GLOBAL: Donors pledge $1.4bn for humanitarian crises in 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Donors pledged US$1.4 billion on Wednesday for humanitarian aid in 2007 at a conference organised by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.

Of the funds pledged, $280 million was earmarked for the OCHA-led 2007 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP).

"What we request is only a few cents for every hundred dollars of national income," Margareta Wahlstrom, the acting UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told donors. "If some of the biggest economies improve their performance even partway to the level of the best, humanitarian action worldwide could be fully funded."

She said the UN still needed $3.7 billion for the CAP.

Robert Smith, the chief of OCHA's CAP Section, said from Geneva: "Early funding is crucial to humanitarian action; early action is more effective and more cost effective and that is why today, seven weeks after the launch of the 2007 appeal, we convened the donor conference in Geneva to hear their feedback on these appeals and their funding intentions."

He said early funding would save as many lives as possible and allow humanitarian organisations to operate cost-effectively.

Wednesday's donor-pledging conference, dubbed ‘Programme Kick-off’, follows the launch in November 2006 of 13 appeals for $3.9 billion by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. These appeals were made to help 27 million people in 29 countries. Since then, four others have been made, bringing the total to $4 billion.

Smith said at least 150 participants attended the meeting, during which 14 donors set out their funding intentions. The donors included the European Commission (EC), Ireland, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The Irish government pledged 31 million euros ($40 million) for projects in 14 countries.

"Eight donor governments and the European Commission stated some funding intentions for countries and amounts," he said. "This is a slight improvement on what we had last year and moreover, other donors indicated that while they could not announce individual funding intentions, they aim to finalise them soon."

The CAP process brings together international and national aid agencies, UN agencies, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement, donors and affected governments in preparing for, planning and responding to humanitarian crises.

Cluster approach

Smith said the 2007 CAP incorporates a new approach, known as ‘cluster leadership’, which is part of a wider reform process aimed at improving the effectiveness of humanitarian response by improving predictability and accountability. The cluster approach redresses gaps in response and enhances the quality of humanitarian actions by strengthening partnerships between UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement, international and local aid organisations.

The approach ensures that funding requests "are grounded in solid evidence" in an effort to clarify responsibility and fill the gaps among the hundreds of humanitarian organisations.

Smith said good leadership of these clusters was pivotal to effective humanitarian action and was reflected in the 2007 appeals, which contain a common plan for each crisis.

"Nine global clusters have been established for nine sectors or areas of activity that in the past either lacked predictable leadership or were considered to need strengthened leadership and partnership with other humanitarian actors," Wahlstrom said.

The clusters are: camp coordination and management; early recovery; emergency telecommunications; health; emergency shelter; logistics; nutrition; protection; and water, sanitation and hygiene.

The cluster approach differs from previous sectoral approaches in that the agencies in charge are accountable for appropriate levels and standards of response. Wahlstrom said the cluster approach was under way in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Somalia and Uganda.

"The cluster approach at the country level is adapted to each circumstance, but always maintaining key objectives of the approach: predictable leadership and reliable response," she said.

"We continue to encourage donors to coordinate among themselves. We see over the years that funding levels among appeals and crises vary dramatically, with 100 percent funding for a few appeals and as little as 40 percent for others. For example, the Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and Burundi were all below 50 percent in 2006. We think there is a lot that donors can do to organise their own allocations and even out these discrepancies," said Smith.

Emergency response fund

To improve emergency preparedness and response, OCHA introduced the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in 2006 mainly for under-funded crises and sudden-onset crises. CERF works as a stand-by fund that can respond quickly to any new crisis or to chronic under-funded crises. Wahlstrom said CERF in its first year channelled at least $252 million to urgent humanitarian projects in 35 countries.

"The CERF and CAP are complementary rather than competing," she said. Moreover, the pledges made for 2007 would allow "even greater funding to be directed equitably and fast to sudden-onset or steeply deteriorating crises as well as chronic underfunded emergencies".

Kasidis Rochanakorn, the director of OCHA Geneva, said to date only 0.2 percent of the 2007 CAP funding requirements had been covered.

"It may seem still early in the year to some, but people struggling to survive in Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe, etc, cannot wait," he told the donors. "They are counting on you. On behalf of the 170 humanitarian organisations worldwide who have worked hard to put these strategic plans together, I look forward to hearing your statements."
Source: IRIN
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