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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2010

Economic and Social Council Substantive Session of 2010: Humanitarian Affairs Segment

Statement by Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in New York on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand: Ambassador McNee, 15th July 2010

Mr. President, I am pleased to deliver today’s statement on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand and to welcome the Secretary General’s 2010 Report “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.”  The breadth of issues the humanitarian system had to respond to over the last twelve months underscores the need for a strong and well coordinated humanitarian system - one that is flexible and able to manoeuvre across a swiftly changing and increasingly interconnected landscape.  Over the last year we have seen unresolved protracted conflicts, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, the emergence of the new crisis in Kyrgyzstan, natural disasters including the catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines, and a continued lack of access to populations in contexts such as Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia.

Mr. President, ensuring humanitarian assistance reaches those that need is critical.  It relies on addressing the safety and security of those providing humanitarian assistance - but this continues to be tenuous in many contexts. We recognize and support the efforts of the Department of Safety and Security to implement new security mechanisms to be more flexible and responsive in identifying, analysing and mapping threat risks.  The test of this new approach will be its impact for those working on the ground.  We note the work undertaken by UN agencies to asses and upgrade their security measures and encourage continued work in this area.  We also strongly support the “Saving Lives Together” initiative which reflects a partnership between the UN and NGO community.  It provides an important framework for coordination and information sharing to allow for better security decisions. 

Advocacy also plays a critical role in bolstering security by supporting agencies’ effort to pursue policies of acceptance over the long run.  Lessons from Haiti, as well as other contexts, demonstrate how vital advocacy functions are for broader engagement. A clear communication strategy led by the Emergency Relief Coordinator in a crisis is vital to convey relief strategies and approaches to the affected population. Without this, we run the risk of confusion and even alienation amongst stakeholders.  Member states have an important role in this regard by being advocates for the humanitarian system.  This includes working within, and strengthening, the existing humanitarian framework but also informing domestic audiences on the most appropriate means for helping affected populations and the principles of humanitarian action. 

The Secretary General’s Report identifies the need for a shift within the humanitarian system from being “shock-driven” to a more needs-based and vulnerability-led response.  Canada, Australia and New Zealand support developing a clearer approach by the humanitarian community to respond to situations of chronic and acute vulnerability.  Making this shift requires a redoubling of efforts on a number of fronts including risk reduction and preparedness, strengthening governance, and enhancing partnerships with a range of actors, including development actors, to obtain early analysis and information sharing across issues.  Such partnerships will contribute to more coordinated responses. The development of common tools and agreed indicators will help improve needs assessments providing credible and timely data.  This is critical for an effective and equitable allocation of resources.  Effective monitoring systems would also help map how the convergence of global challenges against pre-existing vulnerabilities is increasing humanitarian need.

Greater attention must be placed on strong leadership and effective coordination.  The right leadership capacity must be present on the ground to provide the critical strategic, advocacy and coordination guidance from the start.  This is particularly important in sudden onset crises, and absolutely imperative in catastrophic situations such as Haiti.  We recognize OCHA’s efforts to identify, recruit and train individuals who are well placed to serve in this capacity.  It is vital that these efforts continue - a strong cadre of humanitarian and resident coordinators will bring greater results to a humanitarian response.  We also need to ensure that they are not overstretched by being multi-hatted and are supported by well-staffed offices at all levels. 

Coordination is a pivotal task in a humanitarian response, however it is an area which often faces the greatest challenges.  We see this most specifically with respect to cluster coordination.  This was unfortunately particularly evident post-Haiti earthquake where significant coordination challenges were evident.  Our expectation is that clusters establish themselves quickly; prioritize resources; communicate methodologies, approaches, responsibilities and purpose; and determine clear divisions of labour amongst organizations.  Clusters should not operate in isolation but establish linkages with other clusters as appropriate, and connect with national coordination structures and local NGOs.  Cluster leads must understand that they are expected to pull together a broad sectoral response and put aside their individual agency roles in the interim. We would also encourage NGOs to become better informed about the cluster system and to coordinate within these structure to ensure a more coherent and effective response.

We recognize the challenges posed by sudden-onset crises where designated cluster leads may not already have a presence on the ground.  Nonetheless, agencies should make every effort to ensure that when individuals are deployed in this capacity that expectations of roles and clear criteria for involvement are established and followed. A well-functioning cluster system at both field and global levels will not only support the provision of material aid, but will also bring more coherence and synchronicity to cross-cutting issues.  As member states, we need to look closely at our own actions and ensure that we are not causing fragmentation within the system by forging ahead in an ad hoc fashion but continue to strengthen existing international coordination mechanisms.  For Canada, Australia and New Zealand, this means working within the principles and good practices of Good Humanitarian Donorship.  It is important to keep these principles in mind as they help to harmonize our responses to greatest effect.

In closing, Mr. President, we have seen a genuine culture of learning within humanitarian agencies.  Evaluations and lessons-learned have helped us to distil best practices and course correct where necessary in the last five years.  These must become common practice, particularly since we know how quickly the humanitarian environment changes.  We also encourage humanitarian agencies to demonstrate clearly the impact of their work and its impact.  We welcome the recently released phase two evaluation of the cluster system and urge reflection and action on identified recommendations.  We look forward to the release of the Real Time Evaluation for Haiti which will provide much for the international community to reflect upon.  We will also be closely following the five-year evaluations of the Central Emergency Relief Fund soon to get underway.  We recognize that the nature of this work means that the system requires constant refinement to evolve with changing dynamics.  We need to be visionary in our goals, practical in our approaches and determined in our commitment.  It is a collective effort, and not an easy one.  But its purpose is clear - to help those in need.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT