16 July 2002
Economic and Social Council Will Consider Creation of Advisory Group for Any African Country Emerging from Conflict
Adopts Resolution Without A Vote; Also Opens Three-Day Humanitarian Segment of 2002 Session
NEW YORK, 15 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council today, following last week's consideration on strengthening its work, decided to consider creating, at the request of any African country emerging from conflict, a limited but flexible ad hoc advisory group to examine the humanitarian and economic needs of the country concerned. Also today, it opened the humanitarian segment of its 2002 substantive session.
Acting without a vote, the Council adopted a resolution by which such an advisory group would prepare recommendations for a long-term programme of support through the integration of relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development into a comprehensive new approach to peace and stability. It would be drawn from the Council's membership and its observer States, including representation from the country concerned.
Also, by the text, the Council would encourage close cooperation between the group and the Security Council's Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, in areas related to the fulfilment of such a group's mandate. It would invite multilateral institutions, particularly the African Development Bank, the African Union and African subregional organizations to cooperate fully with such an ad hoc group.
Following action on the draft, Council President Ivan Simonovic (Croatia) opened the humanitarian segment, emphasizing that over the next three days the Council would consider ways to strengthen the coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance for victims of natural disasters and complex emergencies. Attention would be given to vulnerable groups and transition from relief to development.
Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, introduced the Secretary-General's report on strengthening United Nations' coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. He stressed that coordination was the core element in ensuring assistance. International donor support was also critical. Without a clear understanding of available resources and how to best use them, the response to crises was difficult to organize.
He said that the events of 11 September had had a profound impact on the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), by emphasizing the need for greater integration within the United Nations system, closer collaboration with non-governmental organization partners and coherent strategies with governments. The OCHA and other humanitarian agencies had worked more closely with their development colleagues and, where necessary, with the political and peacekeeping departments.
The United States representative endorsed the need for what the Secretary-General called a "culture of protection", adding that that depended in part upon a "culture of training" within the United Nations specialized agencies. Enforceable codes of conduct, rigorous oversight and monitoring of assistance programmes, and effective mechanisms for reporting the abuse of power were among the pillars upon which the "culture of accountability" stood, he added.
While the Russian Federation supported the Secretary-General's proposals for strengthening cooperation with national governments during humanitarian and natural emergencies, that country's representative worried that there was no international guidance concerning internally displaced persons, one of the most vulnerable groups. Humanitarian operations providing assistance to internally displaced persons should be implemented in accordance with certain key principles -- respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and political neutrality, with the prior approval of their country of origin.
Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Japan, Mexico, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Azerbaijan, Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Australia, Norway, Guatemala, Chile, Qatar, China, Brazil, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Canada, Peru, Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, India, Malawi, Uganda, Turkey and Argentina. The observer for Switzerland also spoke.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spoke, as well as the representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 16 July, when it will hold two panel discussions.
The Economic and Social Council met this morning to begin the humanitarian segment of its 2002 substantive session. Over the next three days, the Council will consider, among other related topics, special economic, humanitarian and other disaster relief assistance.
It is also expected to take action on a draft resolution on strengthening the Council, building on its recent achievements, to help it fulfil the role ascribed to it in the Charter as contained in the Millennium Declaration.
By that draft, on an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on African Countries emerging from conflicts (document E/2002/L.12), the Council would decide to consider creating, at the request of any African country emerging from conflict, a limited but flexible ad hoc advisory group at the ambassadorial level.
According to the text, such a group would be created in consultations with regional groups and the national authorities of the country concerned, drawn from the membership of the Economic and Social Council and its observer States, including representation from the country concerned, and take into account the need to include countries that could make positive contributions to the objectives of such a group.
The Council would also decide that the group would examine the humanitarian and economic needs of the country concerned, review relevant programmes of support and prepare recommendations for a long-term programme of support, based on development priorities, through the integration of relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development into a comprehensive new approach to peace and stability. The group would provide advice on how to ensure that international assistance in supporting the country concerned was adequate, coherent, well coordinated and effective, and that it promoted synergy.
Also by the text, the Council would urge such a group to make maximum use of existing mechanisms and coordination structures, as well as intergovernmentally approved and other relevant documentation. It would also encourage close cooperation between the group and the Security Council's Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa in areas related to the fulfilment of such a group's mandate. It would invite multilateral institutions, particularly the African Development Bank, the African Union and African subregional organizations and other relevant actors to cooperate fully with such an ad hoc group.
The text would also have the Council encourage all Member States, particularly donor countries, to contribute to the work of such an ad hoc group. It would also request the Secretary-General and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as other agencies, to assist such an ad hoc advisory group in accomplishing its mandate, and would invite the Bretton Woods institutions to cooperate to that end.
The main thrust of the Council's work today will be to consider ways to strengthen the coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and complex emergencies, with particular attention to reaching vulnerable groups, and the transition from relief to development.
The relevant report of the Secretary-General (document A/57/77-E/2002/63) will guide the deliberations. That report contains an analysis of the causes and effects of humanitarian emergencies, highlighting the regional repercussions of humanitarian crises and the coordination mechanisms and tools adopted by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to address them. It also underlines the particular efforts required to strengthen assistance to specially affected groups such as internally displaced persons (IDPs), children, women and the elderly. It details the finding of an independent review of the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP).
The report opens with a brief examination of developments and emerging themes in humanitarian assistance operations during 2001-2002. The difficult events that took place during that period -- highlighted by a series of natural disasters in the Horn of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan -- underlined the need for a more concerted, innovative and effective response to humanitarian emergencies around the world.
Further, the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States had left little doubt that the world could not isolate itself from events in war-affected regions of the globe. The fact that the perpetrators of the attacks emerged from an environment characterized by protracted internal conflict only served to underscore the need to strengthen international cooperation in conflict resolution and prevention. The report notes that the regional repercussions of natural disasters and complex emergencies had been recognized for some time. In Africa, Asia and south-eastern Europe, civil wars had forced massive population movements both within and across borders, placing great socio-economic burdens on receiving communities.
The Secretary-General says that the impact of natural disasters rarely respects national boundaries. For example, the effects of the widespread 1998 drought in the Horn of Africa affected six other countries in the region. The response to natural disasters could be further complicated when such events take place within the context of armed conflict. Overall, the complex nature of humanitarian emergencies required a range of solutions whose success is dependent on strong cooperation and support from governments and regional organizations.
The report goes on to examine the issue of reaching the vulnerable, within the broad challenges to securing safe and reliable humanitarian space for bringing assistance to those affected by humanitarian emergencies. It also underlines the particular efforts required to strengthen assistance to specially affected groups. While the responsibility for ending their suffering lies primarily with the Member States involved, to a varying degree it also lies with the wider international community. The report also notes that safety and security of humanitarian staff continues to be a chief concern in reaching the vulnerable in armed conflicts.
In exploring the issue of the transition from relief to development, the Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of early, integrated planning and the need to ensure that transitional programmes contribute to reducing the risks and impact of future natural hazards. Transition from relief to development is more than an economic process. It involves institutional change that engages the full participation of society and establishes the basis for stability through recognition of the human rights of civilians. It is important to ensure that the way aid is provided does not weaken or destroy existing coping mechanisms.
The recommendations of the report revolve around the need to enhance regional capacities to respond to humanitarian emergencies, promote a "culture of protection" and adequately plan for the transition from relief to development. The recommendations on the CAP focus on the need to strengthen humanitarian strategies and resource mobilization efforts, with increased support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Effective humanitarian assistance also requires the engagement of local communities, institutions and structures. Too often, those were ignored when their capacity
had been reduced by crisis. The report also urges support for efforts to develop guidelines to expedite the work of international urban search and rescue operations.
