ODA from Major Economies Stable at $135 Billion

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April 8, 2015 – Aid from the 29 members of the OECD’s Development Assistant Committee totaled $135 billion in 2014, on par with the previous year which set a record for overseas development assistance.

The members of DAC, which consist of most EU countries as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States, gave the bulk of the assistance to sub-Saharan African countries ($39 billion) followed by South and Central Asia ($23 billion), and Far and East Asia ($12 billion).

Aid to the Middle East, where the conflict in Syria has left 12 million people in need, totaled $11.7 billion in 2014.

The top DAC donors last year were the United States, $32 billion, United Kingdom, $19 billion, Germany, $16 billion, France, $10 billion, and Japan, $9 billion.

Five of the countries exceeded the 0.7 percent of GDP UN target for ODA: Sweden, 1.1 percent; Luxembourg, 1.07 percent; Norway, 0.99 percent, Denmark, 0.85 percent and the UK, 0.71 percent. (see charts)

G7 countries contributed a total of 0.27 percent of their GDP with Japan and the United States both contributing 0.19 percent of their GDP to ODA. Non-G7 countries contributed 0.37 percent of their GDP to ODA.

The OECD report showed that aid to the world’s least developed countries dropped 16 percent this year to $25 billion.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Replacing Valerie Amos: Political Appointment or Merit-Based

Special Event:  United Nations Official Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Nov. 26, 2014 – Ban Ki-moon will be pressed by both member states and the international aid community to appoint a successor to Valerie Amos as head of OCHA based on merit and not, as has been his precedent, to give the post to a major power.

Amos, the well-liked, hard-working and longest-serving UN aid chief, has overseen the 1,900 person OCHA office at a time of multiple humanitarian emergencies, which, since her appointment in Sept. 2010, includes crises in Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic. She will step down in March 2015, her office said on Wednesday.

Amos is the second UK national to head the OCHA since it was founded by merging two separate offices in 1992. She succeeded John Holmes, another UK diplomat, who served from 2007-10. Britain, as is common with its fellow P5 members, typically has one of its own in a key UN cabinet post. In recent years, UK diplomats have served as head of the UNDP and the Dept. of Political Affairs, which is now headed by an American, Jeffery Feltman. The US also gets control of UNICEF, currently headed by former US national security adviser, Tony Lake.

A French national has headed the UN’s Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations since 1997, after then chief, Kofi Annan, was appointed secretary-general. India, the largest troop-contributing country, covets the post. China’s Margaret Chan heads up the World Health Organization while a Russian, Yury Fedotov, is head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

With NGO’s calling for a more transparent process for selecting the next secretary-general, Ban will be under pressure to show he has an independent streak and is not merely doing the bidding of the big powers. To do this, he will have to select candidates based on their previous humanitarian and leadership experience and make the short-list public.

The appointment of the world’s top humanitarian official will come at a key time, just a year before the World Humanitarian Summit which aims to find new ways to address the growing number of humanitarian crises. Earlier this year, MSF published a withering critique of the global humanitarian response and said the UN was at the heart of the dysfunctional response.

Previous heads of OCHA:

1 Jan Eliasson Sweden Sweden 1992 1994
2 Peter Hansen Denmark Denmark 1994 1996
3 Yasushi Akashi Japan Japan 1996 1998
4 Sérgio Vieira de Mello Brazil Brazil 1998 January 2001
5 Kenzo Oshima Japan Japan January 2001 June 2003
6 Jan Egeland Norway Norway June 2003 December 2006
7 John Holmes United Kingdom United Kingdom January 2007 September 2010
8 Valerie Amos United Kingdom United Kingdom September 2010 present

Related Story: Four Insiders Who Could Succeed Valerie Amos as Head of OCHA

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/UN Photo

Prospect of Lost Generation in Syria Now a ‘Reality’

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Nov. 25, 2014 – UN aid chief Valerie Amos on Tuesday told the Security Council that more than 12 million people, including 5 million children, need assistance in Syria and the amount of aid getting into the country is only a fragment of what is needed to address the humanitarian situation.

She said the there was “considerable challenges in implementing”
Resolution 2139 (Feb. 2014), demanding safe, unhindered access to aid, and Resolution 2165 (July 2014), authorizing cross-border aid without state consent.

“This is a conflict that is affecting every Syrian. Syria’s economy has contracted some 40 per cent since 2011. Unemployment now exceeds 54 per cent. Three quarters of the population live in poverty. School attendance has dropped by more than 50 per cent. Young people have few prospects of a bright future,” Amos told the 15-nation body.

