United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

19 December 1991


                                             78th plenary meeting
                                             19 December 1991
            Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian
                emergency assistance of the United Nations
  The General Assembly,
  Recalling its resolution 2816 (XXVI) of 14 December 1971 and its subsequent
resolutions and decisions on humanitarian assistance, including its resolution
45/100 of 14 December 1990,
  Recalling also its resolution 44/236 of 22 December 1989, the annex to which
contains the International Framework of Action for the International Decade
for Natural Disaster Reduction,
  Deeply concerned about the suffering of the victims of disasters and
emergency situations, the loss in human lives, the flow of refugees, the mass
displacement of people and the material destruction,
  Mindful of the need to strengthen further and make more effective the
collective efforts of the international community, in particular the United
Nations system, in providing humanitarian assistance,
  Taking note with satisfaction of the report of the Secretary-General on the
review of the capacity, experience and coordination arrangements in the United
Nations system for humanitarian assistance,
  1.  Adopts the text contained in the annex to the present resolution for the
strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the
United Nations system;
  2.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its
forty-seventh session on the implementation of the present resolution.
                     I.  GUIDING PRINCIPLES
  1.  Humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of
natural disasters and other emergencies.
  2.  Humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the
principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.
  3.  The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must
be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  In
this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of
the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the
affected country.
  4.  Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the
victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory.
Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation,
organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance
within its territory.
  5.  The magnitude and duration of many emergencies may be beyond the
response capacity of many affected countries.  International cooperation to
address emergency situations and to strengthen the response capacity of
affected countries is thus of great importance.  Such cooperation should be
provided in accordance with international law and national laws.
Intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations working impartially and
with strictly humanitarian motives should continue to make a significant
contribution in supplementing national efforts.
  6.  States whose populations are in need of humanitarian assistance are
called upon to facilitate the work of these organizations in implementing
humanitarian assistance, in particular the supply of food, medicines, shelter
and health care, for which access to victims is essential.
  7.  States in proximity to emergencies are urged to participate closely with
the affected countries in international efforts, with a view to facilitating,
to the extent possible, the transit of humanitarian assistance.
  8.  Special attention should be given to disaster prevention and
preparedness by the Governments concerned, as well as by the international
  9.  There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and
development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to
rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in
ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development.  Thus,
emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.
  10.  Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for
prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other
emergencies.  Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development
facing developing countries.  Humanitarian assistance should therefore be
accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable
development of developing countries.  In this context, adequate resources must
be made available to address their development problems.
  11.  Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way
which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international
cooperation for development.
  12.  The United Nations has a central and unique role to play in providing
leadership and coordinating the efforts of the international community to
support the affected countries.  The United Nations should ensure the prompt
and smooth delivery of relief assistance in full respect of the
above-mentioned principles, bearing in mind also relevant General Assembly
resolutions, including resolutions 2816 (XXVI) of 14 December 1971 and 45/100
of 14 December 1990.  The United Nations system needs to be adapted and
strengthened to meet present and future challenges in an effective and
coherent manner.  It should be provided with resources commensurate with
future requirements.  The inadequacy of such resources has been one of the
major constraints in the effective response of the United Nations to
                         II.  PREVENTION
  13.  The international community should adequately assist developing
countries in strengthening their capacity in disaster prevention and
mitigation, both at the national and regional levels, for example, in
establishing and enhancing integrated programmes in this regard.
  14.  In order to reduce the impact of disasters there should be increased
awareness of the need for establishing disaster mitigation strategies,
particularly in disaster-prone countries.  There should be greater exchange
and dissemination of existing and new technical information related to the
assessment, prediction and mitigation of disasters.  As called for in the
International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, efforts should be
intensified to develop measures for prevention and mitigation of natural
disasters and similar emergencies through programmes of technical assistance
and modalities for favourable access to, and transfer of, relevant technology.
  15.  The disaster management training programme recently initiated by the
Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator and the United
Nations Development Programme should be strengthened and broadened.
  16.  Organizations of the United Nations system involved in the funding and
the provision of assistance relevant to the prevention of emergencies should
be provided with sufficient and readily available resources.
  17.  The international community is urged to provide the necessary support
and resources to programmes and activities undertaken to further the goals and
objectives of the Decade.
