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Security Council – Briefing UN Relief Chief O’Brian

Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, following the briefing by UN Relief Chief Stephen O’Brien

Thank you Mr. President.

At the outset, I wish to thank the USG and Emergency Relief Coordinator O’Brien for his briefing on his recent field trip, but mainly for the hard work you and all humanitarian actors put in your daily activities. You and OCHA deserve our praise and the full support of this Council.

In his recent visit to Somalia, Secretary General Guterres said (and I quote) “addressing the crisis in countries like Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and the North East of Nigeria is not a question of solidarity, it is a question of enlightened self-interest” (end quote). He continued by highlighting the interconnections between today’s crisis and the importance of promoting an holistic and integrated approach to peace and security.

We fully support this vision, also in light of the recent SC trip to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin and we subscribe to the call for immediate famine prevention assistance launched by the SG.

Mr. President,

Italy is gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. In the last 24 months, the people of Yemen have seen their daily lives severely disrupted, in the ways that Under-Secretary-General O’Brien has so eloquently described.

We urge the international community to support the Humanitarian Response Plan launched in February by OCHA and subscribe to its integrated response. On our side, we are already engaged in the field of nutrition and assistance to women and girls victims of violence. For 2017, we plan to allocate a further contribution to be announced at the Donors Conference scheduled in Geneva for April 25th.

Getting the funds is not enough. Humanitarian assistance needs to be able to reach those who are in need. We therefore call on all parties to the conflict to guarantee, full, timely and unimpeded humanitarian access, at all times. It bears repeating: there can be no military solution in Yemen, a political agreement is the only way out. We call on all parties to the conflict to show genuine commitment to negotiate a pragmatic solution under the auspices of the UN and the Special Envoy for Yemen. In this regard, the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs is currently visiting the Region to discuss the political dimension of the crisis and how Italy can lend its political and humanitarian assistance.

Mr. President,

The crisis in Yemen is closely linked to that in neighboring Somalia and we commend you, USG, for this regional perspective which underlines the interconnectivity of the crisis.

Somali refugees in Yemen and Somali returnees from Yemen are a further matter of concern. It exacerbates the risk of famine in Somalia and may contribute to illicit trafficking and connections between transnational organized crime and terrorist groups which also represent an obstacle to safe and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Italy will continue to support the newly elected President Farmajo and the Somali Authorities in overcoming the current humanitarian tragedy, with a particular focus on the empowerment of women and the youth, nutrition, social protection and resilience, access to health services and demining.

But there needs to be a collective effort and in this regard I want to commend the generosity displayed by neighboring countries, chiefly Ethiopia and Kenya, in hosting Somali refugees vis-à-vis drought, climate change and security threats, as recently pointed out by the SG during his visit. We are encouraged by the outcome of the High-level round table convened by President Farmajo in Mogadishu, on February 28th. We look forward to further results from the IGAD Conference on Somali refugees of March 25th and to the London Conference on Somalia in May.

The time to act on Somalia is now. We have the moral imperative to avoid a situation like the one in 2011 when hundreds of thousands of people perished in the famine.

With regard to South-Sudan, let me point out two specific aspects of this crisis which are of particular concern.

First, limitations to humanitarian access by UNMISS and NGOs.

Second, the potential role of the South Sudanese Churches in alleviating the crisis and strengthening the resilience of the population. The Churches often constitute the last bastion of humanitarian and spiritual assistance at the grassroots level. Yet, as demonstrated by the case of Kajo Keji, two weeks ago, they are increasingly subject to intimidation, harassment and violence. We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on religious freedom and on the safety of religious places in the Country and reiterate our firm support to the Council of South Sudan Churches in its unwavering efforts to uphold peace, dialogue and reconciliation in the region.

I thank you Mr. President.