More funding needed to ensure sustained economic development in countries hit by conflict, disaster, Second Committee told

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 08 Nov 2004
GA/EF/3092

Fifty-ninth General Assembly
Second Committee
28th Meeting (AM)

While international assistance to post-conflict and natural disaster-stricken countries had indeed brought peace and emergency relief to needy populations, more funds were needed to put those countries on a sustained path to economic development, representatives told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it began its debate on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster-relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.

Angola's representative said that, despite significant contributions from the United States, Sweden, Germany and other MemberStates, the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Assistance to Angola was inadequately funded. The Angolan Government had taken several steps to rehabilitate destroyed economic and social infrastructure through a poverty reduction strategy on social reintegration, civil security and protection, food security and rural development, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, education, health care, infrastructure development, employment and vocational training, good governance and improved macroeconomic management.

However, he continued, Angola was not prepared to shoulder the burden of providing emergency relief to up to 4 million refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom had returned and resettled on their own, nor to demobilize, disarm and reintegrate some 25,000 former combatants. The donor community must continue to participate in and increase assistance to the Consolidated Appeal, as well as the 2005-2008 United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

Similarly, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that without additional international assistance, his country could not unify its territories, establish provincial administrations or set up a transparent system to pay salaries to officials on a regular basis. Nor would it be able to prepare for elections and create a more stable, friendly investment environment. Moreover, the humanitarian situation remained precarious, characterized by high mortality rates, inadequate sanitation, limited access to health care and infant malnutrition. There was insufficient overall financing for humanitarian needs and massive violations of human rights continued to go unpunished in the east of the country. Follow-up to the Bretton Woods' assistance programmes for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was vital and would contribute greatly to reforms begun by the country itself.

Mozambique's delegate said that despite positive gains in the past few years, the compounding effects of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters had significantly increased the vulnerability of a still needy population. Without an aggressive integrated response that included a development dimension, some 20 per cent of the agricultural labour force would be lost to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2020 and life expectancy could drop to 36 years by 2010. The challenge was to end Mozambique's vulnerability and dependence on emergency aid and to allow it and other recipient countries to develop the necessary tools to face future disasters. During the current General Assembly session, Mozambique would table a resolution on assistance, focusing not only on humanitarian issues, but also on its remaining political, economic and social challenges.

Tajikistan's representative said that international support had gone a long way in helping to restore peace and stability, as well as shoring up the country's health-care maintenance network, potable water system, housing infrastructure and natural disaster relief programmes. However, poverty eradication continued to be an urgent concern, particularly among marginalized groups. Continued support was needed to accelerate the pace of development and to support long-term sustainable development.

Mourad Wahba, Director of United Nations Affairs at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), introduced the Secretary-General's report on assistance to Mozambique, saying that the UNDP and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had coordinated efforts to set up a United Nations disaster-management team, as well as partner groups in Mozambique, bringing together agencies and country donors. This year, the inter-agency preparedness and response plan would make HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention a priority. The country team's common country assessment estimated that 700 new HIV/AIDS cases were appearing daily, of which some 42 per cent were youth under the age of 20 years. It had also recommended that Mozambique set up a national plan for disaster management, which would serve as a guiding instrument for all its disaster mechanisms.

Introducing the Secretary-General's report on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for countries and regions, Kevin Kennedy, Director of the Coordination and Response Division, OCHA, said the United Nations had significant capacity to help repatriate hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people in post-conflict and disaster stricken-countries, stressing that assistance was crucial to the creation of jobs and the fostering of sustainable development.

Other speakers this morning included the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), China, Jamaica and the Philippines.

Also speaking was a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Committee will meet again at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 9 November, to consider its agenda item on groups of countries in special situations, including least developed countries and landlocked developing countries.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to discuss the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.

Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on assistance to Mozambique (document A/59/86-E/2004/69), which describes United Nations efforts to assist that country in recovering from the 2000-2001 floods, preparing for and responding to the 2002-2003 drought, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and other initiatives.

