Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the annual high-level pledging conference for the Central Emergency Response Fund, in New York today:
It is a pleasure for me to be here with you to celebrate a United Nations success story — the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Over the past 12 years, CERF has been at the forefront of humanitarian response.
I have long been, as Mark [Lowcock] said, a champion of this Fund, having seen its effects in humanitarian crises around the world. CERF is without question one of our most important tools to reach people quickly and to save lives. Thanks to CERF, country teams can start relief efforts immediately with prioritized programmes designed to reach the most vulnerable people first.
The Central Emergency Response Fund supports a vast network of partners. It steps in when an existing crisis gets worse. And it helps to sustain operations, when the spotlight has moved on, in chronic crises that sometimes do not get the attention they need.
We have just seen some of the life-saving work funded by CERF this year. It provided nearly $130 million to help prevent famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
Nutrition and healthcare services funded by CERF are particularly important for the children and pregnant women who suffer most from hunger and malnutrition. When I visited Gaza in August, I released $4 million from CERF to help fund United Nations activities until the end of this year.
In the last three months, $19 million in CERF funding has gone to Bangladesh, to help with the sudden influx of more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. And when hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean, CERF helped tens of thousands of people get access to shelter, food and clean water.
CERF not only works quickly; it is designed to ensure that humanitarian aid gets to the most urgent cases first, including women and girls who are disproportionately affected by crisis. It supports strong coordination between humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations. And it acts as a catalyst to mobilize resources from elsewhere. From reproductive health services in northern Nigeria to emergency shelter in Afghanistan, CERF has a real impact on the lives of the most vulnerable.
I thank the 126 Member States and Observers, and the other donors who have generously contributed to the fund over the past 12 years. Every CERF donor, regardless of the size of their contribution, shares in its achievements. This is truly a fund for all, by all.
We need CERF now more than ever. Since CERF was launched in 2005, humanitarian needs have increased from $5.2 billion to over $24 billion today. Protracted conflict and the impact of natural disasters, compounded by structural fragility and chronic vulnerability, mean that more people than ever survive on the brink of disaster.
Conflict and early warning indicators show that in the next year, 2018, protracted crises are likely to continue, while the impact of climate change is likely to grow in intensity and in impact. There is no sign of a let-up in humanitarian needs. To keep pace, the General Assembly adopted a resolution exactly a year ago, calling for an expansion of CERF’s annual funding target from $450 million to $1 billion.
I was among the first to propose a “Super-CERF” for the biggest emergencies, in my previous role as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I was acutely aware of the need for United Nations agencies and others to respond to crises more quickly and more effectively. I thank Member States for endorsing this call, which sent a message of global solidarity with people in crises, and with those furthest behind.
Humanitarian programmes funded by the CERF are essential, if we are to fulfil the shared ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — one blueprint that is our blueprint for an inclusive, sustainable future with lives of dignity for all on a healthy planet. Providing emergency aid is vital in itself, but it is also an important foundation for resilience, sustainable development and job creation in protracted and underfunded crises.
As a further contribution to these efforts, I am pleased to announce a CERF allocation of $100 million dollars to meet critical needs in nine underfunded emergencies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Cameroon, Mali, Philippines, Eritrea, Haiti and Pakistan. In all these crises, CERF funds will enable United Nations agencies and their partners to carry out essential life-saving activities, and contribute to longer-term resilience and stability.
My experience in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has shown me that CERF is always the first to come when we have an emergency, and the last to leave when situations are forgotten. I would say that CERF never leaves when situations are forgotten.
But, much more is needed. The global humanitarian funding gap stands at $11 billion as of 30 November. Humanitarian response plans are funded at an average of just 60 per cent. A $1 billion CERF will help to bolster contingency financing so that we are able to mitigate and respond to humanitarian suffering quickly in the future.
One billion dollars is an ambitious but achievable goal. I hope you will take action to reach this target here today, or as soon as possible. A strong United Nations needs a strong CERF. It is essential to support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people — women, girls, men and boys — who depend on humanitarian aid to lift them out of crisis and give them hope of a better future. I count on your continued generous support. Thank you very much.
For information media. Not an official record.