Welcome to OCHA’s Annual Report 2005, the third I have had the pleasure of presenting since becoming Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. I am happy to note that each of these has improved on the last, providing more comprehensive financial reporting and a clearer focus on performance throughout the organisation.
Looking back, I am struck by what an exceptional year it was in terms of the scope, if not the number, of natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies to which OCHA responded. It was only as a result of the strong support from our partners that we could do so, providing the coordination needed to strengthen humanitarian responses to natural disasters and complex emergencies, while engaging in robust advocacy for vulnerable populations and neglected emergencies.
The Annual Report represents OCHA’s commitment to transparency, to accounting for our income and expenditure on humanitarian imperatives, and to continuously improving the efficiency with which we manage and use our resources. The report, a crucial element in our strategic planning cycle, establishes the use of funding in the context of OCHA’s achievements, and as measured against objectives, activities and performance indicators. While we continued to focus throughout 2005 on our primary concerns of providing strong advocacy, increasing access, improving response capacity and regional networks and broadening partnerships, we also revised our objectives in support of the humanitarian reform process and in the face of the year’s major crises.
2005 was a year book-ended by two catastrophic natural disasters. On December 26, 2004 the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami took more than two hundred thousand lives and destroyed millions of livelihoods in 12 countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. Later, in October 2005, the South Asia earthquake struck, devastating large areas of northeastern Pakistan and parts of India.
Throughout the course of the year, civilians across the globe suffered from the cruelty of conflict in the DRC, Sudan, northern Uganda, Nepal, and Colombia, while millions more were affected by natural disasters ranging from drought in Niger, the Horn of Africa and southern Africa, to floods and mudslides resulting from hurricanes and tropical storms in Guatemala and throughout the Caribbean.
To complement the coordination support provided by our field offices in complex emergencies and natural disasters, we expanded our network of regional support offices and advisors to better address developments with cross-border and regional implications, including in the areas of early warning, contingency planning and response preparedness.
2005 was a year punctuated by having to scale up, often as a matter of great urgency, to cope with the humanitarian requirements of rapid-onset crises even as elsewhere we were planning to scale back our involvement, close operations, or manage a hand-over to recovery and development partners. Even as OCHA was responding to the tsunami, elsewhere we were scaling back, transitioning out of Liberia, Angola and the DPRK. However, before we can transition out, we need our partners in place, and too often OCHA has been forced to stay in countries longer than needed or planned because we have not been able to effect the planned hand-over.
During the year, we continued our emphasis on performance and evaluation, focusing on lessons learned, mistakes to be avoided and successes to be built upon. In particular, real-time evaluation in the field in Darfur helped develop an approach that promises to strengthen continuing and future humanitarian interventions.With the tsunami response, OCHA also learned valuable lessons and took on board recommendations from internal and external audits.
The number and intensity of the conflicts and disasters in 2005 clearly underline the need for stronger contingency planning, risk management, emergency preparedness, capacity building and predictability in response by the humanitarian community at local, national, regional and global levels.
The breadth and scale of the humanitarian response following the Indian Ocean tsunami presented us with unprecedented challenges. An urgent Flash Appeal, coordinated by OCHA, sought US$ 977 million for a strategic and coordinated response to the needs of some five million people, and resulted in an unprecedented outpouring from governments, NGOs, civil society and the private sector. This should be the rule, not the exception, for every crisis. On our part, to ensure the highest standards of accountability and transparency, OCHA developed a new partnership with a private sector accounting firm, and instituted real-time, online financial tracking. Both have raised the bar and set new standards for UN humanitarian operations.
All the while, conflict-related suffering on an enormous scale continued to require significant commitment in DRC and in Sudan, OCHA’s largest field operation. While the crisis in DRC remains acute, despite the challenges in Darfur we made huge strides last year. Working together, UN Agencies and our NGO partners have reduced deaths among displaced people in Darfur by two-thirds from their 2004 levels while halving malnutrition rates in 2005. Unfortunately, despite these gains, this crisis and many others remain intractable and under-funded.
By 2005’s end, when an earthquake devastated northeastern Pakistan, against all odds and racing against the clock the humanitarian community was able to prevent a much-feared, massive loss of life in the days and weeks following the deadly quake. The quick response from the Government of Pakistan, combined with effective civil-military coordination and assistance, enabled us to provide critically needed aid in one of the toughest logistical operations the humanitarian community has ever faced.
Such large humanitarian operations, urgent and extremely demanding by their very nature, place considerable strain on humanitarian organisations and require sustained institutional, organisational and funding support. Broadening partnerships for humanitarian response is a crucial element of this support, and last year OCHA adopted a regional approach, developing tailor-made strategies and institutionalising policy dialogues with each regional group.
We all recognise that we must continue our work on improving response capacity, and in 2005 the humanitarian community embarked on the pathbreaking Humanitarian Reform agenda.We at OCHA are proud of the part we have played in developing the mechanisms to support three important pillars of the reform: implementation of the Cluster Approach, strengthening of the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) system, and establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
As part of the Reform, in December 2005 the General Assembly approved the addition of a US$ 450 million grant facility to the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, creating the Central Emergency Response Fund – the first element of the S-G’s reform to be implemented. The introduction of the new CERF should allow humanitarian partners to rapidly address core emergency humanitarian needs when lives are most at risk, both from rapid-onset crises and from under-funded emergencies.
Consultative meetings with regional groups and donor partners throughout the year also lead to real progress in improving the predictability of humanitarian response when IASC partners approved the cluster approach to emergency action, which endorses the concept of working together in well-coordinated clusters, with specific sectoral responsibility and accountability.
The approach, piloted in three countries during 2005, was also partially employed during the extremely challenging relief operations in Pakistan at the end of the year, and its use will be broadened over time to new and existing emergencies. OCHA’s field role will be to facilitate the work of these clusters, respond to common inter-cluster issues and take a lead on information management.
2005 also demonstrated the important leadership role of Humanitarian Coordinators in relief operations, given their increasing scale and complexity, and the need to strengthen the support of the humanitarian community to the HC. Accordingly, OCHA also took the lead in developing mechanisms to ensure the strengthening of the HC system through systematic training of HCs and the development of a deeper pool of qualified candidates.
The scale and scope of responses, especially as humanitarian emergencies become more complex or protracted, also has cost implications for OCHA, requiring us to continually address the need for more predictable and flexible, yet accountable, financing. We appreciate the generous support of donors for OCHA itself, especially the trend toward unearmarked funding.
Improving our response to crises and emergencies requires us to continue working with partners, new and old, on strengthening and creating better structures of support and response. OCHA will continue to work on strengthening humanitarian response and enhancing the performance of humanitarian assistance, and we look forward to the continued support, collaboration and engagement of our partners in building the mechanisms to respond more rapidly, efficiently and effectively to humanitarian crises throughout the world.