Opening Speech by Beate Trankmann, UN RC: Mongolia Humanitarian Forum

May 9, 2016

Mongolia Humanitarian Forum

International Humanitarian Relief & Collaboration for Dzud affected Herders  

Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator in Mongolia                                                                                                                 

  • H.E. Mr. Oyunbaatar, Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia
  • Hon Mr. Enkhbold, Member of the Parliament, President of Mongolian Red Cross Society
  • Mr.  Badral, Chief National Emergency Management Agency
  • Ms. Bolormaa, Secretary General of Mongolian Red Cross Society
  • Mr. Faller, Acting Deputy Director, Asia Pacific, IFRC
  • Humanitarian Partners, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations is pleased to join you today to mark Humanitarian Day in Mongolia. We recognize the significance of this occasion as the World Humanitarian Summit approaches in Istanbul later this month. The world is at a critical juncture. We are witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since the Second World War. The scale and frequency of natural disasters is growing, and climate change is increasing humanitarian stress. In the last two decades, 218 million people each year were affected by disasters; at an annual cost to the global economy that now exceeds US $300 billion. The cost of humanitarian assistance has also increased dramatically by 600% over the past decade. There is an urgent need to turn the tide.

The upcoming World Humanitarian Summit provides an opportunity to discuss potential solutions. Eighty countries have confirmed their attendance including Mongolia and we would be honored if the country would be represented at the highest level. The summit is expected to reaffirm humanitarian principles and to share best practices placing people at the center of humanitarian action to save lives. It will call on countries and communities to initiate measures to be better prepared for and respond to crisis and become more resilient to shocks. 

Reducing vulnerability, managing risks, and strengthening resilience must always be central to humanitarian action in order to decrease the need for humanitarian assistance in the long run.

Mongolia has witnessed a harsh dzud winter this year affecting close to 40 percent of its herder population. More than 11,000 households are considered most vulnerable. Herders have been faced with a number of challenges including lack of access to basic services, food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, and psychological trauma. Many lack cash and debt levels are rising. The impact on livestock has also been considerable. Of nearly 56 million livestock, over 900,000 animals have so far perished.

International humanitarian and development partners, together with the Government of Mongolia, prioritized early action to ensure that the dzud response was both timely and effective. At the end of last year, the livelihoods of many herder households were already under a lot of pressure due to high levels of indebtedness, the meager harvest and poor pasture grounds caused by last year’s summer drought. The recognition that this situation would be further aggravated by a potential mass loss of animals as the main source of income and food for households triggered remedial action.

The Government utilized much of its State Emergency Reserve towards preparedness and response interventions which have included the provision of hay and fodder, road clearance and repair, health and social service assistance, transportation and logistics support.

To complement the government response, the United Nations mobilized US $2.4 million through its Central Emergency Relief Fund. This was part of a broader effort to kick-start additional resourcing for response interventions. The assistance addresses the survival and livelihood needs of 4,390 most vulnerable herder households in 6 aimags and 45 soums. Families are receiving integrated support that includes food rations, micronutrient supplementation, hygiene and dignity kits, alongside with livestock fodder and animal health kits. Households are also being provided with cash grants to address other needs of daily life.  This integrated package of assistance is being delivered by UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO and UNDP as well as our NGO partners World Vision, and local government authorities. 

The UN response is being supplemented with funding from other international actors including ADB, JICA, IFRC, ECHO, USAID, SDC and SIDA who have contributed an additional USD 3.9 million to the dzud response and are implementing interventions in partnership with the government, Mongolian Red Cross Society, and humanitarian NGOs such as Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Caritas, People in Need and others.

The close coordination and collaboration with the government has been critical in devising the nature and scope of support provided by the UN and others. NEMA and the local authorities helped with the selection of beneficiary households by validating the relevant data. Local authorities also played an important role in ensuring the delivery of assistance from soum centers to the targeted households.

A concerted effort was made to use common guidelines and criteria to determine household vulnerability, streamline targeting and standardize assistance to improve coordination and synergies between the various international actors involved in the response. Joint multi-sector assessments were also successfully conducted and helped improve identification of critical needs, scope, scale and coverage.

The need for creation of an institutionalized coordination mechanism between the Government and the international community was a key lesson learnt from the 2009/10 dzud response. NEMA’s simultaneous role as the Secretariat of Mongolia’s National Emergency Committee and a co-chair of the UN Humanitarian Country Team has been crucial in ensuring complementarity of the national and international responses to the dzud. This represents a best practice and I would like to take this opportunity to thank NEMA and Mr. Badral for the active leadership.

In this regard, we hope to see similar examples of institutional strengthening continue, and welcome the current initiative to adopt a revised Law on Disaster Prevention in Mongolia. The revisions are important because they will bring additional clarity to future humanitarian assistance provision and the declaration of disasters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the immediate needs are being met, we are also acutely aware of the medium term implications of another drought summer and dzud winter in 2016/2017, which must be considered, planned for and ideally resourced now. In this context, there is a need to better understand the effects of El- Nino on Mongolia and to foster regional cooperation in reducing the impact. Mongolia is already included in the UN list of countries in the region that are being monitored in regards to El-Nino.

Over and beyond these medium term considerations it is critical to start investing into longer-term preparedness measures and begin contingency planning for the increased likelihood of more regularly occurring extreme weather cycles and the impact of climate change increasingly facing Mongolia including droughts, advancing desertification, and water scarcity. There also is a concern that the pressures on ecosystems and land resources created by overgrazing and mining will continue to increase livelihood hardships for herders and rural populations.  Establishing a stand-by government preparedness fund and mechanism could be one of the elements in the tool box.

In line with commitments outlined in the Sendai Framework, the Convention on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN will continue to strongly advocate for and support efforts to improve emergency preparedness and response capacity at institutional and community levels while mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development planning with a view to reducing the cost of disaster response in the future. We will also as part of our new 5 year UN Development Assistance Framework promote sustainable environmental management.

We have learned all over the world that development cannot be sustainable if it is not risk informed. Understanding and acting on the interconnectedness between humanitarian assistance and early recovery, disaster risk reduction and development interventions is the only way to build resilience of communities and countries and mitigate future risks. The United Nations has a long-standing relationship with the Government of Mongolia in preventing, preparing for and managing disasters. 10 years ago we helped establish the National Emergency Management Agency. Today we are jointly managing the Humanitarian Country Team. United Nations agencies are working in their areas of expertise to help identify and reduce risks, build national and local capacities for preparedness or emergency response, to raise public awareness and educate, to assist rural and urban communities overcome their vulnerabilities and much more. We stand ready to continue and expand that work!

After the World Humanitarian Summit, the work must continue to implement the commitments and monitor progress and promote change. The Summit is not an endpoint – it is a starting point to make a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. We all have a key role to play in building a shared vision for action, change and mutual accountability.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in this year’s dzud response and we look forward to seeing the results of this important undertaking to shield vulnerable households from the worst effects of the dzud now and tomorrow. 

Thank you.

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