“We have lamented the possibility of a lost generation of Syria’s children: it is now a reality.”

She said the resolutions have made a difference and “nearly all the hard-to-reach locations in the four governorates – Aleppo, Idlib, Dar’a and Quneitra” have received aid.

“But despite the progress we have made it is still not enough. No more than two besieged locations have been reached in any month since the adoption of resolution 2165 and only one location has been reached in each of the past two months,” Amos said.

Addressing the Council on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN’s top humanitarian official said, “we particularly remember Syria’s women and children. Sexual violence has been used as a form of torture, to injure, to degrade, intimidate and as punishment.”

She also praised the bravery of aid workers, noting that 69 of them have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.

In his report to the Council on the implementation of Resolutions 2139 and 2165, Ban Ki-moon wrote that “at least 239 civilians have reportedly been killed by government airstrikes, including barrel bomb attacks” in the past month.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, 42 barrel bombs were dropped between Oct. 18 and Nov. 6. On Nov. 5 the government air force bombed a Damascus neighborhood, hitting a primary school and killing at least 17 children and injuring a dozen others.

Internal displacement continues unabated with some 50,000 people displaced in the last two weeks of October, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Ban wrote that “foreign fighters continued to be involved on all sides of the fighting” and a reported number “of foreign, mostly Shiite, militias joined the pro-government forces in Aleppo.” He added that the Nusra Front and ISIL continue to recruit foreign and domestic fighters. “On Nov. 4, the leader of the Nusra Front, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, stated that foreign fighters constituted ’30 to 35 per cent’ of his group’s total force,” the report said.

In her address to the Council, Amos said she hopes the Council will renew Resolution 2165 when its six-month mandate expires in January.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo/ICRC

How Much is a UN Security Council Seat Worth and Which Countries Get Elected?

Security Council Meeting on the situation in the Central African Republic.
Oct. 15, 2014 – Five of the ten non-permanent Security Council seats are up for grabs on Thursday though only one race is contested with New Zealand, Spain and Turkey battling in the Western group to replace Australia and Luxembourg for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2015.

Angola will replace Rwanda for the available African seat, Malaysia will take over from South Korea in the Asia group while Venezuela also has no competition in the race for the Latin American seat being vacated by Argentina.

Why do countries run for a non-permanent seat knowing that the Council is essentially ruled by the Permanent Five members, not to mention the extra expenses associated with increasing diplomatic staff to attend to the UNSC’s expanding workload.

One study has shown that developing countries serving on the Council see their aid from the United States increase by 59 percent and aid from the UN increase by 8 percent, mostly coming from UNICEF, an agency long controlled by the US.

Another paper found that developing countries serving on the Council receive greater support from the World Bank and IMF and receive softer loan conditions from the IMF – but only if they side with the US. For example, as related in yet another study, on vote-buying, Yemen voted against the 1990 resolution authorizing force in Iraq and the US subsequently cut its 70 million dollars in aid entirely and Yemen was not granted an IMF arrangement for six years.

As for which countries get elected, there is a pattern of not electing countries in conflict in Asia and Africa and of favoring democratic states in the Western group. All WEOG countries are now considered democratic but during the dictatorships in Greece, Spain and Portugal – only Spain, in 1961, was ever elected. Since transitioning to democracy, these three countries have served at least twice on the Council. It helps to get elected to the Council if a country in Asia or Latin America is a former former British colony but not so much in Africa, according to this study.

The votes of at least four non-permanent members are needed for a resolution to pass the 15-nation Council, and, as evidenced by this 2010 diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks, the US mission to the UN will be busy categorizing the five countries to be elected tomorrow as reliable or not so reliable partners.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN ‘Dysfunction’ at Heart of Slow Response to Humanitarian Crises

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July 8, 2014 – The global humanitarian system is failing to appropriately and rapidly respond to crises and the UN is at heart of this failure, according to a new report from Medecins Sans Frontiers.

The organization reviewed three recent crises – the refugee emergency in Upper Nile State, South Sudan from Nov. 2011 to Nov. 2012; the M23 mutiny in North Kivu, DRC, from April 2012 to April 2013; and the influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan from July 2012 to June 2013.

“The UN was at the heart of the dysfunction in each of the cases reviewed. There, historical mandates and institutional positioning have created a system with artificial boundaries (for example, between the coordination roles of UNHCR for refugees and OCHA elsewhere), to the detriment of those needing assistance and protection,” the report states.

