|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
38th & 39th Meetings (AM & PM)
Economic and Social Council Adopts Text on Strengthening Humanitarian Assistance;
Data Collection, Decision-Making, Partnerships, Funding among Issues Highlighted
In Closing Remarks, Emergency Relief Coordinator Expresses Hope Ideas,
Expertise Shared during Segment ‘Help Us Alleviate Suffering, Save More Lives’
Expressing grave concern at the increasing number of people affected by humanitarian emergencies, the Economic and Social Council today pressed the United Nations and Member States — by a consensus resolution — to bolster partnerships and further develop common mechanisms to assess the needs of the affected communities in order to ensure the effective use of resources, as it concluded its three-day humanitarian affairs segment.
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, commended Member States on achieving consensus on the resolution, saying, “It is only through the robust engagement and commitment of Member States that we can make sure that the humanitarian system is, and remains, fit for its purpose.”
She said the text highlighted the crucial role of a solid base of evidence in order to increase effectiveness. Building local and national capacities for data collection and analysis would be vital, as well. The resolution also encouraged the United Nations system and Member States to continue to strengthen partnerships in support of national efforts, an issue on which progress was already being achieved.
Also under the text, Member States were urged to assess their progress in strengthening preparedness levels for humanitarian response. Further, Member States, the private sector, civil society and other relevant entities were encouraged to consider increasing and diversifying their contributions to humanitarian funding mechanisms in order to ensure flexible, predictable, timely, needs-based and, where possible, multi-year, non-earmarked and additional resources.
In making her concluding remarks for the segment, Ms. Amos said she hoped the thoughts, ideas and expertise shared “will help us to alleviate suffering, save more lives and offer more support to people in need”.
Earlier in the day, a related panel discussion examined ways to create partnerships for effective humanitarian assistance in support of national, regional and international efforts, during which panellists fielded questions from Twitter and Facebook.
Advertising professional David Droga, Executive Chairman, Droga5, described how money and time had been wasted by partnerships with “old-school thinking” that using celebrities would win the hearts of the general public. Many non-governmental organizations still employed a similar “cookie cutter” approach, for instance, by using images of children in Africa for fundraising appeals.
He went on to highlight a new advocacy campaign. The public education sector partnered with cell phone providers, instead of celebrities, to launch incentive-based programmes in which schoolchildren were given free handsets and cell phone minutes based on their school participation and performance. “NBA stars are not the centre of their universe; at the centre of their universe is a cell phone,” he said.
Bekele Geleta, Secretary-General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, underscored the importance of partnering with robust local actors. Where there were “good prime movers” of the community, partnerships tended to be successful, but where such an actor was lacking, a crisis could closely follow. The strength of the global partnerships relied heavily on internal coordination within societies and on cooperation with the wider community, he added.
In other business, the Council concluded its general debate, ahead of the resolution’s adoption. Many delegations concurred that the global humanitarian needs had increased at a time of financial strain and stressed the importance of securing safety for humanitarian workers and allowing access for humanitarian responders. They also agreed that resilience and risk reduction were vital. A number of disaster-stricken countries took the floor to share their perspectives.
The delegate of Estonia urged all parties to conflicts, including both State and non-State actors, to comply with international humanitarian law and allow access for humanitarian responders. Indonesia’s representative said international humanitarian assistance was always needed in major emergencies, but it was critical for the affected country itself to be the first-responder, as it was in the best position to determine the response in every phase.
The representative of Japanagreed on the importance of technical infrastructure for the collection and analysis of data to accurately understand needs, but also pointed out the need for strengthening community- and local-level disaster preparedness, which did not solely rely on technical infrastructure. “After all, we have to wonder just how ‘resilient’ such technical infrastructure itself could be when it is reliant on the resilience of more basic infrastructure such as transportation and communications networks,” he said.
Therefore, he argued, in countries where basic infrastructure was being established or improved, it was vital to consider measures to promote multi-layered systems to protect critical components of basic infrastructure.
Also speaking in the general debate today were the representatives of Ukraine, Pakistan, Canada, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Syria, New Zealand and Ecuador.
Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also spoke.
Also making a statement was a representative of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 23 July, to begin the general segment of its 2012 substantive session.
The Economic and Social Council met today to continue and conclude its 2012 humanitarian affairs segment. It was to hold a panel discussion on “Partnerships for effective humanitarian assistance in support of national, regional and international efforts”, and conclude its general debate.
For their discussions, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/67/89-E/2011/77). A 6 July 2012 note verbale (document E/2011/85) from the Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations transmitted the text of the Chair’s summary adopted by the Conference on the Urgent Appeal for the Sahel Region that was held at Geneva on 29 June 2012 on an Egyptian initiative.
Action was expected today on a draft resolution of the same name (document E/2011/L.11), submitted by Council Vice-President Fernando Arias ( Spain), on the basis of informal consultations. The text, among other things, would have the Council express grave concern at the increase in the number of people affected by humanitarian emergencies, including those associated with natural hazards and, at the increased impact of natural disasters.
