Responding to Current Humanitarian Crises, General Assembly Adopts Texts Aimed at Alleviating Suffering of Millions, Protecting Civilians, Aid Workers

GA/11870
8 December 2016
Seventy-first Session, 56th & 57th Meetings (AM & PM)

Responding to Current Humanitarian Crises, General Assembly Adopts Texts Aimed at Alleviating Suffering of Millions, Protecting Civilians, Aid Workers

Tasked with addressing and alleviating the largest scale of human suffering — 130 million dependent on aid for survival — since the founding of the United Nations, the General Assembly took up a plethora of humanitarian issues today, adopting five resolutions on a sector whose workers were increasingly in demand and danger.

Based on the texts, which were adopted without a vote, the Assembly condemned in the strongest terms possible all attacks on aid workers and urged States to prevent and prosecute acts of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.  It also urged donors to continue aid flows to the Palestinian people and urged Member States to take action to prepare for the effects of climate change and natural disasters.  The Assembly also decided to designate 26 April International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2017.

Taking up draft resolutions pertaining to crisis and emergency situations, the Assembly, by one titled “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel”, stressed the importance of continuing close consultations with host Governments and the obligation to protect medical personnel and hospitals.  Prior to adopting that text as a whole, the Assembly held two recorded votes on proposed amendments (documents A/71/L.36 and A/71/L.37).  Introduced by the delegation of Sudan, they would have, respectively, replaced, in preambular paragraph 26, references to the Rome Statute and International Criminal Court, as well as delete operative paragraph 7, which called upon all States to consider becoming parties to those instruments.

The Assembly urged Member States to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies, by a draft on “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance to the United Nations”.  It also urged them to continue to seek and prosecute violations and abuses against children in humanitarian emergencies.  By the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development”, the Assembly urged Member States to develop, update and strengthen early warning systems, disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures.

The Assembly, by a draft on “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, urged Member States, international financial institutions and regional organizations to extend economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people.  It also stressed the role of all funding instruments in directly assisting the Palestinian people and called on international donors to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance in order to help the Palestinian people meet their urgent needs.

In opening remarks, General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said that worldwide, 128.6 million people were affected by conflict, violence and disaster, with almost 93 million in need of protection and humanitarian assistance.  The United Nations and its partners were currently launching the largest humanitarian appeal in history, seeking $22.2 billion in 2017 to meet the urgent needs of people across the globe, he said.

He said new ways to sustain peace, resolve conflicts, combat climate change and better manage migrant and refugee flows must be identified.  “Long-term solutions are needed to break the cycles of recurrent crisis and conflict in which the world is currently caught,” he said.

During the day-long meeting, speakers shared experiences in giving and receiving assistance.  The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the Palestinian economy had suffered from decades of Israeli occupation with a lack of control over their monetary and fiscal policies, the two main components of a healthy economy.  He called Member States to work “alongside us” and support “genuine” development endeavours.  While citing recent progress, he said economic losses continued, with everything that was being paid to the Palestinian people being “just a bill of the occupation”.  Accessing its resources would allow Palestine to establish a strong economy, making it no longer dependent on international aid, he said.

Israel’s delegate said that the prosperity of the Palestinian people was a direct Israeli interest and that despite the onslaught of terror attacks against its citizens, Israel had continued to provide assistance, including building hundreds of schools, clinics, mosques and parks.  Hamas regularly confiscated, diverted and smuggled resources dedicated to the humanitarian needs of Gaza residents.  There should be zero tolerance for such abuse, terrorism and violence.  The Palestinian Authority must take a constructive path and accept Israel’s repeated calls to resume direct negotiations.

The ongoing Syria conflict, which some speakers said was responsible for the world’s gravest and most complex humanitarian crisis, was a recurring theme in the discussion.  Some delegates, including New Zealand’s representative, raised concerns at the lack of access to civilian populations.  No other conflict had taken a heavier toll on its civilian population, she said, expressing disappointment in the Security Council’s inability to adopt a resolution that would have allowed humanitarian aid to reach more than 250,000 civilians in Aleppo.

