Gulf States play vital role in global relief efforts, says UN humanitarian chief

8 April 2008
John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

The top United Nations humanitarian official has lauded the contributions of Persian Gulf countries to relief efforts around the world, and called for boosting ties between them and the world body to better meet today’s growing challenges.

“In many countries across the globe, the combined humanitarian efforts of Gulf countries have made a life-saving difference, reaching communities that, at times, the UN and other aid actors could not,” stated Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who is currently on a four-nation tour of the region.

In his keynote address to the fifth annual Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference, Mr. Holmes pointed out that member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have given nearly $500 million and pledged a further $320 million in humanitarian aid over the past three years.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that the global demand for humanitarian assistance is likely to grow dramatically in the coming years, owing to ongoing internal and civil conflicts, more frequent and intense natural disasters and the rise in food and energy prices.

“If we are to meet the growing array of humanitarian needs, we must work together more cohesively not only to respond to crises, but also to reduce their impact before they happen,” he stated, stressing the need to strengthen the partnership between the UN and Gulf nations.

Doing so will not only reinforce current activities, “but also help build a more fully-representative and universally accepted humanitarian movement that is better equipped to meet the challenges of both man and nature in the 21st century,” said Mr. Holmes.

“Without this balance, there is a risk that humanitarian assistance will continue to be viewed as a Western enterprise,” he added.

In addition to the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Holmes – who is travelling together with UN Special Humanitarian Envoy Abdul Aziz Arrukban – is visiting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Also today at the DIHAD Conference, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) unveiled the Arabic version of its popular humanitarian video game that teaches children about global hunger.

Some six million people around the world have already played “Food Force,” which is designed for children aged eight to 13. In a race against time, players join a virtual team of WFP experts to get food to the needy in an emergency situation.

WFP’s Deputy Executive Director John Powell noted that it is fitting that the game is being launched in Dubai, “an essential logistics hub for the entire humanitarian community, and especially for WFP as one of the leaders in this field.”

Launched in 2005, as the world’s first humanitarian video game, Food Force is available as a free internet download from www.food-force.com.

 

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