Press Releases

                                                                            ECOSOC/6127
                                                                            13 July 2004

    Under-Secretary-General Stresses Need to Ensure Transition from Conflict, Disaster Recovery to Peace, Sustainable Development

    Addressing Economic and Social Council, He Calls for Ethical, Political Revolution among Member States, Armed Groups

    NEW YORK, 12 July (UN Headquarters) -- As the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) opened its annual debate on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance today, the top United Nations humanitarian official urged all stakeholders -- donors and recipient countries, policy makers and practitioners -- to come together in a true “humanitarian community” to ensure a smooth transition from conflict and disaster recovery to peace and sustainable development.

    Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Council that there had been unprecedented positive changes in the field during the past year. Great strides had been made in improving the models, methods and tools of humanitarian response. But nevertheless, such a “logistical revolution” demanded a corresponding moral, ethical and political revolution in and among Member States and armed groups. International response tools were also inadequate without a corresponding local and national capacity-building. It was important to continue to support international response mechanisms.

    There was a need to remain true to the spirit of the guiding principles by effectively communicating the impartiality of the United Nations, he said, noting that many humanitarian partners were worried about the increased involvement of commercial organizations and military forces in relief activities and by the manner in which the growing number of integrated missions were changing the way the system worked.  Limited participation in humanitarian funding, which continued to rely on the same small group of generous donors, was also a cause for concern. More must be done to identify new sources of funding and broaden the funding base.

    Summing up the year in humanitarian affairs, he said the period might unfortunately be remembered most because of the attacks against relief operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq. And while unprecedented prospects for peace had brought real progress to some areas of the world, in other areas, gains had been eclipsed by “some of the most dramatic and disturbing humanitarian developments of our times”. Millions in Bangladesh and India had been struck by severe floods, while some 26,000 people had been killed by an earthquake in Iran last December.

    Mr. Egeland said he had recently witnessed the desperate situation in Darfur, Sudan -- where millions had found themselves recently displaced -- and the refugee camps in Chad, where the impact of humanitarian work could literally be measured in terms of life and death. “If we fail in our obligations as national governments, conflict parties and international community, hundreds of thousands may perish in their primitive camps in the desert.  We are late in Darfur because the senseless violence against civilians lasted for too long, access was blocked for too long, insecurity remains too high, and resources have been provided too late”, he said, adding, “If we are to call ourselves a humanitarian community, then we owe it to the vulnerable of the world to be true to our word.”

    Earlier, the Council wrapped up its operational segment with the unanimous adoption of a resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document E/2004/L.15). By that text, the Council invited the Secretary-General to make recommendations on possible themes for discussion during its 2005 and 2006 operational activities segments. It also invited the General Assembly to consider a concise and action-oriented resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review, focusing on priority areas as determined by Member States.

    The Council also took note of the Secretary-General’s report on comprehensive statistical data on operational activities for development for 2002; annual reports by the heads of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Food Programme (WFP); and reports by the executive boards of UNICEF, WFP and the UNDP on their 2004 regular sessions; as well as of decisions contained within the reports of the executive boards of the UNFPA and UNICEF on their 2004 annual sessions.

    Also speaking today were the representatives of Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Norway, Kenya, Ukraine, China, India, Canada, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, South Africa and Guatemala.

    An official of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

    The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 13 July, to hold a panel discussion on strengthening preparedness and response to national disasters, with an emphasis on capacity-building. It is also expected to hold a panel discussion in the afternoon on field-level coordination for the purpose of continuing the presence and operations of United Nations humanitarian assistance mission in higher-risk environments.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council was expected this morning to conclude its operational activities segment and to discuss the issue of transition from relief to development. It would also take up the issue of special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

    On the latter matter, the Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report (document A/59/93-E/2004/74), which highlights the critical role of stronger coordination and planning among the development, humanitarian, peacekeeping and political actors of the United Nations and presents recommendations in that regard. All must work to ensure a smooth transition from conflict to sustainable development.  However, the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and its contribution to the consolidation of peace will continue to be constrained if humanitarian staff lack access to vulnerable populations or are unable to maintain an effective presence in crises.

    The Secretary-General advocates the need for warring parties to recognize the neutral and impartial nature of United Nations humanitarian action. Furthermore, the international humanitarian community must strengthen its awareness and understanding of local dynamics and work to reassure recipient communities concerning the principles that guide humanitarian action. The United Nations should be supported by Member States in its efforts to improve common needs assessments and work towards more effective prioritization, including timely testing and reviewing of the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) Needs Assessment Framework and Matrix. Donors are invited to make available increased amounts of un-earmarked, predictable funding for relief assistance, including in the transition phase, and explore means to fund all critical needs across all sectors. States are encouraged to support and fund the development and implementation of new integrated programming tools, such as the 4Rs, to facilitate the transition from relief to development.