Speakers from affected countries presented their point of views, with the delegate from Syria expressing concern that some States and organizations were using humanitarian access to serve an “inhumane agenda” and political interests.   The Government of Syria remained committed to extending humanitarian aid in full respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Welcoming the reference in the texts to terrorism as a cause of humanitarian crises, he said, “We have to use stronger language that unambiguously and unanimously condemns terrorism.”  Terrorism was the reason for current suffering in his country and combating it required cooperation with the Government.

Some speakers made suggestions on ways to move forward.  Vladimir Puchkov, the Russian Federation’s Minister for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, said efforts should be stepped up to fine-tune international legal and normative frameworks and the coordination of international assistance.  In that regard, he proposed that international crisis centres be pooled and brought together into a single global network, calling for the establishment of a number of United Nations task forces.

The Assembly took up the following reports: safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/71/395); strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/71/82); international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/71/329); Central Emergency Response Fund (document A/71/336); outcome of the World Humanitarian Summit (document A/71/353); assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/71/87); a new approach to cholera in Haiti (document A/71/620); and optimizing the international effort to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (document A/71/411).  Also before the Assembly was a letter dated 7 December 2016 from the Chair of the Committee on Conferences addressed to the President of the General Assembly (document A/71/382/Add.1).

Introducing today’s draft resolutions were the representatives of Belarus, Slovakia, Sweden and Thailand.  Speaking today were the representatives Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), India (also for Sweden), Australia, Cuba, Qatar, United States, China, Kuwait, Ukraine, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, Canada, Georgia, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, as well as the European Union.  The representative of Greece spoke on a point of order.  Representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross also delivered statements.

The representatives of the Russian Federation, Israel, Ukraine and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

In other business today, the Assembly decided to authorize the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing to meet at New York Headquarters from 12 to 15 December 2016.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 December, to take up its item on the prevention of armed conflict and to take action on a related draft resolution.  Consideration of the items on culture of peace and global health and foreign policy was postponed to a later date, to be announced.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, noted that 2016 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of that organ’s adoption of resolution 46/182, on “Strengthening the coordination of emergency assistance of the United Nations”, a landmark development for the Organization in establishing guiding principles for the coordination of humanitarian assistance.  “While this is a moment for commemoration, regrettably it is taking place at a time of escalating humanitarian emergency and need,” he said, recalling that ongoing conflicts and the devastating impacts of climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters were compounding and leading to the suffering of millions.  Some 128.6 million people were affected by conflict, violence and disaster, with almost 93 million in need of protection and humanitarian assistance.

Indeed, the United Nations and its partners were currently launching the largest humanitarian appeal in history, seeking $22.2 billion in 2017 to meet the urgent needs of people across the globe, he continued.  Urging all Member States to contribute, he underscored the need to find new ways to sustain peace, resolve conflicts, combat climate change and better manage migrant and refugee flows.  Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction must be prioritized for urgent action, he emphasized.  “Long-term solutions are needed to break the cycles of recurrent crisis and conflict in which the world is currently caught,” he continued, highlighting the urgent need to implement the Sustainable Development Goals effectively and at scale.  Particularly vulnerable were developing countries, especially least developed ones and small island developing States, he noted.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), introducing a draft resolution titled “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/71/L.28), explained that its aim was to surmount the long-term consequences of the 1986 nuclear accident.  Although three decades had elapsed, millions of people in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation continued to reside in contaminated areas, which included nearly one quarter of Belarus territory, he noted, stressing that notwithstanding the great successes towards recovery, much remained to be done.  The thirtieth anniversary would coincide with the establishment of the United Nations Action Plan on Chernobyl, he said, adding that a major theme of the draft resolution was to support its implementation.  The text also underscored the need to monitor the situation, assess the effectiveness of international cooperation and study medical and other consequences of the disaster.

He went on to say that a key symbolic component of the draft resolution was the designation of 26 April as International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2017.  The draft was a confirmation of the international community’s steadfast commitment and willingness to continue to shed light on the nuclear accident, he added, expressing gratitude to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its role in international cooperation on Chernobyl.  Among other things, the draft would have the Assembly acknowledge the need to continue international cooperation on the matter and encourage Member States and all interested partners to support international cooperation on Chernobyl aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Chernobyl-affected regions, including through partnerships, innovation and investment.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia) introduced two draft resolutions titled, respectively, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/71/L.34) and “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/71/L.31).  Presenting the first text, he said that in 2015, 109 aid workers had been killed, 110 injured and 68 kidnapped while conducting humanitarian work.  Although those figures were somewhat lower than the all-time high of 2013, they were still unacceptably high, he said, emphasizing that the operating environment for humanitarian and United Nations personnel had become significantly more dangerous.  Today’s resolution strongly reaffirmed that all deliberate attacks against civilians, as well as attacks against medical personnel, were clearly violations of international humanitarian law, and that perpetrators must be held accountable.  It notably emphasized the need to promptly, fully and effectively investigate such attacks, he added.