The Council would also express its deep concern at the increasing challenges facing Member States and the United Nations humanitarian response capacity in the wake of such disasters and emergencies. The Council would, therefore, urge Member States to assess their progress in strengthening preparedness levels for humanitarian response, with a view to increasing efforts to develop, update and strengthen disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures at all levels, in accordance with the Hyogo Framework for Action.
Panel Discussion on Partnerships
Moderated by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, the panel, on “Partnerships for effective humanitarian assistance in support of national, regional and international efforts,” featured panellists: Bekele Geleta, Secretary-General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; and David Droga, Executive Chairman, Droga5.
It was chaired by Fernando Arias ( Spain), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, who said Member States’ choice of this morning’s topic was testimony to the importance of humanitarian partnerships, particularly with the increased numbers and diversity of actors providing humanitarian assistance. Examples of successful partnerships were showcased in the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the coordination of United Nations emergency humanitarian assistance, he added.
Ms. AMOS said humanitarian needs doubled in the last decade and the international community needed to continue to challenge itself to do things differently towards the creation of sustainable partnerships and an inclusive humanitarian system. It was vital to tap into all possible resources that existed, bringing together global expertise. She urged panellists and delegations to discuss how the humanitarian community could help people affected by crises and assist Governments in building resilience
Mr. DROGA, an advertising professional, described new ways of packaging humanitarian messages that resonated with the affected people. He said the advertising industry was “more than a sales person – it tells stories.” In reality, 90 per cent of all communications of humanitarian partnerships were a waste of money and waste of time. Partnerships involving non-governmental organizations have compelling stories to tell, but their messages were not reaching the hearts of the general public, which he said was disrupted and had other things to do.
Using celebrities to endorse something was an example of “old-school” thinking. Those messages were not in sync with consumers. Many non-governmental organizations still employed a similar “cookie cutter” approach, for instance, by using images of children in Africa for fundraising appeals. But “it doesn’t work like that any longer,” he said.
One example of doing things differently was the UNICEF Tap Project. About 50,000 children died every day worldwide due to water-related illnesses, and UNICEF’s campaign therefore asked consumers to pay $1 for tap water at restaurants, with the proceeds going provide clean water for children. Showing a short video, he said tap water was “something we take for granted” and UNICEF’s initiative could be seen as part of a broader effort to create sustainable partnerships and messages “consumers and partners can buy into”.
Next, he presented a second short video dealing with a partnership in the public education sphere. This was a major issue in the United States, as hundreds of millions of dollars were spent each year on advocacy and information campaigns. In some instances, superficial messages were created using celebrities, which, ultimately, did not resonate with the students. The average student had no interest in what a celebrity was talking about, he said, adding: “NBA stars are not the centre of their universe; at the centre of their universe is cell phone.” So, as that reality began to dawn on the public education sector, it had decided to partner with cell phone providers to launch, for example, incentive-based programmes in which schoolchildren were given free handsets and cell phone minutes based on their school participation and performance.
He also showed a video of Nike's Chalkbot cancer initiative. That company had partnered with Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation. Through the initiative, people could send messages via Twitter and other social media outlets, which would be printed by a street-painting robot vehicle – “chalkbot” - on the pavement along the course of a bicycle race. The concept was based on the tradition of "chalking" whereby supporters of riders and the tour write inspirational messages on the cyclists’’ route. “NGOs have compelling stories but they make them dull,” he said. “They can do better with a little magic.”
Mr. GELETA said that the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies came from a “world of partnerships” — with Governments, with the public and with the beneficiaries of their support. Partnerships with the private sector had arisen relatively recently and were now growing significantly. Through such partnerships, the organizations had recently created first international arm of the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as “auxiliary to Governments”, he said. There were 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, which were working with Governments but also with sovereignty. “It is a time-proven partnership”, he said of those alliances.
The Red Cross and Red Crescents had also formed partnerships with United Nations organizations, most importantly, at the operational level on the ground. In addition, the societies had three internal partnerships: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), along with 187 national societies. “Each arm of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is sovereign”, he added in that regard.
Indeed, in its 150 years, the ICRC had learned that the principles of independence, impartiality, neutrality were the most important elements of its work. Starting from that basis, the organization had built strong relationship its national societies and Governments. In particular, it had seen that, in countries in conflict, warring parties respected the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescents, as most recently witnessed most recently in Syria.
Moreover, where there were “good prime movers” of the community, partnerships tended to be successful. Where such an actor was lacking, crisis could closely follow. The strength of the global partnerships relied heavily on internal coordination within the societies and on cooperation with the wider community. In addition, success depended on the availability of resources, which were often short. In that vein, the ICRC Board had recently decided that 10 per cent of its funding should be used for preparedness. Development was also becoming a clearer focus.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent were accountable to Governments, but also to the people, and in that way, he said, the organization shared much with the United Nations and its agencies. “We can really work together to grow our partnership”, he stressed of that common ground. Finally, he cited several examples of new and potential partnerships between Red Cross and Red Crescents and their partners, including a new food security partnership with African Union, and an “international disaster dialogue” with the Swiss government and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, among other partners. He hoped that dialogue would soon turn into a partnership of its own, he said.
