New UN global emergency fund needs immediate pledges to save lives

Published: 22 November 2005

Governments have so far failed to respond to the urgent need for a one billion dollar global emergency fund, according to a new briefing paper published by Oxfam International today. The failure to contribute to the fund is despite recent humanitarian disasters exposing major shortcomings in governments’ international response.

Governments have so far failed to respond to the urgent need for a one billion dollar global emergency fund, according to a new briefing paper published by Oxfam International today. The failure to contribute to the fund is despite recent humanitarian disasters exposing major shortcomings in governments’ international response.


The report states that the lack of funding for the most recent crisis in Pakistan (where as of 20 October the UN appeal is only 25 percent funded) and other crisis, including the Niger food crisis, shows why fully funding a UN global emergency fund that would make resources available immediately, is so essential.

Greg Puley, Oxfam’s policy advisor, said that rich donor governments including the US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada and Australia have so far failed to pledge a cent to the fund.

“This global emergency fund could stop some disasters, like famines, from spiralling out of control. For disasters that are unstoppable, it could save thousands of lives by speeding up the world’s response. This year, too many people have died in emergencies because money simply hasn’t arrived.”

“Two weeks after the Pakistan earthquake, the UN is having to spend time begging for funds instead of being able to concentrate solely on saving lives. A UN global emergency fund would help change this for good,” said Puley.

Oxfam’s report, Predictable Funding for Humanitarian Emergencies: a Challenge to Donors, shows that this global fund, formally called the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF), is still more than 80 percent away from Oxfam’s target of US$1 billion. Each year there is a funding shortfall to UN humanitarian appeals of at least US$1 billion.

Only seven governments – UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Luxembourg – have pledged money to date. The total pledges to the CERF fund so far amount to only US$187 million. However, Oxfam estimates that a fund of US$1billion is needed to ensure that the UN can respond immediately to future disasters. Oxfam is stressing that this additional US$1billion – 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.

The Oxfam report has calculated how much each government should contribute to the fund according to the size of their economy, in order to reach the target of US$1billion. Oxfam is calling on governments to make pledges in advance of the UN General Assembly discussion of the issue in late November.

“The fact that only seven governments have contributed so far is disappointing. If this fund is to save all of the lives that it could, rich countries like the US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada and Australia must support it. Continued apathy will mean more people die unnecessarily in future disasters. It’s time to learn the lessons of the past and act on them,” said Greg Puley, Oxfam’s policy advisor.

As well as the inadequate response to the Pakistan Earthquake, the Oxfam report also points to the example of the food crisis in Niger this year. Despite being warned of a food shortage months in advance and the UN launching an emergency appeal, donor governments failed to pledge significant funds until the media reported children dying from malnutrition.

In contrast to the current system in which governments often take months to respond to UN appeals, the new system would make money available in hours. It would also mean that crises that never make the headlines, like those in Northern Uganda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo also get their fair share of attention.

Contact Information

For a copy of the report or for more information, please contact:
Caroline Green in the US on +1 202 321 7858 or
Brendan Cox in the UK on +44 7957 120 853