General Assembly Adopts Five Resolutions as Delegates Stress Vital Importance of Unhindered Humanitarian Access

13 December 2013
GA/11471

General Assembly Adopts Five Resolutions as Delegates Stress Vital Importance of Unhindered Humanitarian Access

13 December 2013
General Assembly
GA/11471
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

67th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Five Resolutions as Delegates Stress Vital

 

Importance of Unhindered Humanitarian Access

 

Joint Debate on Assistance to Rwanda Genocide Survivors Concludes

Against a grim backdrop plagued by a rising frequency and severity of climate change impacts and continued bloodshed and violence in conflict-affected States, capacity-building efforts and enhanced cooperation must be priorities in shaping the world’s humanitarian response strategies, delegates heard today as the General Assembly unanimously adopted a package of five resolutions.  Doing so, the Assembly concluded its joint debate on that subject and on assistance to Rwandan genocide survivors.

Together, the resolutions addressed issues ranging from the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, assistance to the Palestinian people and strengthening the United Nations coordination of emergency assistance.  (For details, see Press Release GA/11470 of 12 December.)

A representative of the Republic of Korea emphasized a growing need for stronger leadership in the United Nations to cope with international humanitarian issues.  Recalling Typhoon Haiyan, he stressed the importance of enhancing preparedness capacity as essential for rapid and effective emergency response.

An observer from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded delegates that humanitarian action alone could not prevent or solve humanitarian problems.  With that in mind, he called on all Governments and armed groups to facilitate unhindered access to people in need so impartial organizations could deliver neutral, impartial and independent assistance.

Troubled by a blatant disregard for medical personnel and facilities, with a study of 23 countries recording more than 1,200 incidents and 112 medical personnel deaths from January 2012 to May 2013, the ICRC also called on Governments to help improve the situation and take decisive action to put an end to those violations of humanitarian law, he said.

As the Syrian crisis approached its third year, many delegates sounded a call to the Syrian Government to ease access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Canada’s representative said access must be improved and obstacles removed to ensure aid delivery to those in need.  He also echoed a common position concerning Syrians that were fleeing the violence, noting the immense pressure facing neighbouring countries.

Turkey’s representative agreed, recognizing that the Syrian people’s suffering had intensified and the ramifications of the conflict had become increasingly alarming.  Demonstrating the costs of that pressure, he said in the last two years, Turkey had spent more than $2 billion from its national budget for Syrian refugees in his country.  Working closely with United Nations agencies, Turkey would continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, he said, noting that his country had, over the last four years, raised its humanitarian assistance from $31 million to more than $1 billion in 2012.

Turning to the Assembly’s agenda item on assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the speaker from that country encouraged future focus on those most vulnerable.  Appreciating the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the subject, he called on Member States to recommit to the promise of “never again” in the prevention and the fight against genocide throughout the world.

Delivering statements were representatives of Indonesia, New Zealand, United States, Japan, Chile, Norway, Brazil and Colombia.

Also speaking were observers for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were an observer for the State of Palestine and representatives of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 16 December, to consider reports from its Sixth Committee (Legal).

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of agenda items related to Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance; Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; Assistance to the Palestinian people; Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster; and, Assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence  (See Press Release GA/11470).

YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), pointed to the series of unfortunate events that led to complex emergencies in 2012 displacing millions of people and causing billions of dollars in damage.  For that reason, resources and investment should be channelled to strengthen capacities for humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction and preparedness, especially in developing countries.  While the State held the primary responsibility in initiating, organizing, and implementing humanitarian assistance, the United Nations could take the leadership role in coordinating international support.  Meanwhile, regional organizations could ensure the timely delivery of assistance.  Transfer of technology and expertise to developing countries was instrumental in helping them help themselves.  Local communities, women, persons with disabilities and the private sector must also be included in deliberations on developing comprehensive emergency plans.

SAENG KIM ( Republic of Korea), speaking on agenda item 70 titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations”, noted that the frequency and severity of natural disasters was rising with the growing impact of climate change.  Against that backdrop, there was an increasing need for stronger leadership in the United Nations to cope with international humanitarian issues, he added.  Recalling Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, he stressed the importance of enhancing preparedness capacity as essential for rapid and effective emergency response, calling for capacity building efforts to be a priority on the agenda.  Turning to crisis in Syria, he noted the economic, social and environmental pressures posed on the host countries due to its refugees, and called for a new framework that allowed for more inclusive partnerships between humanitarian and development agencies.

GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) stressed that accountability to donors and affected populations was critical in improving disaster response.  As well, it was important to bolster international efforts to protect and better meet the needs of those most vulnerable, including religious minorities.  Preventing sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies and ending child and forced marriage was equally critical.  Expressing concern about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he noted the immense pressure being placed on neighbouring countries by the influx of refugees.  The Syrian Government must improve humanitarian access into the country and remove obstacles to aid delivery so that health-care providers have full and safe access to those affected by the violence.

JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, believing that, as new partnerships with new actors were formed, it was important to adhere to those principles.  He asked that humanitarian actors be granted access to all people in need of assistance, without delay and in an atmosphere free from the threat of being attacked, kidnapped of harassed.  To be better prepared in times of emergency, the strengthening of resilience of communities and building their capacities to deal with shocks were vital.  The impact of climate change, and the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, highlighted the need for closer coordination between those working in the humanitarian, development, political and security-related areas, he noted, welcoming the focus on those linkages recognized in the draft resolution.

HALIT ÇEVIK ( Turkey) said disaster preparedness could significantly reduce the risks and damage of a disaster and ensure the continuity of economic and social life.  The adoption of a comprehensive approach in humanitarian efforts, including disaster risk management, early response and recovery, was necessary.  Disaster mitigation and relief efforts had to be part of the comprehensive development agenda, an understanding reflected in the preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey in 2016.  The Summit process would address the issues of aid effectiveness, serving the people in need, innovation, and risk management, with the aim of sharing best practices and broadening partnerships in the humanitarian field.  As the crisis in Syria approached its third year, the Syrian people’s suffering had intensified and the ramifications of the conflict became more alarming.  Working closely with United Nations agencies, Turkey would continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people.  Over the last four years, Turkey’s humanitarian assistance had increased from $31 million to more than $1 billion.  Turkey had spent more than $2 billion, from its national budget, for Syrian refugees in Turkey in just the last two years.  The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report indicated that Turkey was the fourth-largest Government donor in 2012.  His country’s contributions to the Central Emergency Response Fund had reach $2 million since the Fund’s inception.

JILL DERDERIAN (United States) stressing her country’s commitment to assisting in  humanitarian efforts, expressed deep concern over the displacement of more than 28.8 million people; that was the figure recorded at the end of 2012 in the Report of the Secretary-General and represented the highest figure ever registered.  Those figures were expected to grow in 2013 due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, as well as the turmoil in Mali and the Central African Republic.  She then called on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other relevant actors to redouble their efforts and their focus.  Protecting people from conflict needed a holistic approach, she added, ranging from access to legal documents to gender-based violence.  In conclusion, she expressed deep concern over the lack of access and the risks faced by humanitarian actors, calling for rapid and unimpeded

KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO ( Japan) said that the United Nations humanitarian system was woefully overstretched.  His country had provided hundreds of millions of dollars to relieve human strife in both the Philippines and Syria.  However, the needs were so immense that financial contributions from traditional donors were simply not enough.  “This is why we have to discuss not only how we finance humanitarian needs, but also how better we address such needs,” he stressed.  Holding a World Humanitarian Summit would help share knowledge and best practices in the humanitarian field, in order to improve response coordination, capacity and effectiveness.  It was critical to ensure that disaster risk reduction be explicitly incorporated into the framework of the post-2015 development agenda.

OCTAVIO ERRÀZURIZ ( Chile) said his delegation had greatly valued the package of draft texts, including provisions for the protection of personnel and vulnerable populations.  He also appreciated the references to ensuring greater transparency in humanitarian assistance and the inclusion of a range of actors, including the private sector, in response and prevention efforts.  With more disasters occurring at a time of dwindling funding, he called on donors to meet their commitments.  There was also a need to create a mechanism that eased the transfer of a country from the category of being “rescued” to one of “development”, he said.  Cooperation and coordination should ensure efficient outcomes that avoided duplication of efforts.

