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Secretary-General, launching 2008 Consolidated Appeal, invokes shared humanity in urging donors to ensure survival of world's 'bottom billion'


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks to the launch of the Consolidated Appeal in Geneva today, 23 January:

It is a privilege to participate in the 2008 Consolidated Appeal kick-off by addressing you, the pre-eminent supporters of the global humanitarian community.  Your generosity has saved countless lives while giving hope to many millions more.

We are here today on behalf of people the world has all too often forgotten:  the weak; the disadvantaged; those suffering the effects of climate change, violence, disaster and disease.  The people we seek to help are among the world's "bottom billion" trying to survive on less than a dollar a day, amid chaos and wrenching inequality.

Today offers a chance to demonstrate real commitment to helping them overcome hardship that we, here in Geneva, can hardly fathom.

Our world is interdependent.  It is now clearer than ever before that the fate of one is linked to the fate of all.  We have an obligation -- individually and collectively -- to help the destitute among us based on a profound appreciation of our shared humanity.

Six weeks ago, the United Nations launched its Humanitarian Appeal 2008 -- 10 consolidated appeals for specific emergencies -- seeking $3.8 billion to assist 25 million people in two dozen countries.

The generous pledges you make today will help ensure that they all receive aid based on need and need alone, bringing us closer to a healthier, more equitable world.

With this goal in mind, I call on the international community to support this year's Humanitarian Appeal.  And I urge you to act now.  Humanitarian actions cannot "kick off" until you make your funding decisions.  Early funding enables agencies to start programmes on schedule so that assistance arrives quickly and continues as needed. Funding delays, on the other hand, only add to costs in the long run as conditions spiral downwards.  And these costs include precious lives lost -- a price too terrible to pay.

Last year, millions of people suffered in disasters and conflicts, whether in Somalia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or other areas these appeals hope to help.

For so many people living among the "bottom billion", humanitarian funds mark the difference between life and death.

Let us also remember that funding for humanitarian aid is not perpetual.  This year we have fewer appeals than in 2007.  For example, Burundi is shifting toward sustainable recovery and development, so we are no longer seeking funding for relief aid there.

But the effects of climate change are bringing new concerns.  Last year, a rising number of floods, hurricanes, cyclones and drought resulted in a total of 15 flash appeals, by far the largest number for any year.  Even as we speak, floods are threatening the southern part of Africa.  The fact that so many disasters were climate-related has major implications for humanitarian response in the future.

We are addressing emerging challenges and improving our operations.  We are working hard to make the most of all of the funds you entrust to us.  And we are succeeding.  Now we ask that you come forward with more resources, especially for the areas that get overlooked.

Funding must be equitable.  Some emergencies are nearly fully funded while others languish.  Last year, for example, the appeal for Chad was 100 per cent funded, while Côte d'Ivoire received but 55 per cent funding, and Zimbabwe and West Africa, 56 per cent.  Funding inequities persisted throughout last year's flash appeals as well.  The appeal for Madagascar received 94 per cent funding, while Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic both languished at 37 per cent. And that's simply not enough.

All players show how serious they are about helping people in need through these consolidated appeals.  This is especially true for Governments of countries where disaster strikes.  Some may be reluctant to seek international aid.  Perhaps this is understandable, but there is no stigma attached to Governments asking for help when a crisis overwhelms their ability to respond.

The General Assembly said as much in a 1991 resolution calling for international organizations to support the efforts of Governments affected by large-scale disasters and humanitarian crises.  That resolution said support should include organizing consolidated appeals.

The aim is to channel international efforts to supplement a Government's own primary role.

Through this year's appeal, 188 humanitarian agencies have proposed principled and effective action.  They recognize that the whole of their efforts is greater than the sum of the parts.

At the same time, we need donors to work together in a coordinated manner so that we all achieve coverage, balance and synergy.

I firmly endorse this appeal and urge you, our partners, and all humanitarian donors to work together to save lives and help restore basic dignity for all.

For information media - not an official record