|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
54th & 55th Meetings (AM & PM)
Recognizing Evolving Nature of Humanitarian Crises, General Assembly Encourages
Dialogue among Member States, UN Agencies to Bolster Emergency Response System
Assembly Adopts Texts on Strengthening Disaster Relief Assistance,
Safety, Security of Humanitarian Workers, Assistance to Palestinian People
Adopting today a number of resolutions focused on the vital humanitarian interventions of the United Nations and its partners, the General Assembly – recognizing that populations around the world were becoming ever more vulnerable to the effects of disasters, conflicts and the ongoing fall out from the global financial and economic crisis – called for a more coordinated, strategic and accountable response to such increasingly complex challenges.
By its annual consensus text on strengthening the coordination of emergency assistance of the United Nations, the 193-Member body expressed its deep concern about such ongoing crises, and called on the humanitarian community inside and outside the United Nations system to enhance its cooperation and coordination. Those institutions were further requested to develop appropriate tools to deliver humanitarian assistance in ways that strengthened resilience at the local, national and regional levels.
The Assembly also called upon Member States and the international community to improve dialogue on humanitarian issues, including on policy, in order to foster a more consultative and inclusive approach to humanitarian assistance. Stakeholders were also encouraged to increase and commit adequate, timely, flexible and predictable resources for disaster risk reduction in order to build communities’ resilience – a sentiment that was echoed throughout its wider discussion today.
By another key provision, the Assembly called on United Nations humanitarian organizations, in consultation with Member States to strengthen the evidence base for humanitarian assistance by further developing common mechanisms to improve the quality, transparency and reliability of, and make further progress towards, common humanitarian needs assessments, including through improved collection, analysis and reporting of data disaggregated in terms of sex, age and disability.
The representative of Sweden, introducing the resolution, stressed that the text reaffirmed the key position of the United Nations in global humanitarian assistance but included both new and reinforced elements that reflected today’s realities. The strengthening of dialogue on all levels, particularly in national and local communities, was emphasized with the aim of enhancing acceptance of humanitarian assistance.
“The current global challenges of […] increased climate-related natural disasters, conflicts and complex emergencies require dynamic adjustments and urgent attention of the United Nations and it’s Member States”, said Malaysia’s delegate, taking the floor later in the meeting. Indeed, humanitarian needs had evolved over time, and the current system had not adapted quickly and flexibly enough to meet the new realities, he said.
Commending the Secretary-General’s action agenda - which provided a five-year timeline for humanitarian organizations to agree and implement measures to increase effectiveness and transparency – he also joined other delegates in expressing support for the much-discussed “Transformative Agenda” process. Led by an Inter-Agency Standing Committee, that process was aimed at improving the effectiveness of humanitarian response through greater predictability, accountability, responsibility and partnership. It would also improve the quality of leadership, strategic planning and coordination in humanitarian response, he said.
The representative of the United States underscored that recent crises had tested the ability of the United Nations system to provide timely assistance to people struggling with events beyond their control. While some strides had been made in implementing the Transformative Agenda, she said, the United States remained “deeply troubled” by current impediments facing humanitarian workers in their efforts to deliver aid to people in need, and was gravely concerned for the safety of those workers.
She was among the many speakers who demanded an end to attacks against relief workers, and urged that they be allowed access to the populations in distress. Particularly troubling, she continued, were the attacks on medical personnel and facilities, which she described as “despicable and unacceptable”.
Several representatives pointed to one of the world’s most recent disasters, October’s hurricane Sandy, as evidence of the tragic repercussions that a large-scale natural could have on one of the most developed countries in the world, the United States. “Such a situation becomes more challenging when a natural disaster strikes a developing country,” pointed out the representative of Pakistan.
His country had experienced major humanitarian challenges in the past several years, he said, including earthquakes and continuous floods – the result of climate change, he said. Those experiences had not only reinforced Pakistan’s belief in the “cardinal principles” of international humanitarian assistance, but had also helped identify gaps that needed to be filled. In that regard, he emphasized that more investment was needed in long-term, development-oriented risk reduction strategies.
Agreeing with other speakers, the South African delegate also recognized, with concern an increase in human vulnerability as a result of both natural sudden onset disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies. As developing countries – in particular in Africa – were bearing the brunt of those scourges, he urged the international community to strengthen support to those countries, as well as to strengthen their national capacities and improve their state of preparedness when humanitarian emergencies struck.
“More investment in building early warning systems and the resilience of communities through disaster risk reduction should be prioritized”, he continued, stressing that the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action remained a critical guide to international humanitarian action. To that end, the transfer of disaster relief and education technologies and expertise to developing countries remained of paramount importance.
Also speaking today were several members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), who noted that their Group had been the first organization to adopt a legally binding regional cooperation agreement for disaster risk reduction, through its 2005 Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.
In that regard, the representative of Thailand, recalling the devastating floods that had struck his country last year, said that Thailand chaired the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management and worked with other members of the Group to better prepare and coordinate regional humanitarian responses. In 2013, he added, Thailand would host the Second Asia-Pacific Water Summit, a forum for sharing experiences and best practices to manage flooding, drought and rising sea-level.
Also adopted by consensus today was a resolution on the participation of volunteers – known as “White Helmets” – in the humanitarian and related activities of the United Nations, which was introduced by the representative of Argentina.
The Assembly also adopted consensus texts focused on bolstering the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protecting United Nations personnel, as well as a resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people in particular. Both were introduced by the representative of Cyprus on behalf of the European Union.
Also speaking were the representatives of Cambodia (on behalf of ASEAN), United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada, Syria, China, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, India (on behalf of Sweden), Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Grenada.
The head of the Delegation of the European Union also took part in the discussion, as did the Observer of Palestine.
The Observers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), also addressed the meeting as did a representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 14 December, at 10:00 a.m. to take up the reports of the Sixth (Legal) Committee.
The Assembly had before it several documents relating to the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.
Among those was a report of the Secretary-General on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/67/89-E/2012/77). It describes the major humanitarian trends and challenges over the past year and explores two issues that the humanitarian community must address going forward: the need to build systems to support data-driven humanitarian decision making and the need to broaden and deepen partnerships for humanitarian response. The report provides an overview of current efforts to improve humanitarian coordination and response and ends with recommendations for further strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.
A report on the Central Emergency Response Fund (document A/67/361) states that, during the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, the Emergency Relief Coordinator allocated $537.9 million from the Fund to implement life-saving activities in 50 countries and territories. Thirteen humanitarian agencies received funds directly to address emergency needs. For only the second time in its history, the Fund received more than $459 million in contributions during the reporting period, and it exceeded the $450 million target set by the General Assembly.