ISAIE BAGABO ( Rwanda) said that nearly 20 years since the Genocide took place, the Rwandans and its survivors were making efforts in reconstructing the social fabric that was broken.  He then underscored the Government’s allocation of $39 million from its ordinary budget to the Assistance fund for Survivors, stressing that it still faced major challenges linked to the task of rebuilding the lives of the survivors, including securing sustainable employment for young survivors, many of whom became orphans.  While endorsing all recommendations contained in the related Report of the Secretary-General, he encouraged a future focus on those most vulnerable, such as orphans, widows, those with disabilities and the elderly.  In conclusion, he called on Member States to recommit to the promise of “Never again” in the prevention and the fight against genocide throughout the world.

GEIR O.PEDERSEN ( Norway), recalling the humanitarian response triggered by Typhoon Haiyan, noted the importance of disaster risk reduction and preparedness.  Avoiding disaster could not be possible, he added, but the consequences for a well prepared community could be less disastrous.  Turning to the crisis in Syria, he said that despite the fact that millions of people found themselves in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, and the fact that humanitarian actors stood ready, Governments continued to deny civilian access to lifesaving assistance.  While the United Nations had a leading role to play in the coordination and delivery of international humanitarian assistance, he noted that the primary responsibility for the protection of people remained with the Government.  However, enormous protection needs, in a number of crises, continued to be ignored.  In conclusion, he called on Governments to live up to their obligations under international law and to invest in preparedness and resilience.

GUILHERMO PATRIOTA ( Brazil) said coordinated responses had addressed some of the world’s most tragic situations of disaster and conflict over the last year.  His country was pleased that the draft resolutions contained language on recovery and long-term development.  Cash-transfers, local procurement of food and social safety nets were all positive elements to, among other things, making emergency response more effective.  Cash-based assistance had aided those in need in disaster and conflict situations.  Brazil was committed to humanitarian cooperation efforts that reduced poverty and that aimed at achieving development goals.

MIGUEL C. RUÍZ BLANCO (Colombia), recalling the heritage of experience collected through more than 40 years of conflict and several natural disasters, said that his country had the necessary authority to address with serious conviction the content of the resolution.  His position was coherent with the belief that international humanitarian assistance should be provided subject to humanitarian principles, namely humanity, neutrality and impartiality, and with respect to the primary role of the affected States.  He expressed hope that those principles would be reflected more explicitly in the resolution.  Turning to the issue of unrestricted access of humanitarian workers, he said that it did not ensure effective delivery of humanitarian aid, especially if not coordinated with the concerned State.  In conclusion, he called for inter-agency coordination mechanisms to enable the empowerment of technical, human and financial capabilities, under a holistic perspective.

MARWAN JILANI, Permanent Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the pressure on humanitarian budgets and humanitarian organizations to meet the increasing needs of today’s humanitarian emergencies was evident across the world.  The majority of the recent disasters were climate related, he noted, believing that their impact could be mitigated and their costs, both human and material, could be reduced through better investment in disaster preparedness and risk reduction.  Unless measures were taken to reduce risks, climate change was likely to undermine poverty goals and exacerbate inequality, he added, calling on national authorities to invest in building resilience.  A case in point was the response to Typhoon Haiyan, as he underscored a partnership between his organization and the Philippine Red Cross to develop streamlined rules and procedures for humanitarian relief, which was pivotal after the typhoon hit.

STAPHANE BONAMY, an observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said millions of lives were still disrupted by armed conflicts characterized by extreme violence, contempt for civilians and widespread disregard for humanitarian law.  Access those in need was essential for the ICRC, which had been prevented from doing its work by the absence of minimum security conditions.  In extremely polarized and politicized situations, it was crucial to reach people on all sides.  If the ICRC was unable to establish a confidential dialogue with military forces, armed groups and civil authorities, it would be unable to act when people were threatened or put in harm’s way as a result of hostilities.  The ICRC conducts such dialogues to secure acceptance of its presence, a relationship of trust and respect for humanitarian law.

