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    UNIS/SG/2454
    24 November 1999
    Secretary-General Launches Consolidated Appeals Process;
    Requests $2.4 Billion in Humanitarian Aid

     
    United Nations Agencies Pledge To Focus on Forgotten People

    (Reissued as received.)
     

     GENEVA, 23 November (UN Information Service) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan this afternoon launched the year 2000 Consolidated Inter-Agency Emergency Appeals (CAP 2000) by calling on Member States to provide $2.4 billion in humanitarian assistance for more than34 million people worldwide.

     Speaking at the opening of the "World Humanitarian Day" at the Palais des Nations, the Secretary-General said the aid would send a signal of hope to 34 million people across the globe who had felt the effects of armed conflicts, natural disasters, and other humanitarian catastrophes.

     He called upon Member States to "uphold the basic dignity of humankind", and said that meant there was a duty to look carefully at the needs of all victims -- wherever and whoever they may be -- and judge them by the same humanitarian standard.  He and several other speakers noted that areas of need in Africa had been provided less relief than other regions of instability.

     Illustrating the need to consolidate efforts among the United Nations and its specialized agencies, Mr. Annan was joined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Director of the Bureau for Resources and External Affairs from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

     In remarks opening the meeting, Carolyn McAskie, the acting Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the theme of this year's World Humanitarian Day was "the Forgotten People".  She and following speakers reminded delegates that problems and needs persisted long after headline writers and television cameras turned elsewhere.

     Echoing that idea, Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the world's attention span was very short.  When resolution of conflicts took time to bear fruit, the focus of international attention moved away from crises.  And then, funding declined.  She said that while the world was concentrating on the armed battles in Kosovo earlier this year, serious situations in the Sudan, Angola and Afghanistan, among other places, were happening and needed attention.

     Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF, said humanitarian protection and assistance gave hope and life for the future to 48 million women and children in the world today.

     Meanwhile, Catherine Bertini, the Executive Director of the WFP, said the United Nations was taking on a new role as it entered the new millennium -- it was literally building new societies where old societies had failed.  The humanitarian challenge, she said, had moved far beyond providing basic food and shelter for the victims of war and natural disaster.

     Speaking on behalf of the health sector, WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland said forgotten people carried an unacceptable load in terms of burden of disease and poor access to health.

     And the forgotten people were a daily reminder to the agencies and organizations which worked in that area of the need to focus on the unmet needs, said Norman Lauzon, the Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Resources and External Affairs for the UNDP.  One of those needs, he said, was recognizing development as an indispensable aspect in helping a country recover.

     Representatives of 13 Member States also addressed the meeting, touching on topics ranging from the safety of humanitarian workers to decreasing the practice of earmarking humanitarian funds and the need to always give priority to humanitarian considerations over political considerations.

     The meeting will continue on Wednesday, 24 November at 10 a.m.

    Statements

     CAROLYN McASKIE, Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator, said this was only the second time the entire organization had appealed to everyone in a single event.  Last December, there was a request for $1.3 billion.  These requirements were met by pledges totalling two thirds of the goal.  The focus of this year's appeal would be the forgotten people.

     KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said these appeals were being made on behalf of people who needed urgent humanitarian assistance and protection, and on behalf of people who themselves had never heard of consolidated appeals, but whose survival depended on the responses of Member States.

     This was a century, he said, that had seen the very best and the very worst of human behaviour.  It had seen humanitarian principles take form and take hold, and it had seen them egregiously violated and ignored.

     This time last year, Mr. Annan said, the full scale of humanitarian crises in Kosovo, East Timor, Turkey, or the North Caucasus could not have been foreseen. And while the international community struggled to catch up and provide assistance in those places, crises were also lingering, emerging, resuming, or intensifying in many other places in the world.

     The Secretary-General said failure in the duty to help the victims of these crises would take away the hope of millions of people -- the hope that something called the international community would uphold the basic dignity of humankind.  That meant there was a duty to look carefully at the needs of all victims -- wherever and whoever they might be -- and judge them by the same humanitarian standard.

     The $2.4 billion that was being requested today was a large figure, but it was far less than what the world spent on military purposes in a single day, he said.