According to the report, the combined effects of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters have significantly increased the impoverished nation's vulnerability. HIV/AIDS threatens sustainable agriculture and rural development, undoing decades of economic and social development and causing rural disintegration. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that some 20 per cent of the agricultural labour force will be lost to HIV/AIDS by 2020 and that life expectancy will drop from 50.3 to 36 years by 2010.

Addressing those concerns, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has recommended that coordinated multi-sectoral vulnerability assessments be carried out, so that affected communities can be better assisted, the report says. It also urges affected States to make use of expected near-normal rains for the remainder of the season, as well as groundwater sources, for potential second-season crops. The SADC also underscored the need to resolve outstanding challenges in targeting and addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS on food security, and urges Member States and cooperating partners to provide additional resources for national responses to disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. Affected States should also strengthen their disaster-management structures and functions and promote formal and informal intraregional food trade in tackling expected deficits.

The report endorses SADC's recommendations and says that existing inter-agency collaboration should be reinforced and extended from the central to the provincial, district and community levels, especially in the field of vulnerability reduction. It also urges Mozambique to prepare a national plan for disaster management, outlining preparedness, prevention/mitigation and response activities to natural/man-made disasters or technological occurrences.

Also before the Committee was a report on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for countries and regions (document A/59/293), which reviews humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance given to countries undergoing or emerging from a humanitarian crisis induced by conflict or natural causes. The selected countries include Angola, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Serbia and Montenegro and Tajikistan.

The report notes that several countries -- Comoros, Mozambique, Serbia and Montenegro and Tajikistan -- which have previously required special economic assistance, have stabilized and are well on the road to recovery. While they may still need residual humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance from the international community, the bulk of international aid should be geared towards sustainable development.

In other countries, however, crisis situations have continued, the report states, recommending that donor support to Angola be increased and that the Government review how resources are being used to ensure peace and long-term sustainable development. It also suggests that governmental capacity be strengthened to ensure its leadership in all development-oriented interventions; that Member States give generously to Angola to achieve permanent peace; and that the United Nations build alliances among civil society, government, the private sector and the donor community.

As for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report notes that the country is still too weak to generate the resources needed for national reconstruction, and low public investment impedes construction of a suitable base for relaunching the economy. Even private-sector investment will be ineffectual without a minimum of economic infrastructure, and political uncertainties will prevail until free, democratic elections are held.

The report recommends that public investment in the country be substantially increased and elements limiting its ability to absorb it reduced. In addition, job creation must be put at the centre of the investment policy to revitalize domestic demand. External debt will continue to weigh heavily on national resources, meaning that the qualification requirements under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative must be swiftly met, in particular, by finalizing the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) during 2005 and implementing it effectively.

Regarding Ethiopia, the report says the 2003 relief operation to prevent a repeat of the widespread death and suffering of the 1984/1985 famine was a major success, which has been attributed to unprecedented donor contributions and action taken by United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations; the Red Cross movement and other partners; effective early warning systems on the effects of rainfall and shortfalls in production; effective coordination at the federal, regional and "weredas" (district) levels; the early response by the Government, which contributed 45,000 metric tons of wheat; and improved logistics.

However, the report notes, drought has become a chronic hazard in Ethiopia, brought on by eroded national resources due to high population growth, deforestation, desiccated water resources, insufficient family farming plots and climate change. People have been selling household assets to cope, longer-term food insecurity looms and future shocks could place hundreds of thousands or even millions of the rural poor in acute need of humanitarian assistance. The Government and the international community must strengthen emergency management and provide humanitarian relief, as well as longer-term solutions to food and livelihood insecurity.

Concerning Liberia, the report states that the country is slowly overcoming the legacy of war and destruction, but can only succeed if peace prevails throughout the West African subregion, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Serious security, humanitarian and development challenges facing the country could endanger efforts to restore sustainable peace, as well as regional stability. Attention must also be paid to other major problems, including the lack of economic opportunity and disruption of livelihoods due to population displacement. Jobs are needed for the large number of unemployed, often illiterate young men who are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups.

