UN emergency relief fund has ‘never been more critical’: Guterres

FAO/IFAD/WFP/Luis Tato Several members of a family look from the windows of their house in the village of Dargué, Maradi region, Niger on August 16, 2018

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The mission of the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which enables humanitarian responders to deliver life-saving assistance whenever and wherever crises strike, is more critical than ever, said Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday, as a key pledging conference got underway at UN Headquarters in New York.

Looking back on his time as High Commissioner for Refugees, between 2005 and 2010, the UN chief described the CERF as the “most precious instrument” he had, to respond to new emergencies, and to address “forgotten” crises which the international community sometimes overlook.

For the last 13 years, said the Secretary-General, the CERF has been at the forefront of the UN’s humanitarian response, allocating over $5.5 billion in life-saving assistance to over 100 countries and territories, thanks to the support of 126 Member States and Observers.

An ‘essential enabler of human action’

Mr. Guterres described the fund as “not only the fastest and most effective way to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches people caught up in crises,” but also “an essential enabler of global humanitarian action.”

Today, there is a far greater scale of global suffering than there was in 2005, the year the CERF was launched, he added, citing protracted armed conflict and mass displacement; lack of development progress; social inequality, including gender, disability and high levels of poverty; and extreme weather conditions: all of these factors are being amplified by climate change.

The Secretary-General gave some examples of the ways that the CERF has played a key role in emergencies this year. It had helped to avert hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel region; contributed to life-saving response efforts following the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami; and funded food, water, sanitation support and health care services for Ethiopians displaced by inter-communal violence.

In 2019, we can anticipate more natural disasters and emergencies around the world, with greater intensity, said the UN chief, thanking the assembled representatives for endorsing the call for an increased CERF budget, and supporting the fund at the General Assembly.

Later on Friday, after the meeting concluded, 41 donors announced record pledges of $439 million for 2019 and additional contributions for 2018, ensuring a record level of funding of $554 million to CERF for this year.

Mr. Guterres said that the CERF is the UN’s message of hope and global solidarity with people trapped in crises, showing that the Organization stands with those who are furthest behind.

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