                       III.  PREPAREDNESS
  18.  International relief assistance should supplement national efforts to
improve the capacities of developing countries to mitigate the effects of
natural disasters expeditiously and effectively and to cope efficiently with
all emergencies.  The United Nations should enhance its efforts to assist
developing countries to strengthen their capacity to respond to disasters, at
the national and regional levels, as appropriate.
  Early warning
  19.  On the basis of existing mandates and drawing upon monitoring
arrangements available within the system, the United Nations should intensify
efforts, building upon the existing capacities of relevant organizations and
entities of the United Nations, for the systematic pooling, analysis and
dissemination of early-warning information on natural disasters and other
emergencies.  In this context, the United Nations should consider making use
as appropriate of the early-warning capacities of Governments and
intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
  20.  Early-warning information should be made available in an unrestricted
and timely manner to all interested Governments and concerned authorities, in
particular of affected or disaster-prone countries.  The capacity of disaster-
prone countries to receive, use and disseminate this information should be
strengthened.  In this connection, the international community is urged to
assist these countries upon request with the establishment and enhancement of
national early-warning systems.
                     IV.  STAND-BY CAPACITY
  (a)    Contingency funding arrangements
  21.  Organizations and entities of the United Nations system should continue
to respond to requests for emergency assistance within their respective
mandates.  Reserve and other contingency funding arrangements of these
organizations and entities should be examined by their respective governing
bodies to strengthen further their operational capacities for rapid and
coordinated response to emergencies.
  22.  In addition, there is a need for a complementary central funding
mechanism to ensure the provision of adequate resources for use in the initial
phase of emergencies that require a system-wide response.
  23.  To that end, the Secretary-General should establish under his authority
a central emergency revolving fund as a cash-flow mechanism to ensure the
rapid and coordinated response of the organizations of the system.
  24.  This fund should be put into operation with an amount of 50 million
United States dollars.  The fund should be financed by voluntary
contributions.  Consultations among potential donors should be held to this
end.  To achieve this target, the Secretary-General should launch an appeal to
potential donors and convene a meeting of those donors in the first quarter of
1992 to secure contributions to the fund on an assured, broad-based and
additional basis.
  25.  Resources should be advanced to the operational organizations of the
system on the understanding that they would reimburse the fund in the first
instance from the voluntary contributions received in response to consolidated
  26.  The operation of the fund should be reviewed after two years.
  (b)    Additional measures for rapid response
  27.  The United Nations should, building upon the existing capacities of
relevant organizations, establish a central register of all specialized
personnel and teams of technical specialists, as well as relief supplies,
equipment and services available within the United Nations system and from
Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, that can
be called upon at short notice by the United Nations.
  28.  The United Nations should continue to make appropriate arrangements
with interested Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations to enable it to have more expeditious access, when necessary, to
their emergency relief capacities, including food reserves, emergency
stockpiles and personnel, as well as logistic support.  In the context of the
annual report to the General Assembly mentioned in paragraph 35 (i) below, the
Secretary-General is requested to report on progress in this regard.
  29.  Special emergency rules and procedures should be developed by the
United Nations to enable all organizations to disburse quickly emergency
funds, and to procure emergency supplies and equipment, as well as to recruit
emergency staff.
  30.  Disaster-prone countries should develop special emergency procedures to
expedite the rapid procurement and deployment of equipment and relief
                    V.  CONSOLIDATED APPEALS
  31.  For emergencies requiring a coordinated response, the Secretary-General
should ensure that an initial consolidated appeal covering all concerned
organizations of the system, prepared in consultation with the affected State,
is issued within the shortest possible time and in any event not longer than
one week.  In the case of prolonged emergencies, this initial appeal should be
updated and elaborated within four weeks, as more information becomes
  32.  Potential donors should adopt necessary measures to increase and
expedite their contributions, including setting aside, on a stand-by basis,
financial and other resources that can be disbursed quickly to the United
Nations system in response to the consolidated appeals of the
  (a)    Leadership of the Secretary-General
  33.  The leadership role of the Secretary-General is critical and must be
strengthened to ensure better preparation for, as well as rapid and coherent
response to, natural disasters and other emergencies.  This should be achieved
through coordinated support for prevention and preparedness measures and the
optimal utilization of, inter alia, an inter-agency standing committee,
consolidated appeals, a central emergency revolving fund and a register of
stand- by capacities.
