Humanitarian aid in the United Nations system
Natural disasters and armed conflicts have led to a constant increase in recent years in the number of people worldwide who are dependent on humanitarian aid. Alongside the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs, UN organizations such as the UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme are the key players providing humanitarian aid.
The UN is also responsible for mobilizing and coordinating humanitarian aid. The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the leading humanitarian donors.
International coordination by the UN system
Given the constantly growing need, major importance attaches to efficiently coordinating and organizing humanitarian aid. Thus the German Government supports the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which is part of the UN Secretariat. The Office is led by the Emergency Relief Coordinator who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. This position has been held by Baroness Valerie Amos since September 2010.
The main tasks of the Coordinator and her staff are to assess rapidly the level of humanitarian need following disasters, to publish appeals for aid and then to coordinate the aid provided by the member states and the UN aid organizations. This is done in cooperation with all humanitarian players (UN aid organizations, Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, NGOs) as well as by sending assessment teams to the scene of the disaster (UNDAC).
Donor involvement in the OCHA takes place above all through the OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG). Starting the summer of 2012, the Federal Republic of Germany, which has been a member of this forum since 2005, will become the chair of the group for one year. Currently consisting of 25 members, the group has developed into a central platform for discussing reform in the international humanitarian sector.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which OCHA administers has the aim of enabling the UN to intervene in humanitarian crises at an early stage and to strengthen the reaction to underfinanced crises.
Humanitarian aid in UN bodies
If aid is to be effective, there needs to be consensus in the international community about fundamental questions on humanitarian aid and constant dialogue between donor countries and states affected by humanitarian crises. The central fora where this happens is the General Assembly and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Once a year the General Assembly focuses on humanitarian issues and adopts, usually through consensus, a number of resolutions dealing inter alia with the framework conditions for international humanitarian aid and the tasks of the United Nations in this sphere. Once a year at its meeting in July, ECOSOC dedicates a section of the agenda, in line with its mandate, to operative and coordination aspects of humanitarian aid.
The Federal Government sees German humanitarian aid as a contribution to an overarching task of the international community. For this reason, Germany does not just focus on making the best possible use of finances earmarked for humanitarian aid but is also active in the relevant international bodies and fora and in promoting suitable steps to make the entire international humanitarian aid system more efficient and effective. The main priority of Germany is to support the central coordinating role of the United Nations in the international humanitarian aid system and the structures and mechanisms created through reform of humanitarian aid in the UN and where necessary to help further develop such structures.
Last updated 29.03.2012