Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come to the close of this year’s Humanitarian Affairs Segment, under the theme of, “Strengthening humanitarian assistance in times of unprecedented global humanitarian needs: driving transformation and solutions to address the urgent challenges of rising food insecurity and famine risk, protection risks and climate change.”
First, let me thank you for your participation in this year’s ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment. I also thank Martin Griffiths, under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, for his closing remarks for this segment.
Over the past few days, we have heard from expert panelists and explored actions to combat food insecurity, improve protection for civilians caught in armed conflict, and build deeper and broader partnerships to better confront the challenges of the 21st century while building resilience, sustainable solutions, and recovery in climate-related disasters and crisis contexts. We heard how protracted conflicts, disregard for international humanitarian law, and the climate crisis are driving human suffering and holding back and unravelling sustainable development and how important a nexus approach is to break this cycle.
This is why is even more important that we have just agreed to this year’s humanitarian resolution. Despite the complex negotiations, as reflected in the different explanation of positions, I believe this text represents a significant achievement in our collective efforts to address pressing humanitarian challenges. Indeed, it encompasses topics of direct relevance to the themes of this segment, particularly food insecurity and the risk of famine, the humanitarian impacts of climate change, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
In particular, the resolution reaffirms the importance of international humanitarian law: we have added a progressive language on the prohibition of attacks against objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, protection of civilian infrastructure and on the functioning of agrifood systems and markets in situations of armed conflict. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine shows how urgent and much needed these topics are. The resolution also highlights the importance of strengthening coordination among humanitarian organizations, governments, and civil society actors to ensure a comprehensive and effective response. For the first time in this resolution, we have also underlined the link between food insecurity and displacement.
Furthermore, the text contains new language on the importance for humanitarian organizations to enhance their efforts to prepare for, address and minimize the humanitarian consequences of climate change and environmental risks; and to welcome the Early Warning for All Initiative launched during COP27 held in Sharm El Sheikh, and to recognize the importance of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems initiative in achieving that goal.
As we conclude this year’ Humanitarian Affairs Segment, I want to thank you for your invaluable insights into the realities, needs and aspirations of people affected by humanitarian emergencies.
As our keynote speakers have underscored, the humanitarian challenges are enormous and global suffering is at levels not seen in generations.
We are facing the largest global food crisis in modern history and the specter of famine looms large, with millions of people one step away from famine-like conditions, and hundreds of thousands of people experiencing life-threatening conditions.
As a result of conflict, the climate crisis, and the world’s unparalleled levels of food insecurity, we are observing unprecedented levels of displacement. Furthermore, we must underline once again that conflicts remain the main driver of food insecurity and humanitarian need.
Our conversation has reaffirmed that we need to adopt a holistic approach to the global food security crisis. We are not going to be able to “humanitarian” our way out of the current food insecurity challenges.
We need political solutions, we need climate adaptation and mitigation—especially in sustainable climate-resilient agriculture and livelihoods—and we need to be faster, more effective, and less risk averse across humanitarian and development efforts.
We also spoke about how development aid is not reaching those who are most vulnerable. That paradigm needs to shift, and it needs to shift now. In order to address the drivers of food insecurity, we need flexible and urgent funding, especially toward anticipatory action, and financing.
We heard from speaker after speaker that there is ample evidence that starting a humanitarian response before a foreseeable shock occurs is much faster, more dignified, more cost-efficient and saves more lives. Anticipatory action must be applied and improved.
Central to all discussions was the fact that women and girls need to be prioritized and at the center of our strategies, our assessment of risk, and our programmatic responses. They need to be at the decision-making table for designing humanitarian and development solutions. We also need to ensure that funding is reaching local NGOs and local actors, especially women’s organizations that are often at the forefront of the response. I hope next year’s resolution will be bolder in this direction.
