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UN humanitarian chief calls for new thinking on mega-crises

EU agrees trade-linked aid package for Pakistan
Brussels (AFP) Sept 16, 2010 - European nations struck a deal on Thursday to ease barriers to Pakistani traders in a bid to help the flood-ravaged country. Foreign ministers agreed to offer "ambitious trade measures" in moves designed to help Islamabad battle Islamist extremism. The details, a source said during summit talks in Brussels, would be worked out next month when the European Commission would come up with proposals on individual tariffs. British Prime Minister David Cameron led calls for EU partners to offer "ambitious trade measures essential for economic recovery and growth," and left satisfied at having secured a political commitment.

The stance came as the head of the United Nations refugee agency urged the world to do far more to help Pakistan recover from catastrophic floods that have left 10 million people without shelter. The UN is to launch a new appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars in New York on Friday. "The severity of this crisis demands an immediate and substantial response, taking also into account the strategic importance of Pakistan's development, security and stability in the region," the EU said in its end-of-summit declaration. Leaders of all 27 EU nations endorsed the "firm commitment to grant exclusively to Pakistan increased market access to the EU through the immediate and time-limited reduction of duties on key imports from Pakistan in conformity with WTO rules."

They also agreed to promote Pakistan's case to be granted special favours by the World Trade Organization, "provided it meets the necessary criteria" and following consultations with regional or sector rivals elsewhere such as India. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said last week that the move was designed to prevent Pakistan from degenerating into "extremism and fundamentalism." The commission, which polices EU trade matters, suggested last week that ministers consider ditching tariff barriers on 13 types of textile product, in an effort to kick-start an economic fightback. Those plans were not immediately backed by trade ministers. The idea of preferential treatment also caused consternation within the industry.
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Sept 15, 2010
The new UN humanitarian chief has warned that after the Asian tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods, the world must brace for a growing number of disasters that will need a new battle campaign.

Valerie Amos, the new under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, called for new thinking on combating mass catastrophes as she prepared to make a major new appeal for funds for Pakistan on Friday.

"This is an immense and still unfolding crisis," she said of the floods that are moving from north to south in Pakistan, where the government has given a provisional toll of at least 1,760 dead.

"It has just been become bigger and bigger and bigger over a period of time."

"It is one of the biggest disasters we have ever faced. So we will in future have to look at new ways of working, new ways of funding, broadening our donor base," said the former British minister.

Amos insisted that lessons must be learned from the bigger disasters of recent years, ranging from the 2004 tsunami than killed more than 220,000 people across the Indian Ocean to the Haiti earthquake in January that left 250,000 dead.

UN officials say the scale of the devastation in Pakistan is bigger because 21 million people are affected, many having seen their homes destroyed or lost their crops and farm land to the floods.

Pakistan also has the world's largest refugee population, mainly from Afghanistan.

"We can't just go back to business as usual in terms of how we tackle these large complex emergencies," she said, warning that there would more rather than fewer of the disasters.

"Having seen the tsunami, having seen Haiti and seen what is going on in Pakistan I think we have to recognize that we face bigger and bigger crises and we are going to have to work in a completely different way if we are going to grasp these," Amos told a news conference at the UN headquarters.

A review of how UN agencies and aid groups react to the mega-crises will be carried out in coming months, added Amos, who took up her job in August and made a trip to Pakistan her first mission.

Amos said the emerging scale of the Pakistan disaster had forced the new appeal on Friday, though she would not give a figure.

"It will be substantially more than the original appeal" which was for 460 million dollars.

The UN disaster relief chief told reporters that the floods are still spreading, particularly in the southern province of Sindh.

"Millions more have been displaced in the last few weeks," she said.

"The human implications of what will happen if not enough is done are terrible."

She told of a rising number of cases of cholera, diarrhea and malnutrition. Aid agencies are struggling to cope and catch up with the scale of events.

"This is a disaster which is bigger than one which the UN can deal with alone. It is bigger than what the humanitarian community can deal with on its own."

"It has been two months now that the water has been moving from north to south, it is the equivalent of a new disaster every few days. It is putting a huge strain on the capacity that we have.

Although UN officials complained last month that international funding for Pakistan had nearly dried up, Amos said about 70 percent of the earlier UN appeal had been found and another 400 million dollars had been donated through bilateral aid.

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday announced it would give Pakistan a 451-million-dollar emergency loan. The European Union is also considering new ways to help the stricken country.

Amos said the United Nations had to work harder to keep the disaster in the public eye.

"I really do feel that because this flood has happened over a long period of time, the way that the public has viewed this globally, it has moved off the agenda of many people," she said.




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New Zealand lifts emergency in quake-hit Christchurch
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Sept 16, 2010
New Zealand on Thursday lifted a state of emergency in quake-hit Christchurch as widespread damage prompted the central bank to leave rates on hold. Officials said New Zealand's second-largest city was moving into recovery mode after the 7.0 magnitude quake, which hit just before dawn on September 4 - the most powerful to hit the country in almost 80 years. A civil defence spokesman sai ... read more

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