UN relief chief optimistic of greater humanitarian cooperation from Gulf States

UN relief chief optimistic of greater humanitarian cooperation from Gulf States

United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said today he was reasonably optimistic of building over time greater partnerships between UN agencies and the Gulf Arab States, which have a tradition of bilateral donations, in channelling humanitarian contributions multilaterally.

“The encouraging thing I found was that there was a recognition of the need to, of the desirability of working more closely together with the United Nations humanitarian system and the international humanitarian system more widely,” Mr. Holmes told a news conference in New York following a visit to Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“I wasn’t there asking for money for any particular cause or any particular fund or any particular request. It wasn’t that kind of visit. It was more like trying to create the kind of partnerships, long-term partnerships… which I think are appropriate,” he said, calling his talks very constructive and noting that the message he was carrying was not new.

“I was pointing out for them the advantages of channelling resources where they want to give them through the international system in the sense that we have already through our existing mechanisms established needs, established priorities and established projects which can be funded multilaterally in a very transparent and accountable way,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

“I am reasonably optimistic that over time these kinds of discussions will bear fruit in the form of better partnerships and a more multilateral channelling of resources from these countries to the international humanitarian system. But I am not expecting a sort of instant results right now.”

Asked about the situation in Gaza, where crossing points with Israel have been closed, Mr. Holmes said it remained grim but there was a marginal improvement last month when twice as many lorry-loads of goods got through as in February. But that was still a very low base since February’s figures were only 10 per cent those of the same period in 2007.

“It still leaves the inhabitants of Gaza very, very substantially short of what it is they need to lead a normal and decent life. Nevertheless it is a marginal improvement from the situation we saw in February and we will be pressing for that to go on improving,” he added.

“We have been discussing with the Israeli authorities how we can try to persuade them to allow more goods in even if they’re not going to lift the embargo or blockade altogether.”