Our conversations also emphasized that we must reinforce protection from the onset of a crisis and make sure that protection is funded, flexible and multi-year. We heard that addressing protection risks, needs, and actions must be a part of all sectors. And we spoke about the “power of proximity” – of humanitarians being with the populations they are helping – and in this sense, it is more important that states and parties to conflict respect and uphold all their obligations to international humanitarian law.
However, protection risks, needs and challenges are on the rise in humanitarian crises and are disproportionately affecting women and children and others in vulnerable situations.
Thus, we must reinforce the centrality of protection and related system-wide efforts. Once again, International humanitarian law must be respected in all circumstances, especially when fighting occurs in populated places: we see the consequences of the failure to respect IHL in loss of life, suffering, attacks and impediments to humanitarian and medical workers and facilities, attacks on essential services and objects indispensable to survival of the civilian population which reverberate for years and decades to come.
We heard from some of our panelists, from national NGOs and from Member States that international humanitarian law and human rights are not abstract concepts; they are exactly what protect civilians from being deliberately attacked, starved, raped, and displaced.
Our conversation has underscored the need for deeper and broader partnerships across the siloes to tackle the increasingly complex challenges we face. This includes partnerships with the private sector, academia, civil society, local and regional actors, women, youth, and foundations, as well as, of course, the UN, governments, donors, and international NGOs.
This conversation has also demonstrated that, considering the enormous challenges ahead and scarcity of resources, we must pool our expertise together in new and creative ways and do more to support, empower, and harness the expertise of local actors.
And, lastly, for these partnerships to be successful, we need to work collectively before, during, and after crises. There are limits to what a humanitarian response can achieve. Yet, we can make our efforts more effective by acknowledging this reality and leveraging the unique capacities and mandates that we bring to bear across the entire response.
The climate crisis is the challenge of our lifetime, and we must mobilize collective action and ambition to address it. There is no time to lose.
We know exactly what we need to do: Scale up investment in disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, in the most vulnerable and exposed communities and countries.
Scale-up climate finance, including for adaptation and resilience, commensurate with the level of current and projected risks and needs.
We need “The Early Warnings for All” in place by 2027.
We know that Climate-related displacement is on the rise and set to worsen if we do not course correct. We must fight to fulfill international commitments in an anticipatory and innovative way to mitigate and prevent devastating climate-related disasters.
Many speakers have noted the need to retain optimism, and I fully agree. Despite the enormous stress it is under, the humanitarian system we have today is strong, but we need it even stronger and more agile, grounded in humanitarian principles and responsive to the people it serves, to meet the unprecedented needs that lie ahead. We have learned about good practices from ongoing adaptations across humanitarian operations and actions in the face of these challenges, and thus build new partnerships and unite efforts across organizations.
Respect for international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence are essential for humanitarian action. It is necessary to ensure and facilitate humanitarian access and strengthen capabilities and efforts on humanitarian negotiations and access so that humanitarians reach the people most in need, wherever they are.
We need to urgently close the funding gap to meet humanitarian needs, especially through support for the Humanitarian Response Plans, Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and humanitarian country-based pooled funds which together deliver to save lives, respond early to emerging and ongoing crises and support underfunded crises.
As I have said before, it has become a sorrowful trend that year after year, we continue to describe humanitarian needs and drivers as unprecedented. The global humanitarian situation was already dire at the beginning of 2023, and as we have seen in the first six months of the year, the need for humanitarian assistance shows no sign of slowing down. If we follow up on what we have agreed over the past few days with concerted action, we can begin to reverse the sad trends that drive millions more people into suffering each year. We need to turn ideas into actions.
Again, thank you so much for your contributions to this highly successful Humanitarian Affairs Segment. The panels and high-level events had an inclusive array of incredibly experienced panelists; and I thank them all for their insights and recommendations.
I would like to pay special tribute to the humanitarian community – they work in the most difficult circumstances around the world and put their lives at risk to save the lives of others.
I express sincere gratitude to OCHA and DGACM colleagues for the support provided throughout, and again thank you for the tireless work of all the humanitarian partners.
I hereby close the 2023 session of the Humanitarian Affairs Segment of ECOSOC.