In the discussion that followed, Ms. AMOS asked Mr. Droga whether aid was premised on partnership, to which he said: “the more tentacles you have, the more good you can do”. People were connected through a desire to do good in times of crisis.
To a query from the representative of the Dominican Republic on creating institutional websites there were “less boring” and “more compelling”, Mr. DROGA said websites often were crammed with too much information. The sooner Governments could show “the positive”, the better. People wanted to see tangible results. He urged showing restraint with the content that was communicated.
Among the other questions raised, Kenya’s delegate said partnership was among the most important aspects of collective action and investments must be made to strengthen them at all levels. Touching on the divide between humanitarian and development actors and the need for bridging that gap during crises, he asked what kind of partnerships could be established.
He also said celebrity endorsements had a two-pronged effect. On one hand, it provided sensation to a situation, and on the other, it provided mileage for the celebrity. He wondered about the actual value added – had there been any studies to understand it? Also, celebrities often adopted narrowly focused pet projects and he asked how the scope could be widened to include adherence to humanitarian principles and a broader set of issues.
Mobilizing resources was another area of interest and questions centred on the best ways to work with the private sector. Some speakers asked about bridging language barriers and other impediments to create partnerships that held great potential for working more closely with humanitarian networks. Italy’s delegate wondered about applying communications strategies in countries that did not have complete freedom of speech.
Questions also centred on the public’s perception of the United Nations. The United Kingdom’s delegate asked whether the public had a uniform view of the United Nations. She also said it was well known that, within the humanitarian community, it was easier to raise attention for high-profile emergencies. How could that focus be maintained once the media spotlight shifted, and how could it be generated for protracted crises like drought in the Sahel?
Building on that query, Ms. AMOS asked if the United Nations wasted opportunities in that regard.
Responding, Mr. DROGA said technology was the great equalizer, allowing people with common interests to come together. The good thing about Twitter, Facebook and other sites was that they offered great platforms for creating a conversation with pre-existing communities. The challenge was framing a conversation to include them. Those controlling messaging did not understand social media. Tapping into the human truths rather than the politics of an issue was an excellent way to communicate a message.
To the question on celebrity, he said he was against the idea of using celebrity in a “cookie cutter” fashion. He urged creating mutually beneficial relationships and “asking more of them than just a photo shoot”. On working with the private sector, he said most marketers tended to talk amongst themselves. The same was true for Governments. The relationship with the private sector was about more than just money. The private sector community could also make a contribution. There was no Fortune 500 company that did not want to do something good.
As for the public’s perception of the United Nations, he said the narrative regarding the Organization was controlled by the news media. What the public heard was the “bad stuff”, not the daily progress, which was less attention grabbing. The United Nations must understand how to control that narrative and not be politically correct all the time. “Push back. You have more weight than you realize”, he insisted. Also, he urged having an “ask” of people beyond just a financial contribution. “Let the general public do your heavy lifting for you. Let them know you want to have a relationship with them.”
When the floor was opened for another round of questions and comments, Algeria’s delegate said the humanitarian aid landscape now included donors, operational agencies and civil society. He welcomed the broader humanitarian commitment. But that also posed challenges and could require more clearly defined mandates. He asked about the main impediments to the implementation of humanitarian principles in the field.
A representative of the European Unionunderlined the need to engage new partners and establish a broader base for action. More actors could cerate unique opportunities for the humanitarian response. In that regard, he urged focusing on the comparative advantages of the various actors. But there also was a risk of fragmentation within the humanitarian system, which could complicate coordination. How could fragmentation be avoided and diversity ensured?
Related to that, the United States’ delegate said partners could be used for fundraising, operational activities, or for fostering discussion. Which were the most vital ways to contribute and which partners were of most value: the private sector, regional organizations or non-traditional donors?
Sharing his country’s experience, Indonesia’s delegate said that under the 2007 global humanitarian platform, Indonesia had adopted a principle of partnerships designed to place humanitarian actors on more equal footing. It also had adopted disaster results partnerships, making Indonesia the third country to do so, after India and Mexico. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Disaster Monitoring and Response System was another example of how Indonesia was partnering to foster more effective action.
A final question, which came in via Twitter, asked panellists if they considered Governments in conflict countries as partners.
Responding, Mr. GELETA said the problems and solutions were well-known. Everyone had accepted that technology could push forward collective efforts. Resources were not really short. So, “why are we not taking the world forward more positively in a much more common voice”? He said countries needed to find the answers. Through the years, especially in the Horn of Africa, disasters killed people on an almost daily basis, yet no solution had been pushed forward. The answer must be understood.
On the importance of technology, he said that more than 80 Red Crosses around the world were not sufficiently connected today. “We’re pushing donors and the private sector to assist”.