     SADAKO OGATA, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the world's attention span was very short.  When resolution of conflicts took time to bear fruit, the focus of international attention moved away from crises.  And then, funding declined.  Last spring, for example, refugees from Kosovo were at the centre of the world's attention.  But while the world was focusing on those disasters, other disasters, perhaps smaller in scale, were in place.  The Sudan, Angola, Afghanistan were continuing, but at times, they seemed virtually forgotten.  There were situations in which peace had been achieved, but where poverty and violations of humanitarian rights had not been eliminated.  That was the case in Liberia, in Rwanda, and in Bosnia.  It was of particular concern to the UNHCR because refugees returned once peace returned.  This was a world that was too busy to focus on and to remember everything.

     CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said this day reminded the attendants that 1999 had seen a significant increase of humanitarian emergencies:  the Kosovo crisis, the earthquakes in Turkey, the turmoil in Angola, East Timor and Chechnya.  In the Consolidated Appeals, the system was reaching out to 48 million women and children, whose numbers were increasing, for whom humanitarian protection and assistance gave hope for life and for the future.

     Almost 10 years ago, the system committed itself to make specific progress for all children at the World Summit for Children.  At that time, clear, time-bound goals for their survival, development, protection and participation were set.  Although much progress had been made, there was more work to be done, especially in the countries experiencing complex emergencies.

     CATHERINE BERTINI, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said as the United Nations entered a new millennium, it was taking on a new role. It was literally building new societies, where old societies had failed.  That challenge was being faced today in Kosovo and East Timor, and it was likely to be faced again as more people demanded their right to self-determination.  The humanitarian challenge had moved far beyond providing basic food and shelter for the victims of war and natural disaster.  The ill-fated WFP flight to Pristina a week ago Friday was carrying passengers who were not just delivering humanitarian aid, but who were laying the foundations for a new society in Kosovo, rebuilding schools and homes, providing for public safety, rehabilitating the food sector, and establishing a working civil administration, police force and correctional system.

     The Consolidated Appeals Process was being used to coordinate both the funding appeals and programming.  At the same time, more creative approaches to field operations should be found.  Private foundations with tens of billions of dollars in assets remained relatively untapped by the United Nations system.

     GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said forgotten people, more and more numerous around the world, carried an unacceptable load in terms of burden of disease and poor access to health.  Today, "World Humanitarian Day" had a special significance to the WHO.  The objective of the Consolidated Appeals Process 2000 was for the United Nations agencies to describe the activities needed to save lives during acute disasters, to help populations affected by war and natural disasters to move from extreme vulnerability to recovery and sustainability, to promote human rights, and to build peace.  In this process, health was not only of central importance, it was also a highly sensitive indicator of both the performance of the overall humanitarian programme and of the rapid changes one sees during crises.

     The WHO's voice was the voice for health of an every day increasing number of forgotten people.  These groups in extreme poverty were sharing the highest burden of deadly communicable diseases, but for which highly cost-effective preventive and curative measures did exist.

     NORMAN LAUZON, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Resources and External Affairs of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the organizations and agencies which worked day to day in the midst of humanitarian crises could not miss seeing these forgotten people.  It was on behalf of these people that there was a focus on unmet needs -- on groups which required special emphasis, on entire populations which had disappeared from the international radar screen, and on disparities in assistance strategies as a result of disparities in the pledging of resources to particular programmes.

     It was believed that the agencies were working together to close the gap that arose between relief and development by promoting the development dimension as an indispensable aspect of a general strategy in countries coping with, or recovering from, conflict.  To address this gap, the UNDP was determined to work in alliance with the United Nations and other international partners.  The aim was to ensure that development was always a part of the solution; supporting the rebuilding of fractured societies and meeting the critical needs of their people -- who must not be forgotten.

     Discussion

     EDDY BOUTMANS, State Secretary of Belgium, said his country fully supported the effort to come to a better coordination between agencies for more efficient humanitarian aid.  The emphasis had to be on prevention and rehabilitation, and to make real reconstruction possible.  Focus should be given on Africa and other areas where the cameras had left.  Belgium would try to respond to the appeals made today, but it would also be involved in diplomacy and taking action before it was too late.  Belgium's support could be counted upon.

     The representative of Switzerland said his country would duly contribute to the Consolidated Appeal.  The theme for the appeals process -- the forgotten people -- was an accurate one. Sympathy for them was not enough. The international community had a responsibility to provide adequate resources and protection.  It would be useful to hold in the near future discussions about how to concentrate on people in the forgotten conflicts.

     The representative of the United States said his country was pleased to see the humanitarian situations in Kosovo and East Timor improving.  Even though they grabbed the headlines, there were humanitarian problems in other parts of the world.  In this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, it was reaffirmed that the international community needed to protect people affected by armed conflicts.  Today, all were concerned about the situation in Chechnya.  There was also concern about those internally displaced because of armed conflict. They should receive the care and protection that they need.

