I wish to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this important meeting, the Deputy Chairman of the African Union Commission for being with us, and the Panelists for their remarks. With humanitarian needs on the rise, the situation in Africa requires renewed attention and commitment. Italy’s strategic partnership with Africa is built on solid pillars: economic development; social and environmental sustainability; migration; and cooperation in maintaining peace and security. These themes of our partnership will be further consolidated during the Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference in Rome in May. I wish to highlight some points that are particularly important for us:
1. Italy is keenly aware of humanitarian needs in the African continent. We are direct witnesses of them every day, as hundreds of thousands of people risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach our coasts, most of whom originate from African countries. Since the beginning of 2016, Italian vessels have saved almost 20,000 lives at sea in search and rescue missions, an increase of 50% from the same period last year. 70% of all rescue operations in the Mediterranean are conducted by vessels flying the Italian flag. This is life-saving humanitarian action that we carry out in a spirit of solidarity. This humanitarian effort then continues on land, providing job opportunities and basic services.
2. The current El Nino phenomenon has had severe effects in Africa, as was illustrated. The link between climate change and the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters is evident. In the medium term, investments in preparedness and early warning must be accompanied by effectively contrasting climate change, as we agreed to do in Paris in December.
For the current crisis, however, I am proud to announce that Italy has adopted a response and assistance plan amounting to 10 million Euros to mitigate the effects of El Nino in Africa, focusing on the Horn and Southern Africa, the most severely affected areas. This plan provides for both emergency humanitarian and relief activities and for projects to re-start agricultural and pastoral activity, thereby helping rebuild resilience and support local communities.
3. While immediate action is needed in face of urgent needs, ultimately we must tackle the root causes of humanitarian crises, also by investing more funds on preventive diplomacy and mediation to end conflicts. Finally, I would like to underline that Africa has demonstrated leadership in the field of assistance to refugees, through the Kampala Convention and through the example set by many African countries that have been hosting refugees for years or decades.
4. In the longer term, resilience building and development are crucial to helping the most vulnerable and assisting affected communities. The work done by the African Union contributes to that, as is proven by the many synergies between the Agenda 2063 and the Agenda 2030. To achieve concrete long term results we must begin acting immediately, uniting humanitarian and development work. To this end, since Italy has been steadily increasing ODA towards Africa and we intend to double it by 2018.
Madame Chair, once again I wish to thank you for convening this meeting. I hope this discussion will be carried forward into the World Humanitarian Summit and beyond that into the high level events in New York in September.
I thank you.