Monday, February 5, 2007

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But... but.... but.... centralization should always work!!

The Financial Times' Mark Turner reports the the UN's new fancy-pants response fund to humanitarian crises suffers from -- wait for it -- just a little bit of the old excessive, power hungry bureaucracy:

A flagship UN emergency response fund established last year to speed assistance to people during humanitarian crises has failed to meet its goal, and in some cases even slowed down the flow of life-saving goods, according to aid agencies.

A study by Save the Children UK said the fledgling fund was “inefficient and actually reduces the amount of money going directly to work on the ground”, creating an extra hurdle for aid agencies.

The Central Emergency Response Fund, which was championed by the UK government, was heralded at its launch in March last year as a revolutionary new way to ensure money would be immediately available when crises struck, and to steer funds to otherwise forgotten emergencies. This year countries have given $40m (£20.3m, €30.8m) to the fund, and pledged a further $304m.

But Save the Children said the fund’s rules – which stipulate that the money has to be funnelled through the UN bureaucracy, rather than directly to aid agencies – had created dangerous layers of inefficiency and delay....

A European diplomat also acknowledged CERF’s early problems, noting funds had taken up to seven weeks to reach the field. He said the UN claimed to have reduced the gap to 1½ weeks.

Stephanie Bunker, of the UN’s Humanitarian Affairs arm OCHA, insisted CERF money came on top of other sources of finance. “It’s not like its draining funding out of anything else,” she said.

But Save the Children said: “In many emergencies, staff have been told by donors that they must seek CERF funding instead of traditional bilateral funding.”...

Campaigning groups are now calling for direct access to CERF money. Ms Bunker said the UN “would tend to agree we would like to see the pool [of recipients] made broader” – but that it was stuck with rules set by its members states.

The European diplomat said developing countries had been firmly against giving campaigning groups direct access during the fund’s creation, and that it could overload the system.

Here's a link to the full report from Save the Children UK.

I reckon I enjoy mocking the UN more than the next man -- well, not more than this man -- but in all fairness it should be pointed out that Save the Children UK might have impure motives in making this allegation. As the last two paragraph in the FT story suggest, what this is about is who gets access to the money. As Save the Children said in their press release:

The fundamental flaw of the CERF mechanism is that non-UN aid agencies, like Save the Children, are not allowed to receive direct funding, despite the fact they are usually first on the ground and deliver more than half of all emergency relief.
And developing countries want to restrict this access? Well, blow me down!

posted by Dan on 02.05.07 at 10:19 PM


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