Another document before the Council, the Secretary-General's report on assistance to Mozambique (document A/57/97-E/2002/76), describes follow-up initiatives undertaken in response to the 2000 floods, preparation for and response to the 2001 floods and other United Nations assistance initiatives in support of the country's Government.
The report also gives a brief description of Mozambique's geography, noting that the country spans both tropical and temperate zones, giving it variable weather, so that it is not uncommon to have local floods and droughts in different parts of the country in the same year. The high vulnerability to climactic changes often has tremendous impact on the people, livestock, property and physical infrastructure. The country was relatively prepared for the floods of 2000 and 2001, but international help was crucial and effective because the United Nations worked hand in hand with the Government.
The report concludes that by assisting in coordination, resource mobilization and the delivery of goods and services, the Government and the United Nations and its partners were able to intervene quickly and effectively to reduce the loss of life caused by floods and cyclones in 2000 and 2001. While future improvements were needed, lessons learned have allowed for partners to be better coordinated and for preparation and response initiatives to be mainstreamed into United Nations planning. The government-managed reconstruction programme has demonstrated clear positive results, and while rehabilitation and resettlement efforts are still under way, national and regional assessments and monitoring continue.
Action on Text
Immediately upon the meeting's opening this morning, the Council adopted without a vote the draft resolution entitled "Ad Hoc Advisory Group on African Countries emerging from conflicts".
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Union, expressed her support for the establishment of the ad hoc advisory group. Such a group should be small and effective. The flexible, time-limited approach seemed like a workable way ahead. If it succeeded, the Council would have taken a major step towards filling one of the most critical gaps at the end of a peacekeeping mission and between relief and long-term reconstruction and development.
Together with the Security Council, she said, the Economic and Social Council could contribute to the integrated and complimentary approach to conflict, peace and development in Africa. She added that the Union looked forward to reviewing the implementation of the mechanism.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, hailed the establishment of the ad hoc advisory group as historic in the Council's work. The Council sought to ensure the participation of all to reinvigorate compliance with the mandates set out in the United Nations Charter in the economic, and social and cultural spheres.
He said that adoption of the resolution represented an innovative response to the search for solutions to the conflicts in Africa. The special consultative body would greatly benefit Africa, and the Group of 77 and China would spare no effort in promoting its creation and subsequent work.
Opening of Segment
The President of the Economic and Social Council, IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia), said the Council had an important role to play in areas that lay at the heart of peace-building. The Council's mandate and coordination functions encompassed the entire United Nations system. Its recently enhanced cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as its capacity to engage other stakeholders, such as NGOs and the private sector, provided great potential to mobilize key players. Establishment of the new ad hoc group was an opportunity to test all that in practice.
He said that during the course of the substantive session, participants had tried to give new impetus to a more ambitious and efficient Council. Forward-looking agreements were being negotiated, including in relation to coordination of United Nations humanitarian affairs. Complementarity of the Council's work should be kept in mind.
Enhancing disaster preparedness and recovery, and the response to complex emergencies, as well as the integration of perspectives on relief and development, were part of the larger but same picture, he said. Hopefully, the Economic and Social Council would strive to design a timely response to humanitarian and other emergencies and enhance its readiness to react to such situations throughout the year.
Economic and Social Council Vice-President JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said that, to conclude the segment, the Council membership had opted for a draft resolution rather than agreed conclusions. A facilitator had been designated and the draft resolution was being worked on. A series of informal consultations had been undertaken so that the resolution could be completed as soon as possible. In a parallel exercise, informal briefings had been organized on various subjects, including preparedness and the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. In terms of priorities, it was necessary to start the segment with the Secretary-General's report.
Introduction of Secretary-General's Report
KENZO OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, introduced the report on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance (document A/57/77-E/2002/63). He emphasized coordination as the core element that brought together the various stakeholders and ensured that assistance reached those in need. He had concentrated on working with affected developing and disaster-prone countries, and had been engaging in a systematic dialogue with the Group of 77 on various issues.
He said that donors were another important element of coordination, with which he had also had constructive discussions. Indeed, international donor support was a critical ingredient in humanitarian activities. Without a clear understanding of the available resources and how best to use them, the response to crises was difficult to organize. His office had worked with the donor community to establish mechanisms to enhance coordination, especially in the context of the CAP.
The events of 11 September and their aftermath had had a profound impact on his work, he said. They had further emphasized the need for greater integration within the United Nations system, closer collaboration with NGO partners and coherent strategies with governments. Under the Secretary-General's leadership, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the humanitarian agencies had worked more closely with their development colleagues and, where necessary, with the political and peacekeeping departments.
He said there had been new opportunities to resolve some of the longer-running complex humanitarian emergencies in Afghanistan, Angola, Sri Lanka and other countries. Developments in the ways in which the humanitarian community responded to crises had been encouraging. The Secretary-General's report focused on the importance of reaching the vulnerable in emergencies and supporting them through the transition from relief to development.
Reporting on his recent mission to southern Africa, he said the impact of drought in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia was placing more than 12 million people at risk of hunger and long-term destitution. He was also shocked at the extent to which HIV/AIDS had "robbed" the region of key human resources in the vital economic sectors, and was seriously undermining the economic and social base needed to cope with the crisis. Nevertheless, effective regional coordination among the affected countries, coupled with timely support from the humanitarian and donor community, could help avert a major crisis.
Continuing, he said that that window of opportunity was limited; there might be only a few months left to mobilize needed resources and mount a major humanitarian assistance effort for the subregion in order to avert a famine there. His subsequent mission to Angola had left him with a sense of hope for the future, but he was acutely aware of remaining challenges. As a result of that long-running conflict, more than one quarter of the population had been forced from their homes. Many had long been beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance.
In Afghanistan, he said, the humanitarian situation was of great concern, and tens of thousands of people remained vulnerable. Only coordination could ensure that all parts of the country continued to receive assistance in accordance with need in that rapidly changing environment. The establishment of a new transition authority added the new challenge of ensuring that relief efforts supported the process of capacity building. Within the framework of the United Nations Mission there, he had been able to provide relief in accordance with humanitarian principles and in a way that allowed for a more effective link with United Nations development partners.
In the area of natural disasters, last year alone the lives of 170 million people worldwide had been disrupted, he said. While it was important to improve the United Nations response, 80 per cent of the response was from the local community or the affected country as a whole. He was committed to working hard to support national and local capacities in that regard, which was why he had increased the number of regional disaster response advisers, who would be working closely with regional and national organizations towards that goal.
He also reported on his review of humanitarian funding patterns to identify the reason for potential imbalances. The review had found a declining trend in the share of global humanitarian assistance that was channelled through the CAP, although that process was still perceived as providing the common framework of humanitarian assistance, for which he urged greater donor coordination. In order to comply with the Council's earlier request that his office provide a total picture of humanitarian needs and assistance flows, financial information should be provided by all humanitarian partners, including governments and NGOs.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan), referring to the recent tenth anniversary of General Assembly resolution 46/182, which set the guiding principles for coordinating United Nations humanitarian activities, stressed the need for strict adherence to those principles. As Japan had centuries of experience in coping with natural disasters, it attached great importance to that issue. He supported the efforts to expand developing countries' participation in United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams, with a view to enhancing national response efforts. In that connection, the Government of Japan was considering participating in UNDAC and was preparing to train UNDAC experts in cooperation with OCHA. Also of great importance were the Guidelines for the Search and Rescue of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group and their ongoing review. Disaster-risk assessments should be integrated with reduction strategies in national and regional planning.
Among other urgent issues that must be addressed by the international community, he also singled out protection of civilians in armed conflict. Supporting the idea of a "culture of protection", Japan was working with OCHA towards convening regional workshops on that matter. His Government was also concerned about the plight of IDPs who now numbered more than 50 million all over the world, as well as allegations of sexual abuse that involved humanitarian workers.
