UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for generous donations to the world body’s global emergency response fund.
The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is a proven success story. That is because it is constantly evolving, applying lessons learned and embracing innovation — in response to risks that are more complex, intertwined, and global, he told a hybrid high-level pledging event for CERF on Wednesday.
His address was read by Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths as the secretary-general is currently in self-isolation after he came into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, Xinhua news agency reported.
Thanks to the generosity of 130 donors, CERF has released $7.5 billion to save lives and protect people in more than 100 countries over the last 15 years since its establishment by the UN General Assembly, said Guterres.
Today, humanitarian needs are seven times what they were 15 years ago, he said. “We have seen prolonged conflicts worsen and new ones break out. Climate change is pushing communities to the brink of survival. And the battle with COVID-19, as we see so vividly these days, is still to be won.”
The scale of today’s crises demands a strong CERF with the resources it needs to rise to the challenge of responding swiftly at the onset of an emergency, he said.
This year has been one of the most difficult on record for humanitarian needs. But CERF has stepped up to the challenge. In 2020, CERF helped close to 69 million people — twice as many as the year before. Many of them were reeling from the impact of the pandemic, he said.
When violence escalated in northern Ethiopia, CERF released several allocations at critical moments to help save lives. In August, as Afghanistan was thrown into upheaval, CERF swiftly released funding so that UN agencies could scale up their emergency response and keep basic services running, particularly in the health sector. As acute hunger surged and the risk of famine grew for millions of people, CERF allocated funding for food assistance to some of the hardest-hit countries: Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. And CERF offered help, hope, and solidarity to those caught up in neglected crises, such as Venezuela, Cameroon and Chad, said Guterres.
CERF is indeed fast and flexible. It is one of the most effective ways to get help to people in crises, he said.
CERF responds in hours, so humanitarian organizations can swing into action as soon as emergencies strike. CERF is principled, it is impartial, it is independent. And the help it provides is driven by need alone. CERF supports neglected crises when others do not. It listens to women, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and it prioritizes their needs. Last year, more than half of the recipients of CERF funding were women and girls. CERF is also the biggest direct donor to humanitarian programs that respond to gender-based violence, he said.
“CERF is a spark of hope in a difficult, shadowed world. Let us light that spark for the sake of our shared humanity.”
The General Assembly in 2016 endorsed the doubling of CERF to 1 billion dollars every year. This year, despite the generosity of the donors, CERF did not get close to reaching that goal, he said. “But we can do so — if member states allocate just a small percentage of their humanitarian funding through CERF each year.”
According to official figures, total contributions to CERF amount to 592.4 million dollars so far this year.
Since the 2016 endorsement of a $1-billion-dollar, contributions have never reached that goal. 2019 saw the highest contributions of $831.4 million.