    Also addressed in the report efforts to integrate HIV/AIDS responses into the planning, programming and implementation of humanitarian action; protect women and children from sexual exploitation and abuse; develop a collaborative approach to the problems of internally displaced persons; and increase sensitivity to national and local customs and traditions in countries of assignment.

    The report also outlines the Secretary-General’s approach to addressing the future challenges of natural disasters, stressing the need to integrate disaster-risk reduction into development planning.  Member States and the United Nations are called upon to strengthen their efforts to identify more practical ways of channelling resources to support national and regional disaster management capacities. An intended outcome of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, set for Japan in January 2005, is the production of practical recommendations to assist countries and the international community in implementing the improvements required in all aspects of disaster management.

    Another document presented within the framework of efforts to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance is a report of the Secretary-General on assistance to Mozambique (document A/59/86-E/2004/69), which describes follow-up initiatives in response to natural disasters and the spread of the HIV pandemic, as well as other United Nations programmes in support of the Government of Mozambique.

    Mozambique is the sixth poorest country in the world, with almost 70 per cent of its population living below the poverty line, estimated at some 40 cents a day. The country is prone to a wide range of natural disasters that regularly cause major damage and set back economic growth. The latest pattern witnessed in the country is represented by two consecutive years of drought following two years of floods.

    The document elaborates on numerous United Nations assistance programmes in Mozambique, covering the areas of agriculture and food security, health, education, child protection, capacity-building, coordination and monitoring of national efforts, water and sanitation. In particular, a task force was set up to address the root causes of the drought, and the Organization has initiated the formulation of a rural development strategy to address the recurrent causes of food insecurity. The United Nations is supporting the revision of the national plan for reducing absolute poverty with a view to mainstreaming HIV/AIDS, gender, disaster prevention/preparedness and management and information and communications technologies (ICT) for development in all sectors.

    Mozambique’s national contingency plan for 2004 presents three disaster scenarios, the report states. The drought scenario for 2004 contemplates 971,512 people at risk, representing a significant 34 per cent decrease compared to 2003, when 1,469,782 people were identified. The number of people at risk from cyclones is estimated at 1,353,770 (a 12 per cent increase compared to 2003). Finally, 847,684 people are estimated to be at risk from floods (no significant change compared to 2003 when 847,070 were identified as being at risk). The contingency plan has a budget of approximately $35 million, comprising the pre-positioning of stocks, the building of disaster preparedness and early warning capacity, disaster-mitigation interventions, sensitization and coordination. Intended to support national efforts is the United Nations Inter-Agency Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan.

    According to the report, the problem was also addressed at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting last February in Maputo. The recommendations of that meeting were aimed at creating a better understanding of the level of vulnerability, improved emergency response, the use of second season and winter crops, the building of institutional capacities, and the use of trade and markets for the country’s benefit.

    The United Nations country team in Mozambique shares fully the concerns and recommendations stemming from the SADC meeting, the report says. It also recommends that in continuing to implement the suggestions made in the report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa in 2003, the team should use the mid-term review of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to address the severe impact of HIV/AIDS on women, girls and orphaned children.  Particular emphasis should be placed on the notion of vulnerability.

    The document also contains recommendations concerning further development of “excellent inter-agency collaboration existing at the central level” and its extension to the provincial, district and, more specifically, the community level.

    This has also been identified as an entry point for joint programming.  Strong partnerships with civil society, private sector, bilateral and multilateral donors must be expanded, while the capacity of national central and decentralized authorities must be strengthened.

    Because of Mozambique’s exposure to a wide range of natural disasters, the preparation of a national plan for disaster management is crucial, the report stresses. The plan for disaster management should serve as a guiding instrument for all institutions involved in risk management. It should outline preparedness, prevention/mitigation and response activities to an emergency situation associated with natural/man-made disasters or technological occurrences in Mozambique. The National Institute for Disaster Management should go beyond the preparation of annual contingency plans and step up to the next level of initiating coordination leading to the preparation of a national plan for disaster management.

    Action

    Concluding its operational segment this morning, the Economic and Social Council adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document E/2004/L.15), by which it invited the Secretary-General to make recommendations on possible themes for discussion during the Council’s 2005 and 2006 operational activities segments. It also invited the General Assembly to consider a concise and action-oriented resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review, focusing on priority areas as determined by Member States.

