– As delivered –

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

9 September 2021


Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank His Excellency Heiko Mass Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, His Excellency James Cleverly Minister of State for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom, and the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths for convening this timely meeting.

The 75th session of the General Assembly is drawing to a close. I advanced the humanitarian agenda as my priority and I am confident that it will remain a priority for His Excellency, President-elect Shahid as well. As we respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 pandemic we must take special care and consideration when considering highly vulnerable groups.

Despite our best efforts, humanitarian needs are growing. Right now, 235 million people around the world are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection – that’s 40% more than this time last year. This already staggering number is likely to increase further when we consider the situation in Afghanistan, as well as evolving needs elsewhere.

As we contend with the deepest global recession since the 1930s, unemployment has risen, and global extreme poverty has increased for the first time in over two decades.

I thank the donors who have stepped up to preserve critical assistance. However, despite increased commitment by donors, humanitarian needs are surpassing humanitarian financing.

We need to take urgent action now to reverse this trend. Business as usual will not put us on the road to recovery.

Today, we have the power to reduce mortality and morbidity, enhance the dignity of recipients, and increase cost-effectiveness of humanitarian operations. That is, if we invest in anticipatory action.

By releasing resources against a pre-agreed protocol based on credible predictions and forecasts of disasters, we can protect those in the most precarious situations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is evident the UN is rarely ahead of the crisis curve – in fact we are usually far behind a crisis. Take the examples of Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar and the historic situation in Palestine.

COVID-19 has proved that our anticipatory measures are not sufficient or are simply archaic.

Indeed, if this past year has taught us one thing it is that we need to be prepared. We need to evolve in pace with the rapidly developing world we are operating within.

Earlier this session, the General Assembly adopted resolution 75/127 encouraging Member States and the humanitarian system to develop or strengthen anticipatory mechanisms. The membership affirmed that fast, and flexible financing for preparedness, early action, early response and early recovery is the best path forward.

Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that anticipatory action is faster and more cost-effective than traditional approaches. It provides our best chance at preventing crises from spiralling out of control and backsliding on hard-won development gains.

We are fortunate enough to have the tools to predict future emergencies, and to analyse how those farthest behind are impacted by multiple crises. Now is the time to utilize these tools.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Throughout my tenure I have travelled to meet with the most vulnerable people in the world. In doing so, I have sought to share how we are fulfilling our obligation to meet the needs of the people we serve.

I flew over the flooded lowlands of Bangladesh, to meet with displaced Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. They shared with me their concerns for the safety of their loved ones still in Myanmar, while cyclone winds whipped around us.

On the Turkish Syrian border, I surveyed the most closely scrutinised relief operations in the world. I saw the determination of the OCHA personnel, yet I feared the scale of these relief operations would not meet the need of the Syrian people.

Indeed, when I visited several Small Island Developing States, it was clear to me that the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic were wreaking havoc on the lives of the people living there. This was prior to the disaster which struck St. Vincent, when La Soufrière Volcano erupted in April.

20,000 people on this small island are today displaced, and in receipt of life-saving assistance.

Yet they survived.

They survived due to the swift activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre and Regional Response Mechanism, supported by the United Nations and partners.

They survived because authorities anticipated this disaster.


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is clear to me that we know how to save lives.

We need to go beyond survival mode. Our early warning tools must be strengthened to safeguard both lives and livelihoods.

We know this is possible.

We know this is needed.

It was a privilege to contribute to this event.

I thank you for your continued commitment to the people whom we have pledged to serve.

Thank you very much for inviting me.