– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

11 December 2020

 

Excellencies,

Thank you for joining today’s Plenary Meeting on Strengthening the Coordination of Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance of the United Nations, including Special Economic Assistance. Today’s debate is a critical opportunity to stand in solidarity with the millions of people caught in the direst of circumstances, and to reinforce our collective commitment to support humanitarian action, especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This discussion is becoming more relevant by the day. The recent Global Humanitarian Overview notes that 235 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2021, of which 160 million have been deemed the most vulnerable, requiring urgent assistance at a cost of $35 billion dollars. Likewise, we must prepare for the urgent possibility of famine this year, as 270 million people are at risk of acute food insecurity.

Clearly there is work to be done, and we have a responsibility to ensure that every effort is made to strengthen coordination and to reach those most in need. Particularly strong efforts must be made to support Internally Displaced Persons and refugees, who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 and who struggle to secure essential support. The importance of including refugees and IDPs in COVID-19 responses and recovery plans, including vaccine distribution, cannot be overstated.

Similarly, we must ensure our coordination efforts reflect gender considerations. Women and girls have also been acutely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with gender-based violence increasing substantially over the last 10 months along with widespread socio-economic impacts. A gender-responsive approach to the COVID crisis is essential to protecting this group.

As it is, people continue to suffer in deteriorating and protracted conflict situations. Member States and parties to conflicts must take all measures necessary to promote and ensure respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including by ensuring the protection of civilians, and humanitarian and health personnel and their facilities.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies, leaving no one behind is a cornerstone of the United Nations, and the onus is on us to ensure that our efforts to address the pandemic adhere to this principle. I would make two recommendations towards this end.

First, as we heard during last week’s special session of the UN General Assembly on COVID-19, there are multiple promising vaccines on the horizon. This is indeed welcome news, but I must stress: the approval of vaccines and the accessibility of vaccines are two very different things; ensuring fair and equitable vaccine access is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, and when it comes to humanitarian needs and subsequent costs and resources, there is a clear rationale for ensuring quick vaccination programmes for those in greatest need. It is essential that the ACT-Accelerator, including the COVAX Facility, is adequately financed and supported to reach these goals.

Second, we must not forget that humanitarian crises were here well before COVID-19. The pandemic has only exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. We must continue every effort to address conflict situations, and to tackle climate and environmental concerns.

As it is, people continue to suffer in deteriorating and protracted conflict situations. Member States and parties to conflicts must take all measures necessary to promote and ensure respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including by ensuring the protection of civilians, and humanitarian and health personnel and their facilities.

Additionally, we cannot allow COVID-19 to deter us from the larger challenge of addressing climate change, which risks fueling humanitarian crises into the future. As the international community pours trillions of dollars into COVID recovery, it is important that this is done through a lens of resilience, focused on recovering better and greener.

In closing, allow me to reiterate: the humanitarian resolutions to be discussed today, and the foundational General Assembly resolution 46/182 on strengthening coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance, are critical to the work of this organization and to those we serve. We owe it to the peoples of the world to give this our utmost consideration.

I look forward to our discussion today and I thank you all for listening.