    The Council also took note of the Secretary-General’s report on comprehensive statistical data on operational activities for development for 2002; annual reports by the heads of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Food Programme (WFP); and reports by the executive boards of UNICEF, WFP and UNDP on their 2004 regular sessions; as well as of decisions contained in the reports of the executive boards of the UNFPA and UNICEF on their annual sessions of 2004.

    Humanitarian Affairs Segment

    In opening remarks, DAW PENJO (Bhutan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said that ensuring the well-being and protection of citizens was the individual responsibility of Member States. However, in an increasingly globalized world, it could no longer be ignored that many of the challenges were assuming complex dimensions requiring international cooperation.  The humanitarian affairs segment of the Council was an important component of that endeavour, during which the collective challenges faced could be identified and agreement on practical measures agreed upon.

    JAN EGELAND, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said the segment offered an opportunity to allow donors and recipient countries, policy makers and practitioners to come together as a true “humanitarian community” to agree on priorities for the coming year.  For the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the guidance to be offered was crucial.

    He said the Secretary-General’s report reflected a year of great changes for humanitarian affairs. In some areas of the world, unprecedented prospects for peace had allowed for progress, but in other areas, gains had been eclipsed by “some of the most dramatic and disturbing humanitarian developments of our times”. Millions in Bangladesh and India had been struck by severe floods.  Some 26,000 people had been killed by an earthquake in Iran last December, and millions of people found themselves newly displaced in Darfur, Sudan.

    Unfortunately, the past year might be remembered most because of the attacks against humanitarian and relief operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. There was a need to remain true to the spirit of the guiding principles by effectively communicating the United Nations’ impartiality. Many humanitarian partners were worried about the increased involvement of commercial organizations and military forces in relief activities and by the way in which the growing number of integrated missions were changing the way the system worked.

    Great strides had been made in improving the models, methods and tools of response, he continued. But such a “logistical revolution” demanded a corresponding moral, ethical and political revolution in and among Member States and armed groups. Without the access, security and financial resources required, those tools could not be used to move the mission forward. The international response tools were also inadequate without a corresponding local and national capacity-building. It was important to continue to support international response mechanisms.

    Expressing concern about the shortfall in support, he said that to date only 29 per cent of total requirements for current consolidated appeals had been received. “I have been particularly appalled by the low levels of funding support for crises in the Central African Republic and in Somalia, where, sadly, the needs are some of the greatest and most urgent in the world today”, he said. The limited participation in humanitarian funding, which continued to rely on the same small group of generous donors, was also a cause for concern. More must be done to identify new sources of funding and broaden the funding base.

    He said that traditional donors, response partners and humanitarian workers must also be more open, inclusive and innovative in forging stronger partnerships that could provide additional resources, advice and leadership. There were many encouraging examples of regional cooperation and solidarity, and humanity was strengthened when countries could reach out to their neighbours.  Resources notwithstanding, the problem of accessing and maintaining access to people in need of assistance was dire. Also, internal displacement continued to be a cause of great concern, and the current relevant OCHA unit had been expanded into an Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division.

    The frequency and intensity of sexual exploitation in conflict continued to be troubling, he said, but it was encouraging that much had been achieved towards building awareness among humanitarian actors during the past year. The power of accountability had now been put into the hands of beneficiaries by the establishment of a field-level complaints system for sexual abuse. Progress had also been made on integrating a gender perspective in humanitarian work.

    He said that since last year’s ECOSOC session, he had worked to identify the problems and highlight the opportunities for assisting countries shifting from conflict to peace.  Work was also being done regarding the current gaps in transition planning and funding by bringing coherence to the strategies of the United Nations, donor and recipient countries and international financial institutions. It was also encouraging that the necessary shift required to address the root cause of disasters was picking up momentum. Natural hazards continued to threaten the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people.  The ongoing review of the 1994 Yokohama Strategy was an opportunity to increase commitment to disaster reduction. He looked forward to the Council members’ active participation in and support for the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Hyogo-Kobe, Japan, in January 2005.

    He said he had recently witnessed the desperate situation in Darfur and the refugee camps in Chad, where the impact of humanitarian work could literally be measured in terms of life and death. “If we fail in our obligations as national governments, conflict parties and international community, hundreds of thousands may perish in their primitive camps in the desert.  We are late in Darfur because the senseless violence against civilians lasted for too long, access was blocked for too long, insecurity remains too high, and resources have been provided too late”, he said, adding, “If we are to call ourselves a humanitarian community, then we owe it to the vulnerable of the world to be true to our word.”

    JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that since earthquakes, floods cyclones, droughts and other natural disasters or environmental emergencies remained a serious threat for millions of people in the world’s poorest countries, there was a need to invest in developing national preparedness and response capacities in disaster-prone areas. There was also a need to launch effective strategies for addressing disaster risks and vulnerabilities, and for strengthening national and regional early warning systems that would help speed up response time and better target-assistance measures.

    With that in mind, he said, the Group of 77 would stress the importance of supporting the “Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative” to ensure that humanitarian assistance was provided more in accordance with agreed humanitarian principles, and that funding provided in times of crises was commensurate with clearly defined and demonstrable need.  Moreover, in order to encourage donors, that Initiative must promote best practices among donors and facilitate improved humanitarian coordination through agreed definitions of humanitarian assistance, improved financial tracking and identified gaps in resources.

    The Group reaffirmed the importance of developing a framework to analyse, compare and present needs assessments consistently across emergencies and in the context of consolidated appeals, he said. Such a framework should provide country teams with a transparent and consistent ways to organize information relating to needs and to enhance the role of agencies towards providing assistance in a timely manner. In that context, the Group of 77 looked forward to the outcome of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction.

    While commending the efforts of the UNDP and the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs to improve measures, which required the consolidation of peace processes in countries emerging from conflict, he said the Group was nevertheless concerned about the ongoing plight of many internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.  Addressing that humanitarian challenge, including the abuses and violence those people faced, required close cooperation with the competent authorities on legal and therapeutic issues.

    He went on to say that in order to address the tragic loss of relief workers and humanitarian staff in the line of duty, it was necessary to improve collaboration among humanitarian agencies through the continued development of enhanced security policies and procedures and through shared analysis and joint approaches to security. HIV/AIDS posed another challenge in the area of humanitarian assistance, and the Group called for stronger efforts to integrate AIDS responses into the planning, programming and implementation of humanitarian actions.

    JAN BERTELING, Director of the Human Rights and Peace-building Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said humanitarian coordination continued to be a key issue and required further improvement. Coordination efforts should not be limited to the United Nations system, but should include governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Welcoming the efforts by Under-Secretary-General Egeland to bring humanitarian suffering to the world’s attention -- particularly with regard to Darfur -- he nevertheless warned that Darfur was not the only situation in which humanitarian access had been severely hampered. Unimpeded access by humanitarian workers to people in need of assistance in conflict situations was essential.

    Turning to the issue of financing, he noted that far less humanitarian funding had been made available in 2004 than in the previous two years. Uneven distribution of funding justified calls for more and more non-earmarked funding, and demonstrated the urgent need for better and comparable needs assessment methodologies. The CAP and OCHA should lead the way in coordinating and prioritizing to attract more funding and ensure quality control.  For its part, the European Union participated actively in ongoing discussions among donors and with other stakeholders in the framework of the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative.

    Among other issues requiring further attention, he added, were sexual abuse, IDPs and mine action.  With regard to natural disasters and disaster reduction, the European Union subscribed to the Kobe Conference’s focus on capacity-building, contingency planning, preparedness and ownership. Investing sufficiently in disaster preparedness would prove more cost-effective than investing in disaster response.

    Given the changing security environment, all Member States should adhere to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, he continued.  Respect for international humanitarian law provided the best bulwark against the suffering of people in conflict, and all States had an obligation to respect, and ensure respect for, it.  Moreover, as security for humanitarian actors would only increase given less blurring of roles and mandates for humanitarian and military actors, the United Nations and its Member States must accept responsibility for averting such blurring. Integrated missions must be organized so that there could be no misunderstanding about their independent, impartial and neutral character.

    SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said that the people of local communities should have ownership of the process by which their living conditions were improved. Humanitarian workers should play a supporting role, respecting local traditions and cultures, and engaging in dialogue with local communities. Refugee camps, for example, should be administered on the basis of such local customs as respect for older people.

    Welcoming the increasing involvement of regional organizations, he said that when present in the field, local NGOs should be fully involved in assistance activities. Japan was pleased that the development agencies of the United Nations, which used to start their activities after humanitarian agencies had finished their work, were now trying to go into the field at an early stage of humanitarian assistance activities, thereby ensuring a smooth transition from relief to development.

    Turning to the engagement of military forces in humanitarian assistance, he said that humanitarian workers were generally cautious about such involvement as it could change the perception of humanitarian assistance. On the other hand, Security Council resolution 1546 (2004) requested Member States and international and regional organizations to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military forces to meet the needs of the Iraqi people for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. Japan supported the approach taken by the Secretariat, which envisioned studying the impact of military engagement on humanitarian assistance and looking at individual situations, such as that of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan.