To a Twitter question on how companies could work with the United Nations, a representative from the World Food Programme (WFP) said the first priority was to work with Governments. Private sector assistance usually focused on exploiting comparative advantages. More than 100 private sector partners had been critical to supporting the entire humanitarian system, especially in logistics. There was a “cultural” challenge to surmount and “we are working on that”, he said, underlining that the issue of risk analysis was also being improved. A key question was how to build national capacities based on that work.
As for whether Governments in conflict were humanitarian partners, Mr. GELETA said the Red Cross did not operate in a vacuum. It operated within a system. Three aspects of any given situation were important to address: Was the Red Cross freely able to choose which vulnerable populations to help? Was it able to make independent decisions on assistance to those people? Finally, could it move freely within the country to make choices for the vulnerable according to their changing situations? When those three aspects were not fulfilled, the humanitarian principles were encumbered.
Wrapping up the panel, Ms. AMOS discussed the importance of moving from a mindset of assistance to one of cooperation. Governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and communities themselves constituted the multitude of partners in any humanitarian response. The challenge was finding a way to negotiate those partnerships at a local level. A decent partnership must be clearly and properly managed, which was a time-consuming endeavour, as there could be tensions between what a national Government and local authorities wanted a humanitarian actor to deliver. That could impede implementation but, on the whole, the experience of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was that partnerships were a win-win if set up effectively.
As for avoiding fragmentation, she said it must be recognized that the current system under the Inter-Agency Standing Committee had been established long ago when the world was very different. “We have a system that is evolving”, she said, and the focus was on developing operational partnerships to facilitate the humanitarian response. Other questions today had centred on how build on the outpouring of public support during a crisis and how to fundraise for crises that had fallen off the global agenda or public consciousness.
She said public policy was also evolving and that existing mechanisms between Member States – including the Humanitarian Dialogue in New York — testified to that. The Appeals Process was a in a similar phase, and over time, it would develop and adapt. Leadership instruments – especially for the clusters – had changed as a result of what was happening on the ground. In Somalia, for example, she had been struck that some humanitarian actors were based in Nairobi, while others were in Mogadishu, which made the management of clusters and communications very difficult. Adapting those tools to meet specific local conditions was vital.
She concluded by offering examples of partnerships that had been sent to the meeting via Twitter and Facebook. One had been offered from the Illinois Institute of Technology, which was reaching out to Syrian students whose education had been put on hold due to the conflict in that country.
OLEKSANDR NAKONECHNYI ( Ukraine), pointing to the complexity of humanitarian crises, commended the implementation of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Transformative Agenda, which would contribute to a “more comprehensive global humanitarian system” based on stronger global, regional and national relationships. He also lauded the existing financial mechanisms, in particular, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), among others, in their efficiency in reducing the risk of emergencies and addressing humanitarian emergencies. However, because funding remained situational and inconsistent, he stated his support for the Secretary-General’s call to the donor community for more sustained and predictable financing, both through CERF and the Consolidated Appeals Process. Re-emphasizing the “significance” of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDRR) and its efforts in the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction consultations, he underscored the need to ensure public awareness of disaster risk through “total access to the information”.
He went on to say that on a national level, his country provided humanitarian assistance through the World Food Programme to the countries of the Horn of Africa. Ukraine also received support from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in tackling the aftermath of severe and long-lasting cold in the past winter. Further, Ukraine had begun construction of a gigantic steel-arch as part of a new environmentally-safe confinement over the damaged reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Thanking the international community for their continued funding and “valuable technical assistance” on the construction, he concluded by welcoming the United Nations’ approach to Chernobyl, which focused on sustainable development of the affected communities, calling such an approach “the essence” of a “Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of areas affected by Chernobyl (2006-2016)”, as proclaimed by the General Assembly.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan), noting the increased frequency and magnitude of natural disasters as a result of climate change, said that Pakistan had “braved major humanitarian challenges” in recent years, including the massive earthquake in 2005 and the continuous floods in 2010 and 2011, among others. These events, which occurred in different parts of his country, affected millions of people and destroyed infrastructure worth billions of dollars. Thanking the United Nations system and the international community for assistance in responding to these disasters, he said that Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority and the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities were now preparing to cope with “exceptional” rainfall that might result from the current monsoon season.
He went on to say that these experiences strengthened his country’s beliefs that the affected State had the primary role in initiation, identification, coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance, and he underscored the necessity that any provision of humanitarian assistance be guided by the respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of that State. He also pointed out that to save funds and contribute to long-term development it was important to utilize local resources and expertise. Further, accountability of all humanitarian actors, especially regarding delivery on the ground, needed to be ensured.
Emphasizing that it was imperative that the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council be informed about the work of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, he called for an inclusive, consultative and transparent approach in the developing of any new humanitarian agenda. Concluding, he emphasized that reporting mechanisms needed to remain “grounded in reality” and cognizant of the inherent differences within each humanitarian situations. By being sensitive to the unique attributes of each event and by not politicizing the situation, the efficacy of humanitarian work would improve.
MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia), noting that in recent years accomplishments that had required decades in development efforts had been flattened in mere seconds by natural events, said that in coping with climate-related disasters, building resilience by implementing disaster risk reduction efforts was a necessity. Indonesia, for that reason, had taken steps to build partnerships at all levels for that purpose, by the establishment of a national platform on the topic, as well as a Disaster Resource Partnership that engages construction and engineering companies, along with bilateral and regional arrangements. A forthcoming Asian ministerial conference in Jogjakarta would contribute to empowering local Governments and communities to cope with disaster.
International humanitarian assistance was always needed in major emergencies, he said, but it was critical for the affected country itself to be the first-responder, as it was in the best position to determine the response in every phase. In providing assistance the international community should follow the principles of neutrality and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and leadership of the affected country. Strong leadership by the affected country could better target such aid and result in better coordination of all partners. In that context, he reiterated support for the IASC Transformative Agenda for effective humanitarian response. In the area of data-driven decision-making, he said that capacity-building was needed to make sure affected countries had systems in place to supply relevant data prior to the occurrence of any disaster.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said that based on his country’s experiences from the earthquake last year, he fully agreed on the importance of technical infrastructure for the collection and analysis of data to accurately understand needs, but also pointed out the importance of strengthening community- and local-level disaster preparedness, which did not solely rely on technical infrastructure. “After all, we have to wonder just how ‘resilient’ such a technical infrastructure itself could be when it is reliant on the resilience of more basic infrastructure such as transportation and communications networks,” he said. Therefore, in countries where basic infrastructure was being established or improved, it was vital to consider, as a next step, measures to promote multi-layered and redundant systems to protect critical components of basic infrastructure, including transportation and communications networks.
Japan fully agreed with the importance of building partnerships for more effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, he said. His Government was making efforts to build various partnerships in the area of disaster risk reduction in the Asia-Pacific region, and was actively contributing in this field. For example, in order to strengthen the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, Japan was providing communication equipment, dispatching information and communications technology experts, and supporting the creation of emergency reserve stocks against natural disasters.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI Canada stressed that humanitarian needs were growing and crises were becoming more complex. Listing several current crises – namely, those in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Sudan and South Sudan – he said that solid and decisive leadership was essential in confronting them. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, along with other United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations, was taking practical measures that should be mentioned in order to enhance the work of others actors, he said. Canada supported the United Nation’s commitment to assigning the most qualified people to deal with humanitarian situations, and noted, in that regard, the concrete measures taken by Ms. Amos and her team. As the issue of responsibility was closely linked to all those matters, he therefore stressed the need for more transparency and communication with Member States on all changes that were occurring. Attempts to achieve reform would be considered successful only if the lives of the most vulnerable were improved.
In the current crisis in the Sahel region, Canada had provided $41 million to date, he said. However, it was important to note that humanitarian assistance alone would not solve the underlying causes of the crisis. Greater emphasis was needed on resilience and preparedness, helping communities to anticipate, respond to and recover from disasters. Humanitarian access and the safety of humanitarian workers was another major issue, with such access frequently denied and the lives of humanitarian workers often threatened. Much work remained to be done, but “real lessons are being learned from past responses”. He encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and all humanitarian actors to continue those efforts.
ALAN COELHO DE SÉLLOS Brazil, associating himself with the “Group of 77” Developing Countries and China, said that strengthening partnerships would increase ownership and strengthen humanitarian assistance. Many counties could contribute to those efforts in different ways. He noted, in that respect, the “Dialogue on Humanitarian Partnerships”, an initiative of Sweden, Brazil and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which brought together a range of interested countries to discuss contemporary humanitarian issues. Welcoming the dialogue between Office, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee members and developing countries, he said that such discussions would contribute to ensuring that United Nations humanitarian assistance was backed by the political support of the wider membership. Additionally, as disaster risk reduction was closely related to sustainable development, he welcomed the outcome of the Rio+20 conference, as well as the launch of the “Zero Hunger” initiative.
The global food crisis continued to require careful attention, he said, as it had still not abated, and durable and sustainable solutions remained elusive. It was imperative that the humanitarian community sought out and embraced new ways of mobilizing resources. It was also of the utmost importance that Member States support initiatives that allowed access to food for those suffering from severe food insecurity. Such work was part of a three—pronged policy that also included cash-transfers and incentives for family farming, he said; additionally, increasing the resilience of communities and making the transition between humanitarian assistance and development smoother were two critical activities for the international community. The United Nations must mainstream early recovery into all of its humanitarian activities, he stressed, adding that the collective effort to reduce disaster risks should also include the adoption of sustainable development approaches. Another critical element was to enhance the participation of vulnerable developing countries in those activities. Brazil, for its part, had significantly increased its financial contributions to humanitarian assistance in recent years.
DER KOGDA ( Burkina Faso), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the least developed countries, said humanitarian crises had become increasingly difficult to address. He commended the Secretary-General’s five-year Plan of Action, and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda. In most countries of the Sahel, the 2012 agricultural season had been marked by a lack of rain, which for Burkina Faso, had meant a fall in agricultural production. The situation had been exacerbated by a mass influx of refugees from Mali, escaping the conflict in that country. To address those crises, the Government had regularly supplied cereal to deficit areas and devised a plan to support vulnerable populations.
