Get Funding Priorities Straight, Secretary-General Tells Emergency Response Pledging Conference, Appealing for Support to Help World’s Most Vulnerable

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Central Emergency Response Fund high-level pledging conference, in New York, today:

I am pleased to be with you for this very important pledging conference.  When the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was established by the General Assembly in 2005 as a global fund “by all, for all”, it marked a breakthrough in humanitarian funding.  I was Foreign Minister of [the Republic of] Korea at that time.  I thought at that time that this is one of the most innovative initiatives which the United Nations has taken to take very speedy and efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to needy people.  Of course, at that time, the Korean Government immediately responded by participating and contributing.

The CERF was designed to provide fast and predictable funding to people affected by conflicts and crises, no matter where they were.  Since it was founded, the CERF has disbursed $4.6 billion to 98 countries.

But today, the humanitarian landscape in which the CERF operates is vastly different than a decade ago.  The scale of humanitarian deprivation is greater than at any time since the United Nations was founded.  A record 130 million people need humanitarian assistance to survive.  Together, they would form the tenth most populous nation on Earth.

Sixty-five million men, women and children have been forced to flee their countries as a result of armed conflict, instability and persecution.  Almost 5 million are from Syria.  Forty million people are displaced within their own countries.  Almost 7 million of these are in Syria.

I mention Syria specifically because the country is enduring a further escalation in violence amid what was already one of the most brutal conflicts in a generation.  We are getting alarming reports of atrocities against civilians, including women and children, in eastern Aleppo.  We must do all we can to stop the carnage.  All fighters, particularly Government forces and their allies, must honour their obligation to respect civilians and abide by the laws of war and human rights.  I call on all parties to return to the negotiating table.

Let us recall the words of Colombian President Santos on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, just a few days ago, on 10 December.  He said, and I quote, “A final victory through force, when non-violent alternatives exist, is none other than the defeat of the human spirit.”  Unquote.  The merciless quest for a military solution today will simply sow the seeds of further violence, inhumanity and suffering tomorrow.

I am proud to have served as UN Secretary-General during much of the CERF’s successful first decade.  I have never missed any CERF meeting during the last 10 years — 10 times.  My thanks go to the 126 contributing Member States, as well as the 43 international organizations and private entities worldwide that have supported the CERF.  I am grateful also to the many more who have vocally supported this Fund.

The CERF is a critical tool in times of crisis.  Funding is approved and allocations begin within hours of an emergency occurring, such as when Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti earlier this year and when Nepal was devastated by an earthquake last year.  Member States and people outside of the United Nations complain that the United Nations has a serious bureaucracy; it takes a long time to execute something, even depositing some money.  But, when it comes to CERF, it will take action within hours.  When the Under-Secretary-General of [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] OCHA and I decide, it is executed already.  This is the fastest, most effective, way of doing business in the United Nations.  You can trust what I am saying.

The CERF has also been a particularly important lifeline for people caught up in the world’s most underfunded and protracted crises.  In 2016, the CERF directed $150 million dollars to neglected emergencies.  It has brought food to people fleeing violence and environmental degradation in the Lake Chad Basin and shelter to families fleeing conflict in South Sudan.  And it has been one of the first and most generous supporters to the millions of people enduring devastating drought and floods as a result of El Niño.

Over the past two years, close to 70 per cent of CERF contributions have targeted responses supporting the world’s most vulnerable displaced people and their host communities.  With this rapid growth in the scale and intensity of suffering, and with protracted conflicts projected to continue to drive mass displacement, demands on the CERF are bound to increase.

That is why, in my Agenda for Humanity, I asked to expand the CERF’s annual funding target to $1 billion by 2018.  Last week, on December 8, the General Assembly endorsed this recommendation.  I am encouraged by this resounding vote of confidence in the CERF, and I thank the donors that have already increased their financial commitments.

A strong United Nations needs a strong CERF.  A $1 billion dollar CERF means tens of millions more people will receive timely life-saving food, medicine, water, shelter and protection when and where they need it most.  But, let us also recognize that a $1 billion dollar CERF is a bare minimum for the world we live in.  And let us not succumb to so-called donor fatigue.  The world has the wealth to come to the aid of every single person in dire straits.

Let us be clear about who truly has a right to feel fatigued.  Fatigue is the family in a refugee camp year upon year, unable to return home because of chronic violence.  It is the girl whose education has been put on hold, the slow pace of rebuilding after an earthquake or the neglect that sets in when the media spotlight moves on to the next crisis.  Fatigue is yet another military budget going up and spending on basic needs going down.

So let us get our funding priorities straight and put the most vulnerable first.  Humanitarian needs now stand at a record $22.2 billion.  Beginning this year, all Member States have begun to act on their solemn pledge to “leave no one behind”.  The success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is inseparable from our success in assisting the most vulnerable and the hardest to reach.  They must be our first priority.  And our first and most immediate tool is the CERF.  I count on your leadership and continued generous support.  Thank you.

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