Introduction of Reports

KEVIN KENNEDY, Director, Coordination and Response Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), introduced the report on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for countries and regions (document A/59/293), underscoring the heavy burden of post-conflict rehabilitation in many countries and the importance of international assistance to reconnect people with their homes, lands and livelihoods. The United Nations had significant capacity to help repatriate hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. Such assistance was crucial in employment creation and sustainable development. National reconstruction was heavily dependent on external financing.

The report also reveals the devastating effects of drought in post-conflict and disaster-stricken areas when food insecurity was prevalent. Even when food shortages subsided, the long-term impact of drought and related ills was serious. There was a need to improve food-production techniques, forestation methods and water-resource management.

MOURAD WAHBA, Director, United Nations Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted that conflicts and a series of droughts had necessitated United Nations humanitarian and economic assistance in Mozambique. To date, natural disaster institutions had been established, a United Nations disaster-management team had been set up with the support of OCHA, and United Nations disaster-management partners groups, which brought together agencies and country donors, had become involved.

Since the release of the Secretary-General's report, HIV/AIDS had become a cause for extreme concern, he said. A common country assessment prepared by the country team estimated that adult prevalence had reached 16 per cent in 2000 and that 700 new cases were appearing daily, of which some 42 per cent were youth under 20. Economic growth had remained impressive since the conflict, but remained poor. In 2004, the inter-agency preparedness and response plan would continue to assist with the crisis, making HIV/AIDS a priority. The United Nations country team had recommended reinforcing current inter-agency cooperation, including the response to HIV/AIDS and special efforts for vulnerability reduction. It had also recommended that the country set up a national plan for disaster management, which would serve as a guiding instrument for all disaster mechanisms in the country.

Questions and Answers

In response to a question on coordination between OCHA and United Nations agencies on the ground in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction, Mr. KENNEDY cited the coordination between OCHA and the UNDP in Angola as a good example. Years of war had left one third of that country's population displaced. The OCHA and the UNDP had downsized their staffing on the ground and, as of this month, OCHA's emergency staff had completed its work in humanitarian assistance and handed over responsibility to UNDP staff on the ground to focus on sustainable development efforts. Concerning the situation in the Sudan, rehabilitation was under way in the south, but the situation was likely to get worse in Darfur with the abduction of children.

Mr. WAHBA also noted a gradual shift from emergency response activities provided by OCHA to United Nations offices taking action on the ground. In northern Uganda, there was strong coordination among OCHA and United Nations field offices, including efforts to clear mines. The HIV/AIDS pandemic was the most serious threat facing Uganda.

Statements

DIRK-JAN NIEUWENHUIS (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, expressed extreme concern about the continuing insecurity and large numbers of internally displaced persons -- more than one and a half million -- in northern Uganda. Several sectors were affected, particularly water, sanitation, health and nutrition. As for the Sudan, insecurity in Darfur was obstructing aid and leading to incredible needs, although that should not detract from needs elsewhere in the country. Likewise, lack of security was the main obstacle to humanitarian aid in various regions of Afghanistan, which also suffered from vulnerability to natural disasters such as drought and earthquakes.

In Angola, he continued, economic growth had yet to translate into better lives for its people, 68 per cent of whom continued to live below the poverty line. Food aid, water and sanitation and demining remained vital needs, which must be addressed through longer-term development measures. The Union was also concerned about continued violence, especially against women, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as by the overall humanitarian situation. The Government should create a secure environment for the population, as well as education, health, public administration, a judicial system and jobs. The situation in the east of the country, where some 4 million people were displaced, was particularly difficult, with sporadic violence restricting humanitarian access.