    Turning to natural disasters, he said that one of the main lessons that Japan, a disaster-prone country, had learned was that before an actual disaster happened, it was important for members of a community to understand what they should do and be aware of a system to help each other.  Actors at all levels -- not only countries, but also individuals -- should have ownership in that respect. It was important to establish a framework to prevent natural disasters, diminish their impact through preparedness, and respond rapidly when they occurred.

    VASSILY NEBEZIA (Russian Federation) said the moral and political importance of United Nations humanitarian activities was difficult to overstate. In order to protect the Organization’s reputation in the humanitarian field, there must be continued respect for the principles of neutrality, impartiality and respect for the political and territorial sovereignty of States.  Moreover, in respect of coordinating humanitarian responses, there must be a comprehensive strategy for transition from relief to development.

    Among specific concerns raised, he stressed that although the situation of IDPs had been taken up by a wide range of United Nations agencies and organizations, they continued to constitute one of the most pressing items on the humanitarian agenda. Their legal protection must be based largely upon national legislation, as well as upon international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, recent events had made clear the premeditated and fatal forms that infringements of the security of humanitarian personnel were increasingly taking.  That issue must be redressed urgently, including through the United Nations Convention on Humanitarian and Associated Personnel.  It was also necessary for personnel to abide by international best practices, as well as the customs and traditions of the host country.

    Another issue flagged by the Secretary-General was the provision of humanitarian assistance by military actors, he added. The consequences attendant to such situations must be fully investigated, as should the role played in the field by United Nations humanitarian, political and peacekeeping components. Other concerns reflected the need to strengthen mechanisms for forecasting, planning for and responding rapidly to emergency situations, including at the national level, as well as to expand the donor base to ensure adequate funding for humanitarian assistance.

    TONI FRISCH (Switzerland) said that safe and unimpeded access to populations in crisis or conflict remained one of the main problems faced by humanitarian organizations in the field. The report had identified priority areas for improvement, including implementation of the gender perspective at all levels and the awareness of humanitarian organizations of the cultural and pre-existing dimensions.  The behaviour of humanitarian workers should be impeccable.

    He said his country was committed to full compliance in all circumstances with international law, human rights and refugee rights. There was a need to demonstrate through action the values that were shared by all cultures. There had been an increase in military participation in civilian actions, but the key responsibility for humanitarian assistance lay with civilian agencies. There must be effective use of the operational guidelines on the use of military resources and civilian protection in the course of humanitarian assistance in complex situations.

    Noting that national and regional mechanisms to respond to natural and man-made disasters should be promoted, he said key responsibilities for such a response lay with national authorities, stressing the importance of a detailed and in-depth analysis of security management mechanisms. Attacks on national and international staff of humanitarian organizations could not be condoned, perpetrators should face vigorous prosecutions under national and international law.

    WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said one of the main issues emerging from the debate had been the shrinking space for humanitarian action. The Secretary-General’s report had pointed out the need to establish clearer guidance on civil-military cooperation and coordination. It had also underscored the fact that the serious weakening of emblematic protection experienced by the United Nations and the Red Cross movement was forcing humanitarian agencies to re-examine their approaches to security and their ability to maintain an effective impartial presence. There had also been a dramatic increase in the number of commercial organizations in humanitarian action.

    He said his country shared the Secretary-General’s concern that the increased targeting of humanitarian personnel in conflict situations had grave implications not just for the relief workers themselves, but also for the victims of conflicts or disasters.  Safe and unimpeded access to vulnerable groups was the key to ensuring effective civilian protection during conflict.  Denial of access was completely unacceptable, and all parties must fully respect the Geneva Conventions.

    In rethinking the approach to protecting United Nations and other personnel in humanitarian crises, the international community had begun to rely more and more on armed guards and other protective measures, he said. But that must not be the only recourse, and such actions might in fact prove counterproductive because they created greater distance between relief workers and civilians and could prevent the United Nations from acting effectively on the ground in complex emergencies. In order to avoid compromising security, there was a need to ensure a clear division of labour between political, military and humanitarian actors in conflict areas.

    Policy makers, military commanders and military and civilian personnel must all become more aware of the need to preserve the integrity of independent humanitarian action based on international humanitarian law, he said.  Moreover, integrity must not be compromised while striving to achieve greater coherence and effectiveness in the Organization’s humanitarian response capabilities. “We must avoid encouraging misperceptions of humanitarian organization and their work”, he said, adding that the integrated mission in Liberia deserved careful attention in that regard.

