The United Nations has released $70 million in aid to nations of the world that have suffered devastating emergencies. United Nations Under-Secretary-General of Humanitarian Affairs, Stephan O’Brien, communicated in a statement from his office that while this allocation of funds will provide help, there is little question whether sources of more funding will be needed in the near future. This action by the U.N. marks a starting point working on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, Richard Dictus, executive coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers, emphasized in an interview upon arriving in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that a notable factor in reaching these goals will be the participation of volunteers.
O’Brien said, “With almost 60 million people forcibly displaced around the world, we face a crisis on a scale not seen in generations.” The $70 million in aid released by the U.N., officially stemming from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Funds or CERF, will go to nations like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Of these funds, $20 million has gone to Sudan and Chad to aid in establishing basic services and providing security for the millions who have been impacted by the 13 years of war in the area. Additionally, $33 million has gone to Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea where O’Brien explains, “climate shocks” and ongoing conflicts have created the world’s most vulnerable populations. Funds in the amount of $8 million have also gone to Bangladesh and Myanmar to aid in rebuilding shelter and healthcare facilities to help displaced and neglected communities.
While these CERF funds are helping a selected number of nations in need, other nations will depend upon volunteers and their own self-determination. Dictus, United Nations Volunteer coordinator, in his interview with Devex mentions that the first SDG, “to end all poverty everywhere,” is a little more complicated than the allocation of funds. He says, “Poverty reduction cannot happen on the basis of government policy, public investment or private investment alone. It is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes issues of education, health, and opportunities.”
Dictus continues to explain in his interview that volunteers offer a variety of skill sets and that through acting as “conduits to others to change behaviors,” the global issue of poverty can be better fought. Two examples provided to illustrate the effectiveness of volunteers by Dictus were Guinea and Togo. According to Dictus, 2,500 volunteers went to Guinea following the Ebola outbreak to educate on the importance of hygiene and methods to avoid infection, and 5,000 volunteers travel every year to Togo to aid in providing community services in rural areas.
Communities in other nations such as Lebanon and Egypt have had to struggle through tough times without emergency funds or volunteers. In these places, it has become common to bypass government agencies for aid as was reflected by the Lebanese this summer when they dumped sewage on the steps of parliament after sewers became dysfunctional for a prolonged period of time. In areas such as Lebanon, NGOs and the private sector have come to be relied upon for basic services like water supply. In Egypt, government spending on education dropped 1.5 percent from 5.1 percent of GDP in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2013. This has prompted the World Economic Forum to rank Egypt’s educational system among the bottom three in the world. This deteriorating educational system has created a booming tutoring industry, yet has forced some to spend up to 20 percent of their income on sending their child to a private school.
The release of $70 million in CERF aid by the United Nations will provide much-needed aid to those communities that have been displaced due to climate shocks and prolonged wars. This funding, along with the help of volunteers, may affect the many contributing factors causing poverty. Basic needs like shelter and healthcare are essential, but education is arguably the driving force behind prolonged change. The United Nations is beginning to take steps towards completing their new list of SDGs following the successful completion of their millennium goals in July.
By Joel Wickwire
Devex – Volunteers Are Key to Achieving the SDGs
China Weekly – UN Allocates Emergency Funding to ‘All but Forgotten Crisis’
The Economist – Public Services in the Arab World: Do-It-Yourself
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Inline Image Courtesy of Christopher John SSF’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License