CERF advisory group encourages strong international commitment to the fund at annual meeting in Geneva
On 18 and 19 May 2017, the CERF Advisory Group held its annual meeting in Geneva to discuss the use and management of the Fund and provide guidance on key policy issues. In his opening remarks, outgoing Chair Ambassador Manuel Bessler, Delegate for Humanitarian Aid and Head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) welcomed the group and emphasized that“CERF is an outstanding tool for ensuring coordinated life-saving activities in humanitarian emergencies and it is the duty of all of us to strongly support the Fund.”
The Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller briefed the Advisory Group on the use and management of CERF during the period since its previous meeting, held in October 2016. The briefing had a particular focus on CERF’s response to the four countries struck by – or at the brink of – famine that received a combined total of $118 million from CERF. Mueller emphasized that in order to respond to the overwhelming global humanitarian needs CERF has disbursed $240 million during the first months of 2017 - $40 million more than the average for similar months over the past 10 years. Mueller concluded that, “unless new resources are urgently provided by donors, CERF is not able to ensure the planned second underfunded round of 2017 given its precarious cash flow situation.” She also informed that CERF was projecting a $40 million shortfall for the year against the annual target of $450 million and encouraged strong support by the Advisory Group members in helping to ensure urgent funding to CERF. "As a former CERF Advisory Group member and now as ASG, it is so clear to me how important a tool CERF is for timely humanitarian financing and coordination", Mueller added.
Following the briefing by ASG Mueller, the Group considered updates on key policy issues, including results achieved with CERF funds as reported by Resident Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators; CERF’s alignment with the components of the Grand Bargain the Fund’s collaboration with its partners; as well as plans for independent reviews of the added value of the Fund for 2017.
Linked to the General Assembly’s endorsement of a doubling of CERF, a session on the future of CERF allowed members to discuss potential strategic and operational changes to a larger CERF and included exchanges on increased CERF support to early action, CERF support to protracted crises, the division of funds between CERF’s Rapid Response (RR) and Underfunded Emergencies (UFE) windows and NGO access to CERF funds. The session also included an update on the CERF secretariat’s resource mobilization and communication efforts to meet the $450 million target of 2017, as well as key building blocks for resource mobilization towards the $1 billion target of 2018. The Advisory Group commended the CERF secretariat for its increase in communications and visibility and encouraged efforts to further enhance visibility for CERF’s donors. The Group was also provided an update on innovative financing efforts for CERF.
On the second day, Humanitarian Coordinators from South Sudan and Lebanon (former Somalia) provided the Advisory Group with insight in results achieved with CERF funds, as well as views on CERF’s comparative advantages and challenges. “South Sudan is a continued recipient of CERF funding and CERF has been absolutely vital in saving millions of lives in South Sudan. This year, CERF funds have saved the lives of close to 400,000 people” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Eugene Owusu, explained to the group.
The Advisory Group also met with representatives of recipient agencies and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to discuss how a larger CERF fits into the new emerging humanitarian ecosystem including its complementarity with Country-Based Pooled Funds, START Fund and other funding channels. Several agencies reiterated the support to the expansion of CERF. The session included discussions on the use of CERF funds for prepositioning, NGO access to CERF funds and the pace of recipient agencies to disburse sub-grants to implementing partners.
The Advisory Group concluded its meeting by emphasizing the need to ensure that CERF’s approach towards the $1 billion is based on CERF’s strength as a critical humanitarian financing tool focusing on the global humanitarian needs, the potential results to be achieved by CERF in terms of number of people supported, as well as CERF’s comparative advantages, including speed and coordination that is unique to CERF. The Group called upon the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure high-level advocacy efforts for CERF and to ensure that CERF features prominently in crisis specific pledging conferences and that CERF achievements are raised with Member States where relevant.
The group, the ASG and CERF Chief Lisa Doughten thanked Ambassador Manuel Bessler for his outstanding efforts as Chair and champion for CERF over the past 2 years. The ASG welcomed Leni Stenseth, Director of the Section for Humanitarian Affairs of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, as the new chair of the Advisory Group.
Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, the CERF Advisory Group provides the Secretary-General with periodic policy guidance and expert advice on the use and impact of CERF.
Advisory Group members serve in their individual capacity, and not as representatives of their countries or Governments. They include Government officials from contributing and recipient countries, representatives of humanitarian non-governmental organizations and academic experts. Members have been carefully selected to reflect a geographical and gender balance. More information about the current Advisory Group can be found at: http://www.unocha.org/cerf/about-us/advisory-group