Strengthening the humanitarian response to humanitarian emergencies through thematic support to UNICEF

Originally published


Location of operation: Global

Amount of Decision: EUR 4,200,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/THM/BUD/2006/03000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

The last two decades have seen a significant and rapid change in the geopolitical situation and an increase in both man-made and natural disasters. From a humanitarian point of view, the most concerning fact is the upsurge of internal armed conflicts in developing countries. While classical wars were fought between the armed forces of two sovereign states, the primary focus of the new, so-called "asymmetrical" wars is often the civilian population. The humanitarian consequences of this evolution are serious, in particular with regard to the large-scale displacement of populations this entails. In 2005, nearly 9,2 million refugees and approximately 25 million internally displaced persons exist worldwide according to figures of UNHCR and the Global IDP project(1).

Globally, the notable increase of the number of people affected by natural disasters is of equal concern. According to Munich Re, in the last decade, economic losses have increased almost ten times, with around 7,000 natural disasters causing economic losses estimated at over EUR 650 billion(2). The past 12 months have been catastrophic in terms of enormous natural disasters, each affecting millions of people. The South Asian Tsunami alone has caused the annual death toll from natural disasters to soar to 320,000 worldwide, more than four times the toll from the previous year. The combined economic impact of recent events

(Tsunami, earthquakes, hurricanes and flooding) globally will be historic for its consequences. Future predictions, driven primarily by climate change and land-use change, suggest an increase in the fragility of the environment and a growing population of communities less able to cope with that fragility.

In 2005, the Emergency Relief Coordinator commissioned a review of humanitarian response capacity. With the recommendations of the Humanitarian Review Report, the crucial decisions made during the September 2005 World Summit created a general momentum for UN Reform - The "System" upgrade consists mainly of the following three elements as reflected in the UN Secretary General's report "In Larger Freedom" (3): more predictable and timely funding of operational UN agencies and their NGO implementing partners in undertaking emergency activities; strengthening coordination both at the field and HQ level; strengthened response capacity, including clearer sectoral responsibility and accountability.

Within this challenging context, UNICEF had to take effective and appropriate initiatives to prepare for humanitarian crises and improve its response capacity as enshrined in UNICEF's Principles and Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies (CCC)(4). Upgrading UNICEF´s response capacity in such situations and enhancing its preparedness to deal with humanitarian crises has been widely acknowledged as essential for UNICEF to fully implement its mandate. In 2003, UNICEF approached DG ECHO and further to the traditional geographical financing, it was decided to reinforce UNICEF emergency preparedness and response activities through thematic funding. Thematic funding has enabled UNICEF to make significant progress in this area. In 2004, UNICEF has responded to 187 emergencies. Half of these emergencies were natural disasters. Seventy-five percent of these crises were 'local,' meaning that national governments, with limited UN support, were able to respond without significant external mobilisation of resources and personnel.

Today, reinforcing the UNICEF's emergency capacity becomes even more important given the increasing responsibilities that UNICEF will have as sector lead for the cluster on nutrition, water and sanitation, education and common data services (as a part of telecommunications)(5).


(1) UNHCR: Global Refugee Trends 2004, UNHCR Geneva, 17 June 2005. See also Global IDP Project

(2) Munich Re. Topics 2003, Natural Catastrophes- the current position

(3) under chapter V : strengthening the United Nations

(4) For details see UNICEF

(5) Also responsible for child protection as sub-sector