Yet, humanitarian action could not prevent or solve humanitarian problems alone, he said, calling on all Governments and armed groups to grant and facilitate unhindered access to people in need so the ICRC and other impartial humanitarian organizations could deliver neutral, impartial and independent assistance and protection.  The ICRC was troubled by the blatant disregard for medical personnel and facilities, with a study of 23 countries recording more than 1,200 incidents and 112 medical personnel deaths from January 2012 to May 2013.  He called on Governments to help improve the situation and take decisive action to put an end to those violations of humanitarian law.  He also called on States and other parties to armed conflict to show the requisite political will to initiate or actively support efforts to address the above-mentioned concerns.

MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), noting the many recent humanitarian emergencies, identified them as “migration crises” as they often resulted in a complex and large-scale migration flow and mobility pattern.  They showed the need for a rapid and inclusive response that provided immediate life-saving assistance, as well as longer-term life-planning and preparedness.  In addition, the multifaceted character of migration required strong partnerships and coordination, with Governments, with partner organizations and civil society, with the aim to leverage expertise to meet the protection, assistance and recovery needs of affected populations.  Furthermore, given the changing and interconnected drivers of crises, she called on Government, humanitarian and development actors to work to in ways that reduced and managed the risk of crises.  Long-term development was crucial to limiting the need for emergency relief, she concluded.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then adopted by consensus the following draft resolutions:  Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (document A/68/L.21); Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/68/L.22); Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/68/L.24); Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/68/L.25); and, International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/68/L.27).

Right of Reply

The observer for the State of Palestine, exercising his right of reply, said that Israel’s humanitarian activities would not in fact change the existing reality, which was that Israel was a military occupying authority, with the longest list of human right violations, including crimes perpetrated against civilians.  The sole option was to convince the international community to put an end to the occupation of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, and to implement a just, durable and lasting peace.  Since 1998, the Palestinian leaders and its people had agreed to a two-State solution, he added, with the State of Palestine and the State of Israel, living side by side.  The reality of Israel’s occupation would not change if the international community would not take measures as it did when it put an end to the apartheid in South Africa.

The representative of Israel expressed deep concern and shock over the words spoken by the Palestinian delegate, especially since no mention was made of the fact that Israel had joined consensus on the resolution related to the Assistance of Palestinian People.  The words spoken were full of lies against the Israeli Government, aimed at exploiting a professional discourse on humanitarian issues in the Assembly, contradicting the very spirit of negotiation.  The language spoken was rather one of the propaganda pamphlets, then one adequate for a substantive debate in the United Nations.  He said that not a word was spoken of the responsibility of Hamas in Gaza or of the Israeli’s activities to build infrastructure in the Strip.  In conclusion, he said that time was also a precious natural resources, and invited the Palestinian delegate to not exploit the United Nations arena for political propaganda.

Saudi Arabia’s representative responded to allegations made against his country by the Syrian delegation.  Saudi Arabia had provided support to Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as other efforts to help the Syrian people.  Regarding the Syrian delegation’s accusations, he said lies presented here were meant to distract delegates and divert attention from what was happening on the ground.

In response, Syria’s representative asked if Saudi Arabia’s delegate was aware of exactly what the assistance funding had been used for.  The Saudi intelligence agency had been recruiting criminals and members of Al-Qaida sent to kill Syrians, she said.  Saudi Arabia’s delegate had stated that his country was sending assistance to the Syrian people but, in fact, was providing the Syrian opposition with weapons.

Turkey’s representative said his country rejected the allegations made by one delegation and would continue to stand by the Syrian people.

In Response, the State of Palestine’s observer said he was not surprised by the words of Israel’s delegate.

Syria’s representative said that Turkey’s delegate had talked about sympathizing with the Syrian people, but that country’s policies showed a different position.  She said Al-Qaida members had been based in Turkey and Turkish nationals had joined the fight against Syria.  Reports had also indicated that Turkish authorities had supervised weapons transfers to the Sinai and Egypt.

In response, Israel’s representative said that echoing lies did not make them truths.  Whatever lies were spread here, Israel was engaged with a direct dialogue with the Palestinians.  In the General Assembly, Israel was joining a consensus on assistance to the Palestinian people.  With that in mind, he could not comprehend the cynical words of the Palestinian delegate and he asked all delegates to condemn those statements.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.