It goes on to state that, following an independent five-year evaluation, the secretariat of the Fund had developed and had been implementing a management response plan. The secretariat had made significant progress in implementing the plan, and would continue to focus on achieving those goals.
A third report covered international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/67/363). It provides an overview of the occurrence of disasters associated with natural hazards and highlights emerging trends. It also explains why a resilience approach is key to addressing recurrent crises and presents an outline of humanitarian actors’ contribution to strengthening the resilience of people. It further provides an update on the international humanitarian system’s efforts to strengthen leadership, coordination and accountability, and examines progress made in various areas, concluding with recommendations to improve response to natural disasters.
Another report of the Secretary-General on humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for selected countries and regions (document A/67/367) provides an update and analysis of the current challenges facing the delivery of humanitarian relief and rehabilitation provided by the United Nations and its partners to countries affected by natural disasters. It covers the emergency humanitarian assistance provided for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, and the humanitarian assistance, emergency relief and rehabilitation provided in response to the severe drought in the Horn of Africa region.
A report on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/67/492) provides an update on the safety and security of United Nations personnel over the past year and on the efforts of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security to implement the recommendations contained in resolution 66/117 (2011) that fell under the Department’s responsibility. The report describes the measures taken by the Department and the United Nations security management system to continue to advance the strategic vision of a modern professional security management system that ensures the safety, security and well-being of personnel, the security of United Nations premises and assets, thus enabling the conduct of United Nations activities.
In addition, a report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/67/84-E/2012/68), contains an assessment of that assistance, as well as needs still unmet and proposals for responding to them. The report further describes efforts by the United Nations, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, donors and civil society, to support the Palestinian population and institutions over the course of the reporting period (May 2011 to April 2012).
It states that, during that period, the Palestinian Authority completed its two-year State-building programme. The United Nations enhanced its support to those efforts through its Medium-Term Response Plan. The Organization was currently executing $1.2 billion of works under that plan and was seeking an additional $1.7 billion for planned projects. That complements the humanitarian programming outlined in the 2012 Consolidated Appeal of $416.7 million, of which 38 per cent had been funded as of April 2012.
Also before the Assembly were a number of draft resolutions. By the terms of the first, entitled participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development (document A/67/L.32) by which the Assembly would recognize the work of “White Helmets” in a number of areas related to humanitarian assistance.
The other texts before the Assembly were, respectively on Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/67/L.37), strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/67/L.39) and assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/67/L.38.
Introduction of Drafts
GABRIEL FUKS (Argentina), introducing a resolution on participation of volunteers, “White Helmets”, in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development (document A/67/L.32), said that in a global context characterized by economic and financial difficulties that affected humanitarian coordination, middle and low-income countries were now playing a significant role in the international field, showing their commitment through the provision of technical resources and their collaboration with those who faced hunger and poverty, as well as those in emergencies.
In such a scenario, the White Helmets had begun their eighteenth year of joint work with the United Nations system. Neighbour countries were often the first ones present after a disaster or an emergency occurred, he stressed in that regard, and the efforts made by developing countries must be valued not least for the models and concepts reflected in their related international practices. In addition, the idea that disasters were “natural” should be replaced by the idea that they were the consequence of development policies which were far from representing equity, distribution of wealth, social justice and community participation.
CHRISTINA RAFTI (Cyprus), introducing a resolution on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/67/L.37) on behalf the European Union, said that the Member States of the bloc were concerned by the increased number of casualties and accidents faced by humanitarian personnel in recent years, especially when attacks were targeted against United Nations and related personnel. The European Union highly valued the work of those personnel, including thousands of local personnel, who put their lives at risk.
The resolution showed that all Member States could come together around that issue, she said, pointing out new language on closer cooperation between the United Nations and its partners, on gender and on related matters. Further, by the terms of the resolution, the Assembly would welcome the measures taken by the Department of Safety and Security and the United Nations security management system to develop and implement a sophisticated and modern security system. “We cannot be late in saving lives”, she stressed.
Turning to the resolution assistance to the Palestinian People (document A/67/L.38) she said that, as in previous years, the European Union expected that the resolution would be adopted by consensus. It reaffirmed its commitment to provide such assistance, and stressed that sustained support from the international donor community was critical to meeting the needs of the Palestinian people.
The resolution tabled today embodied the wish of the European Union and the international community as a whole to assist the Palestinian People, she stressed. The text therefore urged all actors to provide economic and social assistance, and urged Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms, among other things. It also stressed the importance of free humanitarian access to the Palestinian people, she said.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden), introducing the draft resolution on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations(document A/67/l.39), said that the text, which reaffirmed the key position of the United Nations in such assistance, included both new and reinforced elements that reflected today’s realities. The strengthening of dialogue on all levels, particularly in national and local communities, was emphasized with the aim of enhancing acceptance of humanitarian assistance. As well, the resolution also condemned the deliberate attacks on medical personnel and facilities.
Further, he continued, the accountability and leadership role of the resident/humanitarian coordinators had been reinforced. The text also highlighted the challenges persons with disabilities experienced in disasters and emphasized the need to include assistance that responded to those specific issues. In addition, the text included points that focused on building nations and communities’ resilience by providing adequate resources for disaster risk reduction.
KOSAL SEA (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) said that although a wide range of measures had been undertaken to enhance response measures, a large-scale disaster could overwhelm a Government’s capacity at the national and local level, and thus require immediate assistance from the international humanitarian community, regional organizations and neighbouring countries, as well as United Nations relevant agencies.
Lauding the efforts of the United Nations disaster assessment and coordination network to improve its humanitarian response and help Governments strengthen such national response capacities, he said that regional organizations’ participation was increasing as well. In particular, ASEAN had been the first organization to adopt a legally binding regional cooperation agreement for disaster risk reduction through its 2005 Agreement on Disaster management and Emergency Response. Also, in 2011, the Agreement on the Establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance was signed by its regional foreign ministers.
