New York

26 September 2018

Secretary-General's remarks at event for the Central Emergency Response Fund “A Fund For All By All” [as delivered]

What I would like to give is my testimony.  I was for ten years the High Commissioner for Refugees.  There are not many things that work well in the world and there are not many things that work well even in the United Nations.  But there is one thing that I can guarantee from the point of view of someone that has benefitted from the work of it, that really it works very well, it’s the CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund). 
 
The CERF is first of all the first to arrive in many emergencies that we had around the world.  We would never be able to be on time, on the ground, sometimes we have to be on the ground in two days.  The only immediate guarantee that we had and the rapid disbursements of funds that we had was from the CERF.  So this is, I would say, unique.  I don’t know any other funds that is so quick and so effective in relation to the support to our activities. 
 
It’s very quick, it’s totally non-bureaucratic and it is this fantastic dimension it deals with the two problems in which any agency has funding problems. 
 
One is the emergency, to be quick, to be effective, to be non-bureaucratic and the second is those that nobody cares about: the forgotten crises, those that are left behind, because they are not on the agenda of any political discussion of any parliament in the world.  And so where it is more difficult to mobilize resources from the point of view of the donor community, it is even sometimes more difficult to put them in the priority of the different organizations. 
 
And again, I remember very well because in UNHCR, we had to deal with a number of protracted refugee situations nobody talked about anymore.  It was the CERF that was always available to support us. 
 
On the other hand, countries need quick responses from agencies that are working in those countries. 
 
But donors need effective coordination, that there is no waste, and that the different UN agencies are able to work together in an effective way. 
 
Now nothing is more important from the point of view of the coordination of humanitarian aid than to have a Fund that represents a meaningful volume of the assistance and that allows you to establish system-wide priorities in an effective way.  This is what the CERF can do.
 
So in my opinion, if I was the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs of a very rich country in the world, which is not the case, I would have as a priority, in my humanitarian assistance programme, the CERF.
 
I’m so sincere saying this that when I was the High Commissioner for Refugees, I even asked for a super CERF.  If you remember Mark [Lowcock] at the time was responsible for the humanitarian aid of the rich countries.  I’d ask for a super CERF - that would mean a CERF able to respond to the so-called “level three” emergencies in a separate way, in a dedicated way. 
 
I think that there is a type of schizophrenic debate within the humanitarian and development community; everybody asks for coordination, everybody asks for accountability, everybody asks for transparency and then we have this trend of each one going by itself – those at the donor level and sometimes also at the agency level. 
 
If we are serious about coordination, if we want to be serious about effective system-wide priorities, and if we want to be serious about effectiveness in quick responses and in what is at the same time in everywhere in every speech at the United Nations – leaving no one behind, the sure bet is the CERF. 
 
The CERF has done a fantastic job but we would like to have a CERF with something similar to doubling its resources. 
 
It will still be relatively small percentage of humanitarian aid around the world.  But it would be a fantastic instrument for better transparency, for better accountability, for better coordination and the best guarantee that Member States could have that their money is well spent. 
 
So as I said, I’m not going to read this [speech] that tells all the story of the CERF and what is does; we all know it.  But I can tell you that as someone who for many years has worked closely with the CERF and I always participate in these kinds of meetings as UNHCR, because I’ve seen - and I believe my Organization was quite effective - I’ve seen that for us to be able to deliver, the CERF was an absolutely indispensable instrument.