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Donors pledge $420 million for UN emergency fund for global crises

Donors pledge $420 million for UN emergency fund for global crises

The top United Nations humanitarian official today welcomed the $420 million pledged by donors for a landmark fund which has significantly reduced the time in which aid is delivered to those most in need.

Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes convened a high-level conference in New York in support of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which was approved by the General Assembly in December 2005.

“CERF is for all and by all,” he said, noting that of the 93 total donors – including 85 Member States – more than half are development, some of them recipients of CERF aid.

Today’s combined pledges of $420 million for 2008 top the $350 million and $300 million pledged this year and last, respectively.

This surge in voluntary contributions is “not good news for us, it’s good news for the people who are likely to benefit from these funds,” Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters.

CERF was created to speed up relief operations for emergencies, make funds available quickly after disasters and finance underfunded emergencies.

Mr. Holmes said one third of the funds are made available to address the existing imbalance in global aid distribution which results in millions of people in so-called neglected or forgotten crises remaining in need.

The overall target for 2008 is $500 million, which includes $50 million earmarked as a revolving loan fund.

“I think we are within touching distance of that objective,” he said.

Speaking at this morning’s donors’ meeting, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim highlighted the threat posed by climate change, which will increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

“‘Climate shocks’ such as droughts, floods and storms are already among the strongest factors driving poverty,” he said. “They will become more frequent as the planet warms.”

Mr. Kerim stressed that it is the world’s poor who will suffer the most as a result.

Since its launch last March, CERF has committed nearly $600 million to more than 700 humanitarian projects in 59 countries impacted by natural disasters and armed conflicts. Since January 2007, it has disbursed over $212 million to rapid response grants in 48 countries and $124 to underfunded emergencies in almost two dozen nations.

In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Catherine Bragg of Canada as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), succeeding Margareta Wahlström of Sweden.

Ms. Bragg has served as Director General of the Humanitarian Assistance, Peace and Security Programme in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) since 2004. She also chairs OCHA’s Donor Support Group and is a member of CERF’s Advisory Group.