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Fostering global cooperation

Jan 08, 2010

Humanitarian Appeal 2010, a United Nations publication draws out strategic action plans for twelve major humanitarian crises around the world. It appeals to the international aid organisations to come together and provide humanitarian support to the world’s most vulnerable countries.

Humanitarian Appeal 2010

Source: Humanitarian Appeal, 2010

The 2010 Humanitarian Appeal addresses twelve major humanitarian crises around the world. It presents a strategic, concerted action plan for each crisis, bringing together hundreds of aid organisations working together to deliver vital aid effectively and efficiently.

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It requires donors also to act together to ensure that these joint efforts receive the urgent funding needed to save lives, prevent irrecoverable harm, maintain dignity and restore self-reliance.

As 2009 enters its last month, the setback to the world’s economy caused by the severe recession and the likely timeline to recovery are still being reckoned.

Many governments have put in place large-scale economic stimulus packages, putting pressure on other budget needs.

Moreover, the aid budgets of many donor governments are tied to gross domestic product, which has contracted by several percentage points in 2009.

Official humanitarian funding in 2009 has fortunately not reflected these constraints in most cases, as many budgets were set before the financial crisis exploded in October 2008 (though private humanitarian donations have declined significantly).

But as we approach a new fiscal year for many governments, the time is coming to decide whether humanitarian aid will be insulated from these major budget fluctuations, or whether people desperately affected by the severest natural disasters and conflicts will pay the price for a recession not of their making.

The humanitarian organisations that have made this year’s Appeal answer unequivocally that now is no time to cut aid.

The funds we need for 2010 are far less than one percent of the amount spent on bailouts of private financial institutions, to say nothing of general economic stimulus.  It cannot be promised that humanitarian aid generates a financial return – that it stimulates export markets in the short term, or averts a possible need for more expensive types of aid later, for example, though there may be truth in those points.

Nor should humanitarian aid be given out of self-interest. Nonetheless humanitarian aid, as a minimum safety net for the world’s most vulnerable people, benefits all countries.

The initial request for 2010 of $7.1 billion– based on thorough analysis and planning, with each project and budget subjected to peer review – is on a similar scale to that of 2009.

Humanitarian needs have not expanded greatly, but neither have they declined.  Moreover, 2009 has been a relatively mild year for natural disasters.  2010 may not be the same.

The effect of the global recession on humanitarian needs – how far it has thrown more vulnerable people into acute humanitarian need – is hard to measure on a global scale.  However the widespread curtailment of livelihoods that inevitably accompanies an economic downturn, combined with sharp declines in remittances and other forms of private support, must be taking a severe toll.

Conflict is the common factor in many of these crises, but it is not the only driver. Most crises are exacerbated by the accumulated stresses of adverse weather, protracted refugee situations, extreme chronic poverty, and the recession.

The Horn of Africa has been in the grip of a severe and prolonged drought, which has caused acute humanitarian needs in Kenya and in its conflict-wracked neighbour Somalia.

West Africa has humanitarian needs that are diffuse but still demand an urgent humanitarian response.

In Afghanistan the population is dangerously vulnerable as a result of chronic poverty and successive natural disasters, with chronically poor health indicators (particularly infant, newborn and maternal mortality) and severe and widespread food insecurity.

The vulnerability is exacerbated by 30 years of conflict which has eroded communities’ coping mechanisms.

A new threat facing all countries, particularly those suffering humanitarian crises, is the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus, which adds to the already lengthy list of health challenges facing millions in crisis settings. There is good news too.

Some of the long-running conflicts, and their humanitarian effects which are addressed in these appeals, are drawing to a close.

In Uganda, a resumption of the organised insurgency which displaced millions of Ugandans looks unlikely.

Humanitarian support for resettlement – though continuing with important actions in 2010 – should be in its final phase. Zimbabwe’s appeal is half as large in dollar terms as in 2009 because a generally good harvest has reduced the number of severely food-insecure Zimbabweans.

Other conflicts, however, continue unabated, and the people caught up in them need generous support.

They count on the decision-makers in the world’s large and emerging economies to help in full measure.

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