New UN fund to speed global disaster response
United Nations, Mar 3: The United Nations next week launches a new global emergency fund to provide swifter relief to victims of natural disasters, but with far less money on hand than the 0 million it had hoped to raise.
The Central Emergency Response Fund will have just 188 million dollars when it opens for business, which is nonetheless a significant improvement over an existing UN standby loan facility of 50 million dollars.
Donations to the new fund, which will be able to make grants as well as loan money, have come from 19 of the 191 UN member-states.
But some wealthy nations including the United States, Japan, Australia, Italy and Canada have yet to make pledges.
"Governments have committed to responding quickly and effectively to help those most in need, yet now that we have a global emergency fund, governments seem reluctant to actually put money in," said Sarah Kline, an official of international relief organization Oxfam.
Oxfam has argued the fund would need 1 billion dollars to ensure an adequate UN response to disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, last year's destructive earthquake in Pakistan and Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland asked for the fund after the tsunami, and the General Assembly approved it last December.
The idea is to give the world body the ability to quickly send emergency supplies to areas hit by natural disasters and other humanitarian crises, without having to wait for international donors to send checks.
The money in the fund would be continually replenished as contributions later poured in for each individual disaster.
The 19 donors to date are Armenia, Britain, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Grenada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Sweden, Switzerland and Sri Lanka.