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UN opens humanitarian chapter in Dubai

posted on 14/01/2006: 1226 views

Dealing with rebels or calculating how much financial aid to request for an entire country destroyed in a natural disaster is what makes up the daily lives of United Nations officers working for the humanitarian cause. The UN is the latest addition to Dubai's Humanitarian City that has opened a regional office here, taking the UAE a step towards realising the humanitarian hub it seeks to become.

The UAE already serves as a base for a number of non-governmental organisations because of its location and easy access to neighbouring continents. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) opened its doors last October. The aim of the office is not to bring humanitarian aid to the UAE but approximately to 20 countries from Morocco to Afghanistan, as well as GCC states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

"We don't deliver food or healthcare. We coordinate between all the actors so that there are no problems. It is a difficult task. When everything goes smoothly no one hears about us but when something goes wrong, and it often does, it's all anybody hears about," said Ivo Freijsen, head of the regional office for the Middle East, North Africa, Iran and Afghanistan based in Dubai.

"We have to negotiate with different groups, and sometimes rebels. It's difficult because they are often the cause of the problems in the first place," said Freijsen. Some of OCHA's tasks will include deciding whether humanitarian workers in the group will need escorts if their mission is for example, in Somalia, to how much humanitarian aid they can actually give.

According to the OCHA website, the budget of the office for 2006 is US$128,445,299 (more than Dh470 million) of which about 10 per cent or US$12,795,992 (more than Dh46 million) comes from the regular UN budget and the remainder more than US$115 million (Dh422 million) including projects and field activities from extra-budgetary resources donated by member states and donor organisations.

According to Freijsen, these governments came under false criticism from the international community. "The UAE is not a new or emerging donor. The government does a lot but they are not channelling through a multilateral agency and often donate bilaterally, directly to other governments," he said. (The Gulf News)


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