However, he went on to say, the issue of coordination and facilitation of international assistance had long challenged the international community. Local and national actors had always been at the forefront of disaster response. When unable to effectively respond, international assistance had been requested. In the last two decades, the number and diversity of international humanitarian entities involved in operations after major disaster had grown, and there remained systematic challenges in coordinating such response efforts. Concerns existed that such actors demonstrated insufficient respect for the sovereign responsibility of States to respond to disasters themselves. Therefore, Governments needed to balance the benefits of international assistance with their primary responsibility to their own citizens.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said that only three days ago, the Union was formally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. That was a hugely important acknowledgement of the bloc’s role in helping achieve peace and prosperity on the European continent, but also as a driver of stability in the world, not least through relentless efforts to help the victims of conflict and natural disasters. A decision had been made to use the prize money, matched by an equal amount by the European Commission, to support humanitarian projects aimed at assisting children affected by conflict.
The global humanitarian context remained challenging, with the need for humanitarian assistance around the globe ever increasing, he said. Several factors contributed to that challenging context, including the complexity of conflict situations, the increasing disregard for international humanitarian and refugee law, the obstruction of access in a growing number of humanitarian emergencies, and the multiplication of actors appearing on the humanitarian aid scene. The effects of the global financial crisis further aggravated the challenge by limiting resources available for humanitarian ends. In that regard, the humanitarian community needed to do more with less by increasing the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of aid. The Union welcomed the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Transformative Agenda launched by the Emergency Relief Coordinator.
He went on to state that the strengthening of disaster resilience as a means to address chronic vulnerabilities in many regions of the world was becoming increasingly important. The European Union, alongside the affected countries in the regions, supported building resilience in the Sahel region through the so-called AGIR initiative, with a similar initiative having been devised for the Horn of Africa. The Union looked forward to learning from and building on these undertakings and to further strengthening the links between humanitarian and development communities. The Union remained gravely concerned about the outbreak of several new complex emergencies, the continuation of protracted conflicts and the ongoing displacement of millions of people, he said, urging all States and parties to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and to preserve the humanitarian space by ensuring rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian personnel and supplies to populations in need.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said his people had been living under Israel’s ruthless occupation for more than four decades. For millions of Palestinian families, assistance had been the main source of survival and sustenance. “The latest figures regarding the humanitarian and economic situation in Palestine are astounding and tragic,” he said. The negative repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people had been intensified by the fact that the Palestinian National Authority continued to suffer from a severe fiscal crisis, partially triggered by shrinking external budget support. While the total financing needs for the Authority during the first half of 2012 had amounted to $749 million, the external financial support received had been only $446 million, leading to increased borrowing needs and debt.
He went to note that, among other unacceptable acts, Israel continued to deny the Palestinian people sovereignty over their natural resources, while it continued unabatedly to exploit those resources. For example, more than 90 per cent of Palestinian water resources were exploited by Israel, most notably for the use by its more than 500,000 illegal settlers in the Palestinian Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem. With less than 10 per cent left for use, daily average Palestinian water consumption was only 70 litres per capita, below the 100 litres recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and far less than the 300 litres in Israel.
The socio-economic situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza remained dire, too, with the Israeli blockade adversely impacting the viability of all aspects of life. “Economic, health, education and other social indicators reveal the magnitude of the humanitarian suffering that has been deliberately inflicted by the occupying Power on the Palestinian civilian population in what definitely constitutes collective punishment on the scale of a war crime,” he said.
The international community must step up pressure on Israel to abide by its legal obligations under international law, humanitarian and human rights law, because after more than 45 years of occupation, he said, the world could no longer stand idle by while an entire people continued to be denied their inalienable human rights, including the right to live in freedom and dignity.
AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that the annual reports of the Secretary-General demonstrated the increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in many areas of the world. In that context, his delegation commended the United Nations, especially the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in the mobilization of coordination of international humanitarian activities. It further emphasized the importance of supporting such efforts in all possible ways, in particular by providing the necessary and sufficient financial support. The United Arab Emirates stressed the necessity of integrating disaster risk reduction strategies, capacity building, quick and efficient response and recovery, into the sustainable development plans of developing countries and the allocation of efficient resources for such activities.
The United Arab Emirates was one of the major partners contributing to the development of and assistance to countries affected by natural disasters, climate change and armed conflict. It also provided direct humanitarian assistance for affected countries, as well as humanitarian initiatives and global development projects implemented in coordination with United Nations and other partners. The country also contributed to efforts to maintain stability and achieve development in countries emerging from armed conflicts and natural disasters, by supporting their economic activities and social institutions and infrastructure, including the Group of Friends of Yemen, the Group of Friends of Pakistan, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coastline of Somalia and other international partnerships.
Finally, the United Arab Emirates was gravely concerned about the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulting from the continued Israeli occupation and its policies of aggression and closure, especially of the Gaza Strip. He therefore renewed his country’s demand for the international community to compel Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, to immediately facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people and to end its occupation of Arab lands.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said the international community must unite to ensure aid reached those most in need and civilians were protected from violence, wilful deprivation, exploitation and abuse. He was particularly concerned about the increased and more frequent deliberate attacks on relief workers - which were unacceptable under international law and morally reprehensible - as well as attacks on medical staff, facilities and the sick. Current violence and access constraints in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan were very worrisome. Australia’s Foreign Minister had advanced a proposal calling for a commitment from all sides not to target medical personnel, medical facilities or vehicles or block access to doctors, hospitals or emergency care.
His delegation was also very worried about the ongoing lack of access for humanitarian agencies in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. He called on the Sudanese Government and SPLM-North to negotiate a solution and allow much-needed aid to enter. He was very concerned by reports of widespread abuse of civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including murder, rape and the forced recruitment of children by armed groups, as well as by the endemic levels of sexual violence there. Such acts and impunity for the perpetrators must be stopped.
During its term on the Security Council, Australia would continue to advocate positive outcomes for women and children in conflict zones, he said. He urged Israel and the Palestinians to adhere to the terms of their recent ceasefire. He was concerned by reports that almost 65 per cent of those killed in the Gaza conflict were civilians. The humanitarian response system must be more open, accountable to beneficiaries and responsive to country and local leadership. Humanitarian agencies must show how they were rolling out the Transformative Agenda reforms. The food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region showed the importance of long-term disaster recovery solutions. He welcomed the introduction of a three-year consolidated appeal in Somalia. Flexible funding from donors was crucial for integrating disaster risk reduction and recovery.
MICHAEL BONSER, Director of the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Response Group at Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada said the ongoing humanitarian crises in Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel, Sudan and South Sudan highlighted the need for effective international humanitarian responses. However, in the face of increasing needs and “shrinking financial resources”, it was critical that the Organization ensure it was working as effectively and strategically as possible so that real results could be achieved in such situations.
