UN aid chief postpones visit to GCC countries

Sir John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has postponed a trip to the UAE and other Gulf countries.

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NEW YORK // The UN's aid chief has postponed a trip to the UAE and other Gulf countries. The visit had been designed to encourage the region's oil-rich governments to provide more assistance to poorer countries through the UN. Sir John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, had planned to meet officials from across the GCC. He had intended to urge the six nations to channel more of the aid they give to war-torn and disaster-ravaged areas through UN organisations.

Sir John was in Dubai at the weekend as part of the World Economic Forum's second Summit on the Global Agenda, which ended on Sunday. However, his original plan for a Gulf-wide fund-raising tour was shelved because of an urgent mission to Sri Lanka's refugee camps. "I had been hoping to make a wider Gulf tour while I was there but the planning meant that that wasn't possible on this occasion. I hope to go back some time in the early part of next year."

His agency, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said aid was more effective and less likely to be duplicated when overseen by the UN rather than provided by individual countries on an ad hoc basis. "There are no particularly new issues there - it's a general desire to engage the countries of the Gulf more in the multilateral humanitarian system and encourage them to give more of the aid that they do give through the multilateral system and not just bilaterally," Sir John said.

"We do see some signs of progress on that front and we want to encourage that." @Email:jreinl@thenational.ae