UN Central Emergency Response Fund

International Development written statement – made on 9 March 2006.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

I am pleased to announce that the United Nations (UN) Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is being launched officially today, 9 March, in New York. I know that many hon. Members have shown interest in this initiative.

The CERF is a main element of the reforms to the international humanitarian system that I set out in December 2004, and which the UN has since taken forward. The CERF was approved formally by the UN General Assembly in December 2005, as a fund with a medium term target of $500 million, consisting of a pre- existing $50 million loan facility, with a grant facility of up to $450 million to be built up by donor contributions over five years. The CERF will enable UN humanitarian agencies to provide a more predictable and timely response to emergencies by ensuring initial funding from the grant facility is available immediately to support a rapid response to, for example, natural disasters or sharply deteriorating conflicts, and to address critical humanitarian needs in under-funded chronic or slower-onset emergencies, so-called "forgotten crises".

The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to lobby donors for political support for, and contributions to, the CERF. As at 6 March 2006 a total of over $192.7 million has been pledged by 22 countries and one private sector organisation. The UK is the single largest donor, with a contribution of £40 million (about $70 million at current exchange rates) that is in the process of being paid. This will add to the $76.5 million that has already been paid into the CERF by other donors.

The CERF will be administered by the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under the management of the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will be responsible for approving all grant disbursements from the fund. The CERF will report annually to the General Assembly, which will provide overall policy guidance on use of the fund, and an Advisory Group of 12 humanitarian experts will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General as an independent body to advise on operational aspects and performance. Eight of the Group will be drawn from donors, with the other four members being independent experts. The Emergency Relief Coordinator will convene an annual donor consultation, and also liaise regularly with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, regarding use of the CERF.

The CERF will be subject to an annual financial audit by the UN's external auditors, with reports made available to the Advisory Group, and public reporting on donations, expenditures, and CERF-funded programme results will be posted on to a dedicated CERF internet website. The CERF itself will be critically and independently evaluated after the first two years of operation, to review its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, and impact.

I believe strongly that the CERF will make a critical difference in saving more lives and alleviating suffering earlier in future humanitarian crises, by enabling the humanitarian agencies to respond more quickly and effectively. Combined with the other reforms under way, it will significantly improve the international humanitarian system.