15 December 2011
General Assembly
GA/11196

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

86th Meeting (AM)


General Assembly Adopts Four Resolutions as Speakers Stress Importance

 

of Streamlining Responses to Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

 


Only by streamlining responses to the world’s complex humanitarian landscape would the needs of those affected by disasters and emergencies be met, speakers stressed today as the General Assembly adopted four resolutions relating to humanitarian assistance.


Acting by consensus on the texts — which ranged in focus from the response to the drought in the Horn of Africa to the continuing recovery effort in Haiti — highlighted, among other things, the importance of strengthening the coordination of aid as emergencies around the world grew in both scale and complexity.


Some of the texts focused on preparedness and disaster-risk reduction, encouraging Member States, the United Nations system and other partners to increase support for preparedness activities.  Additionally, the resolutions focused on the need to build regional, national and local capacities for humanitarian response, and stressed that national ownership was at the core of all relief activities.


“The current complexity means that only effective coordination can mould the diversity of approaches into a suitable response,” the observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said as the Assembly concluded its general debate before adopting the texts.  Referring to the wide range of actors becoming involved in global disaster and emergency assistance, he said their increasing number made it more difficult to guarantee the effectiveness of the humanitarian response and the quality of the assistance provided.  Indeed, even the scope of the label “humanitarian” had expanded to cover emergency relief, disaster-preparedness, early recovery, capacity-building, judicial action and institutional reconstruction, he said.


Agreeing that humanitarian actors were working in more places and under more difficult conditions than ever before, the observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said their activities ranged from providing assistance to displaced people in West Africa following post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, to helping victims of the widespread drought in the Horn of Africa, to aiding large-scale population movements in South Sudan, to responding to mass flooding in parts of Asia and Central America.  Humanitarian actors were grappling with many complex emergencies, often simultaneously, she said, calling for greater cohesiveness and stronger partnerships between humanitarian and development actors.


Also speaking today was the observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


Speaking in explanation of position following action on the resolutions were representatives of Israel and Costa Rica.


The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 16 December, to begin its consideration of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.


Background


The Assembly met this morning to conclude its consideration of two agenda items, “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance” and “Assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence”.  See Press Release GA/11195 of 14 December for background information.


Statements


MARWAN JILANI, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), described his organization’s recent thirty-first International Conference, which had focused on four themes:  strengthening legal protection for victims of armed conflict; strengthening disaster law; strengthening local humanitarian action; and addressing barriers to health care.  It had adopted a number of resolutions on health, migration and disaster law, among other subjects, he said.  “Strengthening local humanitarian action lies at the heart of the mandate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,” he stressed.  “Independent and strong operational partners at the local level are critical to reaching all vulnerable people and addressing their needs.”


He went on to note that national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies were best placed and equipped to provide effective humanitarian assistance at the local level, particularly in politically sensitive and complex situations.  That unique strength was being translated into concrete action by their staff and volunteers, including in such recent situations as the crises in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.  National societies were at different stages of development, and each had particular strengths and challenges, he said.  The recent Conference had therefore called for the strengthening of Government efforts to support the development of national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies and their volunteer base, while respecting their mandate and independence.


Turning to disaster preparedness and risk reduction, he said the IFRC was committed to its “Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance”, which could help anticipate and solve common regulatory problems in international operations, increase the entry speed of relief and ensure oversight and control by domestic authorities.  The Conference had addressed several important aspects of disaster law, including legal preparedness for international disaster response; legislating enhanced disaster-risk reduction, particularly at the community level; and addressing regulatory barriers related to meeting the emergency and shelter needs of people affected by disasters.  The Conference had also adopted a “Model Act” to help States incorporate those elements into their legal frameworks, he said.


