FAO Liaison Office in New York
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High Level Conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund
Briefing and Pledging Conference

The High Level Conference which took place on 8-9 December 2009 in New York at the United Nations Headquarters, was hosted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Conference was segmented in two parts: (i) operations and management briefing; and (ii) pledging session. More details about the Conference can be found at the CERF Conference website: http://ochaonline.un.org/cerf/Donors/CERFHighLevelConference2009/tabid/5815/language/en-US/Default.aspx

The Under Secretary-General of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. John Holmes, together with the Heads of delegation of other UN agencies provided a briefing on the management and performance of the CERF. Mr. Jim Butler, Deputy Director-General of FAO, addressed the High Level Meeting.

Statement of the Food and Agriculture Organization
By Mr. Jim Butler, FAO Deputy Director-General
8 December 2009

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and representatives from the humanitarian community, 

It is an honor for me to speak to you today about the important results achieved with the CERF and its promise for the future.  The fund has become an invaluable instrument in the work to which we are all dedicated: to alleviate human suffering.  Indeed, I can say with conviction it has saved many lives. 

I’ll take the opportunity now to thank the many Member States and other generous donors to the CERF, your contributions have provided the means to make a truly important impact.  I say that not only for the Food and Agriculture Organization but for the other fourteen UN agencies and IOM which have received funding through CERF. We’ve be in particular close contact with WFP and UNICEF in drafting this statement, and I thank them for their support. And, I shouldn’t go on without thanking John Holmes for his leadership and the distinguished members of the CERF Advisory Group for their guidance. 

The CERF is one of the main building blocks of the pillar of humanitarian reform to strengthen humanitarian financing. The adequacy, timeliness, flexibility and impartiality of emergency funding are critical to successful humanitarian operations and CERF provides all four.  It has helped agencies to react swiftly to save lives, when time is critical or when, unfortunately, a crisis has dropped off the front page. When Typhoon Ketsana swept through the Philippines this past autumn, CERF allocated some $7 million for relief efforts within days, allowing UN agencies to provide immediate, life-saving support to the families affected by flooding. The Fund has also demonstrated its flexibility and impartiality by allocating $130 million in resources to underfunded emergencies this year in places such as Chad, Colombia and Haiti, helping to mitigate critical gaps in assistance. 

CERF isn’t the only tool available of course, as there are many mechanisms to fund humanitarian work which complement the CERF. Critical among these is direct humanitarian financing to operational agencies on the ground.  There is a recognized need to further harmonize and strengthen linkages with other existing funding sources, including the large Common Humanitarian Funds in Sudan and DRC and other country-based pooled funds with the ultimate goal to enable a rapid, more flexible and effective response on the ground. We are also working at the inter-agency level to reduce transaction costs, and improve partnerships.  We welcome the work of the newly created IASC Humanitarian Financing Group and we look forward to strengthened harmonization. 

To ensure expected results and impact have been achieved we must continue to monitor and evaluate our work. FAO has started an evaluation of its CERF-funded projects focusing on results achieved at field level. It will be forward looking, by identifying areas for improvement in the future and by making suggestions for corrective measures, future programming and improved use of the Fund, especially the grant window.  We have done this not only because of our commitment to the CERF and our desire to see that it continues in its important role but to identify the impact of CERF as a source of funds.  The results of this evaluation will be shared with our partners. 

Furthermore, FAO and other agencies welcome CERF’s effort to develop a Performance and Accountability Framework (PAF). We look forward to a light but robust framework that draws on the agencies’ existing monitoring frameworks. As discussed with the CERF Advisory Group, the PAF should focus on demonstrating the added value of the CERF. 

The CERF itself also benefits from monitoring and evaluation and indeed the General Assembly asked for independent, retrospective and substantive evaluations of the functioning and utilization of the Fund when the Fund was established.  The first of these reviewed the initial two years operations of the fund and resulted in a number of crucial recommendations.  The Secretariat and the partner Agencies worked closely together to develop a plan to carry out these recommendations.  This work continues on these recommendations and I would like to mention a few of them. 