By other terms of the text, the Assembly would condemn in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel, he continued.  It would also strongly urge that all States take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of national and international humanitarian personnel.  The Assembly would strongly condemn all acts of violence as well as attacks and threats against humanitarian personal, and stress the importance of continuing close coordinated and consultations with host Governments.  It would stress the obligation to respect and protect medical personnel as well as hospitals and medical facilities.  By other terms, the Assembly would call upon all relevant actors to make every effort to support, in their public statements, a favourable environment for the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.

Submitting the draft “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, he said it embodied the wish of the European Union and the entire international community to help the Palestinian people.  He reaffirmed the commitment to provide essential assistance to Palestinian State-building efforts, to strengthen the economy and to meet humanitarian needs.  It would also have the Assembly stress the importance of the work done carried out by the United Nations and its agencies, notably in providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and urge all international actors to provide economic and social assistance.  The Assembly would also stress the importance of free humanitarian access. 

By other terms, the Assembly would urge Member States, international financial institutions and regional organizations to extend economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people.  It would also stress the importance of following up on the results of the Cairo International Conference on Palestine.  Further by the text, the Assembly would stress the role of all funding instruments in directly assisting the Palestinian people and call upon the international donor community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance in order to help the Palestinian people meet their urgent needs.  The Assembly would stress the importance of ensuring free humanitarian access to the Palestinian people and of the free movement of persons and goods.  It would further stress the need to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and facilities so as to allow them to perform efficiently their task of assisting affected civilian populations.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) introduced the draft resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance to the United Nations” (document A/71/L.32), recalling that its adoption for the first time 25 years ago had cemented a sense of solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable.  Against the backdrop of grave humanitarian crises, it was important to revive that momentum, he emphasized.  The goal remained the same: to come to the aid of men, women and children caught in conflict.  The text reaffirmed the role of the United Nations in assisting the most vulnerable and highlighted the difficult situation of people displaced by war and climate change, he said, adding that it also reinforced the role of women in providing humanitarian aid.

By terms of that text, he continued, the Assembly would urge Member States to continue to give priority to efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute acts of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.  It would also urge them to continue to seek and prosecute violations and abuses against children in humanitarian emergencies, and to strengthen support services for affected children.  The text would urge Member States, the United Nations and other relevant organizations to take further steps to provide a coordinated emergency response to the food and nutrition needs of affected populations.  By other terms, the Assembly would call upon Member states to ensure non-discrimination as well as opportunities for persons with disabilities to participate equally with others in humanitarian preparedness and response.  It would also call on the United Nations to engage all people affected by crises while taking into account their culture, traditions and local customs.  The text would also have the Assembly urge all countries to integrate into their respective national polices the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which included a comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centred set of universal and transformative goals and targets.  It would also urge Member States, the United Nations and relevant stakeholders to work together to reduce the needs and build resilience of the world’s most vulnerable.

WALAYA JARIYADHAM (Thailand) introduced, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the draft resolution titled “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/71/L.33).  She reaffirmed the importance of such cooperation, in line with the guiding principles for the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, while also recognizing that affected States had the primary responsibility in the initiation, organization, coordination and implementation of such assistance within their territories.  A new element of the current text sought to strengthen support for capacity and resilience building of affected States and communities and for the accelerated implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030.  It also sought to promote inclusive participation and non‑discrimination and enhance the leadership of those in vulnerable situations.

