In the past few weeks, the occurrence of natural disasters has and continues to adversely affect a number of African countries and the United States of America.
The recent mudslide in Sierra Leone, and landslide in Democratic Republic of Congo that has killed hundreds and displayed millions, as well as the monstrous hurricanes currently ravaging American coastal states and islands one after the other, can pass for one of the world’s worst disasters.
These disasters have brought into sharp focus the need for an active global disaster management response system that can offer speedy and quality humanitarian aid to distress zones.
It also brings into question the capacity of the United Nation’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in dealing with the increasing natural disasters across the globe. From all indications, the Fund is in dire need of resources, and says it needs at least over $1billion dollars to be able to advance aid efficiently.
In this regard, the Ghana Institute of Governance and Security (GIGS) finds it regrettable that the issue of humanitarian aid is missing on the agenda for this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) will convene at UN Headquarters from September 12 to 25, 2017, on the theme, “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.”
On the Assembly’s agenda are items relating to Education, Environmental Conventions, and Social Development, Trade, Gender and Human Development, Globalization and 2030 Agenda, Technology and Innovation, and Water and Sanitation.
There is no item on disaster management and emergency relief in spite of the high occurrence of disasters that continue to affect millions across globe. In 2016 alone, 297 natural disasters affected 377 million people and caused $92.4 billion in damage.
The absence of an item on humanitarian aid, GIGS believes, also flies in the face of a report of the UN’s Economic and Social Council which is calling for urgent attention to enhance relief assistance to distress zones.
The report, which was issued in May 2017 after an overview of key trends in humanitarian coordination, said that “twenty-five years after the adoption of General Assembly resolution 46/182, which strengthened the United Nations preparedness and response to complex emergencies and natural disasters, the importance of effective and principled humanitarian action is greater than ever.”
It adds that “Today’s crises present increasingly complex challenges that have resulted in dramatic levels of humanitarian need. Forced displacement remained at record levels, with more than 65 million people displaced by conflict, violence and persecution around the world. Millions more people were displaced by disasters associated with natural hazards, with an average of more than 25.4 million people displaced each year since 2008.”
In addition, the report notes that “Climate change and changing weather patterns are increasing the frequency, intensity and cost of disasters. Instability, food and water insecurity have become worrying causes of human mobility and rising protection needs.”
GIGS is convinced that the urgent issue of disaster management and relief assistance must be discussed by the UN General Assembly so as to oblige member countries to effectively contribute to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
We also join in the call by the World Humanitarian Summit, to increase CERF’s annual funding target to $1 billion by 2018 to enable the Fund to proactively offer timely relief assistance to natural disaster victims.