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Closing Remarks of Ms. Carolyn McAskie, Emergency Relief Coordinator, a.i., at the Humanitarian Segment of the Economic and Social Council

Mr. Vice-President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
1. This has been a very substantive discussion. I would like to thank Member States, many of whom have came from capitals, and particularly Ministers, for their valuable contributions.

2. The magnitude of humanitarian need today is great. The number of people affected runs into the tens of millions. These people - and of course they are people, not "victims" - need support from all of us: from affected Governments, from donors, from the UN system and all the very active international and non-governmental organisations. This humanitarian enterprise is indeed a noble partnership, and one to which I am proud to belong.

3. However, the assistance provided today is woefully insufficient. Much good work is being done. But it is not enough. We must redouble all of our efforts qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

4. There must not be any more forgotten emergencies. This is in part an advocacy function. We will do the best we can, but we must all work together: member states, as well as partners throughout the UN system and in the NGO community.

5. We must not forget all the civilians, the non-combatants, affected by conflict around the world, those who are often targets in too many of today's wars. We must acknowledge our collective responsibility to protect these people. Several speakers have quite rightly said that aid must be given where it is needed most. Who receives aid and who does not must not be a function of political considerations or of the extent of media coverage. We must insist upon universal criteria, and ensure that with the resources we have, those most urgently in need of assistance are helped as much as possible.

6. Let me turn to our extremely useful discussion on natural disasters. Strengthening the local capacities of national governments to more accurately predict natural disasters and cope with the human consequences of these disasters, is the critical challenge. New technologies can be of immense help, and we must strengthen our efforts in this area. We must ensure that disaster-prone countries, irrespective of their access to resources, are able to employ such technologies according to need.

7. On our discussion on the displaced: we must see internal displacement, like all human tragedies, within the much broader context which created their displacement. Yes, the primary responsibility for the protection and welfare of the internally displaced lies with their own governments. The key is strong working relations with the local Humanitarian Coordinator. This is the model we have promoted in most affected countries.

8. I have heard strong messages from you on the importance of prevention. We must better understand each emergency, the local context, the causes of crisis, and the road to durable solutions. Shared knowledge is key in this regard.

9. We must better manage ourselves: coordination must equal better delivery, better service. The question of which model of management of international humanitarian operations should be followed, has been raised yesterday, most notably by the United States delegate. I am grateful for his attention to this subject. It is of utmost importance. I accept his challenge to find the best possible model for our work.

10. As a new member of the UN team, I can say that progress is tangible. The IASC is a living tool. We have Humanitarian Coordinators, the majority of whom are also Resident Coordinators in nearly all places of humanitarian emergency. Our teamwork in coordination at the field-level is stronger than ever before. Yet we must do better.

11. We must double our efforts to achieve safe and unhindered access to places of humanitarian need. We must increase the security of our own staff on the ground. We will improve security systems, but we must have the funding to do this. There is no other way.

12. As well as improving our response, whether to disasters or to conflicts, we must learn to prevent them. We must understand better the ways in which we can prevent those conflicts from occurring which give rise to such human tragedy, and use this understanding to inform not only our work, but all the work of the UN system. We must learn to reduce the effects of natural hazards.

13. The Secretary-General yesterday opened a meeting of the Security Council on conflict prevention. He said: "Prevention is multidimensional. It is not just a matter of putting in place mechanisms such as early warning, diplomacy, disarmament, preventive deployment, or sanctions - necessary though all these may be. Effective prevention has to address the structural faults that predispose a society to conflict." This question of multi-dimensionality holds equally true on the disaster side, where we must ensure synergy between preparedness, response and prevention, between relief and development, and build sustainable societies and economies.

14. Let me end with where I began, by underlining what we all know: and that is the enormous humanitarian challenge which we face today, the fact that millions in need of aid are not receiving aid, that despite all the good work which has been done, so much more needs to be done. Let us rise to the challenge. You have my pledge that I will play my part.

Thank you.

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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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