Statements

VLADIMIR PUCHKOV, Minister for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief of the Russian Federation, described his country’s growing role in the provision of international humanitarian assistance.  Noting that the frequency and scale of disasters were increasing and that digital technology had introduced new threats at a time when terrorism and extremism was spreading, he underscored the Russian Federation’s willingness to cooperate with other States on the basis of trust and mutual respect.  Indeed, international cooperation in preventing and surmounting humanitarian challenges could bring people together and build good neighbourly relations while fostering the achievement of sustainable development targets.  In the Russian Federation, a central ministry was in charge of emergency response and tackled a host of issues, having provided assistance to 19 countries and millions of people in the wake of disasters.

He said the Russian Federation was also a reliable donor to the Central Emergency Response Fund, World Food Programme, UNDP, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and other agencies.  Warning against the imposition of assistance to sovereign States without their consent, he presented a number of specific proposals, including the strengthening and enlarging of the United Nations central coordinating role in humanitarian initiatives and the creation of a new economic model for the provision of international humanitarian assistance.  That model should ensure that countries which stoked conflict bore the responsibility for providing assistance to refugees and other affected people.  Humanitarian budgets should be reduced, including through increased investment in early conflict prevention, and assistance should be more prompt and targeted.  In addition, efforts should be stepped up to fine-tune international legal and normative frameworks and the coordination of international assistance.  In that regard, he proposed that international crisis centres be pooled and brought together into a single global network, calling for the establishment of a number of United Nations task forces.

EDUARDO FERNANDEZ ZINCKE, European Union delegation, said the scale of human suffering was greater today than at any time since the United Nations had been founded.  Some 130 million people worldwide were dependent on humanitarian assistance for their protection and survival and more than 65 million people had been displaced, the highest number since the Second World War.  The gap between needs and resources and the capacity of response continued to increase, he added, emphasizing that the world spent around $25 billion to provide lifesaving aid to millions of people.  Stressing the need for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law so aid workers could carry out their duties, he said that violators of the law must be held accountable.  Women, children, older persons and people with disabilities were disproportionately vulnerable during times of conflict and disasters and humanitarian operations must consider their specific needs.

He said donors should not simply give more, but give better by being more flexible, providing more predictability and reducing administrative barriers.  Aid organizations must reciprocate with greater transparency and cost-consciousness and by employing the best and most efficient assistance modalities.  Cooperation between humanitarian and development programming and financing must be put into practice towards common results to reduce need and vulnerability.  The best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs was to address their root causes and that required strong determination at the highest level of global leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts.  Humanitarian aid could never be the solution to a crisis, he said, urging the international community to work on political solutions to end conflicts.  He also emphasized the need to increase investment in disaster risk reduction, especially in the most vulnerable communities.

Mr. CHRISTODOULIDIS (Greece), speaking on a point of order, referred to the statement delivered by the representative of Russian Federation.  Relevant resolutions had established that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be referred to as such.

DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that disaster management remained a key priority for the region.  At a recent summit in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, leaders had adopted the ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN, One Response to achieve faster results, mobilize greater resources and establish stronger coordination to ensure a collective regional reaction to disasters.  The Declaration was recently put into action during the ASEAN regional disaster emergency response simulation exercise, testing its communication capacities in coordinating assistance.  The exercise had also tested coordination between ASEAN bodies and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, yielding valuable lessons on the interoperability of the host country and international responders.

In 2016, he said, ASEAN had inaugurated the Regional Mine Action Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which would share expertise and best practices to address humanitarian aspects of anti-personnel mines and the explosive remnants of war.  Since 2006, ASEAN had been cooperating on a wide range of issues, including humanitarian assistance, featuring significantly in the recently adopted Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2016‑2020).  ASEAN had also been actively aligning its disaster risk management efforts with the implementation, monitoring and reporting of relevant United Nations frameworks, including the Sendai Framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

TANMAYA LAL (India), also speaking on behalf of Sweden, said the two countries had enjoyed a strong partnership in the area of humanitarian assistance.  “The magnitude, geographical expanse and frequency of humanitarian crises around the world requiring international assistance is unparalleled,” he said, stressing that the international response was falling significantly short at a time when needs had quadrupled in just a decade.  While the landmark collective will that had been displayed in 2015 in finalizing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change had given hope that the international community could rise to meet those increasingly interconnected challenges, attempts to address all forms of humanitarian challenges with a single, unified approach would be ineffective and inefficient.  Complementarity must be identified and coordination increased among humanitarian agencies, including using local capacities.  The current refugee crisis revealed the need for some “course correction” and reforms at the United Nations and among its Member States, he said, calling in particular for more predictable funding.  The primary responsibility for providing protection and humanitarian assistance in a crisis always lay with the affected State, he said, also expressing support for the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, emphasized the need to distinguish between rescue and development operations.  The goal should not be just to remain alive, he said, welcoming donor and partner efforts that had provided assistance to the Palestinian people.  The Palestinian economy had suffered for decades from the Israeli occupation — which was a direct violation of international law — with a lack of control over their own monetary and fiscal policies, the two main components of a healthy economy.  Palestinian export activity had severely plummeted after Israeli customs officials had recently gone on strike, affecting the land crossing on the Jordanian border, which Israel controlled.

