When a large number of people and organisations need to act quickly under pressure in emergency situations, effective coordination is the key to success. That’s where the United Nations plays a crucial role. Germany is not only one of the main donors, but also plays an active part in international forums to coordinate humanitarian assistance, in order to further strengthen the UN’s role.
Why international coordination is important
In responding to humanitarian crises, speed is often vital. But with a large number of national, international and non-state actors involved, professional coordination is indispensable. Otherwise there will be gaps and unnecessary duplications in the supply of aid. Part of this coordination role is to quickly assess what humanitarian assistance is needed following a disaster, to put out appeals for such assistance and then to coordinate the relief provided by the various institutions.
The United Nations and major partners
The central body in this context is the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is currently headed by UN Under-Secretary-General Stephen O’Brien. OCHA cooperates closely with the various UN aid organisations, with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and with non-governmental organisations. OCHA also administers the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which provides resources for early intervention in crisis situations and ensures a balance in humanitarian aid by earmarking money for otherwise underfunded crises. Donors are organised in the OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG), which currently has 25 members, including Germany.
The central forums for dialogue between donors and recipients are the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The General Assembly focuses on humanitarian issues in the second half of each year, adopting, usually by consensus, a number of resolutions dealing among other things with the framework conditions for international humanitarian aid and the UN’s specific tasks in this sphere. ECOSOC looks at humanitarian issues every year at its meeting in July, concentrating, in line with its mandate, on operative and coordination aspects of humanitarian assistance.
Germany’s role in international cooperation
The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the leading humanitarian donors and is represented on all key UN decision-making bodies. The German Government’s priority is not only to make the best possible use of funding, but rather to actively work to make the entire international humanitarian aid system more efficient and more effective. To this end, Germany supports the central coordinating role of the United Nations in this system, as well as the structures and mechanisms created by the UN.
The German Government’s key international partners in the provision of humanitarian aid are the UN organisations UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). These bodies all receive regular financial contributions for humanitarian projects.