United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for 2001 Launched at Headquarters
Launch Theme - 'Women and War'; Secretary-General, Assembly President and Executive Director of UNIFEM Speak
The current United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals was requesting $2.26 billion for next year, less than the world spent for military purposes in a single day, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning at Headquarters at the launch of the 2001 Appeals.
He said the funds were needed to alleviate suffering and address the root causes of vulnerability to disaster. The 35 million people on whose behalf he spoke did not want handouts, they wanted a helping hand. But despite prosperity in much of the world, donor contributions to the Appeal had been declining. In 2000, only 55 per cent of the funds needed had been received. It was part of a general decline in contributions for humanitarian aid and post-conflict assistance.
Declining support for the appeals also increased the burden on countries and communities affected by humanitarian emergencies, he said. People hosting asylum- seekers, as well as humanitarian workers, were undocumented heroes. The security requirements of the humanitarian workers had been included in the current Appeals as a tiny but essential percentage of the funds requested.
He said that the theme of today's launch -- "Women and war" -- was in recognition of the special needs and important contributions of women in emergency situations. Projects in the Consolidated Appeal addressed both aspects. It was time for greater recognition of the issue of women and peace and security on the international agenda.
Harri Holkeri (Finland), President of the General Assembly, said that the Consolidated Appeals process was critical in peace-building efforts and in the overall coordination of humanitarian response. He called on parties to conflicts to allow safe access to victims in order to ensure the safe delivery of relief assistance. Member States should set aside all political differences to provide for humanitarian protection and aid.
Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), stressed the need for more action in reconciling the delivery of humanitarian relief with the protection of women's rights. Humanitarian protection should include prompt, efficient and objective verification of violations, as well as much broader participation in monitoring and reporting abuses. Specialized training and awareness raising were essential.
Carolyn McAskie, Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i., chaired this morning's launch. She introduced the speakers and presided over a discussion among the representatives of various donor, recipient and host countries.
During that discussion, the representative of Burundi, noting the dire situation of women in his country, said that widowed, exiled and displaced women required the international community's special attention. Burundi was in quest of a definitive end to the war. In the post-conflict situation, the people were in need of health care, education, the right to live in peace and the right to live in their own homes. In that regard, he thanked those who had worked on the appeal, as well as the donors who had responded to it.
France's representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that women were involved in conflicts as victims, facing all kinds of violence and shouldering extraordinary responsibilities in appalling conditions. But they were also playing an increasingly important role in many areas of peace-building and conflict resolution. That role needed to be strengthened. Through the Appeals process, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was inviting the international community to face its responsibilities and raising awareness of humanitarian crises.
While expressing concern over declining contributions, several speakers said the Consolidated Appeals also served as a strategic document for effective coordination and prioritization of humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Also speaking during the discussion this morning were the representatives of Tajikistan, Angola, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, United Republic of Tanzania, Russian Federation, United States, Canada, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Two special guests from Sierra Leone and Afghanistan recounted their experiences as women in civil conflict.
Appeals Work Programme
The Global Launch of the United Nations Consolidated Inter-agency Appeals for 2001, organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was scheduled to be held today at Headquarters. Speakers were expected to include Secretary-General Kofi Annan, General Assembly President Harri Holkeri (Finland), Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Noeleen Heyzer, and the Honorary Chair for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Liv Ullman.
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was speaking for the over 35 million human beings who urgently needed humanitarian assistance. They were children, women and men who were disenfranchised, displaced, and the targets of conflict and the victims of natural disasters. The Consolidated Appeals process was designed to save lives and rebuild livelihoods, through the efficient cooperation of United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, international and local non-governmental organizations, and governments.
When humanitarian assistance was provided in a timely manner, it could make a big difference, he said. Generous response by donors to the crises in East Timor and Kosovo enabled not only the survival of those populations, but also the reduction of need in both cases; there was no appeal for East Timor this year and the appeal for Kosovo had been halved, as reconstruction was under way in both places. Yet despite those successes and prosperity in much of the world, donor contributions to the Appeal had been declining. In 2000, only 55 per cent of the funds needed had been received, as part of a general decline in contributions for humanitarian aid and post-conflict assistance.
The current tendency towards direct bilateral support, he said, should not occur at the expense of the well coordinated and prioritized efforts of the United Nations and its partners. Declining support for the appeals also increased the burden on the countries and communities affected by humanitarian emergencies, which was already huge, as most asylum-seekers were hosted by people whose per capita income was less than $2 a day. Those hosts were undocumented heroes, as were relief workers themselves, who faced great risks. Their security requirements had been included in the current appeals as a tiny but essential percentage of the funds requested.
He requested support for those security initiatives and for pressure on host governments to fulfil their obligations in that regard. He urged all parties in conflicts to allow aid workers safe, unfettered access to those in need and to respect principles of the Geneva Conventions that distinguished between combatants and non-combatants.
The theme of today's launch, he said, was "women and war", in recognition of both the special needs, and the important contributions, of women in emergency situations. Projects in the consolidated appeal addressed both aspects. It was time for the issue of women and peace and security to receive greater recognition on the international agenda.
