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Global Humanitarian Forum Shuts Down


A private foundation run by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has shut down for lack of funds. The Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum was started in 2007 with a mission to focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Former UN chief and President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, Kofi Annan, was clearly saddened when he announced the dissolution of his foundation. He said it was a great disappointment to everyone that this promising project had to end this way.

The Forum was announced with great fanfare when it began in 2007. It had an illustrious Executive Board composed of well-known humanitarians. It had a mission to help developing countries adapt to the worst effects of climate change.

But, in the end, a lack of money defeated all these high hopes and the highly indebted Forum had to close.

The CEO and director general of the Forum, Walter Fust agrees the Forum could have done better. But he says the organization has accomplished a lot in a short space of time. He says it takes longer than two years to get a complicated climate change initiative going.

"But, I think we have chosen the right focus also the right subject," he said. "But, the subjects are not yet, let us call it, mainstream. So, that was a certain hindrance in, let us say, having more easy access to financial institutions," Fust said.

The Swiss government says it will cover the Forum's $1.66 million debt. And, it agrees to pay the outstanding salaries and social security benefits of the staff.

The government has paid nearly $1 million a year to support the Forum's activities since it started in 2007. However, the Forum was not able to attract enough additional funding from donors to keep the organization afloat.

The Forum's main achievement was to install weather data collectors on mobile phone towers in Africa. This project provided better climate information to impoverished communities.

Fust says he is surprised at the reluctance of governments to contribute to the Forum. But, acknowledges times have changed and the competition for limited resources has become more intense.

"Of course we are not a humanitarian relief operation and we are also not a development entity," he noted. "We are in-between thematically both. And, some people prefer to invest in peace-making or nation-building or humanitarian relief or response, but not, obviously, in such activities," Fust said.

While the Forum is closing its doors, some of its projects will go on. The World Economic Forum says it will include some of the Forum's themes into the program of its annual meeting in the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

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