     The representative of Sweden said this process has had the strongest support from Sweden since its inception.  One of the most important issues was that it could help close the gap between emergency relief and the development which would be needed.

     GEORGE CHICOTI, Deputy Foreign Minister of Angola, said his country supported the United Nations emergency relief coordination.  Angola was one of the countries that was the victim of a long war, and had always had a humanitarian crisis at hand.  It was certainly a good example of humanitarian coordination.  The present situation in Angola was characterized by an increase in the number of internally displaced persons.  It had gone from 3 million to 3.7 million.  Angola would like to continue to expect this terrible situation would attract the attention of the donor community.  There was a very good response thus far this year, and Angola wanted to work harder next year to improve its donor goals.

     The representative of the United Kingdom said his country welcomed the joint endeavour to produce the Consolidated Appeals Process.  It applauded the practical courage of humanitarian workers worldwide.  This was not just an instrument of fund-raising, but also a show of solidarity for humanitarian efforts around the world.  This year, the United Kingdom was reflecting its humanitarian efforts in longer-term strategies in crisis management and peace-building.  The United Kingdom gave its full support.

     The representative of the Netherlands said the theme for today -- the forgotten people --- was appropriate.  Some humanitarian catastrophes admittedly caught the eye more than others.  But all humanitarian crises needed to be properly addressed.  Donors should recognize the need for better coordination.  The Netherlands was ready to respond to these challenges.  The African continent deserved the full attention and support of the international community.  Commitment was needed from both agencies and donors.

     The representative of Finland said his country agreed with the suggestion of less earmarking.  There were 34 million beneficiaries under the Consolidated Appeals Process 2000, but UNICEF mentioned 48 million women and children.  It was important to have a fixed set of numbers.  Also, how many conflicts were driving people from their homes?  How much longer would that list be, when including natural disasters and failed economies?  How should the process deal with low-intensity conflicts?  There was a question about the fate of older people in conflict situations.  A Helsinki conference focused on the question about whether old persons were a burden or a resource during humanitarian crises.  It was important to realize that they were a valued resource.  The $2.4 billion was an impressive sum of money.  Why did the world not move away from conflict when resources were there?

     The representative of Egypt said her country wanted to pay tribute to the humanitarian actions being undertaken by the United Nations and its agencies all over the world.  There was a phenomenon called donor fatigue.  There also appeared to be situations when at times political considerations were given priority over humanitarian considerations.  All people should be judged by the same humanitarian standards and principles.  Egypt adhered to these principles.

     The representative of Germany said his country was grateful to the Secretary-General for attending this meeting.  That was a clear expression of the importance attributed to the humanitarian cause.  In this year of massive humanitarian disasters, such a commitment was most welcome.  It was the people of the longest lasting conflicts that were not paid attention to in the international media, and they particularly needed humanitarian attention.  Germany supported the Consolidated Appeals Process.

     The representative of South Africa said that coming from a region that received humanitarian assistance, he could see how such assistance was appreciated and needed.  There was a need for parity in the funding mechanisms.  South Africa appreciated the theme of remembering the forgotten people.  It was also concerned with what the director of UNHCR called the militarization of humanitarian aid.  This contributed to the disparity in attention and the under-funding of humanitarian aid for Africa.  The Secretary-General should be commended for focusing on the urgent need for the building of a culture of prevention.

     The representative of Denmark said in the last decade the international community had faced a large number of humanitarian crises.  Not all of them, as had been stated, had gotten attention from the media all the time.  Denmark agreed that donors and agencies had to do better.  Its engagement in conflicts was driven by concern for people at risk.  There were deep concerns about humanitarian workers who were increasingly under attack.  The number of humanitarian actors had increased significantly over the last decade.  The Consolidated Appeals Process had been a very important step in the right direction.  Denmark supported this effort, and it welcomed the promise to strengthen this effort.

     The representative of Norway said his country was grateful that the Secretary-General had come to Geneva to launch this appeal.  The agencies that were here today had become the face and the heart of the United Nations in conflicts around the world.  Refugees and displaced persons who lived outside the reach of television cameras should never be forgotten.  There was a lack of security for humanitarian workers, and tribute should be paid to humanitarian workers who had given their lives this year in order to save the lives of others. The Norwegian Government had been a major contributor.  It believed that strong, well-coordinated, multilateral efforts was of great importance.  The Government would continue with its support.

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