He said a Palestinian development plan must be established in accordance with the 2030 Agenda.  Calling on Member States to work “alongside us” to adopt a draft supporting those “genuine” development endeavours, he said the Palestinian people were determined to overcome all obstacles and manage a modern State with great efficiency.  Citing recent progress, he said the banking sector had been recognized for its excellent services, agricultural resources were reaching European markets and the illiteracy rate was among the lowest in the world.  Since 2013, the Palestinian Government had reduced its deficit by 40 per cent.  However, economic losses continued, with everything that was being paid to the Palestinian people being “just a bill of the occupation”.  Accessing its resources would allow Palestine to establish a strong economy, making it no longer dependent on international aid.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) said it was crucial to support local leadership and context-specific responses wherever possible, including through targeted investments in preparedness.  While the Grand Bargain on humanitarian financing would increase efficiency, alongside greater investments in gender equality, disability inclusiveness and private sector engagement, much of that was “tinkering, not transforming” the humanitarian system.  Reminding all parties of their obligations to protect civilians under international humanitarian law and human rights law, she said the arbitrary and wilful denial of humanitarian access was an international disgrace and could constitute a war crime.  The World Humanitarian Summit was a reminder that people must be at the centre of humanitarian action.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) said humanitarian assistance should be provided at the affected State’s request and consent and on the principles of neutrality.  The United Nations Charter must be respected, she said, opposing ambiguous concepts regarding principles of sovereignty and non-interference in State affairs.  Hunger, poverty and war had placed millions of people in precarious situations, making it important to provide condition-free aid, including technical assistance.  Humanitarian assistance in emergency situations must contribute to the sustainable development of the affected State.  Spotlighting how poverty and the inequality of the global economic system had affected people worldwide, she said a defence mechanism must be established to protect the socioeconomic well-being of all.  The heroic efforts of the Palestinian people required special attention and efforts must be redoubled to end the injustice they faced.

ABDULAZIZ BIN AHMED AL MALKI AL JEHANI (Qatar) said complex disasters had led to unprecedented levels of displacements, overburdening the United Nations and other partners coordinating humanitarian assistance.  Qatar had provided assistance and had always been cooperative with the international community in facing challenges.  Qatar had also committed to the 2030 Agenda, he added, emphasizing that cooperation and joint action were key to achieving sustainable development.  Everyone had a right to enjoy human rights and the rule of law.  Given the pressing needs and the suffering of millions, Qatar had been at the forefront of advancing peace and security and the settlement of disputes, particularly in the Arab region.   The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip must be addressed with integrity and impartiality, he said, noting that Qatar would remain a reliable development partner to all people.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States) said the world was haunted by its inability to end conflicts and reach people in need, such as in Lake Chad Basin, Syria and Yemen.  Welcoming the draft resolutions, she said Syria’s continued efforts to prevent its citizens from receiving humanitarian aid had reminded the international community of the importance of access.  The omnibus resolution called on the United Nations to improve humanitarian coordination and sought to increase transparency and reduce duplication of efforts across the system.  Expressing regret that the Syrian delegation had broken silence following inclusive, transparent negotiations on that draft, she said that last-minute obstructionism ran counter to the longstanding spirit of compromise at a time when Syria had already lost its international credibility.

WU HINTAO (China) said current threats had resulted in a grim overall humanitarian situation.  Stressing that the international community must remain united in addressing both their symptoms and root causes, he called for respect for international norms and law as a basis for all humanitarian assistance, including respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States.  Politicizing humanitarian assistance should be avoided and the need for such aid should be reduced through development efforts.  Developed nations should fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, including by providing capacity building to African States and least developed countries and enhancing the capacity of those affected by disaster.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs should continue to play its important role in coordinating assistance and guaranteeing the equal participation of all countries, including developing States, in humanitarian affairs.