In Liberia, the remaining challenges included demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, and aiding the internally displaced. The spread of HIV/AIDS, ensuring access to safe water and sanitation, and intensifying agricultural production were other short- and long-term problems that must be addressed by the authorities and the international donor community. Similarly, in Malawi, national and international efforts must focus on addressing natural disasters, chronic malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and other social challenges. As for Somalia, prevailing drought, continued food insecurity and rehabilitation and reconstruction posed major challenges to the Transitional Government.

YAO WENLONG (China) said least developed countries accounted for 80 per cent of countries in need of humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance and deserved priority attention. The efforts of Governments receiving assistance to improve their humanitarian and security situations and enable refugees and internally displaced persons to begin returning home were laudable. Some such governments had prepared PRSPs and identified priority areas for reconstruction, while others had devised long-term development programmes. However, the lack of financial resources continued to burden those countries. The United Nations' inter-agency appeal to mobilize resources had yielded uneven results. In some cases, as much as 79 per cent of planned targets had been reached, and in others, just 20 per cent had been reached. In some countries, peace had been restored, but inadequate financial resources made it impossible to move into the reconstruction and development phase.

China was a disaster-prone developing country with a low per capita income, he said. Still, it provided humanitarian assistance to disaster-stricken countries, and in 2003, through bilateral channels, it had provided 18,000 tons of corn to Ethiopia and five other countries seriously hit by drought. It had donated wheelchairs for the disabled in Angola and mosquito nets, blankets and other emergency assistance to Somali refugees through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). China called upon donor countries with the capacity to contribute generously to increase their humanitarian, rehabilitation and humanitarian assistance to post-conflict and disaster-stricken countries.

DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica) said her country had recognized the particular challenges plaguing countries affected by natural disasters, as well as the importance of rapid international reaction. The United Nations and its partners played a vital role in providing humanitarian assistance to countries in crises arising from natural or man-made disasters, and in reconstructing them. International cooperation in providing assistance -- from relief and mitigation to development, including adequate resources -- had remained a priority.

She said humanitarian assistance required a multifaceted approach, built on a framework of collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, to enhance prospects for sustainable development. International assistance was critical in ensuring an effective, durable response to the many challenges cited in the Secretary-General's report, if the Millennium Development Goals and other agreed goals were to be realized by all countries within the expected time frame.

RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said that thanks to broad international humanitarian assistance from donors, Tajikistan was able to shore up its health-care maintenance system, access to potable water, housing construction and natural disaster relief. Peace and stability had been achieved. The World Bank, UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), FAO, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, among other groups, actively participated in rehabilitation efforts.

While Tajikistan had entered into a stage of peaceful development, poverty eradication continued to be an urgent concern, he said. Socially marginalized groups were in need of targeted assistance. Continued support was needed to accelerate the pace of development and to support long-term sustainable development. In that regard, the Russian Federation was doing its part to help Tajikistan, investing some $5 billion in the next five years in Tajikistan's hydropower sector, industry and anti-drug trafficking programmes. Tajikistan and Russia had reached a mutually advantaged "zero option" to resolve Tajikistan's external debt to Russia. Considering that success, Tajikistan had decided not to submit to the General Assembly's current session a new draft resolution on emergency international assistance.

ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of Congo) said his country was still attempting to unify its territories, and set up provincial administrations, as well as a transparent system to pay the salaries of officials on a regular basis. It was also trying to prepare for elections and establish a more stable environment that would invite private investment. However, accomplishing those tasks was difficult due to the challenging socio-economic situation. Significant advances that had been made had still not achieved the expected results and the humanitarian situation was still precarious.

The country was still suffering from high mortality rates, inadequate sanitation, limited access to health care, and infant malnutrition, he said. Overall financing for humanitarian needs was insufficient, and massive violations of human rights were still going unpunished in the east of the country. The Democratic Republic of the Congo would not be able to resolve those problems without assistance from the international community. It was vital to follow up on Bretton Woods programmes directed at the country, which would contribute greatly to reforms that the country itself had begun.

