NEW YORK // The Government has called on aid donors to improve the co-ordination of humanitarian assistance with the UN when bailing out nations ravaged by war and natural disasters. Anwar al Barout, chargé d'affaires of the UAE's mission to the UN, called for a "doubling of efforts" in providing and organising aid shipments during a debate at the world body's headquarters.
The envoy said the growing frequency of natural disasters was leaving ever-greater numbers of people needing emergency relief in the aftermath of floods, typhoons and earthquakes. As he addressed delegates in midtown Manhattan, UN aid chiefs were appealing for US$11.5 million (Dh42.24m) to provide urgently needed assistance to the 650,000 people affected by recent severe flooding in Yemen. "The UAE emphasises and commends the essential role of the UN and its valuable efforts in mobilising and co-ordinating international efforts to provide humanitarian emergency relief assistance to millions of people in affected areas," Mr Barout said on Tuesday.
"We recognise that partnership and co-operation with the international organisation is the most effective way to achieve the best outcomes of humanitarian activities around the world." The diplomat noted the recent creation of the UAE External Aid Co-ordination Office to co-ordinate all the assistance provided through various Emirati channels and liaise with the UN. The office, which is expected to be fully operational towards the end of next year, will "enhance the level and speed of response to emergencies and emerging conditions in affected areas", he said.
The Emirates also "plays a major role in co-ordinating and strengthening" relief efforts through Dubai's International Humanitarian City, one of the world's biggest "integrated logistics facilities". The co-ordination of humanitarian aid has become a hot political issue in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf, where oil-rich donors have historically acted independently by choosing needy recipients and providing aid directly.
But UN officials, including John Holmes, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, have long campaigned for the UAE and other Gulf states to co-ordinate aid supplies through the world body. "There is a long-entrenched tradition here of giving aid bilaterally," said Mr Holmes. "I have no problems with that. But we are trying to encourage the countries of this region in particular... to channel more of what they do give through the multilateral channels, because we believe that is the most effective way of doing it."
Aid officials often cite the massive global humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean tsunami of Dec 2004, where poor co-ordination saw surplus supplies reach some victims while others were left without. Following a long-running rift between the Government and Mr Holmes' Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), this week's speech marked substantial UAE support for multilateral aid-giving.
"We welcome the envoy's expressions of support for international partnership and co-operation with the UN," said an Ocha spokeswoman. "We are especially pleased that there is a keen desire to co-ordinate the Government's bilateral assistance with the UN." During the General Assembly debate, Mr Barout also outlined support provided in the wake of disasters, including $1m to UN aid bodies as part of more than $1 billion given over the past three years.
Beneficiaries have included the people of Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur and the Palestinian Territories, where the UAE has provided an estimated $4.2bn from 1994 until the middle of this year, said the envoy. The Emirates has already pledged $5m to help the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) assist Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, as well as promising to contribute towards the reconstruction of Nahr el Bared camp in the north of the country, he added.
There has been, however, an ongoing discrepancy between the UN and the UAE when it comes to humanitarian aid. Representatives from Ocha and UNRWA said figures provided by the UAE do not match their records. The quantity of assistance provided by the Emirates has been dogged by controversy since April, when a government minister announced 3.6 per cent of gross national product goes to overseas assistance.
That 3.6 per cent is substantially higher than the $1bn over three years presented by Mr Barout this week. email@example.com