  34.  To this end, and on the understanding that the requisite resources
envisaged in paragraph 24 above would be provided, a high-level official
(emergency relief coordinator) would be designated by the Secretary-General to
work closely with and with direct access to him, in cooperation with the
relevant organizations and entities of the system dealing with humanitarian
assistance and in full respect of their mandates, without prejudice to any
decisions to be taken by the General Assembly on the overall restructuring of
the Secretariat of the United Nations.  This high-level official should
combine the functions at present carried out in the coordination of United
Nations response by representatives of the Secretary-General for major and
complex emergencies, as well as by the United Nations Disaster Relief
  35.  Under the aegis of the General Assembly and working under the direction
of the Secretary-General, the high-level official would have the following
  (a)  Processing requests from affected Member States for emergency
assistance requiring a coordinated response;
  (b)  Maintaining an overview of all emergencies through, inter alia, the
systematic pooling and analysis of early-warning information as envisaged in
paragraph 19 above, with a view to coordinating and facilitating the
humanitarian assistance of the United Nations system to those emergencies that
require a coordinated response;
  (c)  Organizing, in consultation with the Government of the affected
country, a joint inter-agency needs-assessment mission and preparing a
consolidated appeal to be issued by the Secretary-General, to be followed by
periodic situation reports including information on all sources of external
  (d)  Actively facilitating, including through negotiation if needed, the
access by the operational organizations to emergency areas for the rapid
provision of emergency assistance by obtaining the consent of all parties
concerned, through modalities such as the establishment of temporary relief
corridors where needed, days and zones of tranquility and other forms;
  (e)  Managing, in consultation with the operational organizations concerned,
the central emergency revolving fund and assisting in the mobilization of
  (f)  Serving as a central focal point with Governments and intergovernmental
and non-governmental organizations concerning United Nations emergency relief
operations and, when appropriate and necessary, mobilizing their emergency
relief capacities, including through consultations in his capacity as Chairman
of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee;
  (g)  Providing consolidated information, including early warning on
emergencies, to all interested Governments and concerned authorities,
particularly affected and disaster-prone countries, drawing on the capacities
of the organizations of the system and other available sources;
  (h)  Actively promoting, in close collaboration with concerned
organizations, the smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and
reconstruction as relief operations under his aegis are phased out;
  (i)  Preparing an annual report for the Secretary-General on the
coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance, including information on
the central emergency revolving fund, to be submitted to the General Assembly
through the Economic and Social Council.
  36.  The high-level official should be supported by a secretariat based on
a strengthened Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator and
the consolidation of existing offices that deal with complex emergencies.
This secretariat could be supplemented by staff seconded from concerned
organizations of the system.  The high-level official should work closely with
organizations and entities of the United Nations system, as well as the
International Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies, the International Organization for Migration and relevant
non-governmental organizations.  At the country level, the high-level official
would maintain close contact with and provide leadership to the resident
coordinators on matters relating to humanitarian assistance.
  37.  The Secretary-General should ensure that arrangements between the high-
level official and all relevant organizations are set in place, establishing
responsibilities for prompt and coordinated action in the event of emergency.
  (b)    Inter-Agency Standing Committee
  38.  An Inter-Agency Standing Committee serviced by a strengthened Office of
the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator should be established under the
chairmanship of the high-level official with the participation of all
operational organizations and with a standing invitation to the International
Committee of the Red Cross, the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies, and the International Organization for Migration.  Relevant
non-governmental organizations can be invited to participate on an ad hoc
basis.  The Committee should meet as soon as possible in response to
  (c)    Country-level coordination
  39.  Within the overall framework described above and in support of the
efforts of the affected countries, the resident coordinator should normally
coordinate the humanitarian assistance of the United Nations system at the
country level.  He/She should facilitate the preparedness of the United
Nations system and assist in a speedy transition from relief to development.
He/She should promote the use of all locally or regionally available relief
capacities.  The resident coordinator should chair an emergency operations
group of field representatives and experts from the system.
  40.  Emergency assistance must be provided in ways that will be supportive
of recovery and long-term development.  Development assistance organizations
of the United Nations system should be involved at an early stage and should
collaborate closely with those responsible for emergency relief and recovery,
within their existing mandates.
  41.  International cooperation and support for rehabilitation and
reconstruction should continue with sustained intensity after the initial
relief stage.  The rehabilitation phase should be used as an opportunity to
restructure and improve facilities and services destroyed by emergencies in
order to enable them to withstand the impact of future emergencies.
  42.  International cooperation should be accelerated for the development of
developing countries, thereby contributing to reducing the occurrence and
impact of future disasters and emergencies.