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Global emergency fund launched today

10 March 2006

Global emergency fund launched today: poor countries pledge money but New Zealand stalls

Developing nations Pakistan, India and Egypt have all pledged money to a global emergency fund, however, New Zealand as well as other richer donor countries Germany and Japan, have not yet given a single cent, said Oxfam today. The fund was launched today by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York.

Oxfam highlighted the disparity in giving which shows that poorer and disaster affected countries are contributing to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), yet governments that have called for increased effectiveness in responding to emergencies including Japan and Germany have not pledged any money to the fund.

Disaster affected countries Pakistan, Grenada and Sri Lanka have all pledged a small amount, India has given $2 million and Korea has donated $5 million. Yet rich countries France and Belgium have given just $1 million and $1.2 million respectively.

The fund will help to ensure a rapid response that could mean many more lives saved in emergencies such as the earthquake that devastated a large region of northern Pakistan and India last year, rather than the UN having to wait for money to be pledged every time a crisis occurs.

The new CERF was formally approved by the UN General Assembly in December and officially launched today. It now has a total of just $256 million (plus an existing $50mn loan facility), contributed by more than 30 governments with Canada ($17mn), Australia ($7.3mn), Spain ($10mn) and the United States ($10 million) all announced funding at the launch today. The Dutch government today doubled its contribution to $24 million.

Other donor governments that earlier contributed to the fund include UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Korea, Finland and Luxembourg.

Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director, Barry Coates said the fund was vital to help in the crucial first hours and days after a disaster and could also provide money to ‘neglected crises’ that do not receive adequate donor government funds.

“Many poor and disaster affected countries see the value in supporting the global emergency fund, however, New Zealand has not yet contributed,” said Oxfam’s Coates. “Responding immediately after a disaster is vital to saving lives, but without adequate money the global emergency fund will not be able to do so. While Oxfam welcomes the fact that the government is having ongoing discussions with the UN over accountability for how the CERF funds are used, we encourage them to contribute as soon as possible and before the next emergency occurs.

“The New Zealand government should be responding to its international obligations by contributing to this fund, rather than pursuing a piecemeal approach that is not based on the priorities of humanitarian need.”
Oxfam International estimates that a fund of US$1billion is needed to help ensure that the UN can achieve its goal of quick and balanced response, and must come on top of governments’ existing aid budgets. One billion has been the annual shortfall between global humanitarian appeals and donor country response each year from 2001 to 2004.

Oxfam used the example of Chad as a forgotten emergency that could be helped by the global emergency fund. Chad has suffered the consequences of a major influx of 200,000 refugees from the neighbouring Darfur region and needs international assistance for water, sanitation, health, education and food programmes. Yet the UN humanitarian appeal received just 55 percent of the funding needed in 2005 – just $125 million of the $227 million requested. The global emergency fund could help fill this gap.

Oxfam New Zealand is currently appealing for public donations to support its ongoing work in Sudan and Chad, in earthquake-affected Pakistan and northern India, as well as for the food crisis in East Africa.

Notes:

The following countries have contributed the following amounts to the CERF (all figures in US$): UK $70 million, Sweden $41 million, Norway, $30 million Netherlands, $24 million, Ireland $12 million, Denmark $8.1 million, Luxembourg $4 million, Switzerland, $4 million, Finland, $4.9 million, France $1.2 million, Greece $100,000, Estonia $24,000, Croatia $5,000, Sri Lanka $10,000, Liechtenstein $100,000, Mexico $50,000, Grenada $10,000, Armenia $5,000, Pakistan $20,000, Egypt, $15,000, Iceland $150,000, Republic of Korea, $5 million, India $2 million, Nigeria $100,000, Canada $17m, Australia $7.3m, Spain $10m, and the United States $10 million.

The original CERF fund was established in 1992 with a US $50m pot of money to respond to emergencies. It was a revolving fund, making loans that had to be repaid. This new, reformed CERF includes grants, so UN agencies can ask for the money from the fund without having to work out where the replacement funds will come from.

The new CERF was formally approved by the UN General Assembly in December 2005 and will be launched in New York on March 9 2006.
As at February, donor countries had only contributed 68 percent of the $550 million the UN requested for emergency needs in the earthquake affected Kashmir region of Pakistan. Long-term funds and bilateral pledges have also been given.

www.oxfam.org.nz

ENDS

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