Noting that an international call had been launched to support Mali refugees, he said Burkina Faso’s response plan aimed to provide them with urgent humanitarian relief. Other problems had emerged, however, as many refugees had brought cattle with them. The Government, along with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), had provided agricultural and industrial by products to refugees. “The work ahead is immense”, he said, urging all partners to remain engaged. He thanked OCHA for its attention to the humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso, through its various visits and emergency appeals. He hoped the draft resolution would receive broad support.
WOINSHET TADESSE WOLDEGIORGIS( Ethiopia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, and the least developed countries, said global humanitarian needs had increased. Due to prolonged drought, countries in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel were in urgent need of a response. Strengthening the response capacity to provide timely, predictable humanitarian assistance had become all the more important. Food security in Africa required a long-term solution that built strong communities that were resilient to shocks and disasters. While there was a need to mobilize resources to respond to emergencies, more must also be done to prevent and prepare for disasters. Building national capacities to anticipate the likelihood of the fast onset disasters was critical to minimizing the aftermath effect. Investments in farming and irrigation technologies were important in that regard.
For its part, Ethiopia had significant experience in creating an effective, efficient and inclusive disaster management institutional system. “There is no security incident that ever hampered humanitarian operations in the country,” she said, noting that only sporadic threats of a “mild nature” had been reported from the Somali region in the eastern part of the country. The Government and its partners had taken steps to improve access to all agencies involved in humanitarian operations in the Somali region, including with the creation of a “Hubs and Spokes” system that Ethiopia jointly operated with the World Food Programme. It also had put in place national and regional platforms in which various agencies participated. No issue of access had ever been raised in those meetings. The Secretary-General’s placement of Ethiopia among those countries with serious problems of access to humanitarian operations appeared not to have been “evidence based”. It was far from reflecting the situation on the ground.
KARIN KAUP (Estonia), aligning with the European Union, underlined the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs leadership role in the response to humanitarian crises, and, in that vein, also recognized the critical role of United Nations funds and programmes, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others. Resilience was the key to avoiding suffering, but it was difficult to build resilience in cases of conflict. More than 1.5 billion lived in fragile or conflict-affected States, she said, and there were hundreds of thousands of refugees and people suffering from forced displacement. In complex emergencies, humanitarian access remained a key concern. In that regard, Estonia urged all parties to conflicts, including both State and non-State actors, to comply with international humanitarian law and allow access for humanitarian responders. Estonia also commended the humanitarian coordinator’s efforts to negotiate access to those affected by crises, most recently in Syria. Since 2012, she concluded, Estonia had contributed in various ways to help alleviate the crisis in the Sahel region, as well as those in Syria, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Yemen and other States.
MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), associating his statement with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the drought in the Horn of Africa last year had been a major test for the individual nations and the international community as a whole. “Glaring challenges” in response capacity and logistics had hampered a timely response to the disaster. The international community was learning from the experience and hoped to integrate those lessons into future responses. However, it was necessary for the community to ask itself what would happen when a disaster or a humanitarian crisis became chronic, or, as with Somalia and its fallout in Eastern Africa, the crisis became “virtually perennial”. Kenya felt that, in such situations, the burden fell disproportionately on neighbouring countries as the attention of the international community waned and faded. Partners and the United Nations system had to do more in that respect, and the actions needed to be multi-pronged without compromising humanitarian principles.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ transformative agenda held promise, he said, and its results must portend better outcomes for affected populations. Citing three broad areas where action was needed – namely, preparedness, prevention and response — he said that those elements were also related to two important concepts: resilience and risk reduction. There had been an ongoing debate about whether resilience and risk reduction were part of humanitarian or development action, he said, but “the needs of the affected populations do not care about this artificial divide”. Building capacities at all levels was crucial in the humanitarian response. Moreover, resilience could be built and the risk of disaster reduced if the humanitarian community focused on empowering local communities, including through development, education and skills training. Kenya, for its part, was strengthening the resilience of its people and investing in disaster risk reduction.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said her country had cooperated with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the basis of its responsibilities to its people. It had provided access to affected citizens, including through its response plan, and by facilitating access for international and national non-governmental organizations. That had happened anywhere citizens had been affected, in line with General Assembly resolution 46/182 and guidelines contained therein for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity. Syria had crafted a humanitarian response plan with United Nations agencies, and had carried out 44 projects in 11 sectors to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel.
“The report has ignored all of this cooperation”, she said, despite the fact that those efforts had been carried out in the reporting period. Syria would have liked to have seen a more positive perspective on its cooperation with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The number of citizens affected cited in the report — at least 1 million — was the same number used by the joint evaluation mission under the aegis of Syria. That included all citizens affected by coercive measures and sanctions imposed by foreign powers. The report should have included the reasons for which humanitarian assistance was needed, including unilateral economic sanctions, which contravened Security Council resolution 2043 (2012). Weak financing was another obstacle to Syria’s response plan. Donor commitments at international meetings had not been respected. The amount of assistance provided to date was 20 per cent of what had been pledged. Today’s draft resolution also ignored the situation in the occupied territories and the occupied Syrian Golan.
