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USUN Press Release

New York, New York
July 16, 2007

Statement by Ambassador Richard T. Miller, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council, in the General Debate on Item 5 "Special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance," in the Economic and Social Council


Mr. President,

Let me begin by welcoming Under Secretary General Holmes to this ECOSOC meeting, his first as Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. The United States Government wishes to reaffirm its support for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which plays an essential role in coordinating international assistance, and to acknowledge the critical work of UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

In working with our humanitarian partners, our top priority is timely and flexible humanitarian response, ensuring that aid is provided as quickly and effectively as possible. To this end, we welcome ongoing discussions on various humanitarian financing mechanisms. We believe that each member state should find an approach which enables it to most effectively share the responsibility of international humanitarian assistance. Some states have well established bilateral mechanisms for supporting implementing partners; others find unearmarked funding through international organizations or pooled mechanisms to be an attractive avenue for maximizing the impact of their contributions. Many, including the United States, use a combination of these approaches to support our common humanitarian goal.

While financial support is crucial, effective humanitarian operations also require safe and unhindered access to vulnerable populations. We are extremely alarmed at the increase in attacks on aid workers over the past year and believe that states must put in place measures to ensure that humanitarian workers have access to populations in need.

Having reviewed the Secretary General’s reports to ECOSOC under this important agenda item, we would like to provide some additional points of feedback:

The main report of the Secretary General on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian assistance highlights the concern I have already noted about access and the growing alarm over the safety of aid workers. The report specifically cites the increase of attacks on aid workers in Sudan, Chad and Afghanistan, and in this regard we reiterate the call on all parties, including non-state actors, to respect and observe the provisions of international humanitarian law.

The U.S. supports the implementation of disaster reduction measures, including efforts to reduce vulnerability, build resilience, develop effective early warning systems, and mainstream disaster risk reduction into development activities. To this end and in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action, we support continued efforts to strengthen the national platform system, as we see states as primarily responsible for ensuring community-level preparedness and enhancing resilience to natural hazards.

The U.S. supports the aim of the Cluster Approach to better coordinate response efforts to natural disasters and complex emergencies. We are eager to see this framework continue to evolve and we welcome efforts to further evaluate its effectiveness. We also support the strengthening of the Financial Tracking Service to increase transparency, accountability and coordination in all humanitarian interventions. This requires accurate and consistent reporting by donors and recipient agencies, as well as improved efforts by OCHA—as the manager of the FTS—to capture the full range of humanitarian contributions.

We welcome this year’s ECOSOC panel discussion on improving the use of military assets in disaster relief, as well as the proposed review of civil-military coordination in disaster response. We agree that strong coordination is critical to the effective deployment of military assets.

Over the past two years, the U.S. has advanced a number of items highlighted in the Secretary General’s report on the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. We have established more than 30 deep-ocean assessment and reporting stations around the world that monitor seismic data, sea level, and deep-ocean bottom-pressure to assess the tsunami threat. They are tied into a communication system that can issue warnings to emergency management agencies and the public.

In 2006, the U.S. collaborated with Thailand to develop an interagency system that will improve their public tsunami warning system. We also helped institute the Incident Command System—an inter-agency emergency management and coordination system developed initially for wildfire-fighting in the United States—in India and Sri Lanka to improve planning for floods, cyclones and extreme temperatures.

Mr. President, in conclusion, ongoing humanitarian crises such as the situation in Darfur, as well as recent lessons learned from our collective response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in South Asia, make clear the need for continued improvements in the way we do business. We therefore call on all member states and the UN system—as well as NGOs and the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement—to work together to ensure a more rapid, effective and efficient international humanitarian response system.

Thank you.


Released on July 17, 2007

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