Natural catastrophes and armed conflicts have, in recent years, led to a steady increase in the number of people around the world who are dependent upon humanitarian assistance. At the same time, a growing number of state and non-state actors is getting involved in humanitarian action. A functioning international humanitarian system is therefore gaining ever greater importance.
At the core of the efforts to mobilize and coordinate humanitarian assistance is the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, who also oversees the Central Emergency Response Fund of the United Nations (CERF). The objective of this fund is to Germany is one of the biggest contributors to the fund which enables the United Nations to intervene early in humanitarian emergencies and under funded crises.
The organizations, funds and programs of the United Nations – such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) – are, aside from the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movements and non-governmental organizations, the most vital players in the field of humanitarian assistance.
The German Government does not limit its support to the provision of financial resources. It also advocates within the pertinent international bodies and fora to make the entire system of international humanitarian assistance – with the United Nations at its center – more efficient and effective. In this regard the German Government supports preventive approaches that strengthen the preparedness of states and organizations prior to emergency situations, thereby reducing the human and economic impact of catastrophes.
Effective provision of assistance first requires a consensus among the community of States on the fundamental issues of humanitarian assistance, for example unhindered access to crisis regions and acceptance of humanitarian players. The leading principle of the Federal Government is that humanitarian assistance needs to be geared exclusively to the needs of the affected population. The German Government is bound to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. In order to ensure effective delivery of humanitarian aid in accordance with the principles, constant dialogue between Donor States, implementing partners and States affected by humanitarian crises is indispensable. Fora for these discussions are the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, but also informal fora such as the “Humanitarian Liaison Working Group”, the “Good Humanitarian Donorship” Initiative, co-led by Germany and Poland in 2011/12 and the OCHA Donor Support Group which Germany chairs in 2012/13.