“The resources we have are entirely insufficient” — CAR’s Epitaph

“The resources we have are entirely insufficient.” — Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees briefing the Security Council today on the crisis in the Central African Republic.

Top officials from the UN, including the head of UN Peacekeeping, the top humanitarian official and the High Commissioner for Refugees briefed the Security Council today on the crisis in the Central African Republic.  They shared a common message: the UN does not have the financial resources it needs to do its job and serve the people of CAR.

So far, donors have only committed about one-sixth of the UN’s $552 humanitarian appeal for CAR.  Funding for the current African Union-led peacekeeping mission is about $100 million short.

They also carried the common message that the security situation needs to be addressed first and foremost. Valerie Amos, the UN Humanitarian coordinator, said agencies could not reliably use a land route from the Cameroon to Bangui because the road was insecure. The problem is, flying in relief items is about eight times more expensive. She described how armed groups were changing the demographics of CAR by effectively forcing whole populations to leave the country or face violence.

When the security situation improves, the UN’s humanitarian and development agencies can effectively provide for the basic needs of displaced people and help rebuild state institutions and the economy. Without security, none of that is possible.

Providing security should not be prohibitively costly. Earlier this week Ban Ki Moon recommended a relatively large peacekeeping mission of 13,500 to supplant the 6,000 African Union peacekeepers already on the ground. This is a step in the right direction, but one that needs at least $800 million to sustain for a year.

It’s not that donors can’t commit the relatively modest resources to stabilize CAR. It’s that CAR is a low priority. Compare this to Ukraine. In just a few days, Kiev secured billions financial pledges from the United States and Europe. But CAR is a landlocked country in the middle of Africa. It’s geopolitical and strategic value to the world’s major donor countries is basically nil, so the funding is very slow to materialize.

Guterres’ lament to the Security Council may well become CAR’s epitaph. Everyone knows what is required to stem the crisis, but countries have not yet been willing to pony up the funds to get the job done.