Press briefing by Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator

from UN Department of Public Information
Published on 19 Nov 2002
At a Headquarters press briefing today, Carolyn M. McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced the launch of the Inter-agency Consolidated Appeals for 2003. Being held in capitals around the world, the Appeals are $3 billion for 50 million beneficiaries in countries experiencing humanitarian crises.
The appeals, she said, represented the consolidated efforts of the United Nations humanitarian agencies working together. The positive effect was that it made funding appeals more efficient; the negative was that, in order for a country to appeal, its emergencies must be"long-term, ongoing and chronic". For example, the Sudan was a country that appeared every year.

She said the humanitarian crises in this year's appeal included Angola, Chechnya, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Great Lakes Region, Guinea, Indonesia, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory, Sierra Leone, Somalia, southern Africa, Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda. Iraq was not included in the appeal, because that was managed under the Security Council's"oil-for-food" programme. Iraq had never been the subject of the humanitarian joint appeals.

Regarding concerns about the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, she said that OCHA was monitoring its humanitarian aid and there were questions that must be addressed. She believed, however, that OCHA could still meet a high percentage of the targets for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "There's a very strong sense among the donors that, even though there are political sensitivities, the money is going to individual people who are suffering and should not be asked to suffer more for political reasons."

She said the Korean Economic Development Organization's decision to cut off fuel oil shipments to North Korea in December would affect the people there. "The people themselves are suffering seriously", she said, and their needs would have to be reevaluated over time. Fuel oil was not normally a commodity of humanitarian assistance, but its lack would certainly increase the shelter and the food needs, and quite possibly the medical needs, as well.

She said the"Hope For the Future" for the Appeals theme was chosen because"we are able to move on from humanitarian crisis to a transition to development", as demonstrated in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Angola. There were signs of hope where peace negotiations were ongoing. However, even in a time of peace negotiations, the humanitarian requirements continued -- and continued to be extremely desperate.

"These appeals are the lifeline for millions of people around the world", she said. In 2002, OCHA received about 57 per cent of the appeal total of $4.3 million it sought, and that was"a high year" because the Afghanistan appeal was larger than for other countries.

She said that most of the money in the 2003 Appeal would be for food, although food was not the only element. "Without clean water, sanitation, shelter, medicine, educational support and other support, people cannot survive", she said.

She added that there was "a disturbing trend". In the early to mid 1990s, OCHA received 75 to 80 per cent of the funding it sought, while in recent years, as she had pointed out, it was closer to 60 per cent. "It's not that the actual amounts we collect is going down. It's more a question that the needs go up and the figures and the demands go up over time."

She said that media attention played a large role in the ability to raise funds. In any given year, the top two or three countries in the news got from half to two-thirds of the contributions. Last year, Afghanistan was "the big winner". In the past it was East Timor, Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes --"In other words, the major crises that hit the news".

"Our ability to raise funds is very closely linked to the extent to which we can interest the press in sending out the message", she said. The media had an"enormously important role to play".

"What we try to aim for is to put the spotlight on the forgotten emergencies", she added. The funds were also needed for countries that people didn't see as having a humanitarian crisis, such as Indonesia or West Timor.

"I very much doubt we'll get 100 per cent", she said. "But if you get out there and blow the trumpet for us, we might get more than 50 per cent".

She said that each launch event, held in capitals such as Washington, D.C., The Hague, Brussels and Tokyo, was a publicity event for their governments, because they themselves needed support from their citizenry to allocate government funds.