Progress, had been made, he noted, pointing out that under the direction of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, efforts had been undertaken to improve leadership, accountability and coordination. However, work remained to be done, and he urged the Coordinator to continue in such reforms and improvements.
Turning to the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the forced displacement of 650,000 civilians since April, he condemned the rebel group M23 and called for all parties to allow for safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance. The crisis in Syria and its impact on neighbouring countries and the region’s stability was also of great concern. Recognizing the immense pressure of the influx of refugees on host countries and communities, he commended Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq for their generosity that was “borne from a genuine spirit of humanitarianism”.
Heralding the courage of humanitarian workers in Syria and offering condolences to the families of those personnel who lost their lives while carrying out their duties, he called on the Government of Syria to allow humanitarian actors, including health care providers, full and safe access to those affected by the violence. However, he stressed, there were also less visible crises that should not be forgotten, including the situation in the Horn of Africa, Central African Republic, Yemen, Colombia and Haiti, among others. Also requiring attention was the protection of women and girls who continued to be victims of sexual violence such as rape as a weapon of war, the vulnerable religious minorities and gays and lesbians facing violence for their orientation.
Political will and commitment was needed, he concluded, to bring attention and meaningful solutions to each of those severe and protracted humanitarian crises. Canada would continue to work with a wide range of actors, including United Nations agencies, Members States, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations, among others, to strengthen the humanitarian response system and create an “environment for humanitarian actors to save lives and alleviate human suffering”.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that he was addressing the Assembly on the heels of an explosion that had taken place in the Syrian city of Qatana this morning. Indeed, on behalf of a suffering people, he stressed the severely negative impact of such terrorist acts, all of which were aimed to “shock society” and terrorize Syria’s citizens. He reaffirmed Syria’s deep belief in coordinating humanitarian efforts with an eye to providing aid to those affected by emergencies. His Government was also ready to cooperate with international organizations working in Syria in line with their mandates and the guiding principles adopted by relevant General Assembly resolutions, as well as full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.
The Government of Syria, throughout the current and painful crisis, had offered every facility to provide speedy aid to its citizens. A committee had been formed to follow up on the humanitarian conditions of affected citizens, he said, and it contributed to providing food, shelter and aid as well as compensation to families for damages they had incurred. The Government provided health and social services, and it had cooperated with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In addition, it had facilitated access to such humanitarian assistance, and had issued licences to over 80 non-governmental organizations in that regard.
Nevertheless, Government efforts faced “extremely negative obstacles” embodied by the continued actions of “countries well known to support terrorism in Syria”. From the very beginning of the crisis, Syria had worked to draw the attention of the international community to armed terrorism in its country, but had run up against a “wall of political pride”, ignorance and media manipulation, all of which had helped some States to deny reality. In addition, the Syrian people had suffered from terrorism for 21 months while they waited for the United Nations and the international community to heed their cry.
Syria’s full cooperation with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs response plan had regrettably been met with weak funding, he went on to say. While the Syrian Government played the primary role in meeting the basic needs of its citizens, the pledges made by international donors had not been met. According to a recent report by the agency, he said, only half of such funding had been received so far, and only 35 per cent of the funding required to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees had been provided. Moreover, packages of “unilateral coercive measures” by some hegemonic States and regional groups had contributed to the deterioration of citizens’ living conditions and the ability to import medicines, medical supplies and other critical items.
Syria had called upon its people, who had been forced to leave the country for neighbouring States, to return to their homeland to live in dignity, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of those who practiced “humanitarian blackmail”. In that regard, he pointed to the “barbaric” practice by some States of providing escalated numbers of refugees in their territories. Concluding, he stressed that solving the humanitarian crisis in Syria “is not done by playing political blame games”, nor by “fanning the flames of ethnic and religious discord”. The solution could only be achieved through abiding by international humanitarian principles, by improving the willingness of donors to fulfil their pledges, by bringing about an end to unilateral coercive measures. “We want honest and objective help” in order to arrive “at the shores of safety”, he said.
NORACHIT SINHASENI ( Thailand) said his country was committed to enhancing global partnerships for humanitarian relief. The Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre promoted regional disaster risk reduction and advocated closer cooperation with other regional institutions. Since March, Thailand had chaired the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, partnering with other members of the bloc to better prepare and coordinate regional mechanisms to ensure humanitarian responses were timely and adequate. In 2013, Thailand would host the Second Asia-Pacific Water Summit, a forum for sharing experiences and best practices to manage flooding, drought and rising sea-level.
Since last year’s unprecedented floods in Thailand, the Government had enacted a new water management and flood prevention system. It would continue to invest in that system’s development. He said that Thailand would co-host, with the Republic of Korea, the third ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise in 2013 and the sixth Annual Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2014. That latter meeting would focus on creating a regional post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework.
The Government had focused on local capacity-building to implement its 2010-2014 Strategic National Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction, he said. It also supported the resilience approach set forth in Secretary-General’s report contained in document A/67/363. Development of integrated disaster management systems was vital to reduce the impact of natural disasters, as was better data collection and information sharing and predictable funding. Thailand was committed to ensuring disasters did not erase sustainable development gains by working with international partners on the post-2015 development agenda. He lauded cooperation among international partnerships to promote women’s empowerment in disaster risk reduction.
CHERYL SABAN (United States), affirming her country’s support for and commitment to the United Nations system, as well as its partners in humanitarian and disaster assistance response, said that her government had this year contributed $4 billion to international responses towards saving lives and reducing suffering. At the same time, the United States offered support that went beyond monetary participation through its continued role in development assistance, and working with partners to create humanitarian policies and standards that enabled an environment of growth and stability.
However, she noted, recent humanitarian crises had tested the ability of the United Nations system to provide timely assistance to people struggling with events beyond their control. She urged that efforts be redoubled to enhance the system of assistance and response, with the strengthening of leadership in the field and broadened coordination and collaboration. To that end, she called upon Member States to support the Transformative Agenda and urged all Stakeholders to make the Agenda more effective.
Nevertheless, progress had been made, she continued, acknowledging the “top-notch” leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, among others. Applauding the efforts of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, she urged that the United Nations agencies and bodies put forward their best officers to serve as resident/humanitarian coordinators, among other positions. New partnerships, as well, were commendable, and she welcomed the opportunity to share information with an expanded range of stakeholders to improve humanitarian assistance.