STEPHENIE KNIGHT (New Zealand) said 62 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, a finding that showed there was significant room for improving the United Nations relief coordination. New Zealand was aware that, as a cross-cutting strategy, disaster risk reduction, along with national safety nets, provided the best value for the money in reducing the impact of humanitarian crises. New and diverse groups were now involved in humanitarian aid and the system must become more inclusive of them — with stronger partnerships at the global, regional and national levels — to ensure better accountability to those affected, as difficult as that might be.
New Zealand supported the emphasis on data-driven decision making, she said, noting that it was also committed to the core principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, which must be adhered to as new partnerships formed. Inclusiveness not only applied to the humanitarian and development actors, but also to those affected by emergencies, including women, children and persons with disabilities. Voicing strong support for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda, he said the test would always be its usefulness in an emergency. The positive assessment of the pilot in South Sudan had been valuable, as it had produced a faster response and helped avert an epidemic — all at a reduced cost, making more resources available for emergencies elsewhere.
JONATHAN VIERA ( Ecuador) said that humanitarian decision-making must be based on facts, and therefore the collection of appropriate, disaggregated data should be a primary aim for the humanitarian community. He cited, in that respect, a new data collection tool which had been developed in the Andean sub-region and which made it possible to gather the statistics that underpinned humanitarian assistance. Ecuador had offered to host the fourth Regional Meeting on International Humanitarian Assistance Mechanisms, he added. The Government was gathering data in an effort to take response plans using new technologies and keeping within international standards for the humanitarian response. Ecuador believed that any humanitarian action should be underpinned by actions to reduce medium- and long-term dependence, as well as to strengthen local capacity. Further, in order to ensure respect for the principle of human dignity, the collaboration of all stakeholders was needed. Ecuador, over the past five years, had given priority to disaster risk reduction and response at the national level. It was also engaged in various South-South cooperation arrangements in that vein, such as in the case of the recovery effort in Haiti.
BERTRAND DELOUSE of the Sovereign Order of Malta agreed with the need to broaden and deepen partnerships for disaster responses and prevention, and emphasized the need to link the education of young people with humanitarian efforts. The Order remained loyal to its mission of helping the sick, the poor and the vulnerable. The Order was a permanent observer to the United Nations and it was represented in hundreds of countries; it focused on the rehabilitation of handicapped children and homeless and other vulnerable people. The Order had also been active in providing relief – in particular, in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene — in Pakistan, Japan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines and other crisis situations. Additionally, he said, the issue of crisis resolution had been constantly evolving, and now affected the relationship between military forces, diplomats and humanitarian actors. The existence of many parties, with many different objectives, had also raised the issue of having those actors co-habitate and cooperate. Unfortunately, no overall guidelines had been developed yet, as each crisis was unique, he said.
MARWAN JILANI, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said, “our partnership with Governments is unique,” noting that its International Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent brought together States parties to the Geneva Conventions, the 187 member national societies, ICRC and IFRC in one of the most successful partnerships in history. The partnership was also seen at the national level in the mandates of the national societies as auxiliaries to their national authorities in the humanitarian field.
To improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, he said capacities must be developed within countries and communities in need. When local communities, national societies and Governments could meet the needs of their populations and safeguard their development, humanitarian assistance demands were diminished. Strengthening resilience was a critical aspect of promoting sustainable development and momentum from the recent Rio+20 Conference must be built upon. Disaster risk reduction, preparedness and resilience building were integrated into all IFRC programmes, but a serious financing gap must be addressed.
PIERRE DORBES, International Committee of the Red Cross, highlighted threats to the delivery of health care and the safety of those who deliver it, which he described as “what is probably one of the most serious humanitarian concerns today in terms of numbers of people affected, yet one of the most neglected.” A hospital in Somalia had been shelled; ambulances in Libya and Syria had been shot at; and wounded people in Afghanistan languished for hours in vehicles that were held up at checkpoints. ICRC had decided to compile information on violence against health care workers from various countries and published a study in 2011. It was based on data collected in the field in 16 countries over a period of 2.5 years. The study had revealed a wide range of systematic threats to the delivery of health care and the safety of health-care personnel.
The violent events actually recorded by ICRC were only the tip of the iceberg, he said. But, they clearly indicated high levels of vulnerability both for the wounded and sick and for health staff in armed conflicts and other complex emergencies worldwide. Based on the analysis of events registered during the first four months of this year, ICRC highlighted three main observations. Local providers of health care were most at risk. Second, State security forces and non-State armed groups were equally at fault for violence against health care workers. Lastly, 27 per cent of the people affected by such violence were killed or wounded as a result. In response to that reality, ICRC had decided to launch a four-year initiative, entitled “Health Care in Danger”, to identify and implement concrete measures for improving security in the provision and access to health care in armed conflicts and other emergencies. He called for support for the initiative, saying “it really is a matter of life and death.”
