Looking back over my past three years as Emergency Relief Coordinator
two things stand out most prominently in my mind. The first is that we
as the humanitarian community in general, and OCHA specifically, are
better prepared than ever before to respond to emergencies and disasters.
We are more generously funded, we have more qualified staff than before
and we have a more developed field structure and better surge capacity.
Over the coming year, we will further develop our surge and field
capacities to continue to build on our ability to immediately respond
to crises and suffering.
The humanitarian reform process that I initiated in 2004 has better
equipped us to deal with disasters and emergencies, and 2007 will see
increasing gains. I feel certain that if we are again faced with an
emergency or disaster such as those we faced in Darfur, Sudan, northern
Pakistan or Aceh, Indonesia, areas with very limited access and few
response structures in place, we would be able to deploy more
predictably, faster and with more resources.
Unfortunately, despite our growing capacity to respond, too often
we are restricted from using all of the response tools and personnel
at our disposal by politics, by restricted access and, still, by
limited resources. Even when we are successfully reaching and assisting
people in need I have often felt, as ERC, that in our jobs we are
working to create the perfect bandage for the wound but that we are
far from doing what we must do to heal it. For example, we begin the
year 2007 with access problems in Darfur that are similar to those
we faced in 2004. Almost four years have passed, and although we have
greatly improved our capacity to respond we are not allowed to do our
work. Instead, we are forced to be increasingly passive bystanders to
the growing violence and death because of inadequate conflict
resolution, the national and international inability to provide
protection and the national unwillingness to allow unimpeded access.
Our ability to respond adequately is also increasingly hampered by
the targeting of our colleagues by those who do not agree with, and
work to undermine, humanitarian principles, endangering civilians
and aid workers alike. While we have made the technological and
logistical advances necessary to send teams rapidly anywhere in the
world, there has been no corresponding moral and ethical revolution
by the global community to make it possible to assist and protect
everyone everywhere in accordance with humanitarian principles and
our agreed responsibility to protect.
Additionally, the growing global vulnerability to disasters has made
us aware that slow on-set disasters are as crucial a focus for our
attention as is conflict management. Disaster risk reduction, pandemic
preparedness, and strengthened support to regional disaster networks
will continue to be areas of growing attention for OCHA in 2007.
More predictable and immediate humanitarian funding was one of our
priority areas in 2006, and led to OCHA's establishment of the Central
Emergency Response Fund. By December of 2006, the CERF had committed
US$ 230 million for more than 320 projects in 30 countries, including
for drought and floods in the Horn of Africa, rapid response in
Afghanistan, Cote d'Ivoire and Timor-Leste and under-funded emergencies
such as those in the Central African Republic and Haiti. 2007 will
be the first full year of the CERF and, as we saw at the High Level
Conference on the CERF in December 2006, we are entering it with
increased commitments from more donors, representing a strong global
commitment to improved flexibility of humanitarian financing and to
OCHA as the fund manager.
This year will also see OCHA working toward further strengthening
of the humanitarian system with the ongoing work of the Humanitarian
Reform Support Unit toward strengthening Clusters and Humanitarian
Partnership teams, the establishment of OCHA's Humanitarian Coordinator
System Strengthening Project and the second NGO- recruited HC taking
up her position in Kampala, Uganda.
Another element of the reform for OCHA in 2007 will be our emphasis
on strengthening partnerships with NGOs. We are pleased with the growing
role and increasing numbers of NGO actors in the humanitarian field,
but also recognize that we need to engage them better as serious,
predictable and long-term partners. 2006 saw a strong beginning
with the July UN non-UN meeting, leading to an agreement to hold
a yearly Global Humanitarian Platform meeting to provide a forum
for strategic dialogue on urgent humanitarian issues.
Last year, one of OCHA's main internal priorities was strengthened
operational and administrative support to the field, and this process
is ongoing in 2007. This year, we are continuing to strengthen the
administrative and financial capacity of our field offices as well
as building on the increased information management capacity for the
field that we put in place over the past year. We are also strengthening
our Regional Offices with regional pandemic preparedness capacity for
inter-agency support and surge capacity, including equipment for
At headquarters, we will continue to strengthen our internal
structures. Toward this end, we are re-aligning our headquarters field
capacity and disaster management structures and are creating a
permanent strategic planning capacity.
Looking back over my three years as ERC, what impresses me most
about OCHA is the flexibility and willingness of the organization to
meet challenges and solve problems. From Darfur to northern Uganda
and from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to Aceh, our
OCHA staff has, with equal degrees of professionalism and enthusiasm,
taken on new tasks and speedily and effectively met new challenges.
At times this has led us to work at the outer limits of our mandate
and capacity. But OCHA should not and will not become an
We have now handed over protection and shelter responsibilities in
Darfur to others and have looked to the UN Department for Political
Affairs to take the lead in the northern Uganda peace process. However,
it has been and will be good that OCHA is willing and able to jump
start activities to help people in great need. It is equally important
for us that our donors have always flexibly responded when we have
needed funding for pioneering work.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome OCHA's two new Directors,
Rashid Khalikov and Kasidis Rochanakorn, and our new head of the
Coordination and Response Division, David Kaatrud. We will not be
without strong leadership as our ASG, Margareta Wahlstrom, is ideally
placed to lead OCHA in the coming transition period when I return
to Oslo. I welcome in advance our new USG and assure all of our
partners that OCHA is looking forward to ever stronger working
relationships with our donors and other partners in the coming year.
I would like to thank our colleagues, partners and donors for
their continued support and commitment to the humanitarian reform
and to OCHA's work. Your contributions to the Office's work in 2006
are much appreciated, as is your partnership and dialogue on how best
to fulfil the goals of our shared mission of humanitarianism.