Swift action needed to quell crises in hotspots like Sudan and Haiti - UN official

28 May 2004

With millions of civilians across the globe affected by the complex crises brought on by war and natural disasters, the international community must respond quickly to alleviate their plight, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

With millions of civilians across the globe affected by the complex crises brought on by war and natural disasters, the international community must respond quickly to alleviate their plight, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

Illustrating the breadth of the problem, Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), more than 2 million people have been killed as a result of long-running conflict, while globally 50 million people have been displaced from their homes.

"The current crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan provides an alarming example where more than 1 million civilians, mostly women and children, have been displaced and are in dire need of shelter, water, food and medical supplies," he said, citing also the plight of Haitians trying to cope with political turmoil and devastating floods.

In some 20 conflicts around the world, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire and Afghanistan, access is denied or obstructed, he said. "These grave concerns demand a concerted response by us all."

While pledging the UN's best efforts to assist the vulnerable, he said, "we cannot do so when we are denied access to populations in need, when the safety and security of our personnel is threatened, and when we do not receive adequate funding for our humanitarian work."

Mr. Egeland also drew attention to the prevailing inequalities in funding emergency response efforts. He noted that last year, less than half of the $2.2 billion appeal to help 13 African countries was funded, while donors fully met the $1 billion sought for Iraq. "This reflects the harsh reality that political interests, strategic priorities and the media spotlight create enormously disproportionate responses," he observed. He also noted that donors are generally more willing to help during an emergency phase than to finance longer-term efforts to improve education and health care - key tools for consolidating peace.

Security and political progress must be accompanied by corresponding advances on the humanitarian, social and economic fronts. "If people are denied the fruits of peace - such as shelter, education, health care and employment - sustainable peace will be much harder to achieve," Mr. Egeland said.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator also urged attention to root causes of unrest including poverty, corruption the deliberate manipulation of minorities and exclusion.

Echoing this view during the debate that followed, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, which currently holds the Council's rotating presidency, said that while UN peacekeeping operations were performing an excellent job under some "very challenging" conditions, they were seldom a panacea for the whole range of complex and underlying causes. There had to be clear recognition that durable peace could only be established when these causes were effectively addressed, he said.

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Video of Council meeting [2hrs 48mins]

 

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