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Statement by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Presentation of the 2001 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals, Geneva, 29 November 2000

Statements by High Commissioner, 29 November 2000

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join in launching the Consolidated Appeals for 2001. Together, we are seeking 2 billion dollars to reach more than 35 million vulnerable people in 19 humanitarian crises world-wide. Behind these enormous figures are human beings women, men and children who have desperate, immediate needs.

They are refugees and displaced people in search of protection and the basics of life food, water and shelter. They are herders and farmers whose livelihood has been destroyed by drought and famine. They are boys and girls mobilised to fight in wars that began before they were born. They are newborn infants for whom in coming weeks a simple vaccination could mean the difference between life and death.

The Consolidated Appeals are more than a tool for mobilising resources. Each appeal represents an agreed plan for alleviating human suffering, seeking durable solutions, promoting recovery and reducing the need for relief assistance. Each also should reflect a frank assessment of the lessons we've learned over the past year, the progress we've made and the operational constraints we continue to face.

Our common goal is to make the Consolidated Appeals Process more flexible, interactive and dynamic. We are expanding the circle of consultations to include national officials, local authorities, donor government representatives, the Red Cross movement and development actors, such as the World Bank. This year, our NGO partners joined strategic planning exercises in Uganda, Sudan, Afghanistan and Angola, and their input is reflected in the Appeals.

We are working together to enhance coordination further especially with our political and development counterparts within the UN system. We all share an interest in ensuring that our activities complement and reinforce efforts to resolve conflict and bring lasting peace. Our humanitarian programmes must also support and facilitate the transition to longer-term sustainable development.

Yesterday, at the New York launch of this Appeal, the Secretary-General highlighted what a huge difference humanitarian action can make when it receives timely, generous funding not to mention strong political support. The massive international relief effort in Kosovo ensured that no one died of exposure or starvation during last year's bitter winter. The humanitarian community has also played a crucial role in stabilising conditions in East Timor, so that the international community's newest member can prepare for independence.

But the well-funded programmes in Kosovo and East Timor, unfortunately, are the exception rather than the rule. Overall, the 2000 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals have drawn a disappointingly weak response from donors. By mid-November, the participating agencies had received only 55 per cent of the funds requested the second lowest level of support we've recorded.

As in the past, some operations drew more solid support than others. Nearly 80 per cent of the revised requirements for the North Caucasus were funded. By contrast, the Burundi appeal received only 22 per cent and the Republic of the Congo just 14 per cent. We need to recognise, understand and then address these inequities in donor support.

We are facing a problem not just with the level of contributions, but also with the unevenness of funding within operations. I want to emphasise that each appeal reflects a careful division of labour among the agencies to avoid both duplication and gaps in coverage and to ensure the most efficient use of resources. But to make a coordinated strategy work, we need donors to support all agencies not just three or four and all sectors, rather than just a few.

For example, the 2000 appeal for Sudan received 73 per cent of the funding requested, but with a huge disparity in support for food and non-food assistance. WFP was fully resourced to meet food aid needs. The result was better food security and nutrition levels. FAO, UNFPA and WHO, however, received very little. The lack of funding for WHO impacted on the overall implementation of health sector programmes. The result was outbreaks of measles, meningitis, cholera, malaria and other diseases.

The story was similar in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 2000 appeal raised more funds than in previous years. But over 82 per cent of the cash and in-kind contributions were for emergency feeding and food security programmes. Primary health-care, epidemic control, child protection, human rights and confidence-building sectors all received critically low levels of funding. Of 30 multi-sectoral projects presented in the Appeal, only 10 were partially funded and 20 received no funding at all.

Through the Consolidated Appeals Process, we have responded to calls from the donor community for a more coordinated inter-agency approach to strategic planning and programming. But we need to see a well-coordinated and comprehensive response from donors as well. Funding shortfalls and selective support for few agencies along with an increasing tendency toward bilateral approaches are defeating the synergies created by joint planning and action.

