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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

15 September 2005

“Too often we are too late because we have to wait for funding”, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, said while explaining the impetus behind proposals made to revise the Central Emergency Response Fund. The old Central Emergency Fund could deliver aid in the case of a humanitarian disaster in 3 to 4 weeks and sometimes months. With the new Central Emergency Fund, “160 or so Heads of Government agreed to make a new and better Fund... now we can say yes you can go, you can start work in three to four days”, he said.

Citing major funding problems as the cause of the world’s failure to respond to last January’s terrible floods in Guyana with the same vigour as the tsunami disaster, Mr. Egeland said today at a Headquarters press conference, that the new Fund should help to stem the unevenness of support given. The press conference followed a meeting in the margins of the General Assembly’s 2005 World Summit on Humanitarian Reform and the Central Emergency Response Fund. Participants included Jean–Louis Schlitz, Luxembourg’s Minister of Cooperation and Humanitarian Action; Sweden’s Annika Soder, Deputy Minister for International Development Cooperation; Mr. Egeland; and Hillary Benn, British Secretary of State for the Department of International Development.

Presenting the problems and solutions proposed for the fund, Mr. Schlitz said everyone knew before the meeting that improvement was needed in two neglected areas: chronic under-funding, and the egregious waiting period countries had to endure to receive funding even in extreme emergencies. “It is clear for us that country’s can no longer be kept waiting when there are children dying in desperate need of food and clean water”, he said. Pledges had already been made in excess of $160 million by several United Nations Member States, and the aim was to bring the proposals before the General Assembly and have the new fund operational by early 2006.

“When a humanitarian crisis occurs, the United Nations presses the fire alarm”, Mr. Benn said. In order to get the fire engine out of the station, the current system was to pass around a hat to get money to put petrol in the tank and water in the hoses. A more effective system was needed, as funds were not getting to people as quickly as they should. The purpose of the fund was to expedite the process.

Referring to the way the humanitarian disasters were covered by the media, Ms. Soder said that the new Fund should enable Governments not to just offer aid to those disasters that were covered by the media, but to specifically zero in on often neglected crises. She added that she also saw this as a great opportunity for countries that were not previously donors to now join the fray.

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For information media • not an official record

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