World 'dangerously unprepared' for future disasters

A tsunami survivor in Ishimaki city Japan says it may cost $309bn to rebuild areas damaged by the tsunami in March

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Some countries' failure to pay into a UN disaster relief fund is leaving the world "dangerously unprepared" for future crises, Andrew Mitchell says.

The international development secretary said several countries had not donated to the Central Emergency Response Fund, aimed at speeding-up relief delivery.

Britain has increased its pledge for 2012 from £40m to £60m but the fund is expected to be £45m short next year.

The international community must "wake up" to the challenge, Mr Mitchell said.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was set up in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December 2004. It includes a grant element based on voluntary contributions from governments and private sector organisations and individuals.

The fund was designed by the United Nations to speed up relief in crisis zones with one central fund, though many countries still choose to give bilaterally.

ActionAid spokeswoman Jane Moyo told BBC Breakfast: "The importance of this fund is that it pre-positions money where it is most needed and it is important that people - other governments - pull their weight because then we can help people who are most in need, in their time of most need."

Start Quote

Spend to save is a good rule in international development”

End Quote Alan Duncan International Development Minister
'Basic humanitarian decency'

The fund has been hit hard by a series of natural disasters this year - the tsunami in Japan; an earthquake in New Zealand; famine in the Horn of Africa; and floods in Pakistan and the Philippines.

Mr Mitchell said the increasing numbers of people living in low-lying or famine-prone areas meant the scale of future tragedies would be greater.

He said many countries wait for events to happen before offering money but he said this could affect critical emergency response work.

He said in the first few hours of a disaster, when survivors are trapped in the rubble of an earthquake, delays and lack of resources could mean the difference between life and death.

"This year the world has been rocked by devastating disasters and the evidence suggests this trend is likely to continue.

"The past shows that international responses could have been more effective if they had been properly planned and coordinated as part of one single system instead of a patch-quilt approach we see all too often."

Mr Mitchell said: "The system is in place but too many countries and agencies are failing to back it, leaving the world dangerously unprepared for the scale and number of shocks that lie ahead.

Selected CERF donors in 2011

  • UK - $94m (£60m)
  • Sweden - $74m
  • Norway - $68m
  • Netherlands - $54m
  • Canada - $41m
  • Spain - $20m
  • Germany - $16m
  • Australia - $14m
  • US - $6m
  • Japan - $3m
  • France - $720,000
  • China - $500,000
  • Source: UN CERF website

"The international community must wake up to this challenge and unite its efforts under one umbrella," he added.

International Development Minister Alan Duncan told Breakfast that while many countries were facing financial difficulties, it made sense to donate emergency aid in advance and was "basic humanitarian decency".

"If you actually put money into a fund in advance of what are going to be more predictable emergencies around the world such as floods and earthquakes you can actually save a lot of lives by being able to respond very quickly as a result."

Mr Duncan said being prepared could also save a lot of of money "so spend to save is a good rule in international development".

Mr Duncan refused to name to the countries the government believed were not pulling their weight. But he said there were "one or two European ones" and countries from both east and west.

CERF's stated objectives are to:

  • promote early action and response to reduce loss of life;
  • enhance response to time-critical requirements;
  • strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises

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  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    522. I agree people are responsible but one way to reduce population pressure is to redistribute wealth from Rich to poor, both nationally and internationally. This would help rebalance our relationship with scarce earth resources. Lifting the poor out of poverty will incentivise them to have smaller families. But that goes against US-UK style ideology. Other Nations need to take a lead here

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    524.Norman Brooke
    There was enough food in the end to ensure a square meal for every Soviet soldier; most of the Soviet rail network was supplied with locomotives, wagons and rails made in the USA; one million miles of telephone wire, 14 million pairs of boots, 363, 000 trucks, all helped to keep the Red Army fighting with growing efficiency
    The reliance on American aid indicates how we owed em

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    Interesting that the most pitiful donations come from the richest of nations - the US and China. Rather than wondering why we pay so much, we should be questioning the motives of those who pay so little.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Apparently you could fit the whole population in a country the size of France not that many when u look at it like that.
    As for the excuses that we cannot feed the world you just need to see the vast amount of foods that are wasted to blow that theory out the water, and i am sure Frank Lund will provide a link to counter the we cannot feed the world brigade.
    Corruption is the problem mostly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Rave on John Donne RAVE ON,RAVE ON and everyone with the same desire to THINK & LEARN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    503. So our aid to Russia during the War accounted for approx 4% of Soviet war production. In any case I admire UK and USA during the War and the decades following. I do not admire a culture that then deregulates, flattens other nations, hands fortunes to the Rich while consequently ruining thier own economies. If thats success then Murdoch etc are crazier than I thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    A large part of world pop. live along the coastlines - a rise in sea level would be a huge problem. Cities built on fault-lines and at the base of volcanos, people rebuilding after tornados in exactly the same area. I know, its easy for me/us to say move - but where exactly would they go? If a disaster was imminent, how do you evacuate so many?

    Its not if it will happen, its when!

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    516.Norman Brooke
    Tempting though it may be to view Capitalism as the cause (at least for some) there are enough recent examples of non capitalist societies doing no less damage to under cut the argument. People are the root of it, regardless of political systems. Too many of us and still we won't discipline ourselves, not even for the future of the children parents claim to care so much about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    If we didn't spend the money on foreign aid it would not find its way into worthy causes in the UK but would without a doubt go to fund a burgeoning defence budget.

    The contributors who criticise foreign aid on the basis that it would be better spent at home are naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    " No man is an island, entire of itself, each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were: any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee"

    John Donne

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Just a couple of facts for those who feel the £60m is affecting the NHS and Education etc... This year, the spend on healthcare in the UK was £121.2 billion and £33.2bn on education. Defence costs £45.6bn. I could go on, but in relation to these figures, £60m is rather small, albeit a substantial amount to those of us with only 5 figure incomes or less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    516.Norman Brooke

    Very good analysis and could'nt agree more

  • Comment number 517.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    484. Yes we have no 'defence against mother nature' but how much of our irresponsible behaviour is contributing to the increasing violence of mother nature. Our Greed has deforested collossal areas, polluted huge areas of the planet and is melting the ice cap. We want fast bucks now so say bye bye to the natural harmony God meant us to live with nature. Burn in hell Capitalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    [112. Tamarin ..... Think of the other animals they are being destroyed by the flood of humans.]

    This made me laugh .. but I would not call it a flood of humans .. I would call it a plague.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    503.Norman Brooke
    No ones interested in Russia they all seem top be tanking the USA not Russia and thats why i said what i did about WW2.
    Also Russia were aided vastly by the USA and UK thru the lend lease aid that they were provided with.
    From 1942 onwards food and raw materials were provided which sustained the war effort for the Russians and they would not have coped without it Stalin said

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    British overseas aid is pure window dressing, a PR excercise. Pretend to the world you care by giving more than others, but who is paying? Not Cameron's rich buddies, not a bit, its the NHS and public services who are being attacked. This evil government are attacking the vulnerable at home and handing over the money to overseas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    498.Billythefirst - How do bankers fit into this?

    505.Lemog 507.rachann
    This is about disaster aid - a different matter entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    The money France has generously donated to CERF this year is almost enough to buy my house!

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    482.Markus - "In my mind, the disasters are not claiming as much lives as should be. whats needed is quite a few biblical disasters, that take away 3/4 of the worlds population, then there will be LESS disasters about, which are mainly caused by Human interferance with the planet..."

    As long as the disasters are 'there' and not 'here' ?

    Which humans where, are' interfering'?


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