Flanders only region in world to pledge to UN emergency fund

Summary

The government of Flanders has pledged €500,000 to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund for rapid help for countries in times of urgent need

Quick and flexible

The Flemish region pledged half a million euros to the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (Cerf) in New York on Friday. The Cerf High Level event brought together representatives from member states as well as international organisations and the private sector to make their pledges to the fund for 2019.

The Cerf fund ensures that emergency aid is available quickly to any region or country in crisis. “Cerf aims to provide support in a timely and reliable manner to the victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters,” explains Nicolas Polet, the acting head of the delegation of the government of Flanders to the US. “The general pre-financing allows the fund not to wait for donor commitment, allowing Cerf to respond very quickly and flexibly to urgent and underfunded, long-term humanitarian needs.”

This year, for instance, Cerf provided $15 million for shelter, food and medical care to people displaced by violence between communities in southern Ethiopia; $15 million to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia; and aid to Peruvian farmers to recover their fields following El Niño floods.

Most pledges come from UN member states as well as some organisations and private foundations. The €500,000 pledged this year is on top of the €17 million pledged by the federal government of Belgium.

Record year for pledges

The government of Flanders is the only regional government in the world that pledges to Cerf on an annual basis. It has been doing so for seven years. Very few regions have ever contributed, even once, in Cerf’s 13-year history.

The regions in Belgium “can pursue their own policies abroad with regard to their domestic competences,” says Polet. “In that respect, Flanders has the power to conclude bilateral and multilateral treaties. Humanitarian aid is part of the Global Challenges Division of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs.”

The department finds the structural funding of Cerf “an efficient manner for current humanitarian challenges,” he says. “Flanders contributes to co-ordination rather than fragmentation by giving a large amount of our budget for humanitarian aid – €1.4 million annually – to this central fund.”

The first few years that Flanders contributed to Cerf, the amount was €300,000. Two years ago, it doubled the amount in a bid to convince other regional and local authorities to pledge funds. That pushed it into the top 25 of donors.

For 2019, Cerf received the highest total fund pledges ever, totalling €386.5 million. While a breakdown is not yet available, the 2018 fund saw the biggest donation coming from Germany, with €96.5 million, followed by Sweden and the UK. Belgium was the eighth biggest donor, and the government of Flanders was at 23.

Photo: Ivo Brandau/OCHA