He went on to say that the international community must make every effort to ensure a seamless transition from relief to development. His Government highly appreciated the assistance programme for the Afghan people, which had been set up a few months after the launching of the donor alert on the humanitarian needs in and around Afghanistan. A more active involvement by international financial institutions should be sought to enhance efforts to facilitate transitions. For its part, the Government of Japan was determined to continue to do its utmost to ensure funding for humanitarian activities, including those in response to "forgotten crises". The basis of the humanitarian activities was a shared sense of responsibility on behalf of the international community, and action should be taken for the sake of the vulnerable on the ground and humanitarian personnel working under extremely difficult conditions.
ALEJANDRO NEGRIN (Mexico) said his country had developed a three-pronged approach to humanitarian assistance, including the consolidation of a national civilian protection system backed by a national fund. The Secretary-General's report offered a solid basis for ensuring coordination throughout the United Nations system. Several aspects of the report stood out, including the need for prevention and an early warning system, and targeted attention to vulnerable groups. Mexico was interested in strengthening the legal framework in national disasters.
Focusing on armed conflict must also be a priority, he said. The fallout of armed conflict was not only devastating but also on the rise. More than 200 million people had been affected by natural disasters, and more than 30 million by armed conflicts. Some 90 per cent of lives lost were in developing countries. The UNDP had provided ample proof of the connection between natural disaster, armed conflict and the situation in the developing countries. He was concerned that the Council had not reached agreement on the issue in the last two years, and that there was a trend to treat the item as one of secondary importance. The draft resolution had been the subject of difficult negotiations. New phenomena for which there was no legal agreement must be included in the draft. He was confident that consensus could be reached this year.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed the decision to conclude by adopting a resolution to provide guidance for the work of the United Nations in the humanitarian field. The ongoing operation in Afghanistan had underlined the radically changed conditions under which humanitarian assistance often had to be delivered today. It was essential to ensure that resources were employed effectively. Overall coordination of international humanitarian assistance efforts should continue to be the responsibility of the United Nations, as envisaged in resolution 46/182.
She endorsed the emphasis on crisis prevention and the need to address root causes before full-scale crises developed. More should be done to close the gap between emergency relief and longer-term development. In some cases, a clearer division of work and strengthened cooperative arrangements among agencies were necessary. The importance of national capacity-building could not be overestimated. Everything should be done to engage the full participation of the international community and local structures, and to establish the basis for stability through the promotion of human rights.
The European Union welcomed the emphasis on the need to strengthen the regional aspect of disaster management, and fully shared the Secretary-General's views on the importance of improving work in the areas of contingency planning, early warning, prevention and preparedness. The rapid deployment mechanism -- the United Nations Disaster and Coordination (UNDAC) system -- was indispensable for coordinated response in sudden emergencies. The Union was currently developing a civil protection capacity to strengthen its civil crisis management capacity. It recognized the need for standards for emergency humanitarian response, particularly search and rescue operations.
The Union supported efforts within the United Nations system to ensure that the needs of IDPs were met in an effective and comprehensive manner, she said. The Union also welcomed increasing attention to the specific protection and assistance needs of especially vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled. The Union played a prominent role in international efforts to relieve humanitarian needs everywhere in the world. In 2001, European Union members had supplied over 1 billion euros. The Union actively supported efforts to strengthen the CAP as the prime tool for strategic planning and coordination. The question of resources was of the essence. The international community had to address the lack of sufficient financial resources.
The uneven pattern of funding between the CAP and between sectors within appeals raised a number of legitimate questions, she added. Part of the answer could be improved donor coordination to ensure more balanced support for humanitarian crises globally. The existing humanitarian financial tracking system did not give an adequate picture of the totality of humanitarian needs and assistance flows. The Union was ready to consider the need for establishing a more comprehensive system for financial information and analysis as a means to improve humanitarian coordination. It was also imperative, however, to underline the obligations of the United Nations system. Irrespective of progress achieved, more should be done to ensure greater transparency and accountability and to substantiate results achieved through such measures as stepped-up efforts in the area of monitoring and evaluation.
YURI BRAZHNIKOV (Russian Federation) said that nowadays, particularly after the tragic events of 11 September, the need to forecast emergencies and ensure preparedness and swift response from both national and international humanitarian agencies was increasing dramatically. He supported the proposals set forth in the Secretary-General's report for strengthening cooperation with national governments in cases of emergencies resulting from humanitarian crises and natural disasters, as well as the strengthening of OCHA's presence in regions prone to natural calamities.
At the same time, he continued, the fundamental principles of humanitarian assistance -- neutrality, impartiality and humanity -- should remain unchanged. He said that IDPs were one of the most vulnerable groups, often in need of support during times of crisis. The issue was complicated and sensitive, as there was no international document that dealt directly with such populations. Furthermore, there was not even an internationally agreed definition of IDPs. At the same time, the United Nations had build up considerable experience dealing with IDPs, and the Russian Federation supported the established practice of providing relevant assistance on behalf of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian agencies.
He stressed that humanitarian operations providing international assistance to IDPs should be carried out in accordance with fundamental principles, namely, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and lack of political bias. Another crucial requisite for providing such assistance was prior approval by the States of which the IDPs were nationals, as well as consent of relevant governing United Nations bodies. The Russian Federation believed that national governments were responsible for provision and protection of IDPs.
He said another burning issue was the need to examine the transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction and development. The foremost opportunity to address that issue was the case of assistance to Afghanistan. Efficient transition was one of the prerequisites for the success of international efforts in peace-building and national reconciliation. It was crucial, therefore, to ensure coordinated efforts by participants in the process -- including United Nations agencies and funds, as well as the Bretton Woods institutions -- to perhaps have a "standby capacity" similar to OCHA's. It could be used without waiting for a reaction from the donor community, which was often late or inadequate.
MAKHMUD MAMED-GULIYEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that, while recognizing the devastating consequences of all kinds of humanitarian crises, it was important to pay particular attention to those caused by armed conflicts resulting in forced displacement, human suffering and the emergence of economic, social and ecological problems.
He said the issue of IDPs was of particular complexity. The Assembly had expressed deep concern at the alarmingly high numbers of displaced persons throughout the world -- roughly estimated at some 50 million -- not receiving adequate protection and assistance. To adequately address that problem, work should be done on different levels, including ensuring timely humanitarian assistance and further enhancing the international legal framework. However, the ultimate solution for all IDPs was the settlement and resolution of the conflicts that had caused them to flee their homes in the first place.
Along with the positive steps taken by the international community on behalf of IDPs, he mentioned the establishment of an inter-agency Unit on Internal Displacement as a welcome step that should ensure a more comprehensive approach among all relevant actors. The Secretary-General's report noted that the Unit would provide support in the coming years to a number of protracted or "forgotten" crises of internal displacement, in countries such as Angola, Burundi, Indonesia, Nigeria and Somalia.
He said that women and children were among the most vulnerable categories of civilians requiring assistance during humanitarian emergencies. Women and children were often targeted for violence and abuse. For that reason, Azerbaijan had submitted the resolution on the release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflicts, adopted this year by the Commission on Human Rights. He said one of the most important tasks before the international community was to enhance international cooperation both in conflict prevention -- including early warning -- and conflict settlement.
ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the guiding principles laid out in resolution 46/182 (1991) -- neutrality, impartiality and humanity -- should be the basis for response to humanitarian emergencies. Those principles were central to the efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance by the United Nations and other humanitarian actors working in the field. She said it was important to remember that women, children and elderly persons continued to be among the most vulnerable groups during humanitarian emergencies, and it was important to take that issue into account during the planning phases of humanitarian assistance programmes.