AMY MUEDIN, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that recent and protracted crises had forced millions of people to flee their homes, either within or outside of the borders of their country, calling upon the international community to respond collectively. Strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance was, therefore, essential. Further, that forced migration was far too complex for any one State to address in isolation, she said, recalling that some 51 million people across 16 countries would need some form of humanitarian assistance this year. Affected populations must be at the centre of the humanitarian response. However, the international community must take care not to become “overburdened by the process and the system”, and rather to keep its focus on its real aim: to help people.
At the end of 2011, more than 42 million people around the world were in a state of forced displacement. Drawing attention, in that regard, to the special needs of potentially vulnerable groups, such as women, children, those with disabilities and indigenous peoples, she said that the best assistance was one that was coordinated among governmental, non-governmental and United Nations partners. Issues of migration were multifaceted and required many partners to work together in leveraging their expertise to meet the protection, assistance and recovery needs of the affected populations. IOM’s experience as the global cluster lead for camp coordination and camp management in natural disasters highlighted the need for even closer partnership between different actors to address the needs of the persons displaced by those disasters. As part of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, IOM cooperated fully with all its partners to provide for an effective emergency response. Further, IOM felt that it was of the utmost importance that humanitarian and development action were linked in order to increase the resilience of populations. Actors involved in both fields must work together to ensure a smooth transition from relief to development, and to realize preparedness for both sides.
AKHIL IYER, Deputy Director, Office of Emergency Programmes, UNICEF, said poorest children were often the hardest hit by any adverse event. It was vital to strengthen the knowledge and skills of children and communities, so they could recover from crises in ways that broke the cycle of vulnerability. Resilience was a helpful concept to better link humanitarian assistance to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, social protection and conflict prevention efforts. It also helped in further linking humanitarian and development programmes. That meant working with local stakeholders to identify how best to adapt programmes to deliver access to services and to systematically build capacity for minimizing risks and managing shocks.
“We can and we must work to monitor together and to show results together,” he said, noting that UNICEF continued to support implementation of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Transformative Agenda. UNICEF looked forward to resource partners joining it in efforts to streamline work. A key component of the Transformative Agenda was accountability and, for its part, UNICEF had put energy into refocusing country programmes around equity at the local and national levels. Measuring results for the most disadvantaged populations, particularly at the local level, had proven critical to sustaining progress in reducing disparities.
DORIS KLEFFNER, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the most significant development had been the “staggering” proliferation of humanitarian crises that had resulted in new population displacements. As of the end of last year, UNHCR had served 35.4 million people, a steady increase over the last decade. Almost 900,000 people had been forced to seek asylum last year, due to armed conflict and human rights violations. This year, hundreds of thousands of refugees were fleeing the Sudan, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Syria. UNHCR also continued to address needs stemming from protracted situations, including in Afghanistan and Somalia.
One key initiative was the joint Transitional Solutions Initiative, launched with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, she said, which aimed to end displaced persons’ dependence on humanitarian assistance by creating sustainable livelihoods and improving living conditions for host communities. In other areas, UNHCR had invested its efforts in registration and profiling activities, so the size and demographics of displaced populations could be determined from the earliest stages. Since 2010, UNHCR had introduced a results-based framework, covering all areas of its operations.
Action on draft resolution
The Council then adopted the draft resolution entitled “Strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document E/2012/L.11), by consensus.
In closing, Ms. AMOS highlighted the key messages that had come out of the discussions during the humanitarian affairs segment. One recurrent theme had been the primary role of States affected by disasters in initiating, organizing, coordinating and implementing humanitarian assistance. Another theme had been the need to support members of local communities, which were the first responders when disaster struck.
“The main panel discussion on evidence-based humanitarian decision-making made it clear that open data goes beyond helping to facilitate disaster preparedness and response,” she said. It also played a crucial role in development efforts, and had huge benefits for the private sector. Kenya’s Open Data Initiative was a great example. The other main panel event was on partnerships, a major theme through the whole of the United Nations humanitarian work. Unlike peacekeeping or diplomacy, it was “something everyone can get involved in, from individuals to major corporations and academic institutions, so partnerships may have particular benefits for us”.
She also underscored key messages from several side events, on such topics as “access, humanitarian principles and civil-military coordination” and “emerging challenges”.
On the resolution just adopted, she said it highlighted the crucial role of a solid base of evidence in order to increase effectiveness. Building local and national capacities for data collection and analysis would be crucial. The resolution also encouraged the United Nations system and Member States to continue to strengthen partnerships in support of national efforts, an issue on which progress was already being achieved. Further improvements to the resolution included recognizing the role of volunteers, and the importance of building resilience as a long-term development goal. The reference to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s efforts to improve coordination was particularly welcome.
Concluding, she thanked the delegates and participants in the segment for sharing their thoughts, ideas and expertise, and hoped it “will help us alleviate suffering, save more lives and offer more support to people in need.”
“It is only through the robust engagement and commitment of Member States that we can make sure that the humanitarian system is, and remains, fit for purpose,” she said.
* *** *For information media • not an official record