The initial pledges today for a proposed United Nations humanitarian emergency fund totalled $150 million out of the $500 million needed to reform emergency financing and the fund may be launched early next year, subject to General Assembly approval, UN emergency coordinator Jan Egeland said.
The fund would be administered by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Mr. Egeland heads, and when an emergency strikes, humanitarian workers can move to the field in three or four days, he told a news conference, contrasting that with the four weeks or more it now takes to raise money.
"We need this emergency fund so we can save more lives earlier at a lower cost. Today we got the go-ahead from some of our most loyal friends and our partners and the donors said, 'Yes you can start in January'," Mr. Egeland said.
At the start of 2006 there will be a better humanitarian relief system and it will be more predictable, he said.
The pledges come against the back ground of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform proposals, "In Larger Freedom," in which he recommended a common emergency fund, a proposal which was later endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
About 30 Member States took part in the pledging meeting. The early pledges came from Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Nigeria was among those which promised to make a contribution when the fund is up and running.
In his two years as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Egeland said he has been struck by the unevenness of the present arrangements because "it still often takes so much time to get the money from the world to reach Niger in time, to reach the anti-locust teams of ours with funding in time, to reach Darfur before mortality goes up. Too often we are too late because we have to wait for funding."
Guyana had a flood in January, but "drowned" in the Indian Ocean tsunami of the month before because the appeal for $2.5 million for Guyana brought in only $300,000, he said.
In a background paper, OCHA said this disparity can come about because "media attention produces imbalance in global aid distribution. As a result, millions of people in so-called neglected or forgotten crises remain in need, while others benefit from fully-funded programmes."