Assembly Assesses New Humanitarian Aid System

Article excerpt

Noting the increasing number and complexity of humanitarian crises which are demanding ever greater international resources and cooperation, the General Assembly on 22 December asked the Secretary-General to review the effectiveness of the new UN humanitarian assistance system, including the new Department of Humanitarian Affairs, a high-level Emergency Relief Coordinator and a $50-million Central Emergency Revolving Fund created by the world body in 1991.

Under resolution 47/168, the Secretary-General was asked to report on arrangements to provide the UN with better access to the emergency relief capacities of the international community, ways to improve UN capability in preventing and preparing for emergencies, and the possibility of establishing warehouses for emergency relief supplies at regional and global levels.

The first seven months of existence of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs--headed by Under-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who is also the Emergency Relief Coordinator--has coincided "with an extraordinary increase in civil and ethnic strife, requiring ever increasing humanitarian relief assistance" from the UN, the Secretary-General reported (A/14/7/595).

Mr. Eliasson has noted that providing emergency relief in situations of natural disaster is difficult enough, but operations become infinitely more complex when a country is ravaged by political conflict, as has been the case in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Mozambique, Azerbaijan, Somalia, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia.

"Far-reaching changes internationally and within the United Nations are essential if the world wishes to minimize the suffering of populations trapped by civil-war induced starvation", said Mr. Eliasson. "Member States need to decide whether, and then how, the United Nations should be equipped to provide humanitarian relief in situations of large-scale violence."

New department

Since its establishment, the primary tasks of the Department have included: mobilizing international support for emergencies; preparing programmes of humanitarian assistance and consolidated appeals; convening pledging meetings to mobilize resources; establishing national structures for coordination of assistance in response to emergency situations; negotiating agreements with Governments and concerned parties for access by relief organizations; and monitoring implementation of the assistance programme in each emergency situation. …

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