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Sudan, South Asia: Statement to the Humanitarian Affairs Segment of Ecosoc on "Strengthening of the coordination of the UN humanitarian assistance, including capacity and organizational aspects"

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New York, 15 July 2005 - Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Over the past 12 months, the humanitarian community has continued to confront major humanitarian crises epitomized by the Asian Tsunami and the continuous and unabeting emergency in Darfur. As the Report of the Secretary General "Strengthening the Coordination of Emergency Assistance of the United Nations," suggests, this session of the Council offers an opportunity not to be missed to link the hard lessons learned from the past and on-going crises to the overall UN reform process. A unique opportunity to increase the effectiveness and impact of humanitarian assistance and to find ways to overcome in a systemic fashion those recurrent gaps and weaknesses that systematically affect the collective response capacities of the humanitarian community.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomes the opportunity to take the floor today at this very important juncture and as one of the partner organization participating in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which has become the principal mechanism for the coordination of operations related to humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. It is in this spirit of collective capacities and in recognition of the diversity of the humanitarian community that the reform process can find new ideas and strengths to further improve our response to humanitarian crisis. IOM is pleased to note in the Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) recommendations the renewed sense of the IASC as representative of a broad humanitarian community.

The IASC is in fact not simply a composition of UN humanitarian agencies alone, but a partnership between them and other intergovernmental bodies like IOM, with the Red Cross movement, and with the NGO community. It is important to look at the proposed humanitarian reforms through the unique characteristics offered by the IASC mechanism and capitalize on its strengths, now that the articulation of the detailed proposals to enhance the response capacities is being developed. This may be especially relevant in the ongoing discussion of how to improve adequate, predictable and timely response in IDP situations in ways that best utilize the expertise of all potential partners in given situations and geographical regions. It is in this inclusive framework that the efforts to assess and develop sectoralcapacities and enhanced funding facilities can find the most appropriate response.

While respecting each other's history, we must fight the tendency toward a diversionary focus on mandates. We still need faster, more flexible mechanisms for rapid and responsible and coordinated division of labour. IOM remains committed to working with its partners, under the Humanitarian Coordinators' leadership in order to provide maximum added value to inter-agency responses to humanitarian emergency needs as well as transition programming

Mr. President,

IOM's interventions are primarily focused on emergency movement assistance, resettlement and return and reintegration of affected population forced to migrate, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and former combatants and their families. However, non-food relief items, shelter, camp care and maintenance, and other basic services are also provided to displaced populations who are without prospect for immediate return.

I would like to take a few moments to comment specifically on the Tsunami of late last year and the subsequent earthquakes, which brought renewed attention and commitment to the importance of dealing more effectively with mental health and psychosocial support in emergency and post emergency situations. Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing is a topic of considerable relevance for the whole humanitarian community. In our specific case, it is linked broadly to the realities that mobile populations face daily - whether they move voluntarily, or are forced to do so. The migration process can create great stresses and mobile populations can be more vulnerable than native populations. Migrants often also have less access to adequate services. Especially when migration is triggered by human rights violations, conflict, natural disasters or other events that force individuals and communities to seek safer havens, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing can be greatly compromised.

Over the past decade the international community has witnessed an important increase in activities in the area of mental health and psychosocial support in a variety of contexts. While many of such activities have been of great relevance, we have learned that there is a lack of practical guidance on the development of quality mental health and psychosocial activities. These often lead to well-intended efforts that may not optimally benefit those in need, and may even do more harm than good. This situation has called for a coordinated effort to bring good practices and experiences together and provide concrete, action oriented guidance to those who can bring direct assistance to communities affected by emergencies. We therefore wholehearted support the proposal to set up an interagency task force to develop practical guidance in this field as well as closer inter-agency collaboration in our collective responses.

Mr. President,

I would like to conclude these remarks by reaffirming IOM's appreciation to the entire OCHA team for their dedication and professionalism and convey to the Emergency Relief Coordinator on behalf of IOM's Director General our sincere appreciation for his leadership, commitment and collaboration.

I thank you, Mr. President

International Organization for Migration
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