Journal of the Group of 77 - Volume 19/2 (2007) (Summer Edition)


UNITED NATIONS, Geneva (G77/IPS) -- Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Tehmina Janjua, Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan, told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that there was an urgent need for increased international assistance to developing nations affected by natural disasters.

"The alarming frequency and ferocity of natural disasters is a major concern of today's world. The number and scale of natural disasters, in developing countries in particular, over the past decade, are on an increase," she told delegates.

She pointed out that vulnerabilities are accentuated in most developing countries as the poverty-disaster interface has the potential for immense suffering and loss.

"Implications of disasters in developing countries are immense, due mainly to the long-lasting consequences on affected populations and the adverse impact on the environment and livelihoods of millions of people."

It is, therefore, imperative to examine the measures that need to be taken to improve the response capacity of affected nations and the assistance and cooperation that can be provided by the international community in this regard, she added.

She stressed that more attention should be given to strengthening financial mechanisms for humanitarian assistance and to establish predictable and sustainable funding for all humanitarian emergencies, in particular the under-funded emergencies and under-resourced sectors.

This is crucial to address funding gaps, especially for post-disaster recovery.

The possibility to expand the use of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to address a range of financial gaps arising in initial phases of an emergency and prior to the launch of an appeal needs further consideration.

"We believe that the primary objective of the CERF should remain to provide vital assistance to save lives in the initial phase of an emergency. For broader funding predictability, we would like to stress the importance of increasing other sources of humanitarian funding as well."

She expressed the hope that the deliberations in the general debate in ECOSOC, as well as during the two panel discussions, would lead to concrete conclusions that will help the UN System coordinate humanitarian assistance in an effective manner and help minimize the impact of disasters.

She also pointed out that this year's theme of the segment-- entitled "Strengthening of the coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance through enhancing the effectiveness of needs-based humanitarian assistance"-- is very pertinent in the context of innumerable human and economic losses caused by natural disasters in the last few years.

The challenge to respond in a timely and predictable manner to humanitarian emergencies and disasters, especially for the UN system, is becoming more and more complex. The increase in the severity, frequency and magnitude of such disasters has wreaked havoc in communities across the globe, she added.

The need for a strengthened and more coordinated response by the international community to meet these challenges cannot, therefore, be overemphasized. The devastating impact of disasters on lives, livelihoods and economies has to be minimized.

"Respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must remain the overarching parameters in all efforts for coordination of humanitarian assistance."

In this regard, she added, "we also wish to emphasize the primary role of the concerned State in the identification, coordination and delivery of such humanitarian assistance where assistance is requested from the international community."

It is important that relevant organizations of the UN system engage with the relevant authorities at the national and regional levels to build strong capacities at all levels, with a view to improving the overall adequacy and deployment of resources.

Such cooperation, she noted, is particularly relevant in strengthening capacities for disaster preparedness to enable the countries in responding challenges of natural disasters.

The Group of 77 and China believe that provision of the emergency assistance to an affected country should not be seen as an isolated mechanism in the overall effort for humanitarian response.

"There is a need to recognize the clear linkage between emergency assistance, rehabilitation and long term development as different stages of a coordinated effort."

It is therefore important that emergency assistance should be provided in ways that facilitate the early recovery and long term development of the country concerned, he declared.

She also called for the implementation of the principle of equitable geographical distribution in the entire UN system including in the Office of the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs.

"We would like to request the Secretary General to include information in his next report on the break up of personnel working in OCHA both at Headquarters and in the field with details on their level, function and nationality."

This information would be additional and complementary to the request made in this year's resolution regarding the update on the Inter Agency Standing Committees policy statement of 1999 on the integration of gender perspective into humanitarian assistance.

"We also support the importance of preparedness. The UN system has clearly a strong role to play. We agree with Under Secretary General John Holmes that the greatest risk we face is complacency or inaction of any kind. We need to address all issues squarely to mitigate the effects of disasters".