The United States was, however, deeply troubled by current impediments facing humanitarian workers in their efforts to deliver aid to people in need and, was gravely concerned for the safety of those workers. She called for an end to attacks against relief workers, and urged that they be allowed access to the populations in distress. Particularly troubling were the attacks on medical personnel and facilities, which she described as “despicable and unacceptable”. Concluding, she reaffirmed the United States’ continuing support to the core principles of the United Nations which ensured the rapid delivery of assistance to save lives.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) noted progress made in responding to humanitarian challenges, but said that nonetheless, there was always room for further improvement, especially in the area of gender sensitive response and taking care off the needs of women and girls, and vulnerable groups in general. South Africa recognized with concern an increase in human vulnerability as a result of both natural sudden onset disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies. Since developing countries – in particular in Africa – were bearing the brunt of those scourges, South Africa would continue to facilitate and contribute to humanitarian interventions to alleviate human suffering and to protect the victims of natural disasters and conflict.
In that regard, he urged the international community to strengthen support to developing countries, as well as to their national capacities for disaster relief and reduction and improve their state of preparedness to provide effective responses when humanitarian emergencies struck. “More investment in building early warning systems and the resilience of communities through disaster risk reduction should be prioritized” and the Hyogo Framework for Action, as the international strategy agreed my Member States, remained a critical guide to action. To that end, the transfer of disaster relief and education technologies and expertise to developing countries remained of paramount importance.
The Sahel region of West Africa remained a challenge to the international community as millions of people were in need of assistance due to droughts, poverty and other situations. South Africa therefore urged the international community to continue cooperating with the countries in the region. He said that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs could assist the African Union in establishing the Union’s humanitarian resource allocation mechanism to mobilize and manage resources for the region.
LI BAODONG ( China) called on the international community to take immediate action and foster close cooperation to respond to increasingly grave humanitarian situations. Any relevant relief operations must be based on the fundamental principles set out in Assembly resolution 46/182 for respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of recipient countries. Humanitarian issues must not be politicized and aid should not be militarized. China firmly supported concrete steps to strengthen capacity-building in the humanitarian and development field, including transferring technology and expertise to developing countries and bolstering infrastructure in disaster-affected countries.
Partnerships were needed to enhance cooperation and integrate resources, especially as the number of humanitarian relief actors had burgeoned. He said that such partnerships should be based on equality and mutual benefit, respect the will of affected countries’ Governments, and have well-functioning mechanisms that ensured maximum use of resources. The United Nations existing mechanisms and resources should be fully utilized to play a pivotal role in partnership building. He commended the efforts of Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos to appeal for donations and coordinate among various actors. He called for greater reform of the Nations humanitarian system, increased participation of Member States and better management so the Organization could play a larger role in global humanitarian affairs.
As a developing country prone to natural disasters, China highly valued international cooperation in the humanitarian field, participated in multilateral and bilateral humanitarian relief operations and shared its experience and technology to cope with natural disasters with other developing countries. Since the beginning of 2012, he said, China had given food aid to Chad and other countries in the Sahel region, and humanitarian aid to Cuba and Syria, among others. China would continue in that vein.
DIMITRY MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) said increasing occurrences of disasters had made the work of the United Nations more relevant. His delegation fully supported the principles set out in the General Assembly resolutions on humanitarian issues. Given that humanitarian support should be delivered speedily and smoothly, manipulation of such aid for political gains was not acceptable. When rendering humanitarian assistance, politics should not play a part. He stressed the importance of efforts geared towards, among others, increased accountability. Within their national territory, Governments should play leading roles in coordinating such activities. In that regard, close liaison between the United Nations system and Member States was vital.
Capacity-building at national and local levels was also essential, he continued. Humanitarian action should take into account such elements as disaster risk reduction, early warning and emergency response to manmade catastrophes. In that context, the Russian Federation had established a dedicated national centre in 2008. The Government wished to see such an institution established in many other countries so that the entities could exchange information. Stressing the importance of partnerships, he said that resident coordinators and humanitarian coordinators should work more closely with Governments. Countries hosting humanitarian responses had the primary responsibility to protect relief workers. Use of military resources for humanitarian assistance should be only a last resort. He reiterated his Government’s fundamental position of supporting the work of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
HYE RAN CHUN, Director, Humanitarian Assistance Division Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, noting the increase, severity and frequency of disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, stressed that it was critical that the United Nations play a leading role in the coordination process in humanitarian assistance. However, through clarifying the role of non-governmental organizations, the United Nations needed to take on greater leadership in facilitating the engagement of local partners.
Providing support to smaller national organizations, she said, would simplify the procedures for granting access to pooled funds, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund and Consolidated Appeals Process, while strengthening the capacity of national staff. Her country would continue to expand its partnerships with non-governmental organizations by sharing information and providing financial support to respond to disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, as well as working to reduce the administrative burdens by streamlining the reporting process and providing multi-year funding.
She urged that a more coordinated platform be created to resolve issues of overlapping and gaps in delivery between humanitarian and development-related agencies. The link between humanitarian assistance and development cooperation needed to be established and widely shared, as well. Towards that goal, the Republic of Korea would be launching a new program providing Afghanistan with assistance of up to $100 million in the next year, with half of that executed through multilateral organizations, including the United Nations development agencies.
Making basic and reliable data available to humanitarian partners and establishing data-driven decision-making and the development of common standards was also essential in utilizing the best use of resources, she said. That would “go a long way” in enhancing transparency and accountability. In addition, strengthening disaster risk reduction and preparedness would prove to be just as important as responding to emerging crisis, as it was cost-effective and reduced the impact on affected people and their livelihoods.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) agreed with the need to strengthen the leadership, coordination and accountability of the humanitarian system. The United Nations efforts in the area were based on neutrality, impartiality and independence. However, it must adapt to current challenges in order to be more effective. Institutional and operational changes must take place, he said, highlighting several aspects in particular. First, a more inclusive system and an expansion of partners was a necessity. Better cooperation with regional and local structures was also critical, and it was important to strengthen the resilience of the communities concerned.
He called, in that respect, for better coordination between development and humanitarian actors, including through preparation and prevention, early warning and other elements. Additionally, the establishment of new partnerships between Government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector would complement the United Nations humanitarian system, and an adapted cooperation mechanism must be established so that all actors could play their due role.