The major policy and procedural guidelines are in a Bulletin from the Secretary-General.  The Secretariat and the Agencies are in the process of revising this document to take into account both changes in procedures which have developed during the operation of the Fund, and to recognize the putting into practice of improvements based, to a large extent, on the recommendations of the two-year evaluation. Perhaps one of the most important is the ongoing work to develop a Performance and Accountability Framework, which I mentioned earlier, as well as a strengthened set of Life-Saving Criteria and, to promote flexibility in operations, an Umbrella Letter of Understanding between CERF and the Agencies. Taken together, these measures will all increase further CERF’s effectiveness.  This work is an example of the close and productive cooperation between the Secretariat and its partners in the Agencies Funds and Programmes. We appreciate the opportunity for frank discussion on these issues and look forward to a successful conclusion of the work to the benefit of all. Finally, we support the upcoming five year evaluation of the Fund and look forward to making this a successful undertaking. 

These consultations and the spirit of cooperation I mentioned illustrate the ever-increasing degree of interagency collaboration both at the global and country levels.  We work together for example, through priority setting discussions for allocations to the underfunded crises - something which did not happen to such a great degree before.  Also we engage in valuable interagency consultation when crises strike; in the now widespread training; and by joining “surge capacity” missions. 

In May last year, John Holmes reserved $100 million for immediate issues triggered by the surge in food prices around the world. Now, the problem of soaring food prices and its impact on the most vulnerable is not confined to agriculture, as cross sectoral issues such as nutrition, food security and employment are critical to making a difference. A multi-sector, coordinated effort was therefore needed, and the response to the food crisis illustrates how CERF supported a coordinated approach for such a complex emergency.  Nor was CERF the only source of funds for this work – many others contributed. By acting quickly, however, near the onset of the crisis, CERF played an essential role. 

We know it's difficult to measure the impact of what is primarily early catalyst funding to humanitarian programmes, but we do know we have been able to reach many millions of people through activities funded with money from CERF - millions of people whose livelihoods have been protected and lives saved.  I’d like to illustrate this with one story. 

During 2009 CERF agreed to the first grant for a regional crisis, and FAO was directly involved. Late in April, with start-up funds from CERF, we launched large-scale aerial control operations and to contain spreading of the Red Locust from Tanzania into neighboring countries. A major outbreak could have damaged the food security and livelihoods of perhaps 15 million people. The operation included the first large scale use of a bio-pesticide in Africa.  That avoided potential long-lasting harm from the use of chemical pesticides to ecologically rich and diverse areas of wetlands and a National Park where the insects were hatching.  But, apart from the use of CERF funds to start this work, why is this a good example?  In locust control, the sooner you act the more effective and safe the response.  If we hadn’t had the immediate influx of money from CERF at just the right time, the damage in terms of lost harvests and lost livelihoods could have been enormous and the eventual cost of control perhaps in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  We were able to strike when the time was right and that made all the difference. 

Agriculture certainly isn’t the only field when a crisis happens where urgent humanitarian work is needed and CERF has consistently funded activity in many others, including the Food, Health, WASH, Shelter, Nutrition, Child Protection and Education sectors.  This multi-sector, life-saving work has been done by many actors, WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR and WHO for example. But, none of us is alone.  Each of the players receiving grants cooperates with numerous other partners – with sister agencies of course, with government counterparts and notably with our colleagues from Non-Governmental Organizations, the NGOs.  Without the coordinated response of all of us, the impact of CERF would have been less important, and we thank all of them. 

The coming year will bring challenges and hard work, on this we can be sure.  We expect a key part in the ability of participating agencies to respond well and in time to be played by funding from CERF.  Where and when this will be needed we cannot know, but the knowledge that a reliable and effective source of funds exists for the all important critical early action will allow all of us to be more prepared.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, you are here today and tomorrow to decide your commitments to the CERF for 2010; a year during which the severe financial problems facing much of the globe will doubtless continue.  On behalf of your partners in the Humanitarian work to come, I ask you to be generous.  Even if the fruits of your generosity will not be immediately apparent, let us remember a society grows great when men and women plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. 

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Central Emergency Response Fund