UN Holds Conference On Humanitarian Assistance
For two days this week the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held a meeting of its Humanitarian Affairs Segment to discuss “The future of humanitarian affairs: towards greater inclusiveness, coordination, interoperability and effectiveness.”
In her remarks to open the meeting, Under Secretary-General Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos noted there were more than 300 natural disasters in 2012 that ranged from floods and cyclones to droughts and earthquakes that affected more than 106 million people.
According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, an estimated 9,300 lives were lost and incurred a $138 billion in damages. The lack of a “mega” natural disaster produced a decline in the number of deaths, but the number of displaced people – an estimated 32.4 million people in 82 countries – was almost double the number in 2011.
The benefit of a lack of a “mega disaster” is fewer deaths, however one of the downsides according to a report released in association with the meeting is that the number of donations by individuals both within and outside the consolidated appeals process decreased.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Watkins gave an interview on how the crisis in Syria has impacted the region and what international organizations are doing to cope with the growing refugee crisis.
Organizations Need Better Understanding Of Crisis Drivers
Amos said international organizations need to gain a better understanding of the drivers of crisis – including doing more joint risk analysis and joint planning leading to sustainable recovery and development. Even more important, she said any coordinated efforts require the “support to national authorities to build the capacity of national and regional authorities and of local communities.”
One of the emerging challenges faced by international organizations delivering humanitarian aid are – ironically – efforts to combat terrorism. While the dangers of operating in areas of unrest are not new, the UN’s report found that humanitarian organizations are increasingly concerned about the impact of counter-terrorism legislation “and other measures that criminalize the engagement of humanitarian organizations with certain non-State armed groups or that otherwise impede principled humanitarian action.”
To respond to these concerns, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Norwegian Refugee Council have commissioned an independent study on the impact of national counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian action. The study will include a review of relevant national legislation, an analysis of provisions in funding agreements limiting or imposing conditions on humanitarian activities, and a review of how different humanitarian actors have responded to such measures.