elaboration on this subject.  Finally, he stressed the need for donor countries to support new and non-traditional donors in areas such as transportation.   

Responding, Mr. Mechale said that once food aid was provided, everything was covered, including transport.  Since one party was responsible for all aspects of the process, this could sometimes lead to conditionalities, as opposed to situations when there were several implementing parties.  Resource flows were unpredictable, he said and with regards to the food-for-work programmes, it was clear they would only be optimal when there was a sustainable flow of resources.  

Mr. Graisse raised the issue of equity and favouritism, and assured ECOSOC that whether in the Great Lakes region or Armenia, all the WFP initiatives aimed for the same level of nutrition and calories intake for people.  Concerning food-for-work projects, he said that such projects were promoted only for those people who really needed it, at times when it was really useful to do so.

Addressing the issue of the allegedly increasing reluctance of donors to respond to crisis situations, Mr. Lennartsson said he did not believe this was an actual phenomenon.  Overall, ODA was increasing.  However, a study done at Tufts University had shown –- unsurprisingly –- that humanitarian needs were not driving donors’ behaviour.  While credible data about need could be helpful, better information was not likely to lead to more donorship, though the Good Humanitarian Donorship agreement reflected an attempt to address this issue.  He also agreed that emergencies that received significant media attention were more likely to receive larger amounts of aid.

On the influence of the “CNN effect”, Mr. Berteling acknowledged that this trend remained at the forefront of attention for many members of the international community.  It was a shame that some crises or peoples could be “forgotten”, however, he reaffirmed the opinion that although there were more needs, there was no evidence of a downward trend in donations for humanitarian assistance.

Also addressing the idea of food for work, Mr. Berteling, said that this was an issue to be taken up by host governments, not a condition to be imposed by donor governments.  Moreover, it was not acceptable that traditional in-kind donors -– United States, France, and Canada – -should expect those countries whose donations were typically financial in nature to pay for transport.  That was the responsibility of the donor country.  However, consideration of the issue must shift somewhat when considering the situation of newer in-kind donors, such as India, among others.

Picking up the subject of conditionality, Mr. Graisse said that the only condition ever placed upon its aid by the WFP was that it not be used for political purposes.  He also commented that the focus upon New York and Geneva during discussions on humanitarian assistance was misplaced –- Rome donated more assistance to the Food and Agriculture Organization than New York or Geneva.

In a second round of questioning, one delegate reaffirmed, in regard of the private ownership of land as a solution to the causes of famine in some countries, that in his country prior to the 1970s, there had been private ownership of land and famine at the same time.

Another delegate spoke to dismiss the fallacy of expecting humanitarian assistance to be able to be made “too neat and too simple”.  The Consolidated Appeals Process was complex, but necessary, and it should not be expected that all needs would be covered therein.  It was also important to focus on the need for donors to coordinate both bilaterally and multilaterally, but as Mr. Mechale had shown, it was also important to incorporate recipient countries in this coordination process.

Responding to a question, Mr. Morjane said that the UNHCR was in the process of making its programmes more relevant and of pursuing durable solutions, at times on a regional basis.

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For information media. Not an official record.