Member state briefing on the use and achievements of CERF in 2017

Member state briefing on the use and achievements of CERF in 2017

Claudia Hargarten

On 14 November 2017, Ms. Ursula Mueller the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), delivered a briefing to the United Nations Member States on the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  His Excellency Mr. Negash Botora, Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, and His Excellency Mr. Hans Brattskar, Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of Norway also took the floor to provide their perspectives on the fund, as a recipient of CERF funding and as donor to CERF, respectively.. The meeting was chaired by Rudi Mueller, the Head of OCHA in Geneva, and Ms. Lisa Doughten, Chief of the CERF Secretariat, provided insightful answers to the participants of the briefing. More than fifty participants including representatives from Member States, UN agencies and NGOs attended the briefing.  

Mr. Mueller welcomed the guests and participants to the event and opened with a video message from the Secretary-General, emphasizing the success of CERF and the importance of enhancing financial and political support to CERF, because “a strong United Nations needs a strong CERF”. Noting the role of CERF at the forefront of humanitarian action, Mr. Mueller highlighted that CERF has disbursed $5 billion since inception in 2006, and is renowned as one of the most effective ways to address the humanitarian challenges the world faces.

DERC Mueller provided an update on the use and management of the fund in 2017. As a fund ‘by all, for all’ with the support of 126 Member States and observers, she reiterated the SG’s message, highlighting CERF as a success for which all partners can take credit. The DERC focused on key CERF allocations such as the Rohingya crisis, which is currently the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, Yemen, which has the largest number of people in need of urgent aid, the Caribbean islands, battered by successive hurricanes, among others to highlight the indispensable role of CERF in kickstarting urgent humanitarian response.  ‘An investment in CERF is an investment in the world’s most vulnerable people’, she said including CERF focus on people trapped in underfunded and protracted crisis. Reiterating the core features of CERF – global, fast, cost-effective, neutral and impartial – the DERC thanked Member States for their commitment to doubling CERF to $1 billion by 2018 and for their continued investments in the fund.

Ambassador Botora emphasized the importance of CERF to Ethiopia, which has benefited significantly from allocations through both the rapid response and underfunded windows, totaling about $280 million. He highlighted the timely disbursement and transparent allocation process of CERF in the successive drought responses. ‘Additional funding to bolster CERF is vital in light of the difference that CERF made to enable response to the effects of El Nino and other crises’, he said. While the government also allocated significant resources, the combined efforts of government and partners helped to avert a catastrophe. While still recovering from El Niño, the Horn of Africa was subsequently hit by climate change related drought and high food insecurity. Drought did not deteriorate to famine due to significant resources by the government at the cost of investing in development programmes. In addition, Ethiopia hosts one million refugees which further emphasizes the importance of increased support from CERF. He reinforced the endorsement of the United Nations General Assembly to expand CERF to $1 billion. To that end, he called upon all donors to help meet this target.

Ambassador Brattskar highlighted the key features of CERF – fast, global, flexible, neutral and impartial –and expressed Norway’s strong support to CERF. ‘CERF is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to deliver aid to millions of people in need’, he said, citing the success of famine prevention where CERF was among the first responders to the warning signs of potential famine. He also emphasized the role of CERF in promoting response based on shared prioritization by country teams on the ground. “The increasing scale and intensity of emergencies requires a larger, more robust CERF, fully-backed by its stakeholders”, he said and expressed Norway’s full support to the increase of CERF to $1 billion. He called on all Member States to join in providing strong financial support to CERF and to advocate with others for funding to CERF, especially in the lead up to the CERF High-Level Pledging Conference on 8 December 2017.

After the remarks, the floor was opened for discussion. Many participants thanked OCHA for the timely briefing and reiterated the need for more regular updates on CERF, including representatives from CERF recipient countries like Nigeria, Peru and Yemen. Yemen thanked for the support received from CERF and country-based pooled funds, and emphasized the importance of cash-based intervention. He pointed to cash-based programming as highly efficient, noting however that it was undermined with the collapse of the banking system, which restricted the transfer of funds to people in need.

Citing the donor results overview, Australia, Norway and Sweden thanked CERF for efforts to promote donor visibility, considered vital for donors’ advocacy with their parliaments and public. Peru emphasized CERF’s creative communication products, including the website to present data and information. In addition to CERF’s role as a global, flexible fund, enabling principled humanitarian aid, participants also emphasized the importance of CERF’s focus on underfunded crises and the importance of prioritization of needs. Switzerland expressed interest in exploring insurance and private sector investment. Other issues included the complementarity with country-based pooled funds as seen in the famine prevention response. Many representatives reiterated the need for enhance donor commitment to help meet the target of $1 billion.

The meeting ended with a call by Mr. Mueller reinforcing the value of CERF and encouraging Member States and other partners to ensure that the upcoming High-Level Pledging Conference is successful.