Excellencies,

Our theme, "Women and War", helps to give a human face to the consequences of conflict. In developing countries, women already face dual burdens of poverty and social inequality, as they struggle to live in dignity and to keep their families together. War divides communities and families and separates women from men. Uprooted from their homes and detached from family and community, women and girls become targets for attack because of their gender. Today, rape and sexual abuse have become weapons of war and strategies for ethnic cleansing.

Traumatised and exhausted women trek out of war zones, hoping to find a safer if not truly safe place for themselves and their families. But the crowded conditions in camps and settlements increase their vulnerability, as does the necessity of venturing into unfamiliar countryside to collect water or gather wood for fuel. Stripped of the economic means of survival, many are exploited sexually or forced into prostitution simply to ensure their children have something to eat.

Humanitarian assistance helps women to protect themselves and their children. We have learned that involving women in the management and distribution of relief is not simple idealism it is a proven and effective strategy for reaching the most vulnerable people. Many of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals before you incorporate practical strategies for operationalising the rights of women through reproductive health programmes and projects aimed at combating gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, as well as others to deal with the health and social consequences of such abuses, including the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

But women are too often seen only as the victims of war. My experience over the last decade has convinced me that women are also crucial to building peace and making the transition to sustainable development. In fact, women are often the first to build bridges across divided communities and to work toward co-existence and reconciliation.

The influence of women should not be limited to the grassroots level. Burundian women today are observers in the Arusha peace negotiations. But the norm has been for the voices of women to be excluded. Last month, the Security Council took an important step forward calling for increased participation by women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes. We should seize this opening to move forward with concrete projects that empower women as agents of peace.

Staying on the topic of peace building, I would like to focus upon the crucial transitional period after the fighting stops. Humanitarian agencies do not have the resources or indeed the expertise to run development programmes. Yet development agencies are often slow to come on the scene. There is a gap between emergency, short-term humanitarian activities and the implementation of medium to long-term development and reconstruction programmes. During this gap, societies can unravel again very easily, and conflicts re-start.

If I may speak here from my own institutional perspective, UNHCR has a very special interest in this process, because of our mission to ensure that refugees return and restart their lives at home in safety and dignity. We have had very difficult experiences in countries emerging from conflict, with large numbers of people returning and resources dwindling rapidly after the emergency subsides as in Rwanda, Liberia and Bosnia, just to mention a few examples.

I have personally made efforts to co-ordinate a joint initiative with two key international development partners the World Bank and UNDP. We have initiated some interesting and creative projects, for example with the World Bank in war-affected areas of Sri Lanka. In Sierra Leone, we have made proposals for pilot projects involving all three agencies. We are now examining opportunities elsewhere. Burundi, if a peace agreement is eventually implemented, would be a possibility.

We have made great efforts. Yet the response by governments and organisations has so far been very inadequate. Raising funds for post-conflict activities remains a difficult and uncertain exercise. I must tell you that I am disappointed by the limited response to our work in this area.

Before concluding, let me say that we are not appealing today only for resources, but also for your sustained interest and engagement. Our colleagues working on the humanitarian frontlines need and deserve the full support of the international community. Without exaggeration, their lives depend upon it.

We deploy our staff to dangerous and isolated trouble spots around the world. And, increasingly, they are targeted because they are humanitarian workers. All of us at UNHCR were devastated by the brutal murders of our four colleagues in West Timor and Guinea. WFP, UNICEF, ICRC, CARE International and many other agencies have had valued staff killed or abducted during the past twelve months. In the worst incident, seven people working with a UN-funded mine awareness programme in Afghanistan were murdered earlier this year.

As we work against the odds to save the lives of victimised and vulnerable people, I ask you to focus also on the lives of our colleagues. A good starting point would be to fully fund the staff security component of each of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals being launched today.

Excellencies,

The Consolidated Appeals Process seeks two billion dollars to alleviate human suffering and meet the most basic needs of refugees, the displaced and other uprooted and vulnerable people around the world. Two billion dollars may seem to be an extraordinary amount. But as the Secretary-General reminded us at yesterday's launch in New York, the world spends much more every single day for military purposes.

The humanitarian agencies and our frontline workers around the world are standing together to make this appeal. We ask that you join with us in a spirit of solidarity and give us the resources we need to get the job done.

Thank you.

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