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Remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, At the High-Level Event for the Central Emergency Response Fund

News and Press Release
Originally published

as delivered

New York, 8 December 2020 (Virtual Event)

OPENING REMARKS (followed by closing remarks below)

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us today for the Central Emergency Response Fund High-Level Pledging Event..

The CERF is first and fastest, and it looks after the forgotten.

And I am really pleased today that we are not only joined by the Secretary-General but by a distinguished group of panelists. The Minister of Labour and Social Development in Sudan, Ms. Lena el-Sheikh Omer Mahjoub; the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Steve Mbikayi; Vice-Minister and Deputy Director General for International Cooperation in the Netherlands; Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar; Director-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilization, Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance at the German Federal Foreign Office, Ms. Sibylle Sora; and the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, Mr. Asif Saleh.

And today, as the world faces the greatest humanitarian challenges in over a generation, we have never needed the CERF more. Everywhere I travel – even if these days my travels are sometimes virtual – I hear stories from real people who get help thanks to the CERF.

I spoke the other day to Adama, a 42-year-old widow in Burkina Faso, whose village was attacked by gunmen last year, leaving her husband and other family members dead.

In a place like Burkina Faso, where conflict and displacement are increasing faster than anyone can keep up, the CERF is a critical tool. Quick CERF funding helps humanitarian partners scale up and meet the needs of people like Adama and her children.

Last week we published the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2021. 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year. That is a 40 per cent more compared to what we projected this time last year – and it is almost entirely down to COVID-19.

In 2020, the CERF’s value particularly stood out in four areas.

First, thanks to the staunch support of its donors, CERF has seen a consistent increase in funding over recent years. Last year, record contributions brought it close to its $1 billion target. That enabled CERF to tackle huge humanitarian challenges at a scale never seen before, with unprecedented impact.

The focus was on those places where needs were greatest – places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Second, CERF’s COVID response enabled the humanitarian system to respond quickly and effectively to new needs, embracing innovative approaches to do so.

With the pandemic came uncertainty, so the CERF prioritized flexibility. It gave block grants to UN agencies to allow them to target effort where they saw the greatest needs.

When travel shut down, CERF supported the transportation of humanitarian goods and workers to crisis zones.

And when the threat of gender-based violence increased in lockdown, CERF prioritized help for women and girls in its allocations.

Thirdly, a larger CERF has also enabled us to accelerate the agenda on anticipatory action where shocks were predictable and could be mitigated. CERF funded innovative and anticipatory approaches in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Somalia.

And fourth, a larger CERF has helped achieve results in four consistently underfunded areas of humanitarian response: support for women and girls; people living with disabilities; education; and protection.

So, I thank all of you here who helped support the CERF this year.

Your generosity has helped over 65 million people get food, healthcare, shelter and protection.

More donors are providing multi-year funding from several donors. That has helped CERF operate at its fullest potential. We look to others to commit multi-year funding, wherever possible.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, we need to reach the goal we set in 2016, for a billion-dollar CERF.

Thank you.


Thank you everyone for being here today.

My particular thanks to everybody who was able to announce to the CERF. Today more than 50 contributors collectively pledged more than US$ 370 million, including a number of donors that have not yet been able to specify of the precise number of their pledges.

So that $370 million number we are expecting to increase. That includes 8 donors who are returning to the contributions. And those who I am pleased to say commitments from 4 donors who have not been able in the past to contribute. We also had generous top out for 2020 announced today, and we therefore are expecting the overall contributions for CERF 2020 will reach more than $620 million, which is the second highest year we ever had, so many thanks indeed for that.

Your support and engagement are a testament to the CERF’s unique position as a fund for all, by all.

It is this solidarity that makes the CERF so unique, and so successful.

So thank you to everybody who contributes to CERF achievements. We are looking forward to engaging with each of you in the year ahead, as we move towards our goal of a US$1 billion CERF because your support has never been more important.

Thank you again.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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