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Global emergency fund launched today

Global emergency fund launched today: poor countries pledge money but richer Japan and Germany missing

Developing nations Pakistan, India and Egypt have all pledged money to a global emergency fund yet richer donors Germany and Japan have not given a single cent, said Oxfam International 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 to potentially save lives in emergencies such as last year’s South Asia earthquake, 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 International’s Policy Advisor Greg Puley said that Oxfam welcomed today’s contributions from several donor countries and urged countries to continue contributing. Puley said the fund could help in the crucial first hours and days after a disaster and could also provide money to ‘neglected crises’ that do not receiving adequate donor government funds and attention.

“Many poor and disaster affected countries see the value in supporting the global emergency fund yet Japan and Germany have not contributed a cent,” said Oxfam’s Puley. “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. Governments must pledge to the fund now, before the next emergency occurs.”

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 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 neighboring Darfur region and needs international assistance for water, sanitation, health, education and food programs. 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.

Under current German budgetary regulations it is not possible for the government to contribute to a general fund. All pledges must be tied to a specific crisis. Oxfam International urges the German government to change this system to allow it to support the CERF.

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