WALTER FÜLLEMANN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the diversity of humanitarian concern encompassed natural disasters, armed conflicts and other situations of violence, growing vulnerability and displacement resulting from global challenges such as urban concentration, major economic inequalities, fluctuating food prices, environmental degradation, and rising crime in some parts of the world.  The use of the label “humanitarian” had also expanded in scope and ranged from emergency relief to disaster preparedness, early recovery, capacity-building, judicial action and institutional reconstruction, he said, noting that greater emphasis was now placed on the causes and structural consequences of crises.  When armed conflicts and other situations of violence broke out, humanitarian action endeavoured to protect the physical integrity and dignity of those affected, he said.


Regarding humanitarian action and development, he said there was a need to mix the two approaches in order adequately to address the needs of affected people and communities.  For its own part, the Committee always acted on the analysis of needs, based on assessments combining direct observations from its staff and partners and information collected from the affected people.  It strove to respond to emergencies and focused also on preventing violations of international humanitarian law.  The increasing number of actors involved made it even harder to guarantee the effectiveness of a humanitarian response and to pursue coordination efforts that would maintain the quality of the assistance provided, he said.  The current complexity meant that only effective coordination could mould the diversity of approaches into a suitable response.  In such an increasingly complex and highly unpredictable environment, the ICRC would continue to develop its capacity to pursue strictly and exclusively humanitarian assistance and protection-based action, while focusing also on the speed and quality of its operational response, the promotion of suitable laws and regulations through its monitoring of international humanitarian law, and its commitment to improving interaction and coordination mechanisms.


MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, International Organization for Migration (IOM), noted that humanitarian actors were working in more places and perhaps under more difficult conditions than ever before — from providing assistance to displaced people in West Africa following post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, addressing widespread drought in the Horn of Africa, aiding large-scale population movements in South Sudan and responding to mass flooding in parts of Asia and Central America — all while responding to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence in Libya.


Effective coordination among partners was essential when working in complex environments, she emphasized, adding that the IOM was committed to working with its partners at the local, national and international levels.  However, coordination could not be the end, but the means to best serving those in need.  With more natural disasters, more people were on the move, she said, noting that natural disasters were unpredictable and required national authorities, local communities and humanitarian partners to work together to strengthen resilience and preparedness plans.


Calling for greater cohesiveness between humanitarians and development actors, she said the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) provided quick, predictable funding that allowed humanitarian agencies to reach out immediately to those in need — not after surveys had been undertaken or policy papers drafted, but when lives were hanging in the balance.  She urged States to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and respect the neutrality of all humanitarian workers while facilitating their work in a manner consistent with the values of the United Nations.


Action on Draft Resolutions


Taking action on the draft resolutions before it the Assembly first took up the text Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/66/L.26), adopting it without a vote.


It then adopted the draft Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/66/L.27), also without a vote.


Turning to the draft resolution Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/66/L.28), the Assembly adopted that text, again without a vote.


It then adopted, once again without a vote, the draft Strengthening humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation in response to the severe drought in the Horn of Africa region (document A/66/L.29).


The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position after those actions, said she had joined the consensus on the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, adding that her country had worked closely with the Palestinian Authority to grow the West Bank economy.  Even as terrorists used the area to launch attacks, Israel had taken actions to help increase its gross domestic product (GDP), and the unemployment rate was now at its lowest point of the decade.  However, the resolution was far from comprehensive or complete, she said, noting that it painted a distorted picture in which key elements needed to bring peace to the region were absent.  That neglect of basic facts was nothing new, she said, noting that while Israel had joined consensus, the path to peace lay not in resolutions of the General Assembly, but in those worked out at the negotiating table.


The representative of Costa Rica, also speaking in explanation of position, emphasized that her delegation placed great importance on humanitarian and disaster-relief assistance.  While sharing the general elements presented by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China during the general debate, within the framework of resolution L.28, Costa Rica’s position differed in two aspects:  first, the text made no reference to the importance of identifying the concerns of the affected population; and the protection of civilians and timely access by humanitarian actors needed to be properly recognized.


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For information media • not an official record