“Further, the triple role of key UN agencies, as donor, coordinator and implementer, is causing conflicts of interest, especially in recognizing and correcting mistakes.”

Significantly, the report notes that “insufficiency of financing was not identified as a major constraint on performance in any of the three emergencies reviewed.”

Instead it says that disbursement of funds is slow and bureaucratic and the process for receiving funds in the field takes up to three months “which means it cannot be properly considered ‘emergency response.’”

The report specifically criticizes the UN Refugee Agency’s role as coordinator, implementor and donor saying this triple role led to considerable “conflicts of interest” and this in turn made it difficult for “UNHCR itself to admit to bigger problems or to ask for technical assistance from other UN agencies, for fear of losing out on funding or credibility.”

It says that refugee status and not need or vulnerability was the primary determinant of assistance and that those registered with UNHCR and living in UNHCR camps were prioritized over those living in host communities.

The MSF report also states that “risk aversion” is a major problem in the global humanitarian response system and “populations received assistance in large part based on how easy they were to target and reach.”

“While the humanitarian system has grown massively, this had not led to a proportionate improvement in performance during emergencies,” the report concludes.

A spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs responded that it welcomes the contribution by MSF ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit which is being convened because of the “unprecedented strain on the international humanitarian system” and that “many of the report’s conclusions are reflected in OCHA’s own reviews of humanitarian operations.”

“The UN has already been addressing some of the concerns raised by MSF. We are working to improve our security management,” OCHA’s Clare Doyle said in an email to UN Tribune. “Aid organisations are using rapid mobile response teams, for example in South Sudan, to reach the most remote locations. Over 800,000 people have been reached by these teams since March 2014.”

She added that research does not indicate that aid workers are becoming more risk averse. “Figures from the Aid Workers Security Database do not support MSF’s assertion that humanitarian workers are becoming more risk averse, but indicate that the risk acceptance of humanitarian workers is increasing slightly.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/UNHCR

Related Stories:

South Sudan’s Expulsion of UN Official Brings Controversial Integrated Approach Into Focus

Replacing Valerie Amos: Political Appointment or Merit Based?

Four Insiders Who Could Replace Valerie Amos As OCHA Head

Djibouti – The UN’s Forgotten Crisis

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Oct 6, 2013 – Despite hosting a US military base and a French naval base, Djibouti’s humanitarian crisis is largely ignored by the international community.

The UN appealed for $70 million at the beginning of the year to address widespread malnutrition in the drought-stricken country but so far has only received $18 million, making it the most underfunded humanitarian appeal, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The US, which operates its surveillance and armed drone programs for nearby Yemen and neighboring Somalia out of Djibouti, has contributed a mere $152,000 to the UN appeal, while France, which lost its rule over the country in 1977, has not made any contribution, UN figures show.

Djibouti ranks near the bottom of the Human Development Index and about one-third of the country’s children are malnourished while the practice of female genital mutilation is commonly carried out on girls between the ages of 2 and 5, according to UNICEF

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo: A US Predator drone flying at sunset – Charles McCain/Flickr.

The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention Detailed in New Book by Former UN Aid Chief

Security Council Meeting: The question concerning Haiti.
John Holmes addressing a UN Security Council
meeting on Haiti in 2010 (UN Photo)

March 11, 2013 – A new book from John Holmes, former UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, discusses the politics involved in humanitarian aid and also provides some insights into Ban Ki-moon.

Holmes, who was the UK ambassador to Paris before coming to the UN, served as the top international aid official from 2007-2010, a period that covered the politically charged humanitarian crises resulting from Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and the brutal end to Sri Lanka’s civil war.

In ”The Politics of Humanity,” Holmes writes of Ban, that, “In my experience, he was hardworking to a fault, totally honest, absolutely committed to the UN and its role and determined to make a difference where he could. His political instincts were usually sound and his readiness to tell his frequent senior visitors what they did not want to hear much greater than often supposed from the outside.”

“He has his weaker points, of which he is well aware, himself,” Holmes adds in the 400-page book released earlier this month. “He is not charismatic or a great strategic thinker. Like his predecessors he is not in a position to tell the big powers what to do nor to fix their disagreements (of course, they themselves do not really want a strong secretary-general whatever they claim in public.)”

The book’s title reflects the central theme of the often conflicting interaction between politics and humanitarian work Holmes experienced during during his stint, including the Security Council’s unwillingness to put Sri Lanka on its agenda and Ban Ki-moon barring him from speaking to Hamas officials about humanitarian aid delivery.

