H.E. Ursula Mueller United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator

in early april 2018, the aha centre had the honour of meeting h.e. ursula mueller, the un’s assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, who has been a strong supporter of global humanitarian and development affairs for over 30 years. ms. mueller has developed an extensive range of experiences in international affairs, through her previous roles as germany’s civil coordinator in kosovo, germany’s special envoy to afghanistan, deputy director-general at germany’s ministry of foreign affairs, and director-general of germany’s ministry of economic cooperation and development. She has also served as a member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), as well as to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA). Furthermore, her leadership in the role German Executive Director to the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank Group between 2014 to 2017, resulted in stronger ties between the World Bank and the United Nations (UN). Having the opportunity to engage with Assistant Secretary-General Mueller during her visit to the home of One ASEAN One Response in Jakarta, the Column’s editorial team gained valuable insights on regional and international cooperation for the provision humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian affairs partnership between ASEAN and the UN has progressed throughout the past 10 years, particularly after the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar during 2008. Ms. Mueller stressed that ASEAN, the UN, and other global humanitarian stakeholders can deliver better results through working together. During the discussion, Ms. Mueller highlighted the key strength of disaster management in the ASEAN region – namely the presence of a formal mandate, agreed-upon by all Member States. “You have a platform in which ten leaders have signed the Declaration on One ASEAN One Response. It gives you a very strong mandate to be relevant,” she said. “However, delivering on that mandate requires political support, financial support, and resources. Not only financial resources, but also relevant skills and standards that you can develop further through training.” Ms. Mueller spoke about the importance of balanced partnerships, partnerships that suit the needs and context of both parties. She mentioned that fostering partnerships does not necessarily mean saying “yes” at every opportunity, but that often the real strength of a durable partnership can be knowing when it is appropriate to say “no” while, at the same time working together to find the best solutions to address humanitarian needs. It is in the context of growing trust and partnership that the AHA Centre continues to work closely with UNOCHA to facilitate induction courses for the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT) – as part of the ASEAN-ERAT Transformation Plan – which links closely to the curriculum of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC). As the international and regional humanitarian systems continue to develop, the need for coherence and interoperability between the coordination mechanisms managed at these various levels will be essential if we are to fulfil our collective mandate of meeting people’s needs by supporting the lead role played by governments. The priority must be that our respective processes and mechanisms complement, but do not duplicate each other, while assuring the ongoing safeguarding of the universally agreed humanitarian principles. With regard to collective emergency response and the coordination roles of entities such as the AHA Centre and UNOCHA, ASG Mueller believes that preventative measures are more effective than a purely reactive approach. Thus, investing in early warning systems and preparedness should be considered as a top priority for the ASEAN region. Such investment will enable early action and improved coordinated responses at the regional level and support collective and synergised engagement in broader humanitarian challenges, including climate change, migration, drought, urbanisation, and human-induced disasters that cause displacement and human suffering. Ms. Mueller is also a member of the International Gender Champions network – a group comprised of male and female leaders who aim to deconstruct gender barriers and establish gender equality through their leadership capacity. “It is important that we have the support of the men who are in positions of power,” she stated. “The Secretary-General of the UN has approved a gender parity strategy, which he is very committed to. Through women’s empowerment measures, we aim to achieve gender parity by 2028, as there is strong evidence that women’s engagement in peace-building and peacekeeping operations can positively impact the achievement of solutions.” “In my own experience, in order to break the glass ceiling, you have to be professional, true to your values, also make your own contributions known” H.E. Mueller continued. “Your contribution to solving an issue deserves recognition, but you have to also be humble enough to know that it is not about yourself. You may be frustrated, but stay optimistic, realistic, and never give up,” Ms. Mueller stated, while sharing her tips as a leading woman in the humanitarian network.
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