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel) said 2016 had been another year of devastating humanitarian crises.  “As I stand here, Syria continues to bleed,” he said.  That carnage had claimed more than 400,000 lives, including thousands of children, and had displaced half of the Syrian population.  In Yemen, continuous indiscriminate attacks by the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels continued to take a deadly toll.  Citing other humanitarian emergencies, he said Israel had long been committed to extending aid wherever it was needed.

He said economic development led to stability, which developed into prosperity.  Economic growth and prosperity of the Palestinian people was a direct Israeli interest, he said, emphasizing that despite the onslaught of terror attacks against its citizens, Israel continued to provide assistance, including refurbishing more than 100,000 residential units and building hundreds of schools, clinics, mosques and parks.  Noting that Hamas regularly confiscated, diverted and smuggled resources dedicated to the humanitarian needs of Gaza residents, he said there should be zero tolerance for such abuse, terrorism and violence.  While Israel remained committed to supplying humanitarian aid and assistance to the Palestinian people, those efforts alone would not bring about peace and prosperity.  In that regard, he called on the Palestinian Authority to take a constructive path and accept Israel’s repeated calls to resume direct negotiations.

ABDULAZIZ S M A ALJARALLAH (Kuwait) said the World Humanitarian Summit had been a milestone in seeking solutions to the problems plaguing the world.  It was critical to expand the donor base, he added, highlighting initiatives Kuwait had adopted to earmark funds for humanitarian and rescue operations.  The United Nations system, particularly Palestine-focused institutions, must be strengthened to meet immediate humanitarian needs and rehabilitate occupied Palestinian land.  Achieving a lasting, viable, fair and holistic peace in the Middle East depended on working collectively, he said, emphasizing that the international community must compel Israel to respond to and respect relevant resolutions.  Since gaining independence, Kuwait had sought to deliver assistance to countries in need irrespective of geographic, ethnic or religious affiliation, he said, stressing that solutions must be found to the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.  For its part, Kuwait had allocated $15 billion over the next two years to development efforts worldwide.

ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) recalled natural disasters that had occurred in 2016 and the protracted conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.  To address those situations, he said it was necessary to increase the Central Emergency Response Fund to facilitate the delivery of its mandate in providing timely and needs-based humanitarian assistance in line with commitments pledged at the World Humanitarian Summit.  Calling for continued international support, upon request, for States’ capacity‑building efforts, he said a common system connecting humanitarian aid agencies around the world would greatly facilitate the work of their personnel.

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said that no other ongoing conflict had taken a heavier toll on its civilian population that in Syria.  Expressing disappointment in the Council’s inability to adopt a resolution that would have allowed humanitarian aid to reach more than 250,000 civilians in Aleppo, she said  New Zealand would continue its work in the Council and the General Assembly to protect Syrian civilians and find a solution to “what has become the gravest and most complex humanitarian catastrophe of our time”.  Noting her disappointment over the politicization of the humanitarian omnibus discussions, she said unconstructive negotiating tactics had been employed.  While reaching consensus was important, an increasingly high price was being paid for those concessions.  Security Council resolution 2286 (2016) had condemned the targeting of hospitals and health-care workers in armed conflict, but it was being blatantly ignored.  The lack of political will to implement that resolution was difficult to fathom, she emphasized, strongly urging States to do so.  New Zealand’s experience on the Council had made it clear that greater resources must be invested in conflict prevention, she stressed, adding that “we must move away from hearing predictable, rote rehearsals of national positions”.

