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UN OKs US$500m fund on humanitarian emergencies
Updated: 2005-12-16 09:05

The UN General Assembly approved a US$500 million (euro416.7 million) fund Thursday which will enable the United Nations to provide quicker help to victims of earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides and other humanitarian emergencies.

The U.N.'s current US$50 million (euro41.67 million) fund has been unable to meet the unprecedented string of natural disasters and at the U.N. summit in September world leaders endorsed the ten-fold increase.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the General Assembly's approval of a resolution establishing a Central Emergency Response Fund "ensures that in the critical realm of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations will do more, sooner."

"In the past, without this fund, we usually began collecting money when the crisis had struck," he said. "With the standing fund, we will be able to begin operating immediately while we wait for contributions to come in."

Since the announcement of the new fund at the summit, Annan said, over US$200 million (euro166.7 million) has been contributed and the United Nations hopes it will start operating in March.

"I am confident that between now and March the governments of the world will not be found wanting. They will pay up," he said. "There is a large donor community out there. And we are also trying to bring in new donors from the Gulf and other oil producing countries."

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who helped launch the initial fund in 1992 when he was the U.N. humanitarian chief, said the new fund is not only larger but will be more flexible.

Asked whether US$500 million (euro416.7 million) is sufficient, Eliasson said, "I hope it will be enough, but ... look around the world the last year. The size of the needs are tremendous."

There were "far too many" disasters last year, he said, "from mudslides in Central America and the devastating hurricanes and the earthquakes in Pakistan and India and Afghanistan."

Annan called the General Assembly's approval of the new fund "the first success" of the U.N. reform program adopted at the summit and expressed hope that there would be more successes before the end of the year.

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