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World Not Living Up To Its Responsibility - Darfur

World ‘Not Living Up’ To Its Responsibility To Protect In Darfur, Iraq, Gaza: Un Aid Chief

New York, Nov 29 2006 9:00PM

Giving an overview of the global humanitarian situation before he steps down at the end of this year, the top United Nations aid official today warned that the world is not living up to its responsibilities to protect people in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, Iraq, Gaza and other hotspots.

Highlighting in particular the killings in Darfur, along with those in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland regretted that the “world woke up too late,” having failed to stop the violence when there was still time in 2003 or 2004.

"We as an international community have solemnly sworn a responsibility to protect. And we are not living up to that responsibility to protect in this part of the world, nor in the other areas, like Iraq ... or in Gaza – which I called a ticking time bomb earlier this year", Mr. Egeland told reporters in his last press conference to be held in Geneva.

Looking back on his three and a half years as Emergency Relief Coordinator, he said there had been almost as many failures and successes in the international community, highlighting developments in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal and northern Uganda as showing how these formerly conflict-wracked States were rebuilding.

Mr. Egeland also said that the mortality rates of Darfurians displaced by the violence and who are now living in camps had gone down because it was the best-organized humanitarian operation on earth despite all the difficulties involved, although it was still only a temporary solution.

“Were they willing to tolerate in 2006 that millions and millions of civilians lived in fear of their lives month after month after month?... My point is that it is [an] unsustainable [situation]. Every 10 months there is a million more people in a desperate situation needing emergency relief assistance to survive,” he said.

Four million people – two thirds of Darfur’s population – are now in need of emergency assistance, while at least 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed as a result of the conflict between Government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, with more than 2 million others having been displaced.

Mr. Egeland also lamented increasing violence in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and described the loss of life in Iraq as an “outrage,” noting that his first visit as head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had been in 2003 to see the bombed out UN headquarters where his colleague and predecessor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, had been killed.

“One hundred or more dead people every day and night is an outrage… I know of no other place on Earth where so many people are killed, massacred and tortured to death as in Iraq.”

Turning to more positive developments over the past few years, Mr. Egeland cited increased cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN, as well as the establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – the multi-million-dollar UN mechanism set up this year to provide funding for humanitarian activities in response to sudden emergencies.

However he also warned that the Security Council sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), imposed after their recent nuclear test, could lead the donor community to be less generous in aid to North Korea.

ends

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