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Fast and flexible assistance: Germany pays 150 million euro into UN emergency fund

a landscape with camels and a swarm of locusts flying overhead

Locust infestation in the Horn of Africa, © Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures

08.12.2020 - Article

For almost 15 years, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has provided fast and flexible assistance to alleviate humanitarian crises. In 2020, Germany was the fund’s leading donor. For the next three years, the German Government will contribute 150 million euro.

Germany is the CERF’s leading donor in 2020

Whether in response to gender-based violence triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, floods in Bangladesh or hurricanes in Central America: the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allows the United Nations to react flexibly and swiftly to acute humanitarian crises. 
At today’s donor conference, the German Government announced that it will pay 150 million euro into the fund for the next three years. Germany was already the biggest donor in 2020 with a contribution of 110 million euro, and regularly ranked second in previous years. From next year, the Federal Government plans to pledge its financial support for several years in advance so as to give the United Nations greater planning security for its relief efforts.

Swift reaction to gender-based violence triggered by COVID-19

Just how flexibly the emergency fund allows the United Nations to react to crises was most recently apparent in spring this year, when the fund released 22 million US dollars to combat the steep rise in gender-based violence around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in the swift emergence of numerous projects for protection against gender-based violence. In November, the fund provided an additional 25 million US dollars to UN Women.

Horn of Africa: food for 15 million people saved from locusts

The fund was also recently deployed in the Horn of Africa. For the last year, countries in this region have been battling a locust infestation of biblical proportions. Locusts consume their own bodyweight in food every day. This means they can wipe out the crops of an entire region in a matter of days, destroying the food supply of thousands of people. When swarms darkened the skies above much of Ethiopia and Somalia this year, the CERF provided 20 million US dollars to enable the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to take targeted action against the infestation. In all, around 2.3 billion tonnes of food were saved – enough to feed 15 million people for a year.

Efficiency and innovation: anticipatory humanitarian assistance

The swift reaction to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the situation in the Horn of Africa demonstrates the fund’s ability to save lives by providing rapidly available and flexibly deployable resources. Since its creation in 2006, the CERF has made available a total of 5.5 billion US dollars to finance emergency assistance in hundreds of crisis situations. Today, the CERF has become a crucial pillar of humanitarian assistance. 
However, it is more than just an aid instrument: it is also a driver of innovation. Starting this year, following a proposal by the German government, the fund can also be used to finance anticipatory humanitarian assistance: assistance provided prophylactically to prevent catastrophes from occurring. This year, the CERF has already successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach with anticipatory measures to prevent additional damage by the floods in Bangladesh and further escalation of the famine in Somalia.

Goal: 1 billion US dollars per year for the CERF

In 2016, the member states of the United Nations set themselves the goal of raising 1 billion US dollars for the CERF each year. Germany is a major contributor, providing more than 10% of this amount. In advance of today’s donor conference, the German government called on other donor countries to make generous contributions to the CERF to help it fully accomplish its mission as a relief fund of all, for all. 

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