Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/SG/2731
           29 November 2000
     35 Million Urgently Need Humanitarian Assistance, Secretary-General
    Says at Consolidated Appeals Launch

     

    NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of an address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan given in New York today to launch the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for 2001:

     It gives me great pleasure to join you today to launch the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for the year 2001.  More than 35 million of our fellow human beings urgently need humanitarian assistance.  I am here today to lend them my voice.

     These women, children and men are the disenfranchised, the displaced, the targets of conflict and the victims of natural disasters.  They suffer not only from the direct effects, but also the indirect consequences, as violence and upheaval affect their livelihoods and prevent their access to health care, education, clean water, and other essentials for survival.

     They look to us, here and now, not only for protection and life-sustaining support today, but also for assurances that they -- and their children -- can live their tomorrows in dignity and security.

     Wars of greed and grievance alike are intensifying in many places around the world.  Many of the new conflicts are in fact old conflicts flaring up again.  The warmongers brutally disregard humanitarian law, and make the targeting of civilians a strategic objective.  In many areas, natural disasters have compounded the misery.  During this last year, people forced to flee conflict areas in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and Burundi had the additional burden of facing unprecedented drought.

     The Consolidated Appeals Process is designed to save lives and rebuild livelihoods.  It reflects the will of many partners to work together:  United Nations agencies, the Red Cross movement, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments.

     Together, they develop strategies and set priorities, ensuring the most efficient and timely assistance.  The Consolidated Appeals Process enables the partners to provide immediate relief and protection while at the same time looking to the longer term, at post-conflict needs and root causes.  In a new step reflecting the volatile conditions in many complex emergencies, the Appeals will be updated periodically via the Internet to reflect changing circumstances on the ground.

     When humanitarian assistance is provided in a timely manner, it can make a big difference.  In late 1999, thanks to a rapid and generous response by donors, a major humanitarian crisis was alleviated in East Timor.  Humanitarian personnel were on the ground quickly, providing food, shelter and health services for more than 600,000 people.  This year, I am delighted to say, there is no humanitarian appeal for East Timor, as United Nations-led reconstruction efforts are well under way.

     The situation in Kosovo offers a similar example of progress.  In the past 15 months, some 900,000 Kosovars returned from exile to find their homes badly damaged or destroyed.  Well-funded humanitarian action enabled them to survive the cold weather of the last winter and make great strides in reconstruction, and the work of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo has brought further gains.  As a result, the amount of this year's appeal for Kosovo has been reduced by over half or 50 per cent.

     Yet, while we have seen the value of well-funded, well-coordinated humanitarian action, and while we see increased prosperity in many parts of the world, contributions to the Appeals are falling well short of the agreed goals -- and we are further behind this year on appeals than we were at the same time last year.  Last year at this time, we had received 60 percent of the total.  For the year 2000, the United Nations has so far received only 55 percent of what was needed.

     It is difficult to explain this decline.  The donor community has expressed satisfaction with efforts by the United Nations to improve synergy among the various humanitarian actors, but still has not given us the material support we need.  And many of our partners are facing the same financial difficulties.  The decrease in support for the consolidated appeals matches a broader general reduction in the international community's support for humanitarian and post-conflict assistance.

     There has been a tendency by donors to favour direct bilateral support.  We welcome this, but it should not come at the expense of multilateralism.  Otherwise, we run the risk of marginalizing efforts by the United Nations and its partners, and thereby run the risk of returning to the days of uncoordinated efforts by a range of independent agencies without common standards and priorities.

     The flagging support for the Appeals is troubling for another reason:  it increases an already enormous burden on the countries and communities affected by humanitarian emergencies.  The field of humanitarian assistance is filled with individual heroes and stories of remarkable courage and selflessness.  One of the untold stories -- indeed, largely unrecognized and undocumented -- is the assistance provided by developing countries to victims of conflict and upheaval.  In 1998, three quarters of the 13.5 million refugees and asylum seekers needing protection were living in developing countries.

     Some 10 million were being cared for and helped in countries where the average per capita income is less than $8 a day -- and most of them in countries where it is less than $2 a day.  In the Caucasus, for example, Ingush families host thousands of people displaced by fighting in Chechnya.  In Tanzania, towns and villages are doing their best to assist some 484,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in the Great Lakes.  I could give many other examples.  Surely these communities and people deserve more help.

     No appeal for help would be complete without taking account of the risks confronted by the aid workers themselves.  In recent years, as you are well aware, violence against United Nations and other relief workers has risen dramatically.  I have just submitted a report to the General Assembly that contains significant proposals for professionalizing our security management system, through changes in the number of personnel, the training they receive, the services they provide and the equipment they use.

     I do not need to tell you how important it is to address this subject without delay, so that the staff who serve the international community have the safety and protection they need to carry out their vital assignments.  Security requirements have been included in the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals.  These requirements are only a minute fraction of overall budgets, but they do provide the best assurance now available for safer operations and access to vulnerable populations.

     I ask your support for these initiatives.  I also ask your help in pressing host governments -- who bear primary responsibility for security -- to fulfil their obligations.  I urge all parties in conflicts to allow aid workers safe and unfettered access to those in need, whoever and wherever they may be.  And I reiterate appeals to all parties to respect the principles of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in particular the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, and the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements.

     Finally, the theme of today's launch is "women and war", in recognition of the special needs and contributions of women in emergency situations.  Projects in the Consolidated Appeals focus not only on women's practical needs -- such as protection, food, health services and wood for fuel -- but also their strategic needs, for example the chance to play their rightful part in leadership and decision-making.

     It is high time for the issue of women and peace and security to receive greater recognition on the international agenda.  Last month's meeting of the Security Council was an important step forward.  I hope the report which the Council has called for will lead to women having a bigger role in peace-building, and will make us all more dynamic in addressing the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution.

     In this year's Consolidated Appeals we are asking you for $2.26 billion for the next year.  That is less than the world spends on military purposes in a single day.  This appeal is designed to alleviate suffering and to help address the root causes which make more than 35 million people vulnerable to disaster of one kind or another.  And rest assured:  the people on whose behalf I speak do not want hand-outs; they want a helping hand in their efforts to help themselves.  It is within your power to reach out.

    The humanitarian imperative is a strong one.  Humanitarian agencies and sectors aim to provide life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to all innocent victims of man-made or natural disasters.  This is an urgent and noble cause.
     
    To succeed we will need, at the very least, a collaborative approach among United Nations agencies and their partners.  But most of all we need your support.  How else can we offset the disturbing trends of forgotten emergencies, unbalanced funding and decreasing humanitarian aid?  How else can we respond to those who so desperately need our help?  I ask you once again for generous, timely and flexible contributions to the Appeals before you today.  Thank you very much.

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