Global emergency fund – major donors missing in action

Published: 1 March 2006

Five major donor countries have failed to commit anything to a global emergency fund just one week before it is officially launched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan next Thursday.

The United States, Japan, Australia, Italy and Canada have not pledged a single cent to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) said Oxfam International today. France has only given just over one million dollars despite being one of the richest countries in the world. By contrast, poorer countries including Mexico, Grenada and Sri Lanka have all contributed to the fund.

The global emergency fund will help to ensure a rapid response to emergencies, potentially saving thousands of lives by allowing action within 72 hours, rather than the UN having to wait for funds to be pledged every time a crisis occurs. The new CERF was formally approved by the General Assembly in December and will be launched in New York on Thursday, March 9.

Oxfam’s Policy Advisor Sarah Kline said that the fund could help both in rapid-onset disasters and also provide money to forgotten crises such as Chad that are not receiving adequate donor government funds and attention.

“The fund could help save lives in crises such as northern Uganda and Chad that do not make it onto the world’s radar,” said Oxfam’s Sarah Kline. “It could go a long way to solving the constant and recurring battle for money in disasters and neglected conflicts.”

“Governments have committed to responding quickly and effectively to help those in most need, yet now that we have a global emergency fund, governments seem reluctant to actually put money into it,” Kline added.

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.

Only $188 million total has been pledged to the CERF by governments including UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and Luxembourg. Oxfam International estimates that a fund of US$1billion is needed to ensure that the UN can respond immediately to future disasters. One billion has been the annual shortfall between global humanitarian need and donor response for the past several years.

Oxfam is stressing that all money for the global emergency fund up to the additional $1billion needed – which amounts to less than US$1 per year for each person in the rich OECD countries – must come on top of governments’ existing aid budgets.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact: Caroline Green +1 202 321 7858 or
Sarah Kline on +1 858 205 8734