    Increased efforts were also needed to promote the awareness and ownership of humanitarian principles, and broaden support for humanitarian action worldwide, he said.  Humanitarian action must be understood and supported on the ground. Norway was committed to providing stronger legal protection for United Nations and associated personnel who operated in difficult environments.  All States that had not done so should become parties to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which, however, was marred by limitations and inadequacies.  Its protective legal regime should be strengthened, and Norway actively supported efforts to expand the scope of the protection.

    GEORGE OWUOR (Kenya) stressed the importance of adequate resources, saying it was disheartening that although the number of countries requiring humanitarian assistance had remained constant, the pattern of funding such activities remained uneven, leaving some countries under-financed. Also, the seven-fold increase in the death toll of 75,000 last year, as well as economic losses of $65 billion, underscored the need to invest in preparedness and response to develop national capacities in disaster-prone countries. Kenya appreciated the increase in the diversity of actors providing humanitarian assistance and the increased engagement of private contractors in the management of aid distribution.

    Among recent troubling trends, he listed a shift of perception and acceptance of humanitarian organizations by belligerent groups. Of notable concern was the bombing of United Nations headquarters in Iraq last August and a subsequent attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as humanitarian workers in Afghanistan. Kenya welcomed the efforts of various agencies to build a strong partnership with OCHA and the call to develop further a regional approach to humanitarian crises in the planning of transnational responses in West Africa.

    Unresolved conflicts and human rights violations aggravated the problem of IDPs and refugees, he said. While approximately 9.7 million refugees had been under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by December 2003, successful peace negotiations in many countries could lead to voluntary repatriation of up to 2 million refugees and several million IDPs. It was in that regard that Kenya supported the call for substantial resources and coordination of the highest quality to ensure favourable conditions for the re-integration of displaced populations.

    Deploring the increasing use of sexual abuse and violence against women and minors, which infected many with HIV/AIDS, he welcomed the establishment of local and international structures to address that problem. Kenya also welcomed the Secretary-General’s bulletin of 9 October on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, which set a minimum standard of behaviour for all United Nations civilian staff. Kenya endorsed the recommendation that the emergency cash grant for any disaster be raised to $100,000 per country, within the existing resources in the regular budget.

    YURIY V. ONISHCHENKO (Ukraine) said that key challenges included restricted humanitarian access, non-compliance with international humanitarian law, continued attacks on humanitarian workers, and weak implementation of gender mainstreaming in field operations. The spread of HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, abuse of civilians in humanitarian crises, and increased risk levels from natural hazards had been looming large. Those challenges reinforced the importance of ensuring that overall levels of humanitarian assistance were sufficient to meet global levels of need. A climate of insecurity for humanitarian workers could not be tolerated.  Governments and parties concerned must fully ensure safety and security of the humanitarian staff.

    He said it was discouraging that, coupled with famine and other natural disasters, HIV/AIDS was driving ever-larger parts of nations towards destitution. Integration of HIV/AIDS considerations into humanitarian programmes was essential.  Ukraine welcomed progress in the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative and the development of the United Nations Needs Assessment Framework and Matrix (NAMF). It was equally important, however, to ensure that the assistance provided was effectively managed and channelled to the priority areas.

    Regarding transition from relief to development, he said enhanced cooperation between humanitarian agencies and development institutions was still needed to strengthen transition activities. There was also a need for greater coherence between political and operational efforts.  Eighteen years after the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, the impact of that catastrophe on the lives of millions continued to be an enormous challenge to Ukraine.  The recent transfer of coordination function from United Nations Chernobyl-related activities from OCHA to the UNDP would stimulate resource mobilization and enhance the impact of the programmatic activities in that area.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China), noting that more and more countries were in need of humanitarian assistance as a consequence of natural disasters and complex emergency situations, said the lack of financial resources had seriously affected post-disaster reconstruction and related activities. Countries with the ability to do so should increase their contributions to humanitarian assistance and to reducing the proportion of earmarked funds to ensure allocation of funds on the basis of relative urgency of various disaster situations, directing resources where they were most needed.  China was also concerned over the fact that, as a result of an increasing number of terrorist attacks and other causes of insecurity, relief materials could not reach disaster victims in time, seriously hindering humanitarian assistance.

    In recent years, more and more organizations, agencies and NGOs all over the world were participating in humanitarian relief activities, he continued.  In providing humanitarian assistance, the United Nations and the international community should abide by the guiding principle of “humanity, neutrality and impartiality”, set forth in General Assembly resolution 46/182, and carry out assistance with the consent of affected countries.  It was also hoped that OCHA would better coordinate relief efforts, taking full advantage of the strengths of various organizations and agencies and avoiding the waste of resources. 

