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Statement by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the launch of the 2002 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals, Brussels, 27 November 2001

Speeches and statements

Statement by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the launch of the 2002 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals, Brussels, 27 November 2001

27 November 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today to launch the 2002 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals. Yesterday the Secretary-General, M. Kofi Annan, presented the appeals to the humanitarian community in New York. Today, the appeals are being launched not only in Brussels, but also in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Geneva, London, Tokyo and Washington.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to come to Brussels. The Belgian Government is an important partner for the UN humanitarian agencies. Currently, the Belgian Government holds the Presidency of the European Union. State Secretary Boutmans represents both the Belgian Government and the Presidency of the European Union. With this dual role, the Belgian Government's hosting of this event is greatly appreciated.

The European Commission and member states of the European Union are key partners for UN humanitarian agencies. The recent communication from the European Commission on building a partnership with the United Nations is an important step toward deepening and broadening the relationship between us. The co-hosting arrangement of today's launch is an encouraging signal of the European Community's commitment to support the work of the United Nations.

It is encouraging to see that so many representatives of the NGO community are present. In all humanitarian crises, NGOs are an essential complement to the work of the United Nations.

The Consolidated Appeal Process has developed greatly since 1991, when it was first set up. A broad group of stakeholders now participates in the preparations of these Appeals. In the case of the 2002 Appeals, donor representatives, NGOs and the Red Cross movement participated in the planning seminars and provided valuable input. In some cases, the needs of non-UN humanitarian humanitarian agencies have been included in the Appeals.

The Appeals present a consolidated assessment of needs and an overview of the coordinated action of humanitarian actors. Through the Consolidated Appeals Process, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners work together to develop, implement and monitor a strategic plan of action, outlining common goals, priorities and benchmarks for measuring success. This helps us to be accountable to our donors, taxpayers and the millions of people we aim to help.

For 2002, we are presenting 16 Consolidated Appeals, covering 18 different emergencies. An estimated 33 million people are covered by the programmes described, and we are appealing for US$ 2.5 billion to respond to their needs. Most of the Consolidated Appeals cover crises on the African continent. We would like keep Africa in sharp focus, to ensure that the protracted humanitarian crises there receive the critical support that they need. But today in Brussels, we will focus particularly on the situation in the Great Lakes region in Africa and in Southeastern Europe. The UN Humanitarian Coordinators for these regions will present the appeals for these regions to you in more detail later.

Donors have consistently requested better coordination from humanitarian agencies, and the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal Process is one of the ways in which we try to achieve this. We have made a great deal of progress in recent years. In spite of this, I regret to say that funding levels have remained considerably lower than what we would like to have seen. In 2001, only some 50 per cent of the requirements set out in the Consolidated Appeals were funded. As a result of this massive funding gap, a number of important activities were not implemented and many people did not receive the assistance they urgently needed. I would therefore like to appeal to donors to respond generously to our Appeals for 2002.

The joint Donor Alert for the Afghan emergency has received generous funding so far, and we are grateful for that. At the same time, the need for further funds for the humanitarian operation in Afghanistan remains high. We must seize the new opportunities that are now opening up to rebuild Afghanistan by facilitating reconciliation efforts and ensuring the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. Rebuilding the country will be a daunting task, but the international community must not turn its back on the Afghan people. Humanitarian agencies have a vital role to play, but to be effective we will continue to rely heavily on the support of our donors.

But while Afghanistan remains a priority, I would like to urge donors to help us to ensure a more equitable distribution of funds, among both geographical regions and sectors. Large discrepancies in funding between different regions place UN humanitarian agencies in an extremely awkward position. We need your support in avoiding such situations.

Similarly, some sectors receive much more generous funding than others. Food is the most well funded sector. This is understandable, as food is a basic requirement for survival. But numerous other activities help to save lives and allow people to live in safety and dignity. For example, no one should underestimate the importance of health programmes. HIV/AIDS is a massive challenge. The Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has described the impact of AIDS in Africa as no less destructive that that of war itself. Sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to just 10 per cent of the world's population, contains nearly 70 per cent of the world's HIV-positive population. Education programmes are also vital. Education is not only a fundamental human right, but an essential tool in protecting children in crisis situations from exploitation, military recruitment, prostitution and other harmful practices. Education, therefore, can be both a life-saving and life-sustaining activity.

The challenge for humanitarian agencies is to find ways of reaching the vulnerable. This is our theme today, and it is important to reflect on this. Many of the most vulnerable people live in remote areas which are difficult to gain access to. Many civilian victims of armed conflict, including internally displaced people, remain in volatile and insecure areas which cannot easily be reached by humanitarian agencies. The costs involved in reaching these people, both in terms of logistics and security arrangements, should not be underestimated. Following the killings of dozens of humanitarian personnel in recent years, we have made concerted efforts in the UN to improve security for humanitarian personnel. We need your continued support to cover such costs.

The Millennium Declaration, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2000, states, "We will spare no effort to ensure that children and all civilian populations that suffer disproportionately the consequences of natural disasters, genocide, armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies are given every assistance and protection so that they can resume normal life as soon as possible." The Consolidated Appeals Process is one important way to follow up on this joint obligation.

This year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations and the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. I see this as an important recognition of our common efforts, including those in the field of humanitarian assistance. Our challenge now, is to ensure that we continue to play an important role in meeting the needs of the world's most vulnerable people. That is why we appeal to all our donors for continued and increased financial support.

Thank you.