She said it was also important to highlight that, in accordance with those principles, the primary responsibility to initiate, organize and implement humanitarian assistance lay with the affected State. It was, therefore, imperative to enhance capacity-building at both local and national levels to ensure better coordination and closer cooperation with the United Nations system and humanitarian organizations. It was equally important to highlight that States whose populations were in need of humanitarian assistance were called upon to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations in implementing that assistance, particularly delivery of food, medicines and shelter.
The nature of emergencies was different today from that of previous decades, she said. And despite efforts to address that change -- particularly the emergence of internal conflicts -- the challenge of coordinating humanitarian activities within the United Nations system and of addressing complex emergencies in a timely, adequate manner remained to be met. Another serious issue was funding for rapid response. In that regard, the Group of 77 supported the Secretary-General's concept of a global humanitarian financial tracking system, which would significantly improve the coordination and accountability of humanitarian assistance.
She said the Group was also concerned that, despite efforts to improve the CAPs, there had been a drastic decline in the flows of humanitarian assistance. That situation should be reversed swiftly. Funding was also a challenge when considering the transition from relief to development. That issue was intimately related to the building of national capacities of countries affected by humanitarian emergencies or natural disasters, in order to be able to respond adequately. Investment in development activities that allowed promotion of self-reliance and stability in affected countries should be considered during the planning phases of humanitarian assistance programmes.
LUIS GALLEGOS (Ecuador) said that climate change had become the main factor responsible for the growing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. At the same time, the level of vulnerability of populations had also increased, with poverty being the main cause of greater exposure to natural risks and hazards.
He said that, while massive losses caused by natural disasters greatly undermined opportunities for economic development, the negative social impact was even more harmful. Since humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts absorbed a significant amount of resources, the poor were always the most adversely affected by natural disasters and the most vulnerable to greater hardships and even fewer opportunities. Although humanitarian assistance and disaster response were unavoidable in international cooperation, disaster response and relief actions, in general, were not enough.
Consequently, he said, efforts to reduce vulnerability and the causes of natural disasters should constitute a priority and should be supported by an effective flow of international cooperation. When addressing disaster-risk reduction, it was particularly important to consider the transboundary nature of natural hazards in order to develop and implement regional and international understanding of the causes of natural hazards. The result would be capacity-building, transfer of sound technologies, access to relevant information, as well as the development of early warning systems to detect, monitor and submit alerts about natural hazards and vulnerabilities which could affect neighbouring societies.
IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt) said one of the major challenges facing the international community was providing humanitarian assistance to those who needed it. In that endeavour, all parties to an armed conflict must fully respect the rights of civilians and international humanitarian law. Supplying humanitarian assistance to civilians must take place with the agreement of the country concerned. Full respect must be guaranteed for the sovereignty and political independence of States. While appreciating the difficulty of dealing with the range of problems in countries without a central government, Egypt called upon the General Assembly to assume its role and take action in those cases.
He welcomed the fact that the humanitarian segment was focusing on access to vulnerable categories, including women and children. Civilians must not be used as scapegoats to obtain political objectives. The reaction of the international community should not be dictated by double standards. He supported the Secretary-General's concept of a culture of protection. He called on the international community to spell out and apply that concept, together with respect for the mandates of the various United Nations bodies.
Egypt called on the international community to intervene in coping with the humanitarian disaster of the Palestinian people. Israeli practices had led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian territories, resulting in total destruction of their political and economic foundations. Buildings and homes had been destroyed, and natural resources polluted and gutted. Collective sanctions had been imposed on the Palestinian people. A just peace in the Middle East was the only way to guarantee a better future for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. He hoped the march towards peace in the Middle East would regain the momentum it had lost.
He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in organizing assistance for some 4 million Palestinian refugees. He asked donor countries to provide more financing to assist the Palestinian people. They must adopt a strict position regarding practices which prevented the arrival of assistance. The same applied to Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan. Egypt asked OCHA to coordinate with UNRWA in monitoring the situation of civilians under foreign occupation. The Secretary-General's report, submitted last year, should have included an analysis of efforts by the United Nations in that area and the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories. Internally displaced persons were not a separate category and should be covered by the protection afforded under the Geneva Conventions. While protecting displaced civilians was the responsibility of governments, the international community must assist those governments.
WILLIAM J. GARVELINK (United States) said that the attacks of 11 September had revealed that events in one part of the world could transform the lives of people on the other side of the globe. Decades of unresolved conflict, poverty, and natural disasters had eroded civil society in Afghanistan and turned that country into a breeding ground for terrorists and extremists. The response of the United States and the civilized world to the humanitarian crisis there, over the past year, had demonstrated compassion and generosity, as well as the value of coordination in an extremely complex emergency.
He said that effective humanitarian response required the coordination of early warning mechanisms, sharing and analysis of information, continuous needs assessment, coordination between the international community and the military as appropriate, and adequate resources. In Afghanistan, the United States and many other donors were not only meeting a large proportion of the most immediate needs, but also fostering self-reliance among the Afghan people through the Immediate and Transitional Assistance Programme.
That Programme was the most comprehensive effort to date linking the emergency phase of a crisis to recovery, rehabilitation, and long-term development, he went on. In Afghanistan, good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights would be the lynchpin in that transition. But while Afghanistan might be the most visible challenge to the humanitarian community, other crises were equally compelling. In Somalia, warlords and extremists operated with impunity. The Sudanese Government still restricted access to many areas in need, and in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, civilians were cut off from aid because of instability and fighting. In all such places, government authorities had the primary responsibility for providing for their people and protecting their rights.
He said his country strongly endorsed the Secretary-General's report on the need for a "culture of protection", based on respect for fundamental human rights and with the legal and physical security of the individual at its core. Every humanitarian worker was responsible for such protection. While the majority took that mission to heart, many lacked adequate training or preparation. A "culture of protection" depended in part upon a "culture of training" within the United Nations specialized agencies. Allegations of sexual exploitation of refugee and displaced children in West Africa exposed worldwide systemic problems in the humanitarian community.
Enforceable codes of conduct, rigorous oversight and monitoring of assistance programmes, and effective mechanisms for reporting the abuse of power were among the pillars upon which the "culture of accountability" stood, he said. Concerning shortfalls in donor response to the CAPs, his country called upon other Member States to do their fair share, particularly with regard to food aid. His country was committed to improving the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals Process. Strengthening coordination in complex emergencies and natural disasters was in the best interest of all.
He said the United States supported the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group in its effort to promote international standards for the coordination and mobilization of search and rescue teams. The Group's work and the development of operational guidelines for international search and rescue were essential to enhancing disaster-response capabilities.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said more than 215 million people around the world had been affected by natural disasters in the past decade. Many more millions were displaced as the result of armed conflicts and post-conflict situations. Most humanitarian catastrophes lingered in the poorest regions of the world. Besides impeding the socio-economic development of affected countries, disasters had further eroded their capacity to absorb such shocks, posing a formidable challenge to the international community and the United Nations system. It was strange that, while the United Nations system maintained the necessary expertise to cope with humanitarian emergencies, a shortage of resources often derailed disaster-management efforts. The CAP was losing more of the "market share" of humanitarian funding from donors. In real terms, in 2001, the CAP had lost some 10 per cent of "market share" or some $560 million. While "new emergencies" were being tackled, "old emergencies" were often neglected in terms of resource allocations.
The situation in Afghanistan and crisis-prone countries in Africa was a case in point, he added. Apart from IDPs, many millions were forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. A comprehensive assessment of such situations was needed. Countries hosting large numbers of refugees bore high costs in terms of economic, social and environmental damage, and needed support. Humanitarian relief assistance should be coupled with a development perspective to repatriate refugees. A conducive environment was needed to encourage their safe return home. Peace and security was the first prerequisite for such an environment. Another important aspect of addressing complex humanitarian emergencies was capacity- building. Unhindered access to affected areas, in consultation with host governments, was an important requirement for effective humanitarian efforts.