The current Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals requested $2.26 billion for the next year, he said -- less than the world spent for military purposes in a single day. Those funds were needed to alleviate suffering and address the root causes of vulnerability to disaster. The 35 million on whose behalf he spoke did not want handouts, but a helping hand. Humanitarian aid provided life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to all innocent victims of man-made or natural disasters. It was a noble, urgent cause that required a collaborative approach from United Nations agencies and their partners -- and generous, timely and flexible contributions from donors to the appeals issued today.
LIV ULLMANN, Honorary Chair for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, said that women needed the voices, thinking and understanding of other women. Their interests and concerns were largely ignored. The media described women as masses of scared people running across borders, without failing to make it clear that they were the same as other refugees.
Describing her experiences among refugee women, she said that martyrs were created every day through brutality in every corner of the world. After 20 years, her mind was still filled with images of children killed and orphaned by landmines; children near death from disease; people too weak to walk the last 100 yards to safety; and sick people lying in silence. She had seen the reality of living among strangers who had suffered irreplaceable loss.
Noting that 19 countries and regions were part of today's appeal, she recalled last month's open Security Council meeting on the subject of women in conflict, but stressed that much more could still be done. Few women made war, and few women were involved in peace negotiations, yet a great many women suffered as a result of war.
HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), President of the General Assembly, said the great effect that war and conflict had on women and children needed to be acknowledged. He also applauded the international launch of the Appeals. The Consolidated Appeals allowed many organizations to join forces in an effort that was directly relevant to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, in which world leaders had committed themselves to assuring that civilian populations that suffered from humanitarian emergencies were given every protection so that they could resume normal life as soon as possible, and so that displaced persons and refugees were returned to their homes.
The process was also critical in peace-building efforts, and in the overall coordination of humanitarian response, he said. He called on all Member States to heed the appeals and respond generously. He also addressed parties to conflicts, calling on them to allow safe access to victims to insure that relief assistance was safely delivered. Member States should set aside all political differences to provide for humanitarian protection and aid. He wished for success in the humanitarian appeals process.
NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said that the humanitarian appeal for women was specific because the threats to women and girls in armed conflict were gender-specific. Rape and sexual violence continued to be used as a method of ethnic cleansing and as weapons of war. Nearly all girls abducted into armed groups were forced into sexual slavery. Adolescent girls were at the greatest risk of sexually transmitted diseases and, increasingly, HIV/AIDS.
Women and their children comprised approximately 80 per cent of displaced civilians, she pointed out. Protection and assistance for women must, therefore, be focused and targeted to their special needs. All humanitarian responses in conflict situations must include systematic reporting on sexual violence and reflect strengthened policy guidelines on responses to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Multisectoral approaches to women's health and protection should be central to all humanitarian assistance.
In the absence of working health and education systems in conflict situations, she said, emergency humanitarian relief must support HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, care and treatment, while contributing to the establishment of long-term national policies. Psycho-social support should be central to humanitarian assistance, guided by an understanding of and respect for local culture and tradition. All responses should help mobilize existing social care systems and provide psycho-social support, as well as economic, vocational and skills development.
She stressed the need for more action in reconciling the delivery of humanitarian relief with the protection of women's rights. Humanitarian protection should include prompt, efficient and objective verification of violations, as well as much broader participation in monitoring and reporting abuses. Specialized training and awareness raising was essential.
BINTA MANSARAY, a special guest from Sierra Leone, said she had fled the civil conflict in her country three times, leaving her loved ones behind. That experience had motivated her advocacy of women's needs in war. The role of women had been crucial in the democratic election of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1996 and in the demise of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council that had toppled him. A peace march by women had led to the capture of warlord Foday Sankoh following the infamous kidnapping of United Nations peacekeepers earlier this year.
Describing her experiences in exile, she said many women in refugee camps had been forced into prostitution to ensure their own and their children's survival. Women in Sierra Leone did not want a humanitarian welfare system that would lead to dependency. They wanted humanitarian assistance that would help to promote awareness and self-reliance, since even petty trading had been a way of life long before the outbreak of war in 1991. They had seen international humanitarian agencies come and go while the emergency situation lingered for years. Through peace-building, humanitarian assistance could be an investment in Sierra Leone's future.
HABIBA DALIL, a special guest from Afghanistan, said she had been an educator in Kabul before fleeing north to Mazar al-Sharif with her family after her husband was wounded at the outbreak of civil war. Having lost all the family savings, she had worked as a volunteer in a United Nations refugee camp, where she had learned how communities in conflict survived. Women in Afghanistan had been forced by war to follow rules other than the traditional ones that their mothers and grandmothers had known.
She said life in Mazar al-Sharif had become too dangerous in 1998, when the Taliban started winning territory in northern Afghanistan. Fleeing once again, she and her family had crossed into Pakistan, travelling on foot with many other families. On the way, armed men had raped them and stolen their savings. Just before reaching the border, Taliban border guards had taken her husband and four other men off the bus and held them in Jalalabad. Using her last $500, she paid a bribe to have him released. It was heartbreaking to know that the current generation of Afghan girls had no right to the education she and her generation had enjoyed.