Secondly, Switzerland placed an emphasis on the recommendations made in the Transformative Agenda of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. The goal was to improve the collective response by making it more strategic. Indeed, the Transformative Agenda must be considered as the basis for achieving those goals, and for “Delivering as One”. Third and lastly, the delegation reiterated that to allow humanitarian actors to carry out their mandates – saving human lives – rapid access to affected populations was a prerequisite. The primary responsibility in that regard lay with the States concerned, he said.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) commended the Secretary-General’s action agenda, which provided a five-year timeline for humanitarian organizations to agree and implement measures to increase effectiveness and transparency. Malaysia also supported the Transformative Agenda process, led by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, in improving the quality of leadership, strategic planning, accountability and coordination mechanisms in humanitarian response. “Indeed, the current challenges of the global situation of increased climate-related natural disasters, conflicts and complex emergencies, require dynamic adjustments and urgent attention of the United Nations and it’s Member States”, he said in that regard.
Indeed, humanitarian needs evolved over time, and the current system had not adapted quickly and flexibly enough to meet the new realities. Malaysia’s involvement in humanitarian and disaster relief assistance was based on a three-pronged approach, namely, Government-to-Government contacts, involvement through non-governmental organizations and people-to-people participation. At the multilateral level, he added, Malaysia was one of the hubs that housed the United Nations Disaster Response Depot Network, a preparedness tool supporting strategic stockpiling efforts. It also served as “first line response” to emergencies by providing flexible, sustainable and scalable facilities and services for the timely and cost-effective delivery of items and assistance.
Turning lastly to the report on “Assistance to the Palestinian People”, he reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment to providing such assistance, and took note that additional support was urgently needed for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) core budget, which faced a 2012 shortfall of $70 million. In that regard, Malaysia had pledged an additional $1 million to help Palestinians affected by Israel’s most recent aggression in Gaza. He further urged donor countries to continue their financial assistance to UNRWA, allowing it to carry out its mandate, and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to work towards the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
MOHAMMAD MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) said that the recent Hurricane Sandy had illustrated what a large scale disaster’s devastating effects could have on one of the most developed countries in the world. “Such a situation becomes more challenging when a natural disaster strikes a developing country,” he pointed out. As such, he agreed with the Secretary-General that more investment in a long-term development oriented process in building community resilience through disaster risk reduction was required.
His country had experienced major humanitarian challenges over the past several years, he said, including earthquakes, and near-continuous floods, which he pointed out, had resulted from climate change. Such events had impacted millions of people and destroyed billions of dollars worth of infrastructure. He noted that Pakistan’s valuable experience with diverse humanitarian challenges not only reiterated belief in the cardinal principles of international humanitarian assistance, but also helped identify gaps that needed to be filled in the Organization’s system and international community’s endeavours.
Those observations, among others, included that the affected States had the primary role in initiation, identification, coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance. That enabled respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. The tapping of local resources for procurement of material and the hiring of local expertise to save funds would also contribute to long-term development. Likewise, accountability of humanitarian actors, especially on the ground, needed to be ensured, and he urged that the Organization improved its capacity to make sure money was spent towards its intended purpose.
As the objective was to save and rebuild lives, he stressed that sensitivity towards specific situations and doing away with undue politicization of humanitarian relief work was also necessary. The humanitarian landscape had changed as a result of increasing number of large scale disasters. The myriad factors involved required increased dialogue and understanding. In that regard, the Secretary-General’s focus on building a “more global, accountable and robust humanitarian system” would help define the way forward for the future humanitarian agenda.
TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) said that humanitarian principles were being challenged in a number of ways, and humanitarian access was becoming more and more difficult. In countries such as Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Somalia, humanitarian aid was provided under very constrained conditions. Moreover, security situations or lack of acceptance by the parties to the conflict, limited, or even prevented, aid from reaching people in dire need. Norway was particularly concerned by the fact that increasing numbers of health care workers and hospitals were being attacked and threatened by warring parties. She pointed to several examples, including in Somalia, where a bomb had killed more than 20 people – including two doctors and a number of medical students – in Mogadishu in 2009.
At the same time, however, a normative framework was in place, and the right to health was enshrined under international law. The protection of medical missions in armed conflict was highlighted. “The problem is not law, but the lack of implementation”, she stressed. It was necessary to remind conflict parties about their responsibilities with regard to such international laws, and to engage States that might influence parties to conflict to protect health workers, hospitals and ambulances. Norway was determined to strengthen its own humanitarian policy and to work with partners to enhance the protection of health facilities and personnel in areas of conflict, she said.
SHULAMIT DAVIDOVICH ( Israel) described a number of recent emergency situations in whose humanitarian response Israel had been involved, including severe flooding in Fiji in January, devastating explosions in the Republic of Congo in March, a recent food crisis in the Sahel region of Africa and the rebuilding efforts following earthquakes in both Haiti and Japan. Israel’s humanitarian assistance was guided by a comprehensive approach, as it believed that preparedness “must stand at the core of disaster response”. Investing in such preparedness was critical, he added, and the costs of responding to a disaster significantly outweighed the costs of preventing their impact through risk reduction.
In that vein, addressing urban risk through public investment was an issue that Israel took very seriously, she stressed. Israel had instituted a nationwide programme offering tax and planning incentives to the private sector to reinforce buildings that did not comply with Israel’s earthquake-resistant building code. It also placed great priority on public awareness campaigns by holding national emergency drills every year. Outside of the country, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation had been working to strengthen countries’ capacity to cope with disaster impacts, by conducting training courses on emergency and disaster medicine around the world. In the past few years, she added, Israel’s contribution to the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination had also increased considerably. Before concluding her statement, her delegation wished to place on record its disappointment that a delegation had used today’s meeting to voice allegations against her country.
SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) said it was most important for Member States to support humanitarian cooperation initiatives that allowed access to food for people coping with severe food insecurity, with the involvement of the beneficiary country and in partnership with international organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP). For Brazil, guaranteeing the right to adequate food was part of a three-pronged strategy built on access to food programmes, conditional cash-transfer policies and incentives for family farming ventures.
In financing global humanitarian efforts, Brazil, as a developing country, was doing its part, he said. In the last few years, the Government had increased its contributions, both in cash and in kind. It had increased its contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund, as well. In addition, it had recently donated $1.2 million to fund United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) programmes in Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Somalia and Haiti, among other countries. Furthermore, Brazil contributed $7.5 million for the core programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, covering areas such as health, education and food security. It also had channelled more than 160,000 tons of food aid to Central African Republic, Chad, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, Madagascar, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
He went on to underscore the importance of partnerships among Member States and humanitarian actors. In that regard, he recalled the Dialogue on Humanitarian Partnerships, an initiative launched by Sweden and Brazil together with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which had brought together 19 Member States representing a wide range of interests.