Based on Pakistan's experience, he proposed that United Nations country teams promote contingency planning for all possible risks related to complex humanitarian crisis or natural disasters in consultation with and in support of the host governments. A well defined strategy to meet natural disasters must be maintained. An emergency reserve fund must be created. Transition from relief to development was a crucial process in any complex humanitarian or natural disaster crisis. The humanitarian and development community could facilitate direct participation of local communities and populations in the identification and implementation of humanitarian and transitional programmes. Countries affected by hosting refugees should be compensated through a greater allocation of development aid.
MARK PALU (Australia) welcomed the emphasis in the Secretary-General's report on the capacities of women as agents for change, rather than on their vulnerabilities or simply as beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance. He was also pleased to see the recognition that much more needed to be done to reach women affected by crises and to actively support their own capacity to contribute to the response. It was essential that gender integration should occur at the earliest stages of all peace-building activities, disaster preparedness and recovery programmes, and that there should be greater emphasis on capacity and competence building for women. Every effort should be made to raise awareness and provide specific training about the need for gender mainstreaming.
In addition, he was pleased to see the emphasis on the transition from relief to long-term development. Australia's Humanitarian Programme Strategy for 2002-2003, developed in response to the growing incidence of crises in the Asia-Pacific region, aimed to reduce the traditional distinction between development and humanitarian assistance. The Government also recognized that the transition from emergency to recovery assistance required a significant shift in approach. He supported the involvement of the UNDP and other development agencies from the early stages of a crisis response, including formulation of a CAP, to ensure policy coherence and integration of recovery programming and peace-building perspectives into emergency responses.
His delegation supported the use of the CAP mechanism as an ongoing strategic planning and monitoring tool, as well as a resource mobilization mechanism, and had actively participated in the recent CAP review. He was particularly concerned about its findings on the lack of progress in prioritizing projects to include in the appeal, that projects were still not properly screened and that agencies were still struggling to separate wider humanitarian needs from narrower institutional ones. It was imperative that the CAP be seen not simply as a fund-raising exercise but as a full strategic planning tool.
HANS FREDRIK LEHNE (Norway) said the growing number of humanitarian emergencies and of IDPs had severely impacted the resources needed to respond to them effectively. More human suffering and deprivation cost more to alleviate. Alas, the international community had not responded accordingly. Indeed, collective efforts appeared out of tune with real needs. It was vital, therefore, to provide sustained adequate financial commitment from donors and to further improve coordination by the United Nations system.
He said humanitarian assistance was not a solution in itself: it was no substitute for political action. The international community must strive to take political action to remedy crises and disasters not only after they occurred, but to prevent them from occurring. Still, Norway continued to support the CAP as a means of improving the coordination of humanitarian assistance and avoiding duplication and waste of scarce resources. While welcoming the progress made so far in that process, he said there were still considerable challenges to be met. Namely, it had become apparent that it was difficult to meet the requirements stipulated in the appeals.
There was reason to fear that persistent underfunding could undermine the ability of the CAPs to serve as a strategic planning instrument, he said. The tendency of donors to favour bilateral assistance, especially at the expense of multilateral funding, further reduced the cooperation possibilities of the CAPs. It was crucial for the United Nations to work more closely with NGOs and other agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help strengthen local capacities. Norway shared the view that, whenever possible, international efforts to prepare for and deal with humanitarian emergencies must increasingly be seen as complementary to those of local actors. Norway encouraged NGOs to relate their activities to the CAPs.
He said strengthening local organizations and networks was also important when addressing the issue of gaps in funding. Over the years, there had been many examples of a protracted crisis dropping off the media radar and subsequently losing the interest of the international community. If lasting progress was ever to be achieved, more attention should be paid to the difficult period between the receipt of humanitarian assistance and the arrival of longer-term aid. For its part, Norway had established a specific budgetary allocation this year for such "gap" projects. Countries emerging from conflict were likely candidates for funds from that allocation.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said that in an ideal world there would be no need to talk about humanitarian assistance. The need for humanitarian assistance was on the rise, which was why humanitarian assistance was a core United Nations activity. The Secretary-General's report contained lucid proposals and Guatemala subscribed to most of them. Guatemala had a direct interest in the topic. Central America, in general, and Guatemala, in particular, were prone to natural disasters, chiefly earthquakes and hurricanes, which had taken a heavy human toll in the past decade. Widespread violence, moreover, had resulted in displaced persons and a long-lasting humanitarian emergency.
Following years of trial and adaptation, the United Nations had now developed the necessary tools to forge a response to humanitarian emergencies, he said. The basic principles contained in the annex to General Assembly resolution 46/189, while not legally binding, had gained credence by reason of their high moral value. While primary responsibility for meeting the needs of victims of natural disasters fell upon States, the international community was duty-bound to support them in the exercise of that responsibility. The international community, acting in conformity with international law, might also deal with situations that could not be addressed at the national level. He concurred with the Secretary-General that in protecting civilians it was important to observe the rules of international humanitarian law, human rights norms and the rights of refugees. The main challenge was to cover the needs of the most vulnerable groups, such as IDPs, women and children.
On the question of transition from relief to development, humanitarian programmes designed to protect persons should seek to reduce threats to their safety, he said. To ensure long-term well-being, relief and assistance should be linked -- from their initial stages -- with development plans. He supported the Secretary-General's view that the donor community should associate its contributions within a single track through the CAP, but he was concerned with the reduction in humanitarian assistance channelled through that process. Coherence was needed for the Organization to identify threats and respond appropriately. Coherence must be reinforced through an association between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, which must do all it could to guarantee a rational apportionment among various tasks.
JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said his delegation was concerned at the steady reduction in aid being given through the CAP. That mechanism continued to be the most valuable and efficient machinery to deliver necessary funds to vulnerable populations during complex emergencies. He added that the trend towards bilateral donation of funds, bypassing the CAP, was most troubling and made it difficult to follow up humanitarian financing and monitor efficiency.
His delegation was also concerned that not enough attention had been given to the process of transition from humanitarian assistance to development. Indeed, it was not sufficient or humane to provide initial emergency aid and then not help them with long-term assistance. He highlighted the five-year plan for assistance to Afghanistan as a model for such programmes, now and in the future. He said that humanitarian crises were important and worthy of attention, whether they were related to conflicts or not. The importance and safety of civilians should not be determined solely by where they were located.
Chile was also concerned that climate change would continue to exacerbate the number of extreme events that would cause natural disasters. A further concern was the increase in domestic conflicts that resulted in serious humanitarian complications, most notably, the increased number of IDPs. More attention should be paid to the fact that women and children were increasingly becoming the targets of violence, particularly in the Palestinian occupied territories, Israel and the Sudan, among others.
RUUD LUBBERS, United Nations High Commissioner for Rufugees, said close cooperation with the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was key for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Recent peace-building operations in places such as Afghanistan had seen an increasing trend of bringing together political, military, humanitarian and development actors to address crisis situations in an integrated way. With its extensive field presence, the UNHCR often worked in partnership with the two departments in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and on activities to ensure sustainable peace. UNHCR's work also involved cooperation with the United Nations development pillar -- the UNDP and the United Nations Development Group. With a presence in many volatile regions, the UNHCR was well placed to make more proactive contributions to early warning and prevention.
He said Afghanistan had shown that there was a need to find a more effective way to address the transition from emergency relief and longer-term development. To achieve that, the United Nations needed to come up with an innovative approach that was neither "humanitarian" nor "development", but that was unique. In post-conflict situations, the World Bank, the UNDP and the international community had already come up with such an approach for addressing the issue of ex-combatants -- "DDRR" or demilitarization, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation. He had, therefore, proposed the concept of the "four Rs" -- repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
In cases where local integration of refugees in countries of asylum was a viable option, he proposed the concept of "Development through Local Integration". Rather than seeing refugees as a burden, host governments and the international community recognized that refugees could be agents of development. Given the organizational structures of the World Bank, UNDP and UNHCR, he proposed joint ventures on a country-by-country basis. The next step was to work on concrete programmes. The UNHCR had initially identified eight possible flagship programmes and would start focusing on the most promising.
