Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations,
including special economic assistance
Sixty-second Session of the General Assembly
19 November 2007
First I would like to thank the Secretary-General for the reports provided for this important session of the General Assembly. On behalf of the Government of Iceland, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the countries that have experienced humanitarian emergencies. At this very moment our thoughts are with the people of Bangladesh. I express our deepest sympathy to and solidarity with the families of the victims and all those affected.
The international community learned important lessons in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean 2004. But we also learned that reform of the humanitarian response was urgently needed. We learned that available funds, impact evaluation, needs assessment and effective coordination of actions of the many important actors in humanitarian assistance, are crucial elements for best result. We welcome the improvements that have already been made in humanitarian response, in which the United Nations have a leadership role, and we emphasize the need to continue on that path. We thank the Secretary-General and the Joint Inspection Unit for the recommendations made for reform, which provides a good basis for our work. I wish to underline that gender mainstreaming should be considered as a cross-cutting issue from the earliest stages of any reform.
The governments have an important role to play in ensuring availability of funds. We all know that extensive delays in getting humanitarian assistance to those in need can prove to be disastrous. For that reason, predictable, fast and sound funding in the wake of humanitarian disasters is of essence. The establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has been very successful. It can provide a reliable source of finance that helps agencies on the ground to deal with problems quickly. It is likely that the need for funds will increase and governments have to intensify their efforts. We look forward to the pledging conference in December.
Non-governmental organisations play a significant part in humanitarian and development work. The Government of Icleand has therefore decided to double the contributions in 2008 allocated to humanitarian and relief operations through Icelandic NGOs as well as the Red Cross. The private sector is also an important player in building up economic growth and we plan to explore further innovative ways of working with the private sector in developing countries. The Government´s interests are to harness the energy and the efficiency of the NGOs and the private sector, strengthening the pioneering work that they are doing and to raise public awareness on the situation in the poorest parts of the World.
I would like to turn briefly to the assistance to the Palestinian People. I thank the Secretary General for his report on the issue, which provides a good overview of the situation, and underlines the need for continued and indeed increased assistance. The report highlights the role of women. We all know that there are strong links between women's empowerment and poverty reduction in general as has been said so often. In the case of humanitarian crisis, women and children are not only the principal victims, but women and girls are also particularly vulnerable, to various forms of abuse. Therefore, we welcome the intensified emphasis in the report on protection of women, children and other vulnerable groups in the crisis.
In our debates within this institution in general, we should be careful to not loose sight of the purpose of our work; What are the reasons behind the effort? As the vice-president of ECOSOC, responsible for the Humanitarian Affairs Segment this year, I have been fortunate to have an opportunity to work closely with very efficient experts on the issue, both representatives from Member States as well as from OCHA and other humanitarian actors. I was impressed to learn how much they focus on the “the why”, but less on “the how”, for example which version of a text to use. They realize that we are here to help people in need, that we are here to save lives and help people to survive disasters; that the means should not become the end. If we all continue to do our work in this positive spirit, we will make a difference.