    As a country that was frequently hit by natural disasters, China was grateful to OCHA for the assistance provided to China in the past year, he added. At the same time, the Chinese Government had also provided emergency humanitarian assistance through multilateral and bilateral channels to a number of disaster-stricken developing countries.  China supported OCHA’s initiative to establish a partnership for that purpose and was ready to further strengthen its cooperation with OCHA in various areas of humanitarian assistance, including natural disaster management.

    A. GOPINATHAN (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that continuing attacks on humanitarian workers had led to growing concern, while suspicions about the neutrality of those who provided humanitarian assistance had led to attacks or refusal of access by parties to conflict in many cases. Humanitarian assistance must, therefore, abide strictly by the basic principles of neutrality, humanity and impartiality.  Humanitarian action should be apolitical and offered at the request of the recipient government. It would also be helpful if humanitarian assistance personnel were predominantly hired with the principle of geographical proximity in mind.

    He said the allocation and availability of resources for humanitarian assistance remained a matter of vital concern. In that regard, it was important to allocate resources fairly to all countries in need and for the United Nations to be seen as above humanitarian favouritism. India welcomed the report’s highlighting of the need for involving national governments in joint planning efforts, but there was a need to ensure that the financial assistance provided by international financial institutions did not bring additional conditionalities or add to the debt burden.

    Developing countries, he said, especially the disaster-prone ones, would benefit from assistance in the area of capacity-building in early warning systems, such as sharing of technologies, including remote sensing and the geographical information systems (GIS).  India was concerned that a comparatively low level of funding was being provided by donors for capacity-building in disaster-reduction and recovery. Regarding the report’s exhortation for the incorporation of standards set out in the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse into domestic legislations and codes of conduct, those matters were within the jurisdiction of national governments.

    GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) noted that, although important strides had been made to improve humanitarian coordination, contingency planning and accountability over the past decade, the international community continued to struggle to meet the protection needs of conflict-affected civilians; to develop appropriate and timely responses to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; to ensure and sustain humanitarian access and security for aid workers; to achieve clarity on the relationship between political, humanitarian and military actors; and to minimize counter-productive donor, agency and affected-government behaviour.  Moreover, challenges ranging from capacity-building for vulnerable communities, countries and regions in preparation for natural disasters, to responding to the “triple threat” of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and weakened capacity for governance, to responding more effectively to the transition from relief to development in countries emerging from conflict must be addressed.

     In the face of obstacles to humanitarian access, insecurity of aid workers and erosion of humanitarian principles, the humanitarian community must better communicate its objectives to local populations and non-State armed actors, he said. Governments must also be more aware of the implications of decisions to use military forces to carry out humanitarian activities. Furthermore, while Canada supported the concept of integrated missions in principle, their successful implementation demanded solid collaboration among the political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and development arms of the United Nations.  States would also benefit from continued guidance on the nature and appropriateness of military involvement in humanitarian activities.

    The failure of many States and armed groups to respect international humanitarian law and principles was deeply disturbing, he stressed. The international community must be resolute in responding to violations of humanitarian and human rights law, while the humanitarian community must build its own capacity to address protection concerns in parallel.  Moreover, the provision of timely and flexible resources commensurate to needs across crises remained an elusive goal, although the past year had seen steady advances by donors to follow up the “Good Humanitarian Donorship”. That agenda must be supported by complementary “good receivership” of donors’ partners in the United Nations, Red Cross and non-governmental community.

    LUIS GALLEGOS (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that according to the International Federation of the Red Cross, the number of natural disasters had increased significantly, with the highest growth being among the weather-related disasters. Compared to the period 1983-1992, the number of persons affected by those disasters during the period 1993-2003 had increased by 54 per cent.  Various sources had stated that climate change had been the main factor responsible for the increase.  Forecasts for 2050 were that an annual average of 100,000 people would lose their lives.  Disasters were a global threat for the poor people of the world.

    He said there was, therefore, a need to develop activities focused on risk reduction.  The Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction offered an opportunity for the international community to strengthen existing cooperation mechanisms and define a clear plan of action for specific and viable actions, together with an effective follow-up mechanism, to ensure the attainment of goals identified in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The issue of the transborder effects of natural disasters necessitated international cooperation, the transfer of technology and access to relevant sources of information.

    IBRAHIM OSMAN, Director, Policy and Relations Division, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCRC), said the task of the humanitarian segment was to bring together aspirations and practical realities. It must assist other international organizations and Member States as they worked together in the most dangerous, difficult and challenging situations.  And, while the creed of the IFCRC and its members was that no situation was too challenging or too dangerous, many situations could not be satisfactorily or adequately addressed through traditional channels for providing humanitarian relief.