He calls it “absurd” that Sri Lanka was not on the Security Council’s agenda. “The Russians, Chinese, and others, no doubt with an eye to their freedom to attack their home-grown terrorists, were not prepared to agree that the situation went beyond an internal dispute,” Holmes writes.

He also says he advised Ban not to visit Sri Lanka immediately after the government’s military victory over the Tamil Tigers lest it be seen as tacit support for the government and their tactics, but to no avail. Ban, he writes, “liked being the first international leader on the scene after dramatic events.”

On Gaza, Holmes says he was “unable to talk directly to senior members of Hamas myself since the UN had decided, most unwisely in my view, to adhere to the 2006 ban on such contacts, agreed by the so-called Quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN, until Hamas met certain political conditions.”

“The ban should not have excluded humanitarian dialogue, but the sensitivities were considered too great even for that,” he states.

On his final visit to Gaza in 2010, the former British diplomat writes, “I tried again to persuade Ban Ki-moon that during this visit I should meet senior representatives of Hamas, to discuss humanitarian issues with them. This would have been entirely in line with the usual humanitarian policy of talking to anyone about getting aid through, and about their responsibilities under international law.”

Ban wouldn’t budge. “He continued to believe, contrary to the views of many UN officials, that the Quartet had some influence on the peace process … The American under secretary-general for political affairs, Lynn Pascoe, also believed strongly in the boycott of Hamas.”

Gaza and Sri Lanka are just two of the crises discussed in Holmes’ minutely detailed account of his time as the UN’s top humanitarian. Most of the 14 chapters are situation specific and there are sections on Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, Mynamar, Darfur, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The “Politics of Humanity” is published by Head of Zeus and is available on Amazon, Kindle edition, $5.99.

-Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Breakdown of $1.5 Billion Raised at Syria Aid Conference

Feb. 4, 2013 – Thirty-eight countries plus the European Commission pledged more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria at a donors conference in Kuwait last week.

The amounts ranged from $20,000, from Cyprus, to $300 million, by three countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. 

Japan, $65 million; Finland, $4.5 million; Poland, $500,000; and Botswana $50,000 were among the donors.

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About one-third of the funds raised are targeted for the UN humanitarian response plan for delivering aid inside Syria. That plan requires $519 million from January to June 2013 to assist 2.5 million Syrians. More than 50 percent of hospitals inside Syria have been damaged and about one-third are out of service. The National Hospital in Damascus has been completely destroyed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. There are also shortages of food, fuel and medicines. The disbursement of aid is contingent on donor countries following through on their pledges.

The remaining funds are targeted to assist the ever growing number of refugees in neighboring countries. The number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries currently exceeds 750,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 when the government started using lethal force to suppress anti-government protests.

Denis Fitzgerald

$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers

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The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald

Taliban On The Take For More Than $1 Million Every Day

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Sept. 11, 2012 – The Taliban are raking in more than $1 million every day through extortion, the drugs trade, and skimming from international aid projects.

A report from the U.N. Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team estimates that the group had income of about $400 million from March 21, 2011 to March 20, 2012 (the Afghan calendar year).

About one-third of that money is used to finance attacks, which are increasing in intensity and frequency.

There were 3,021 civilians killed in Afghanistan last year (double the number recorded in 2007) and more than 75 percent of the deaths were attributed to anti-government forces, namely the Taliban and its associated networks.

The report says the Taliban raised about $100 million from the drugs trade by taxing poppy farmers, providing protection for drug convoys, and from taxing heroin laboratories. 

Shopkeepers and other small businesses are taxed between 2.5 – 10 percent by the Taliban, despite the group providing no government services.

One of the most fruitful sources of income for the Taliban is the international aid sector.

In one instance recorded in the report, the Taliban took $360 million from a $2.16 billion contract awarded to an Afghan trucking company by the United States military over a period of three years.

“Organizations involved in providing development assistance regard these overheads as a cost of doing business,” the report says. 

Fifteen individuals associated with Taliban finances are on the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list and subject to an assets freeze and travel ban.

“However, the sanctions themselves do not appear yet to have disrupted the financial arrangements of the Taliban,” the report states.

Average weekly income in Afghanistan is about $18 and only seven percent of Afghans have a bank account, according to U.N. and World Bank figures.

Full UNSC Sanctions Monitoring Team report here.

- Denis Fitzgerald