Vienna, 11 October 2007 Press release

Winkler: "Emergency aid for civilians in need must be at the centre of our efforts"


State Secretary Hans Winkler meets UN Under-Secretary-General for

Humanitarian Affairs, Sir John Holmes

Vienna, 11 October 2007 - "No matter whether caused by acts of war or natural catastrophes, the list of regions in which people depend on swift humanitarian aid is long. Swift and effective aid must focus on the protection of life and emergency relief for the afflicted civilian population," emphasised State Secretary Hans Winkler following his talks with Sir John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

"Hardly a single state is in a position to manage the consequences of large-scale catastrophes alone. For Austria, therefore, providing humanitarian aid is both part of our country’s ethical self-conception and an international political obligation. This aid comprises disaster prevention, humanitarian emergency relief and initiating the reconstruction of destroyed structures," said Winkler, in this context highlighting the importance of close coordination with other states and specialised international bodies such as the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). Through its activities, ECHO provides annual support to some 18 million people in over 60 countries and is thus regarded as the main actor in global humanitarian aid.

"Austria has a long tradition of international humanitarian aid," said Winkler. Citing examples, Winkler highlighted the recent cases of humanitarian emergency relief for the populations in southern Lebanon who were heavily afflicted by both acts of war and natural catastrophes, Java (Indonesia), Kashmir and the people in Austria’s neighbouring countries, as well as the long-term international commitment to antipersonnel mines.

"With the UN emergency relief fund the UN has realised a key reform project in the humanitarian field," said Winkler. The relief fund is a stand-by fund which is designed to help the victims of natural catastrophes and armed conflicts earlier and in a more reliable manner than has been the case so far. "Many calls for donations by the UN in the wake of humanitarian crises resulted in delayed provision of the necessary financial means. The UN emergency relief fund now makes it possible to take better precautions against imminent emergencies and reduce the consequences of unforeseeable catastrophes," stated Winkler. Austria’s contribution to the UN emergency relief fund amounts to 300,000 euros.

Federal Ministry for
European and international Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469