Item 73 (a) of the preliminary list*
Strengthening of the coordination of
humanitarian and disaster relief assistance
of the United Nations, including special
economic assistance: strengthening of the
coordination of emergency humanitarian
assistance of the United Nations
Economic and Social Council
Substantive session of 2006
Geneva, 16 July-18 July 2007
Item 5 of the provisional agenda**
Special economic, humanitarian and
disaster relief assistance
Report of the Secretary-General
The present report has been prepared pursuant to General Assembly resolution 46/182, in which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report annually to the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. It is also submitted in response to General Assembly resolution 61/34.
The present report describes the humanitarian developments of the past year, provides an overview of key initiatives to improve the humanitarian system and analyses two thematic issues of concern: the use of military assets in natural disaster relief and needs-based humanitarian financing, including the Central Emergency Response Fund. The report ends with a series of recommendations for further strengthening the coordination of humanitarian assistance of the United Nations based on the conclusions contained in the report.
1. The present report responds to the requests contained in General Assembly resolution 61/134 and Economic and Social Council resolution 2006/81.
II. Humanitarian developments
A. The year in review
2. The reporting period was marked by positive developments in several longstanding emergencies, offering significant opportunities for the United Nations and its partners to strengthen humanitarian assistance and allow peaceful solutions to take hold. However, the same period saw the continuation and, in some cases, the further aggravation of existing emergencies and an increase in the incidence and severity of disasters caused by natural hazards. These events confirm the need to remain focused on strengthening the capacity of humanitarian actors to address the effects of emergencies on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
3. Successful elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 helped diminish the violence that has directly and indirectly claimed some 4 million lives since 1998. While fighting continues to dominate some eastern areas, relative peace elsewhere has allowed tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons to return home. The fragile yet promising peace talks between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda present the best opportunity in 20 years for lasting peace and stability in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. In Nepal, the 2006 truce between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist ended a decade of armed conflict, encouraging hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people to return to their homes. Though concerns remain about the implementation of the truce at the local level, it has created the conditions for the stabilization of populations beleaguered by cycles of insurgency.
4. Despite this progress, many conflicts continue to rage unabated with predictable consequences for civilians: lawlessness, armed violence, displacement and loss of livelihoods essential for survival. In Darfur, attacks against civilians, including rape and other forms of gender-based violence, have driven 250,000 people from their homes during the last six months alone and forced thousands more across borders into the Central African Republic and Chad. In Somalia, the upsurge in fighting between militias and Government forces backed by Ethiopian troops has forced more than 400,000 people to flee Mogadishu without their possessions and with little access to food, clean water or shelter. Renewed fighting in Sri Lanka displaced more than 300,000 civilians, adding to the estimated 400,000 previously displaced by the tsunami and internal conflict.
5. Conflicts also continue to affect populations throughout the Middle East. In Iraq, the civilian death toll now averages more than 100 per day. An estimated 8 million civilians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including 2 million internally displaced, some 800,000 of whom have been displaced since February 2006, and 2 million who have fled to the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 972 residents were killed as a result of the continuing conflict; of these, 274 were victims of internal fighting. In the same period, 16 Israelis were killed and 15 injured by home-made rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The 34 days of military strikes in Lebanon and Israel during the summer of 2006 resulted in more than 1,000 Lebanese civilian deaths and 43 Israeli civilian deaths, the displacement of more than a million people in Lebanon and 300,000 in Israel and the registration of some 900 cluster munitions sites across south Lebanon.
6. Worldwide, some 4 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2006, more than twice as many as in 2005, primarily in Sudan, Colombia, Somalia and Iraq. The number of refugees under the UNHCR mandate increased from 8.6 million to 9.9 million.(1)
7. Meanwhile, the incidence and severity of disasters associated with natural hazards continue to rise at a steady rate, causing alarming human impact. In 2006, 426 disasters affected 143 million people, resulting in $34.6 billion in economic damages. This is an increase over the 400 disasters recorded in 2005 and well above the five-year average of 386. As in previous years, the deadliest disasters involved geological hazards. The earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Java in May 2006 killed more than 5,700 people and left 1.5 million homeless - three times those who lost their homes in Aceh in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. The earthquake that struck the Solomon Islands in 2007 resulted in a tsunami that washed away transportation, communications and sanitation systems, hospitals and schools.
8. Hydro-meteorological hazards inflicted more than $2.1 billion in economic losses. Typhoons and floods in South-East Asia affected close to 8 million people in the Philippines. Excessive rains and severe flooding in the Horn of Africa displaced more than 650,000 people. Heavy rains coupled with an unprecedented number of cyclones and tropical storms caused extensive flooding across southern Africa, affecting more than 1 million people. Inadequate and uneven rainfall in Afghanistan has prolonged a drought that resulted in a lost harvest. Current food supplies are now estimated to be 20 per cent below annual needs.
(1) These figures are exclusive of Palestinian refugees in the UNRWA area of operation.