Regarding internally displaced persons, he said the United Nations system in recent years had sought to strengthen its response to internal displacement through an inter-agency collaborative approach. While some progress had been made in terms of coordination, there was still a lack of predictability and consistency. UNHCR's policy on involvement with IDPs had been communicated to its partners and endorsed by the General Assembly. Through greater predictability, the UNHCR could ensure a more proactive United Nations response. He intended, therefore, to inform the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator of situations where the UNHCR already had a substantial role in supporting IDPs and where his Office was likely to play a significant role in the future. He would provide that information in the middle of each year, as soon as the budget for the next year had been finalized.
On humanitarian coordinators, he said good coordination depended on strong leadership on the ground. It was clear that the humanitarian coordinator system needed to be strengthened. In situations where there were large humanitarian operations and where a particular United Nations agency had a presence in a country, the representative of that agency should be available to be the humanitarian coordinator. The UNHCR would indicate its availability in a timely manner, country by country.
He also supported ongoing efforts to strengthen the CAP. He had two worries, however. First, the UNHCR should not be seen as a purely humanitarian agency, as its work was not limited to short-term emergency relief programmes. It was important to ensure that the CAP contained adequate plans to unite relief and transitional programmes, including in the area of resource mobilization. Second, it was necessary to ensure that United Nations' investment in joint planning was matched by greater financial support from donors. Good planning did not mean much if the plans could not be implemented. He welcomed greater involvement by donors both in assessing needs and following up to ensure that those needs were met.
ABDULLAH EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said natural disasters such as drought and desertification had afflicted many countries throughout the world, causing destruction to infrastructures and populations. Various countries continued to suffer from civil wars and regional conflicts resulting in the displacement of people. Many marginalized people had suffered, in particular, the most vulnerable segments of society. Terrorism had assumed very serious proportions in the world, both regionally and internationally. Development had to go hand in hand with relief. Disasters -- natural or manmade -- afflicted the most vulnerable segments of society.
True development was based on human development, he said. That concept had been adopted by the UNDP and had spread throughout the world. Having seen how bankrupt development efforts had been, it was good that the international community had taken that idea on board. Development was a complex process that had to be seen in a more general context. When certain social segments of society were emphasized at the cost of others, the process of development was incomplete. Protecting basic human rights was essential to social progress. Modern societies were marked by diversity. The most vulnerable and the marginalized must be mainstreamed into the process. Disregarding the needs of certain groups could lead to division and conflict.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said the basis of humanitarian assistance activities was to protect such vulnerable groups as IDPs, women, children, the elderly and the disabled, so that their ability to withstand crises was enhanced. China believed that, in the process of providing humanitarian assistance, the United Nations agencies and the international community would act in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the guidelines outlined in General Assembly resolution 46/182, and, further, that such assistance should be undertaken with the approval of the concerned countries.
He said that, although the CAP, as a coordination, strategic planning and advocacy tool, had played an important role in raising funds for humanitarian assistance, the proportion of the funds raised in overall humanitarian assistance funding had declined by up to 40 per cent. China was concerned over the issue and hoped that further efforts would be made to strengthen work in that regard.
LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) said he attached great importance to the contribution that could be made through the collaboration of various United Nations organs, with a view to producing a synergy in the realm of humanitarian assistance. Particularly worrisome had been the decline in the proportion of humanitarian assistance channelled through the CAP. The most telling consequences had been the weakening of coordination and emerging imbalance in humanitarian assistance, including the lack of support for "forgotten emergencies".
He said that ignoring the funding gap between relief and development risked treating only the symptoms of the "disease", while its root causes remained untouched. International assistance was key and could make a huge difference in mitigating damage and reducing the need for post-disaster aid and reconstruction and post-conflict peace-building. A true culture of protection required access for humanitarian personnel to those in need, assurance of their safety and security, and a solution to the question of IDPs. It was extremely important to strengthen the advocacy efforts of the United Nations system and act to halt abuses and punish the perpetrators.
Humanitarian workers and the civilian population bore the brunt of the highly complex environment of today's conflicts, he continued. Such personnel were increasingly targets of deliberate or random violence. Their safety and security must, thus, continue to be a matter of high priority in the United Nations system. Member States that had not done so should consider becoming parties to the 1994 Convention on Security of United Nations and Associated Personnel. Efforts should also be stepped up to protect the millions of IDPs. The use of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by an increasing number of States should be encouraged.
TONI FRISCH, observer for Switzerland, encouraged OCHA to strengthen its efforts at consciousness-raising about dire and complex humanitarian situations. That agency's work should be emphasized throughout the United Nation and among all donor countries and Member States. His delegation was particularly mindful of efforts to coordinate the work of humanitarian agencies to improve the effectiveness, quality and promptness of humanitarian activities in the field.
Turning to the CAP, he said that mechanism should help prioritize and provide for better coordination and dialogue among donors as they made decisions about humanitarian operational planning. Such planning should take place in conjunction with the authorities of the countries concerned. Switzerland reaffirmed its commitment and devotion to all humanitarian staff working in often precarious and dangerous situations. He added that the international community must train its workers in the field.
Switzerland was also concerned that children, women and the elderly and other vulnerable groups were most affected by displacement or other violations of human rights. He stressed the importance of the 1951 Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons in that regard. Further, the mutual and impartial nature of all humanitarian action should be consistently stressed. Switzerland supported the proposal of the Secretary-General to promote a "culture of protection", as well as the protection of vulnerable populations and natural resources.
MAHBUB-UZ ZAMAN (Bangladesh) noted the increase in the past decade of the number of people affected by natural disasters and the increasingly regional nature of wars, as well as the emergence of special situations, such as the one in Afghanistan. All of that had changed the extent and nature of humanitarian interventions, requiring strengthened coordination of the humanitarian assistance mechanisms at the global and national levels.
He said that Bangladesh, given its unique geographical location and climatic conditions, had always been subjected to natural disasters. Floods and cyclones had lashed its shores with relentless regularity. Over the years, through a mix of policy planning, national resilience and the proper utilization of external support, the country had largely been able to control the damage. A national policy on disaster management had been formulated, taking into account the linkages among environment, disaster and development, as well as the conservation, management and utilization of natural resources.
A ministerial disaster Management Coordination Committee monitored implementation of related projects and policies. Regionally, the South Asian countries had agreed to devise mechanisms in early warning, disaster preparedness, and land and water conservation. Those capacities, once developed, would require United Nations support. The arsenic contamination of drinking water required a coordinated approach and international support. Ironically, the success in tube well water distribution was now adversely affecting more than 35 million people. The emerging situation clearly deserved priority attention.
Outlining proposals of key concern to Bangladesh, he highlighted the need to coordinate disaster assistance at the national levels, as well as a shift from the ad hoc nature of planning to long-term strategies. Also critical was reversing the downward flow in resources and reaching the vulnerable and affected groups through targeted interventions. He also stressed broadening the participation base. Disaster-accentuated poverty and governments alone could not solve the complex problems associated with poverty. Early forecasting of disasters could also greatly reduce the loss of lives and property. For its part, the United Nations should strengthen its analysis capabilities in predicting impending disasters and conflicts.
Ms. LARUSDOTTIR, World Health Organization (WHO), said that in this "year of September 11" new players and new concerns entered the humanitarian arena, bringing new responsibilities to the international community. More complex emergencies turned chronic. The poorest and most disease-ridden communities continued to need, and often failed to receive, substantial relief. While polio was being eradicated, people continued to die of measles, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. The cessation of hostilities in Angola demonstrated the magnitude of the humanitarian needs of newly accessible populations.