    Because of the strength of its network of members, the IFCRC was able to add real value -– especially because of its power to mobilize actions on behalf of vulnerable populations at national and community levels, he said.  The IFCRC was also able to bring to the international level a clear understanding of the vulnerabilities and real priorities of communities, and, along with that, offer a way to help communities build the capacity required for the design and implementation of assistance programmes.  The international community must do more to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

    SEOUNG-HYUN MOON (Republic of Korea) said the challenge of coordinating a coherent and timely response to complex emergencies necessitated the development of a framework for the United Nations to engage with regional bodies more systematically on humanitarian issues. The active role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had clearly illustrated that some crises were better managed at the regional level, as regional bodies were often better informed about conditions on the ground and, at times, better able to respond promptly and effectively. The regional partnership advocated by OCHA aimed to facilitate regional cooperation among Member States and between Member States and the United Nations.  Regional bodies should also be more involved in humanitarian assistance efforts so as to provide early warning of looming crises.

    The increasing diversity of actors providing humanitarian assistance meant more attention must be given to effective coordination, he added. The increased engagement of civil society and the direct involvement of military personnel in relief and reconstruction activities had blurred traditional distinctions between military and civilian roles in complex emergencies. Thus, while combining the roles played by the military and civil society could increase the coherence and effectiveness of humanitarian activities, it could also reinforce misperceptions and jeopardize the neutral appearance of humanitarian assistance. There was a need for further work to assess the role of military engagement in relief activities and its impact on the perception of humanitarian operations.

    Given that funding had not increased as fast as needed, and in some instances had dwindled, he said it was necessary to improve the efficacy of humanitarian assistance in order to strengthen the international community’s response to complex emergencies. The Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative provided a good start, while the CAP Needs Assessment Framework and Matrix should be further developed and utilized.  The Republic of Korea also supported raising emergency cash grants to natural disaster-affected countries from $50,000 to $100,000.

    ANDRIES JOHANNES OOSTHUIZEN (South Africa) said that emergencies that received high media attention received more financial assistance than the so-called “forgotten emergencies”. Such an approach was not in the spirit of United Nations resolutions that called for the provision of assistance in proportion to needs. It had also created an impression that financial assistance for humanitarian relief had increased, in general, because of the huge contributions to some of the highlighted crises.  Too often, donors became involved at the height of a crisis, only to disengage after the initial humanitarian concerns had been addressed.

    Regarding such “slow-onset” disasters as droughts -- an issue of serious concern to Africa -- he said that the issue was being addressed by the African community.  However, it was crucial to deal with it in a coordinated way, with the full and continued assistance of the international community. He also supported the recommendation to increase the maximum limit on emergency cash grants for disasters within regular budget resources.

    Attacks on humanitarian personnel should be condemned and attackers brought to justice, he continued. However, the Secretary-General in his report had also mentioned the need to better address the increase in the diversity of actors providing humanitarian assistance, as well as the direct involvement of the armed forces in relief and construction activities. In particular, it was important to review and clearly establish guidelines on military-civil relations. It was also necessary to ensure respect for the principles of neutrality, humanity, impartiality and independence of humanitarian objectives. 

    Stressing the importance of a regional approach to natural disasters, he added that his country had recently hosted the African regional consultations on disaster reduction, in preparation for the 2005 conference in Japan.  Also, the African Union had recently taken a decision on the establishment of a peace and security council, which would address the issues of humanitarian assistance, among others.  However, the importance of a regional approach should not be used as an excuse to discontinue international assistance.

    JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIERREZ (Guatemala) said that greater attention should be attributed to the safety and security of personnel, particularly in view of the change that had occurred with respect to the way humanitarian agencies were perceived and accepted. He supported the efforts undertaken by the Secretariat to lessen the risks to which humanitarian personnel were exposed. However, there should be greater respect for the customs and traditions of the communities in which they carried their work.  Assistance should be provided on the basis of predictable and sufficient financing, distributed equitably and in accordance with humanitarian principles. Once delivered, humanitarian relief should be managed effectively.

    The ECOSOC could contribute to the achievement of greater coherence and cooperation in the area of transition from relief to development, he continued.  As for the concern expressed in the Secretary-General’s report with respect to the possibility that humanitarian assistance could be provided at the expense of cooperation for development, they should be complementary. A clear-cut distinction between emergency assistance and rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance must be maintained. He also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations on natural disasters, many of which had already been implemented in Guatemala and in Central America through the national and regional coordination agencies.

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