Remarks by the Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ramesh Rajasingham, at the joint launch of the annual reports of the Central Emergency Response Fund and Country-Based Pooled Funds

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be here with you.

And it goes without saying, as the Secretary-General has just said, 2020 was an extraordinary year. COVID-19 upended the well-being of millions of people, and it made those already trying to cope with disasters and emergencies increasingly impoverished and destitute.

The gains that we have made painstakingly in reducing hunger and poverty, advancing gender equality, and keeping girls and boys in school came under increasing pressure as humanitarian needs escalated.

As of mid-June, aid agencies required US$36 billion through the coordinated Global Humanitarian Overview, or GHO, to help 161 million people in need. This is around $1 billion more than during the same period in 2020.

However, if you recall, in January 2020, before the COVID crisis struck us, when we launched last year’s Global Humanitarian Overview, we targeted 110 million people, which is over 50 million less than today. So, there’s been an extraordinary rise in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In the face of extraordinary levels of need and financial requirements, the OCHA-managed Pooled Funds once again demonstrated their central role in getting resources swiftly into the hands of those aid agencies best placed to save lives.

The 2020 annual reports of the Pooled Funds, which we are launching today, demonstrate the Funds’ life-saving impact across the humanitarian system. They also reflect the Funds’ commitment to ensure the greatest transparency to you of results and impact.

Collectively the Central Emergency Response Fund, or CERF, and the Country-Based Pooled Funds, or the CBPFs, allocated a record-breaking $1.8 billion to 59 countries in 2020, marking the fourth consecutive year of record-high allocations. That’s a remarkable 44 per cent increase compared to 2017.

The Funds kick-started the global response to COVID-19. They provided funding just days after the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January 2020.

And thanks to CERF’s speed and agility, UN agencies started implementing rapid response projects within three to four days after requesting funding.

Together, the Pooled Funds provided over $500 million to humanitarian partners to help people deal with the pandemic’s impact. The resources helped to scale up health care and reduce transmission through better sanitation and hygiene along with awareness-raising campaigns. And they helped address some of the secondary impacts of the pandemic, tackling food insecurity and helping protect women and girls affected by gender-based violence.

During the year, the CBPFs were pivotal in supporting NGO front-line response, channelling a record-breaking $330 million to over 260 national and local partners, and supporting them to adapt to emerging needs and operational challenges.

CERF and the CBPFs continue to add value across the humanitarian system by ensuring that every single dollar spent not only saves lives but makes improvements in the quality of the humanitarian response.

In 2020, the Funds helped the humanitarian community make significant headway in four critical yet generally underfunded areas of humanitarian response: women and girls, people with disabilities, education in protracted crises and protection.

Building on momentum from 2019, record numbers of women and girls, more than 56 million between both Funds, were assisted in 2020.

And CERF also promoted partnerships with women-led and women’s rights organizations to address increasing incidents of gender-based violence during the pandemic, while the CBPFs allocated more resources to women-led organizations and promoted their involvement in governance and operations.

The Funds also looked to reach those left furthest behind. CERF assisted over 8 million people with disabilities, more than half of whom were women and girls. The CBPFs worked to help people with disabilities access humanitarian assistance and protection, supporting over 3 million people with disabilities.

The Funds continued to advance innovative approaches in the humanitarian system.

As part of the efforts to help humanitarian organizations get ahead of crises, CERF supported three anticipatory action pilots in 2020. It provided $33.4 million to prevent suffering ahead of monsoon floods in Bangladesh and droughts in Ethiopia and Somalia.

The CBPFs continued using anticipatory approaches in a range of contexts, providing funding ahead of unfolding crises. As just one example, in December 2020 the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund released $13 million to reduce the risk of impending famine in the country’s worst-affected areas, alongside the release of CERF funding.

Behind all these numbers, there is a life that has been touched.

For example, CERF’s anticipatory approach in Bangladesh meant that people affected by flooding received cash transfers to take preparatory measures to protect lives, livelihoods and dignity. Women, girls and transgender people received essential hygiene items. And in Sudan, people living with disability in six villages in Blue Nile received cash grants through the Sudan Humanitarian Fund to help restart their livelihood activities after being adversely affected by the drought.

All this work would not have been possible without generous and sustained donor funding.

In 2020, donors contributed more than $1.5 billion to the Pooled Funds — $863 million to the CBPFs and $639 million to CERF.

Considering that 2020 was a particularly volatile year economically, the continued high level of support to the Funds is a tremendous show of commitment and trust in their ability to get the job done.

In 2021 and beyond, the Pooled Funds will again ensure timely and targeted funding for life-saving humanitarian action worldwide. In the constant pursuit of maximizing impact, the Funds will maintain efforts to reinforce their role as effective and agile global humanitarian funding instruments.

Strong Pooled Funds, able to deliver on their mandates, are the collective responsibility of all Member States. They are also critical to the humanitarian community’s commitment to leave no one behind and to reach those left furthest behind.

Thank you.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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