TARO TSUTSUMI (Japan), spotlighting the current unprecedented global crises, said humanitarian issues had become a top priority.  In 2016, the international community had convened the World Humanitarian Summit, held the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants and welcomed the Grand Bargain in Istanbul.  Nevertheless, the funding gap for humanitarian assistance had become larger than ever before and the bitter reality on the ground seemed unchanged despite step-by-step progress on related issues.  Many of today’s complex situations were also development challenges and threats to international peace and security, he said, recalling that Japan had been implementing pilot projects related to the humanitarian-development nexus in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UNDP.  “Member States must raise their voices at every possible occasion that all parties to conflict should respect international humanitarian law,” he said, stressing that attacks against medical facilities in particular were absolutely unacceptable.  He urged concrete action to protect medical care in conflict situations.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) saying the gap between humanitarian needs and available resources continued to widen, pointed in particular to the devastating effects of disasters, the crisis ravaging Syria, public health emergencies, climate change and the effects of El Niño.  In May, Turkey had hosted the World Humanitarian Summit, which had planted the seeds for a transformative change in the humanitarian system.  The Summit had committed to five core responsibilities, set out in the Agenda for Humanity, and national commitments had been made to that end.  Going forward, the global momentum generated by the Summit must be built upon, with continued efforts to ensure strong political leadership in addressing the root causes of conflicts and crises, address the need for fair burden sharing to help people in need, accelerate efforts to support the humanitarian-development nexus and increase financial resources while using existing ones more efficiently.  As the world’s second-largest individual humanitarian donor in 2015, Turkey would continue to pursue such efforts in its provision of assistance around the world.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the Assembly met every year to recommit to extending humanitarian assistance without discrimination or politicization, yet some States, organizations and other actors were using humanitarian access to serve an “inhumane agenda” and political interests, including the defamation of States.  Clarifying his delegation’s position on the draft resolutions before the Assembly, he said the Government of Syria remained committed to extending humanitarian aid alongside the United Nations in full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-politicization.  Regretfully, the actions of some co-sponsors of today’s resolutions were hiding the real reasons for humanitarian crises.

He welcomed the omnibus resolution’s inclusion, for the first time, of a reference to terrorism as a cause of humanitarian crises, yet it was too late and insufficient.  “We have to use stronger language that unambiguously and unanimously condemns terrorism,” he stressed, adding that terrorism was the reason for current suffering in Syria and that combating it required cooperation with the Syrian Government.  Syria had frequently raised the importance of bringing pressure to bear on States to end the financing of terrorist groups, but those calls had fallen on deaf ears and been distorted.  Turning to the grave consequences of unilateral, economic coercive measures that had been imposed against Syria, he underlined the paradox of including a reference to the 2030 Agenda in the omnibus text while omitting any reference to the adverse impacts of such sanctions on development.  He voiced reservations to the draft’s references to the World Humanitarian Summit, at which Syria’s participation had not been allowed by Turkey, the host country, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which should have referred to all countries equally and not pointed to the situation in particular States.

Responding to the statement delivered by the representative of Israel, he said attempts to steal Palestinian land to establish a Jewish State and exclude others was the real reason for the region’s conflict.  Israel had introduced racial and religious extremism, intolerance and occupation to the region, and was now protecting and assisting terrorist groups in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Just yesterday, Israel had also launched rockets into the heart of Damascus and Syria could not be faulted for responding to such brazen actions.

OLIVIER ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said international humanitarian law was the principal universal legal framework for the protection of all victims in armed conflicts and must be respected by all parties.  Forced displacement caused by natural disasters, climate change or armed conflict required the close coordination of humanitarian, development, peacebuilding and human rights instruments, he said, emphasizing the need for an approach encompassing prevention, protection and resilience.  Commitments that had been made at the World Humanitarian Summit, particularly within the framework of the Grand Bargain, must materialize in order to provide a more effective humanitarian response to victims’ needs.  The resolutions being adopted today represented a strong, united response from Member States, but did not go far enough towards meeting global humanitarian requirements.  He expressed regret over the lack of concrete progress in terms of international humanitarian law because of the inflexible positions of some delegations and that a consensus could not be respected.  He called on Member States to engage constructively and respect consensus position once it had been reached.

KAITLYN PRITCHARD (Canada) said complicated and protracted crises had become the norm in today’s world.  Canada was changing how it worked to ensure that every dollar went as far as possible.  Concerned about the growing refugee crisis, it would continue to shoulder its responsibility to welcome its most vulnerable neighbours in their time of need.  Also pledging to increase Canada’s humanitarian aid by at least 20 per cent in 2016‑2017 versus the 2015‑2016 period, she said women and girls remained disproportionately affected by crises.  Stressing that women and girls were resilient individuals whose participation, leadership and decision making were needed in their communities, she expressed concern at how difficult it had been to address the critical issue of civilian protection in times of conflict, in particular to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for those in need.  In addition, she expressed concern that calling for a vote on the draft safety and security resolution, which was based on well‑established norms of international law, sent the wrong message, given the scale of current humanitarian crises.