He said that the escalation of violence in the West Bank further brought to the fore the pressing needs for humanitarian relief. That ran parallel to the ambitious challenge of assisting Afghanistan on the way to national recovery, while responding to the Afghan people's persisting, large needs for survival and dignity in the face of man-made and natural hazards. Poverty remained a major factor of vulnerability, and well known seasonal hazards, such as floods, returned. Food shortages were recurring in southern Africa, which interacted with structural poverty, political instability and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in a new humanitarian crisis that threatened at least 60 million people and could lead to an excess mortality of 30,000.
Developing countries rightly expected WHO's work for humanitarian action to contribute to the recovery and further development of local and national capacities in health, he said. The WHO had defined a set of "core commitments" in an emergency for which it could be held accountable. It represented a priority list of what the health partners must ensure for the survival of people in a crisis and, therefore, a model of preparedness plans. Around those priorities, the WHO promoted institutional capacities and linkages in Member States and partner agencies. Coordination was essential, even if difficult, and there was great demand for quality standards and accountability. The WHO was ready to offer those for all. But, prevention was better than cure, and greater resources should be put into longer-term programmes that promoted sustainable, healthy livelihoods, and not mere survival.
JEAN-JACQUES GRAISSE, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said that collaboration and effective coordination between diverse humanitarian actors was both an operational necessity and a moral imperative for providing an effective humanitarian response in a crisis. The WFP mobilized food aid in emergency and protracted crisis situations to save lives, alleviate hunger, and enable poor, food-insecure people to make investments that helped them in the longer term. In 2001, the WFP assisted 77 million people in 82 countries, including 8 million IDPs and 3 million refugees.
He said the Programme's experience as a front-line humanitarian actor in many emergencies clearly illustrated the benefits of enhanced coordination. United Nations' capacity to foster greater coordination of humanitarian assistance had improved considerably in the past 10 years. The WFP had been promoting coordination between humanitarian assistance partners, such as United Nations' agencies, NGOs, the ICRC, and donors as an absolute necessity. It also participated fully in country team discussions at the field level and was contributing to new and innovative approaches to coordination.
Indeed, he continued, in the midst of crises, better coordination could clearly improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian response, and useful mechanisms, such as the CAP and others, deserved continued support. Enhanced preparedness measures, which would help avoid humanitarian crisis, were meaningless, however, without the accompanying resources for early action. n many cases, donor resources arrived too late to avert crises. Often, resources were earmarked for certain emergencies based on the media profile of the crisis or political concerns, rather than humanitarian need. The result could be tremendous human suffering and massive economic costs.
YOUSSOUFOU OUEDRAGO (Burkina Faso) said special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief was crucial in this era of increased natural disasters, armed conflict and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Armed conflicts were also forcing the massive displacement of civilians in various regions around the globe. All those scourges were causing unprecedented challenges for States, as well as dangerously affecting their economic and development processes. The deleterious affects were particularly serious, because they went beyond national borders.
Given all that, international solidarity must be strengthened to support those in need, particularly such vulnerable groups as women, children and the elderly. The agencies and funds of the United Nations, as well as other humanitarian actors, must reinforce their presence in various parts of the world where humanitarian situations were precarious. Further, those agencies must assist national government efforts to ensure the safety of civilian populations.
He said his Government had in place a national rehabilitation and re-emergence plan that operated nationwide to address many problems. In recent years, the Government had initiated an emergency food aid programme to offset the ill-effects of several consecutive poor harvests. In order to minimize the effects of natural disasters, Burkina Faso had focused on providing information -- teaching people how to deal with disasters -- and rehabilitation. The international community should encourage the protection of vulnerable populations, with the help of local and community organizations. He urgently appealed to donors to make CAP a real mechanism to mobilize resources that did not have political or strategic attachments.
NORMAN MACDONNELL (Canada) said complex emergencies and natural disasters were affecting the lives of millions of people. Gaining and maintaining access to those in need was, perhaps, foremost among the frustrations currently facing humanitarian actors. It was not acceptable that in many environments the United Nations and its humanitarian partners were present, but unable to reach vulnerable populations.
Often, he continued, that was a result of policies and actions enforced by the authorities controlling a given territory. Sovereignty implied responsibility by affected States for their civilian populations. There were also obligations under international law to ensure access for humanitarian assistance to those in need, including facilitating the safe and unhindered movement of humanitarian personnel. Canada supported the view that where States or governments did not have the means to meet their responsibilities in that regard, they should seek the support of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners.
He said, during the last three years, important progress had been made in increasing international advocacy and support of war-affected and vulnerable populations. The issue of humanitarian access was a key element of those efforts, and was buttressed by the Secretary-General's call to develop a culture of protection. Canada had made the protection of civilians a foreign policy priority and urged other States to do likewise. All should commit to collective action and focus on the implementation of existing international law, resolutions and recommendations.
He said it was important to ensure an effective transition from relief to development, with emphasis on reconciliation. While that view had been expressed often throughout the United Nations system, it had proved difficult to translate into concrete action. There was still a long way to go to create flexible funding and institutional mechanisms that supported transition periods and root causes. Whether in the context of a natural disaster of armed conflict, the failure to put in place mechanisms to facilitate the transition from the outset of the crisis could be damaging for affected populations. Moreover, transitions which led to sustainable peace and development relied heavily on grass-roots involvement. Resident coordinators and agencies on the ground must tap into and enhance local capacities at the outset of any emergency and maintain that dialogue throughout the crisis and afterward.
MARCO BALAREZO (Peru) said that domestic internal violence and its consequences, and natural disasters, such as El Niño, which had affected his country, were signs of tragedy in the current era. Conflicts had killed hundreds of thousands of people, and displaced approximately 20,000 more in the past year; more than 80,000 had died as a result of natural disasters. Dealing with those consequences was very difficult. The common denominator seemed to be that women, children, adolescents and the elderly were the most affected groups.
He said that dealing with such phenomenon required a timely and effective response by the international community, particularly the United Nations. In the case of natural disasters, frequently prevention, such as the development of early warning systems and contingency plans, was less expensive than humanitarian action itself. The Economic and Social Council, as well as the General Assembly, must give priority to preventive efforts when dealing with conflicts. Such efforts must be approached from a structural standpoint, namely, dealing with the root causes of poverty, social marginalization and economic weakness.
The results in Afghanistan were a specific example of peace-building flowing from humanitarian assistance. There should be a coordinating body within the United Nations to deal with the consequences of humanitarian and natural crises. In the context of the "culture of protection", humanitarian staff must do their jobs without having to risk their lives. The establishment of the new advisory group would support the work being carried out in the field.
SON SE-JOO (Republic of Korea) said the increasing frequency of natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies, paired with the decreasing capacity of developing countries to absorb the economic shock of such events, would continue to challenge United Nations humanitarian assistance operations in the coming years. It was important for the international community to bolster its resources and enhance coordination to minimize the tragic consequences of each humanitarian crisis.
He said, since natural disasters did not recognize national boarders and conflicts had become increasingly regional in scope, humanitarian assistance now required a more regional approach. His delegation welcomed efforts to strengthen regional structures and supported the strengthening of OCHA's regional presence and building local capacities. The smooth transition from emergency relief to comprehensive humanitarian development was crucial in instituting a framework that would support and sustain a nation during that susceptible phase. Support for the vulnerable, such as internally displaced persons, women, children and the elderly, was essential during such transitions.
It was, therefore, important to ensure and enhance the participation of local community actors, he said. He strongly encouraged the engagement of the private sector in the transition from relief to development. Not only did that sector represent virtually untapped wealth or resources and synergies, it was also responsible for investment and job creation that could help sustain a nation through such difficult transitions.
