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UN HUMANITARIAN CHIEF STRESSES NEED TO ENHANCE COOPERATION WITH NIGERIA

By United Nations
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7 July - The United Nations humanitarian chief has met with Nigerian officials to discuss strengthening cooperation between her office and the Western African country, including through the setting up of a UN humanitarian support unit there.

“We want to build on the partnership we have developed with Nigeria to make sure that Nigeria is even better prepared in case something unexpected happens,” said Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, when she met Nigerian officials in the country's capital, Abuja, yesterday.

Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), had separate meeting with officials of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) during which they discussed strengthening cooperation between the regional bloc and the Office.

At a meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Homoibi, Ms. Amos expressed her appreciation for Nigeria's support for humanitarian emergencies in the world, including through its participation to UN peacekeeping missions and its voluntary contribution to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Nigeria, which itself benefited from CERF funding in 2009 and last year, made a $100,000 contribution to the Fund this year. Also, OCHA helped Nigeria respond to the lead poisoning crisis in Zamfara state.

Ms. Amos met with the ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Humanitarian Affairs, Adrienne Diop, with whom she had discussions on how OCHA could assist the organisation in its current efforts to establish a regional humanitarian policy to better respond to emergencies in West Africa.

She pointed out that much of OCHA's cooperation with ECOWAS takes place through the Regional Office for Western and Central Africa, which is based in Dakar, Senegal, and encouraged the regional bloc to enhance its cooperation with OCHA, including through participation in meetings. She offered to send an OCHA technical mission to ECOWAS to look into potential areas of cooperation.

ECOWAS is currently hosting in Abuja a regional Ministerial Conference on Humanitarian Assistance and Internal Displacement in West Africa, and Ms. Amos stressed OCHA's support for the Kampala Convention, the first legally binding regional instrument that obligates States to prevent internal displacement and assist those uprooted from their homes.

Ms. Amos urged all African States to ratify the Convention as soon as possible to ensure its prompt implementation. OCHA offices throughout Africa have voiced support for the Convention and have called for its promotion, ratification and implementation.