MEYNARDO MONTEALEGRE (Philippines) underscored the importance of the White Helmets Initiative launched a decade ago by the General Assembly, saying it had made a major contribution to voluntary humanitarian initiatives of Member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and individuals. It also complemented the success of the United Nations Volunteers and similar humanitarian programmes. The White Helmets Initiative, which was supported by national and voluntary contributions, advanced the United Nations humanitarian agenda without being an extra burden on its resources.

The Philippines was actively involved in the United Nations Volunteers programmes and had several strong non-governmental organizations working in specialized fields in various Asia-Pacific countries, he said. It looked forward to creating its own White Helmets Initiative in the future, and the Philippine Armed Forces were working with national police peacekeeping organizations, civil defence authorities and volunteer non-governmental organizations in order to do so. The White Helmets Initiative's potential should be maximized, with White Helmets serving alongside Blue Helmets, particularly in post-conflict peace-building.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that up to 4 million refugees and internally displaced persons in Angola required emergency relief. Consolidating peace in the post-civil war period required the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of approximately 25,000 former combatants. Despite significant contributions from the United States, Sweden, Germany and other MemberStates, the United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Assistance to Angola continued to be inadequately funded. The unassisted and spontaneous return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons occurred in part outside the auspices of the Government, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. Angola called upon Member States, particularly the donor community, to continue to participate in and increase assistance to the Consolidated Appeal, as well as the 2005-2008 United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

The Angolan Government was taking several steps to rehabilitate the country's destroyed economic and social infrastructure, he said. They included approval and implementation of a PRSP focusing on social reintegration, civil security and protection, food security and rural development, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, education, health care, infrastructure development, employment and vocational training, good governance and improved macroeconomic management. The national budget for the upcoming fiscal year included increased funds for development sectors. Officials had also launched the Angolan Enterprise Programme, designed to boost the private sector, including through technical and financial assistance, to ensure its full participation in economic reconstruction and rehabilitation.

FILIPE CHIDUMO (Mozambique) said the compounding effects of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters in his country had significantly increased the vulnerability of a population still needed humanitarian assistance, despite positive gains made over the past few years. HIV/AIDS was affecting the nation's most productive group, having a devastating effect on economic and social development. Without an aggressive response, some 20 per cent of the agricultural labour force would be lost to the pandemic by 2020, and life expectancy may drop to 36 years by 2010. The number of children orphaned by the disease, combined with malaria and tuberculosis, was rising. HIV/AIDS must be addressed in an integrated manner, which must include a development dimension rather than simply emergency relief.

The Government was developing a national capacity to manage natural disasters and emergencies and had launched a national contingency plan to prevent, prepare and manage natural disasters, he said. Any successful relief programme should also focus on transition to development to ensure an end to vulnerability and dependence on emergency aid, and allow recipient countries to develop the necessary tools to face future disasters. Mozambique's state of underdevelopment had prevented it from responding effectively to emergencies, or building the national capacity to mitigate and manage emergency humanitarian situations.

During the current General Assembly session, he said, Mozambique's delegation would be tabling a resolution on assistance to the country to give the international community an opportunity to review progress made in development over the past two years, and to strengthen the legal and political framework for cooperation and assistance to the country. It would focus not only on humanitarian issues, but also reflect the main political, economic, social and challenges it faced.

WENDA ADRIAANSE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that successful humanitarian assistance must consider the actual needs and wants of local communities. Before providing humanitarian assistance, the Federation had designed a Cooperation Agreement Strategy (CAS) for each country, specifying its needs for humanitarian assistance. An agreement in Ethiopia, for example, included programmes to help build the capacity of the Ethiopian Red Cross. The priorities were what Ethiopian people themselves had identified, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, food security, disaster reduction and preparedness, and water and sanitation programmes.

Another essential part of the CAS was strengthening the Red Cross volunteer base, she said, so that national and local resources required for the effective implementation and sustainability of programmes could proceed. Normally, the outcome of the CAS process was the design and launch of the Federation's appeal for assistance, a