RAMON BLANCO DOMINGEZ (Dominican Republic)said the Council's current debate provided his delegation the chance to formally voice the major concerns of island nations, particularly those in the Caribbean, which were all very vulnerable to cyclical natural phenomena that regularly caused devastating natural disasters. Despite the elaboration of disaster prevention and relief strategies, supplemented by the experience of local populations, social and economic pressures obliged people in geographically unstable areas to live in inadequate housing. All that contributed to why such disasters were increasingly causing massive losses of life, as well as consequences that rolled back broader economic and social development efforts.
He called on the international community to recognize the need to provide and promote the sharing of scientific and technological advances to developing countries and international humanitarian agencies to help offset the effects of natural disasters. He said it was often national governments and national organizations that first and sometimes solely responded to natural disasters. The international community must do away with the bureaucratic red tape, which delayed immediate international response in almost every case.
He said that natural disasters were a complex problem without borders. In that regard, there was a need to enhance regional and international commitments for cooperation that would include United Nations agencies, civil society and private sector actors, and provide a basis for dealing with major calamities that regularly affected poor island nations. The international community must make available to countries fresh and "untied" resources for the prevention, early detection and mitigation of natural disasters and the promotion of sustainable development.
VIJAY THAKUR SINGH (India) said that the United Nations was based on the premise that the nation State was the most legitimate expression of political authority, the principle of non-interference in internal affairs and the understanding that the human condition could be improved by cooperation among Member States. That foundation needed to be strengthened. Any weakening would be a recipe for chaos and lawlessness in inter-State relations, and would certainly be counterproductive to efforts to promote a culture of protection.
She expressed regret over the fact that the strengthening of the CAP had been accompanied by a decline in the resources available in proportion to the levels of need, as well as a steady decline in the proportion of humanitarian assistance channelled through CAP. She was worried that, without any significant increase in humanitarian funding, the transition from relief to development would need to draw more money from traditional development budgets.
The report, she said, had dealt, in some detail, on the illicit trade in natural resources and its effect on humanitarian assistance. A mandatory system for marking and tracing small arms and light weapons would save more innocent lives than elaborate controls for trade in minerals and natural resources. Also, the Secretary-General's report had referred to the guiding principles on internal displacement as legal principles. Those principles were not negotiated in an intergovernmental process, but drafted by a team of technical experts and NGOs. The results of such a process did not qualify as legal principles.
ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi) noted that reports of missions of the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe warned that some 12.8 million people faced serious food shortages until the region's next main harvest in April 2003. He was greatly interested, therefore, in devising a solution that was focused and forward-looking to face the challenges of Malawi and other countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
He said his country was hardest hit with more than 3 million people requiring emergency food aid over the next 12 months. More than 80 per cent of Malawians were directly engaged in agricultural activities as their main livelihood. Maize was the preferred staple, comprising 80 per cent of the diet, and lack of maize generally meant a lack of food. Current maize prices were still 60 per cent above the price at this time last year, and traditional coping strategies had eroded. At the same time, more than 65 per cent of Malawians lived below the poverty line, against the backdrop of one of the world's highest HIV/AIDS rates.
Nationally, he continued, the Department of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Rehabilitation was established to coordinate and facilitate disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. The Department has made a good effort, but the question of capacity should be addressed urgently, if the move from relief to development was to be realized. In that regard, his country called on the international community to render technical and financial support. Other national initiatives focused on community empowerment to enhance household coping mechanisms through such programmes as the Cash for Work, Food for Work, and Public Works Programme.
The Secretary-General's report raised an important point relating to advanced regional-level contingency planning and the need for greater regional information sharing and cooperation, he said. He agreed, and would also like to see continued improvement of the CAP, with more NGO involvement. The decline of humanitarian assistance was a cause for serious concern. Innovative strategies must be devised that would reverse that trend. He commended the efforts of the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the development of an international disaster-response law.
HAROLD ACEMAH (Uganda) said primary caretakers in the field have to be equipped to save lives and property, especially since they provided the most immediate assistance. Information on impending disasters should be accessible to all stakeholders and should be handled with care and transparency, so that interaction was geared towards more effective action. Access to information, especially at the local level, should stop being a problem, as should the misuse of that information. Both governments and the United Nations should build effective information storage systems for future use in a structured manner so that critical decisions were made expeditiously.
He drew attention to the fact that HIV/AIDS had become a compounding factor of vulnerability, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Further, he noted that the number of vulnerable societies was increasing as human activity interfered with the balance of nature. There were some natural disasters beyond the control of mankind, but questionable activities only increased the likelihood of such disasters occurring.
It was evident that most developing countries had limited budgetary capacity to set up disaster-management mechanisms and, thus, increasingly relied on United Nations agencies and the donor community to provide critical input, he said. That called for the strengthening of the guidelines to coordinate action. The CAP needed improvement and adequate funding to enable humanitarian assistance to be transmitted through it. Bilateral assistance was welcome, but it must reach the vulnerable. He called for the transformation of emergency assistance into long-term development assistance.
ALPER COSKUN (Turkey) said that, as stated in the Secretary-General's report, it was essential to strengthen the response to both natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies. Following massive earthquakes in 1999, Turkey and Greece had established a joint disaster-response unit to provide timely and effective humanitarian assistance, when needed. The unit was also intended to reinforce and expand the existing standby capacity of the United Nations, and talks with OCHA to finalize a memorandum to that end were in their final stage. Among the lessons drawn from the 1999 earthquakes was the recognition of the need to strengthen international urban search and rescue assistance, and Turkey had actively participated in recent discussions among interested parties on that matter.
Afghanistan had proven to be one of the greatest challenges before the international community, he continued, where natural disasters and complex emergencies presented themselves together. The rapid mobilization of international support for that country was phenomenal, yet the journey had just begun. The United Nations involvement in Afghanistan must be efficient, coordinated and results-oriented. An effective transition from relief to development was most important, not only in Afghanistan, but in similar situations, as well. Naturally, such a transition could only be made possible with effective and sustainable funding mechanisms.
The Secretary-General's report contained very valuable elements, he said, and his country applauded the efforts to strengthen regional response and local capacity building for natural disasters. Emphasis should also be placed on enhancing contingency planning, early warning, prevention and preparedness. In focusing on the vulnerable, and, in particular, on such affected groups as women, children, the elderly and disabled, the report made a valuable contribution to the promotion of a "culture of protection". An indispensable part of that culture was no doubt related to the safety and security of humanitarian staff, which continued to be a source of concern.
LUIS E. CAPPAGLI (Argentina) associated himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77. The Secretary-General's report contained an accurate assessment of the situation in the field and reflected appropriately the main concerns of the humanitarian community. The number and complexity of humanitarian crises required a coordinated and integrated approach, including improving current mechanisms and creating new ones, as needed. The United Nations system should continue to follow a flexible approach in devising institutional tools to address the changing nature of those crises.
He said that practical steps should be taken at the United Nations to enhance cooperation between the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council, within their respective mandates, bearing in mind the humanitarian and socio-economic dimensions of many armed conflicts. At the intergovernmental level, it was essential to try to bridge the different political perceptions with a new understanding based on placing the needs of human beings at the centre of the humanitarian debate. Strategies for peoples affected by armed conflicts should be considered from the perspective of transition from relief to development, and include adequate assistance.
It had been agreed that the primary responsibility for the protection of and assistance to populations affected by humanitarian crises rested with governments. States must also facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies and ensure access to victims. Even when States were unwilling or unable to meet their responsibilities, the international community should not be indifferent to humanitarian need. He expressed his highest appreciation to OCHA and the other United Nations' agencies for their work in the field, and reiterated his concern for the safety and security of humanitarian workers.
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