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Press centre


On the Launch of the 2002 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals


London - 27 November 2001

Mr. Chairman, Right Honourable Bell, Director-General Aronson, Mr. Kent; Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the United Nations System and all the humanitarian agencies represented here today, including our NGO partners, I am very pleased to welcome you to this presentation of the Consolidated Appeals for 2002. I am especially happy to be able to do so in London, the home base of the UK Government's Department of International Development, one of the most steadfast and important donors to the UN's humanitarian programmes.

Mr. Chairman, we make this appeal on behalf of some 33 million people caught up in 18 humanitarian crises in Asia, Africa and Europe. They include the millions who have lost access to the basic necessities of life after fleeing their homes; the millions languishing in refugee or displaced-person camps in conditions of unspeakable misery; and the countless children, many of them reeling from catastrophic losses - of their homes, their families, their access to education, and their childhood.

We are requesting $2.5 billion from the international community - a funding level that will make it possible to address the needs of the most vulnerable, with over half of the total earmarked for food and food security, followed by funds for health care, water and sanitation, and shelter.

The increasing complexity of the humanitarian crises we are addressing has made it necessary to provide support that goes beyond immediate life-saving assistance, encompassing such sectors as education, child protection and psychosocial care.

UNICEF is particularly pleased to see increasing priority being given to the right of all children to education. Not only in postwar recovery, but even during conflict, education can help restore a sense of relative stability and normalcy. It offers an alternative to the recruitment of children by armed groups. It is a stabilising influence for displaced populations. And in helping girls as well as boys acquire skills, education empowers them to become responsible citizens and parents.

Mr. Chairman, it has been 10 years since the General Assembly created the Consolidated Appeal Process as a mechanism for all UN agencies and partners to identify common goals and priorities and to develop, implement, and monitor strategic plans of action.

Over the course of that decade, there has been continuous improvement, especially in our capacity to develop common strategies. This has been crucial in addressing how best to reach those in need with both immediate and longer-term assistance to protect their rights.

However, the ongoing decline in humanitarian aid remains cause for deep concern. Indeed, the decline in humanitarian aid has reached the point for this year alone, barely 50 per cent of the requirements for priority needs have been met. This underfunding not only affects specific sectors - it distorts the coherence and linkages that our staff in the field have sought to create with national counterparts and affected communities.

In this connection, it is essential that we address the imbalance that has developed between support for food security and such non-food sectors as education, protection, health, and water and sanitation, which are going seriously underfunded.

Mr. Chairman, we must also urgently address discrepancies across regions in the overall funding of humanitarian action - discrepancies that violate the fundamental humanitarian principle of impartiality and non-discrimination.

For example, this year, only 20 per cent of the total appeals for Somalia and West Africa were funded, while the appeals for Northern Caucasus and Afghanistan have received 80 per cent of the requested funding.

The distribution of humanitarian assistance should be more equitable between countries in crisis - and efforts to provide aid on the basis of defined minimum must have the strongest support from donors and relief organisations. At the same time, Mr. Chairman, there should be an urgent review of the mechanisms by which humanitarian action is funded.

In Afghanistan, the international community faces a humanitarian crisis in which the survival of millions of children and women hinges on an immediate and coordinated response. UNICEF recently estimated that without an adequate humanitarian response, over 100,000 Afghan children could die during the winter - which is why the UN is urgently seeking short-term assistance in the form of continued funding, access to those in need, and security for humanitarian staff.

But much more is needed if we are to ensure the long-term well-being of the people of Afghanistan and the sustainable protection of their rights. The recent appointment of my colleague Mark Malloch-Brown, the UNDP Administrator, to oversee the Afghanistan recovery is a testament to the coordinated response being mounted by the UN System. And in the last few weeks, the UN has demonstrated its capacity for mobilising political commitment and delivering multilateral and impartial humanitarian assistance.

But as Randolph Kent has never failed to remind us in the context of Somalia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Sudan, we cannot do less for those caught up in the other humanitarian crises, crises that threaten millions of other children and their families.

Mr. Chairman, the world is a very different place because of the terrorist acts of September 11th. International relations are marked by a new uncertainty and a heightened sense of vulnerability.

But as the Secretary-General has observed, we can take heart in the international community's strong reaffirmation of collective action in defense of the right of all people to live in peace and security. And the truest measure of that commitment is in our efforts to assist in humanitarian crises.

Mr. Chairman, the theme for this year's Consolidated Appeal Process is "reaching the vulnerable." But who in fact are we talking about?

Along with those who are vulnerable almost by definition - children, women, the elderly, the disabled - vulnerability can be a result of geographical and social isolation, as in the case of internally displaced and nomadic populations. But it is also closely linked to disempowerment and exclusion from decision-making in matters that affect people's lives, their families and their communities, as is often the case among ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

It is these factors - isolation, lack of a voice, marginalisation - that make it so critical for us to reach the vulnerable as quickly as possible, and in a way that not only meets their basic needs, but also addresses the deeper issues of disempowerment with which so many of them must struggle.

