Mr Benn, who led the campaign for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), speaking at the British Red Cross at the launch of DFID's new humanitarian policy paper, said:
"The setting up of the CERF in March this year was a big step forward for humanitarian relief. The UN now has the money to enable it to get going quickly when disaster strikes. The fund has already helped out in the drought in the horn of Africa.
It is also now in a better position to respond to the forgotten emergencies - the ones the television cameras don't cover and people don't talk about - such as Burundi, Chad, Cote D'Ivoire and Democratic Republic of Congo.
But the CERF will need funding every year because sadly, we know that disasters - whether from earthquakes, floods or fighting - will happen every year.
So now is the time to show that the CERF will have the money to do its job year in, year out. That is why the UK - which is the largest contributor to the fund - will give £40 million a year over the next 3 years, a total commitment of £120 million.
I now urge all the other countries, which so generously helped get the fund off the ground, to make a similar long term commitment so the CERF can go on making a real difference to the lives of people in need of our help."
Mr Benn also announced the UK will increase DFID's core funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to £20m per year, and praised the courage and professionalism of humanitarian staff who "selflessly serve humanity across the world".
In order to tackle the potential threat posed by avian flu DFID also announced today a contribution of £3.5m to the World Bank Fund for the Avian and Human Influenza that will help low income eligible countries with preparations.
Notes for editors
1. The Department for International Development's new humanitarian policy paper, "Saving lives, relieving suffering, protecting dignity" was launched today by the Secretary of State at the British Red Cross London offices. The paper sets out the humanitarian principles that underlie DFID's approach and sets out new goals by which DFID will respond to crises. The report can be found at www.dfid.gov.uk
2. The Central Response Emergency Fund (CERF) is a stand-by fund established by the United Nations to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts. The CERF was approved by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 December 2005, and launched in March 2006, with the following objectives:
- To promote early action and response to reduce loss of life;
- To enhance response to time-critical requirements; and
- To strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crises.
3. The CERF is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States of the United Nations, private businesses, foundations and individuals.The Fund is managed by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Mr. Jan Egeland, on behalf of the United Nations Secretary General. The Fund allows the UN to react immediately when a disaster strikes by making funding available for life-saving activities to eligible agencies such as UN and its funds, programmes, and specialized agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
4. The UK announced an initial contribution of £40 million. Further information on CERF can be found on their website and donations can be tracked.