FIKRY CASSIDY ( Indonesia) joined others in calling for strengthening the capacity of the humanitarian actors and their response systems dealing with natural disaster-led humanitarian crises, including those related to the impact of climate change. In that regard, his delegation reaffirmed the utmost importance of implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, as well as the need to include disaster risk reduction and preparedness in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda. Indonesia had co-sponsored the draft resolution on the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, he added.
Indonesia also joined the consensus achieved in the resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people. He said that his country remained deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people, in particular in the Gaza Strip, especially after the recent destruction caused by the disproportionate use of force inflicted by the occupying Power that had ultimately caused death and despair to the people in that area. On 29 November 2012, the international community voted a resounding “yes” to endorse the request of Palestine to become a United Nations non-Member Observer State. By according that status to Palestine, “we are signalling the primacy of diplomacy and rejection of violence,” he said.
KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) noted that many humanitarian crises had occurred worldwide in 2012, including in the Sahel region, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Myanmar, to name a few. Japan fully supported the continuous improvement in the United Nations system of humanitarian assistance through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Transformative Agenda. For its part, Japan had financially contributed to various humanitarian emergencies and individual United Nations humanitarian agencies.
Stressing the importance of partnerships, he said his Government was building various partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the field of disaster management. In order to strengthen the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management in Jakarta, Japan was providing communications equipment, dispatching a disaster management specialist and information and communications technology experts, and was supporting the creation of emergency reserve stocks against natural disasters.
Strengthening resilience was another common theme of this year’s resolutions, he said. At the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku in July, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had expressed Japan’s determination to lead international efforts towards such risk reduction, as well as its commitment to provide $3 billion over the three years starting in 2013. Japan also welcomed the resolution in the International Strategy on Disaster Reduction adopted this month by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), in which it had been decided to convene the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in early 2015 in Japan.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India), also speaking for Sweden, said that the two nations’ joint statement reflected the need for strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. Stressing the importance of partnerships and dialogue, he noted that forging partnerships at the international, regional and national levels was not an end in itself but a means to deliver effective humanitarian assistance. Such activity should be neutral and independent. Lessons learned confirmed the importance of consultations.
“Acute crises are too many around the globe,” he said, commending the work of the United Nations towards building resilience, preparedness and efforts made to minimize the gap between humanitarian relief and long-term development. In order for the United Nations to deliver humanitarian assistance, unhindered access was of crucial importance. Delivering on the ground saved lives. In that regard, he commended the work of Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, calling for continued support to the office. On the Central Emergency Response Fund, he said it responded in a timely manner. India and Sweden took the issue of data collection seriously, he said, adding that gathering reliable information was crucial to make better decisions. Unfortunately, the number of populations in need was not shrinking but increasing. In that regard, it was important to foster a broad consensus on the work needed to alleviate that situation.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), welcoming the resolution on humanitarian assistance and the relevant reports of the Secretary-General, particularly agreed with the recommendation of an inclusive approach to humanitarian assistance. Further, the need for stronger coordination at local, national, regional and international levels was also noted. For his country, it was important that resilience be established and support be given towards developing consolidated and coordinated responses. In that regard, such responses should be coordinated by the international community, as represented by the United Nations system.
Commending the key role United Nations Emergency Coordinator Valeria Amos and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs played when humanitarian assistance was necessary; he urged that duplicate efforts be avoided. The resolution before the Assembly also included new issues, among those a focus on the strengthening of regional linkages. After Chile’s earthquake and tsunami in 2010, such alliances were needed, especially in prevention and reconstruction efforts. It was, as well, important to involve civil society.
He went on to express his condemnation of the attacks on medical staff and humanitarian assistance staff. The safety of such personnel was fundamental and he urged that action move forward on that issue. In addition, he emphasized that the text urged States to consider the needs of disabled persons in the design of preparedness and prevention measures. “This also supports inclusive society building”, he added.
The economic crisis had impacted the international community in the area of funding humanitarian assistance. Given the need to strengthen resources towards greater efficiency, it was critical that the resolution underscored the accountability of all actors at all stages of assistance. The United Nations system, as the main provider coordinator of relief and rehabilitation around the world, should be able to ensure swift and unimpeded access in delivering humanitarian assistance. Thus, it was urgent to increase further coordination between all actors, and to move from relief to development, as development would not only eradicate poverty and hunger, but also support the ability of States to make stable environments and a sustainable peace.
ADRIANA MURILLO ( Costa Rica) said the United Nations humanitarian assistance had made progress in such areas as accountability, but much remained to be done. With millions of people in need of such help, access constituted a major difficulty in delivering aid. With the climate surrounding such activity becoming more complex due to the nature of new crises, political instability and deteriorating safety, sustained dialogue involving various actors was essential to meeting those challenges. “We must avoid political considerations” for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, she said, underscoring the importance of ensuring unhindered access.
In 2011 and the first half of 2012, a majority of deaths and injuries among United Nations personnel had been caused by extremism, she noted. There was the need to improve security at the United Nations premises around the world. In that regard, support from local Governments was crucial. She went on to call for due attention to the impact of climate change, which had led to more frequent natural disasters and thus required more integrated responses. The drought in the Horn of Africa and the recent disasters caused by Hurricane Sandy reaffirmed the importance of international support. But such support “must be complemented by local resilience and long-term development,” she said. Attention should be paid to children, women and people with disabilities when building resilience. Noting the vulnerability of Central America, she called for more investment in disaster risk reduction. Lastly, she emphasized the need to make decisions based on reliable data.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) expressed his condolences to the families and colleagues of the United Nations humanitarian personnel who had lost their lives or were injured in the course of their duties this year. The dedication of the Organization’s staff who worked in dangerous and difficult circumstances supporting and delivering humanitarian aid was commendable.
He went on to say that currently, more than 60 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and the economic costs of disasters continued to rise, even though the number of disasters had decreased this year. The impact of climate change and increased frequency of natural disasters highlighted the need for closer coordination and collaboration between those working in the humanitarian, development, political and security-related areas.
Disaster risk reduction, he said, provided “the best value for the money” in reducing such impact, underscoring that one dollar in prevention had been estimated to save up to seven dollars in future humanitarian response. Further, the implementation of the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action was important. He urged vigilance in adhering to the core humanitarian principles, especially as partnerships were being formed with new actors.