Perhaps nowhere is the need for this approach so clear as in the case of internally displaced persons (IDPs), whose numbers range from 20 million to 25 million people worldwide (CHECK).

An estimated half of all internally displaced persons are children. And the entire range of rights guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including survival, protection and development, are in jeopardy under the conditions created by displacement.

Almost all of the individual county appeals being launched today draw attention to the growing numbers of IDPs and refugees and the need for increased humanitarian assistance to respond to their needs. For example, in Angola, the Appeal includes a project to reduce acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5 in IDP camps in the most affected provinces. It would do so by providing specialised food treatment to 30,000 malnourished children and supporting nutrition surveillance and monitoring in IDP camp populations.

Mr. Chairman, as the world grapples with the on-going crisis of HIV/AIDS, those of us who work in humanitarian assistance are struck by its relentless impact on those men, women and children who have already lost so much through the ravages of war and natural disasters. It is becomingly increasingly, painfully, clear that armed conflict facilitates the spread of HIV and constrains the response to the pandemic.

That is why we must respond boldly, and across sectors. Mr. Chairman, the impact of humanitarian emergencies on children and women cannot be over-emphasised. Over the last 10 years, over 2 million children have been killed as a result of armed conflict, and millions more have been traumatized by the violence they have witnessed or in which they have participated. Up to 10,000 children are killed or maimed by landmines each year.

Women and children make up about 80 per cent of refugee and IDP populations, and are often forced to become heads of households as a result of displacement. HIV/AIDS has killed or orphaned more than 13 million children. Yet let us never overlook a simple fact: vulnerability does not equal helplessness.

Let us not forget that these individuals are resilient actors in their own survival and development - that they have developed their own coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma and risks of war and disaster. Focusing on vulnerable groups does not mean patronizing them or diminishing their capacities and strengths. Quite the opposite - it means identifying those strengths, building on them, using them to help the process of empowerment.

Meaningful participation is especially important when dealing with children and youth, who are perhaps the most overlooked segment of society in terms of having a voice in decisions that affect them.

Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises a child's right to express his or her views in all matters that concern them, the voices of children are seldom heard in the design and delivery of humanitarian assistance programs. Yet when they have the opportunity to participate in decision-making or policy-dialogue, children can provide unique insights and perspectives. Just last week in New York, the Security Council did something unprecedented: it invited a child to address them - a 14-year-old former child soldier from Sierra Leone - as the Member States debated the issue of children and armed conflict.

Mr. Chairman, if UNICEF and its partners on the ground are to continue our efforts to save the lives of children and their families, we must have safe and unobstructed access to them.

Lack of access not only affects our capacity to meet humanitarian needs; it also hampers our ability to protect rights and sets back the achievement of development goals.

The Security Council, in its Resolution last week on children and armed conflict, called on parties to conflict to make special arrangements to meet the protection and assistance requirements of women, children and other vulnerable groups through days of immunisation and other opportunities for the safe and unhindered delivery of basic services.

This year, UNICEF and its partners have been able to carry out successful National Immunisation Days for polio eradication in Angola, Somalia, DRC, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Afghanistan, among others. In doing so, we have been able to show that even conflict need not be an obstacle to fundamental development imperatives such as polio eradication where political will exists.

Mr. Chairman, it is vital that we generate political will to ensure that this ideal is respected and implemented in all humanitarian crises.

Last week, UNICEF and FIFA, the International Football Federation signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which includes joint promotion of Days of Tranquillity using football - the truly global sport - to reach out to all involved in conflict to lay down their guns to allow us to reach children.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, we and the international community must do more - much more - to ensure staff safety and security, for where there is no safe access, vulnerable populations are isolated even further.

Securing access to vulnerable people has proven costly. Between 1998 and 2000, 198 United Nations staff members lost their lives and 240 were taken hostage or kidnapped - more than in the preceding ten years combined. As a result, international relief operations have been scaled back, operated only with the support of local staff, or suspended outright.

That is why, Mr. Chairman, host governments, warring parties, and the international community must uphold their responsibilities to respect and protect our colleagues in the field.

In his report of March of this year on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, the Secretary-General called for the creation of a "culture of protection," where "governments would live up to their responsibilities, armed groups would respect international humanitarian law, the private sector would be conscious of the impact of its engagement in crisis areas, and Member States and international organisations would display the necessary commitment to ensure decisive and rapid action in the face of crisis."

Mr. Chairman, humanitarian actors have a critical role to play in creating that culture of protection. And with support for activities that bridge the transition to development - including good governance, respect for human rights, and the participation of all citizens - we can help the vulnerable protect their fundamental rights - and in the process, build a better future for all.

Thank you.



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