Concluding, he said that inclusiveness should not only apply to humanitarian assistance and development actors, but also to those affected by emergencies. Recent resolutions on humanitarian response issues had called for appropriate consideration to gender, age and disability. As well, gender-based violence needed to be addressed, with measures ensuring prompt investigation and prosecution. He joined others in expressing support for the Transformative Agenda to strengthen coordination, leadership and accountability of the United Nations in humanitarian emergencies.
DESSIMA M. WILLIAMS (Grenada) commended Member States for recognizing, by the resolution, the need for coordination on all levels, as only through valuable collaboration could disaster risk management be achieved. Climate change, as a driver of disasters, was pertinent, and she called for more effective responses in adaption, mitigation and financing, particularly for developing countries and small island developing States. Such efforts could reduce disasters and allow citizens to pursue sustainable development.
She went on to say that no single Government could manage such challenges on its own. Thus, risk reduction was a global problem that required shared responsibility in order to produce resilience on the local, national, regional, and international levels. Further, efforts needed to be supported by all stakeholders in all sectors of society. The broad stakeholder participation must continue, she stressed. Transparency and reporting was also paramount so that shared information could provide the ability to continue in an efficient and successful manner.
In her own region, Canada was working with Belize, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands and her country within the Framework of the Caribbean Hazard Mitigation Capacity Building Program, which aimed to mitigate and manage disaster. Enhanced regional capacity would reduce disaster vulnerability through policies and programmes, which included, among others, safe building practices, training, certification and licensing.
Thanking Canada for its support and welcoming other partners to join in the initiative, she said it was urgent to include women’s leadership in all efforts to create policies and the development of programmes. Expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine and commending the work of UNRWA, she thanked the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Valeria Amos and all United Nations staff involved in humanitarian work.
WALTER A. FULLEMANN, Observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the global context in which humanitarian action took place had evolved significantly over the years, and would continue to do so. The scope of the label “humanitarian” had expanded to include the references to emergency relief, disaster-preparedness, early recovery, capacity-building, judicial action, restoring the rule of law and institutional reconstruction. The way in which the ICRC worked was also changing, due in part to new technologies that enabled a greater scope of action. Partnership was a key aspect of its activity. The growing number and diversity of those actors was making it ever harder to ensure a consistent, coordinated and effective humanitarian response, and thus help the needs of the people affected. “It is of paramount importance that this diversity does not lead to any confusion that would ultimately harm the people we have a duty to help,” he said.
Of fundamental concern to the ICRC today were the threats affecting the delivery of health care and the safety of those who delivered it, he said, adding that violence against healthcare workers, facilities and beneficiaries was one of the most serious yet neglected humanitarian issues today. The shelling of hospitals, attacks on ambulances and the fact that wounded people could remain in agony for hours in vehicles held up at checkpoints all demonstrated a blatant disrespect for the neutral status of health-care facilities, transport and personnel. In response to that reality, which was seen in many countries, the ICRC had launched a four-year initiative in 2011 entitled “Health Care in Danger” aimed at improving security and guaranteeing access to health care in armed conflicts and other emergencies.
MARWAN JILANI, Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the recent Typhoon Bopha, which had struck southern Philippines had left behind devastated communities and wide-spread destruction. More than 700 people had been confirmed dead and more than 900 were reported missing. The typhoon had affected the lives of 5 million people, wrecked over 70,000 houses and left more than 400,000 people seeking shelter in evacuation centres. Such circumstances would require increased international support for all actors to respond to the immense needs.
Turning to Hurricane Sandy, he said that the devastating impact of the super-storm, witnessed first hand by those in New York and New Jersey, had affected millions of people through the Caribbean and the United States. Among others, 1 million people in Cuba had been affected and in Haiti, because of continued rain, an increased risk of cholera had been present. The monetary impact was huge, with current estimates of the material cost at around $170 billion, making Sandy one of the most economically devastating climate related disasters.
The effects of climate change and the vulnerability to natural disasters, he went on to say, challenged all States, rich and poor, small island and large countries, and thus required a serious and concerted effort to tackle environmental challenges and the ensuing humanitarian repercussions. He recalled IFRC Vice-President Mohammed Al Maadheed’s closing remarks at the recent Doha COP (Conference of the Parties) 18 reminding Governments of their collective responsibility to better protect those at risk from the potentially devastating impact of climate change, and he stressed that, now that the conference had ended, collective responsibility must still be translated into concrete measures, commitments and resources.
Concluding, he said that the primary responsibility to protect citizens in disasters lay with their national authorities. In that regard, then national authorities needed to adequately invest in building resilience and promoting programs that strengthened all levels of response and preparedness. Further, Governments had a duty to request international assistance when the scale of the disaster exceeded their national capacities. “Collectively, we need to work together to ensure that disaster risk reduction and preparedness is given due attention and resources,” he stated.
EVELIEN BORGMAN, observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the global lead agency on migration continued to provide essential life-saving assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons and other migrants affected by crises around the world. Turning to the relevant reports by the Secretary-General, she noted three points for reflection, the first being that when providing humanitarian assistance during crises, her organization’s response needed to take into account the specific needs of migrants, whether they were refugees, internally displaced persons or migrant workers.
People crossing borders, as well as those stranded or unable to leave were in vulnerable situations, she continued. Such emergencies were often regarded as “migration crises” and caused complex and often large-scale migration flows and mobility patterns. They also illustrated the need for a rapid and inclusive response that provided immediate life-saving assistance, as well as longer-term life-planning and preparedness. To that end, IOM had developed a Migration Crisis Operational Framework which allowed for improvement and systematization of such a multi-dimensional response.
The second point, she said, was the multi-faceted character of migration, which required strong partnership and coordination with Governments, international organizations and many actors in civil society, from academia to direct assistance service providers. Working with many partners was critical for IOM’s operational work, and was highly valued by her organization as they enabled the building of long-term solutions. As for her third point, on long-term development as a crucial component in limiting the need for emergency relief in the future, she said that linking humanitarian and development action was vital to building national and local preparedness and response capacity, and to increasing the resilience of populations.
The multi-layered and often long-lasting challenges confronting migrants could not be divided into two stages, she stressed. People on the move could find themselves in need of both humanitarian and development assistance; one did not preclude the other. To ensure sustainability, transition needed to be gradual and required both flexibility and inclusiveness. Actors involved in both fields must work together to ensure a smooth transition from relief to development, she said in conclusion.
Action on Drafts
Wrapping up its debate, the Assembly adopted by consensus the following four draft resolutions: on participation of volunteers “White Helmets,” in activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development (document A/67/L.32); safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/67/L.37); assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/67/L.38); and strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/67/L.39).
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