INGA KANCHAVELI (Georgia), aligning herself with the European Union, said that millions of people had been forced to flee their homes due to violence and were at risk of being left behind.  The world must deliver for them and ensure humanitarian access.  Political paralysis should not hinder humanitarian action, she said, stressing that humanitarian access was a human rights issue that should be respected by all actors.  The denial of such access, including blocking international observers, was unacceptable.  Addressing the short-term needs of displaced persons was not enough, she said, adding that the voluntary return rate remained at the lowest level in over three decades.  Against the backdrop of humanitarian global crises, she called for the international community to do more to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh) expressed support for international efforts to help to build resilient societies and nations in response to humanitarian challenges.  International humanitarian assistance must be based on the basic principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.  Unwarranted politicization of humanitarian issues must be avoided to ensure that the response was faster and more effective in meeting evolving needs on the ground.  Sustainable development was the most effective preventative measure for many humanitarian crises, including those related to forced displacement.  With that in mind, the international community must undertake development activities with a focus on building resilience and eventually reducing aid dependency.  In that vein, the underlying root causes that adversely impacted the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance needed to be addressed in a holistic manner, he stressed.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), a co-sponsor of L.28, said designating 26 April International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day would raise awareness about the long-term consequences of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters and drive action to prevent such casualties in the future.  Having suffered from the consequences of nuclear weapons testing, Kazakhstan was a passionate campaigner for peace and nuclear security and disarmament.  In that context, he called on the international community to intensify efforts aimed at bolstering nuclear security, disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  While much had been done toward recovery efforts, the effects of 40 years of nuclear weapons testing meant that it would take many years for the region to be rehabilitated, he said.

ALASAN SENGHORE, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that the 2030 Agenda principle of “leaving no one behind” could not be realized without addressing the needs of those caught in humanitarian crises.  The current process leading towards a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was a welcome step and hopefully the process would strongly reaffirm the need to counter xenophobia, discrimination and violence against migrants.  On localizing aid, he said it was necessary to reconsider the model of work in which international humanitarian finance and coordination mechanisms were heavily skewed towards international players.

DENISE DURAN, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the need to generate greater respect for international humanitarian law had become a priority in the United Nations policy in 2016.  Countless attacks on health-care facilities and workers had led to Security Council resolution 2286 (2016).  Principled humanitarian action could make a special contribution to meeting the basic human needs identified in the Sustainable Development Goals, especially for people “left behind” in armed conflicts.  Reminding delegates of the relevance of Assembly resolution 46/182, she added that “an effective Government is often the difference between humanitarian success and humanitarian failure”.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The representative of Slovakia, on behalf of the European Union, spoke in explanation of position on L.34.  He recalled that the bloc had served as facilitator of the draft, conducting transparent and inclusive negotiations for over one month.  However, the delegation of Sudan had proposed an amendment at the last minute, asking for the removal of references to the International Criminal Court and its Rome Statute.  In that regard, he called on Member States to vote against the proposed amendment, noting that the text should recognize the Court’s important role in combating impunity, especially in cases of attacks against humanitarian personnel.

The representative of Sudan recalled that his delegation had voted in favour of the safety and security resolution since 1999 and would continue to do so.  However, he noted that the co-sponsors bore a responsibility to avoid introducing controversial issues into the text in order to prevent the necessity of a vote.  Humanitarian assistance was premised on important international principles, including independence and impartiality.  Several delegations had noted that those principles were absent in the Rome Statute, which was referenced in the draft resolution.  Having broken the silence on that text, he said, Sudan had proposed revised language.  The European Union had insisted on overruling the silence procedure, providing Sudan no opportunity to advance its proposals.  Sudan had therefore proposed an amendment to preambular paragraph 26, calling for the deletion of the reference to Court and the Rome Statute and replacing it with more general language.  Further attempts to break the impasse had also been made in the last few days, but had also gone unheeded.  Sudan was proposing the deletion of operative paragraph 7, which called on States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute.  Such language represented an effort to advance a controversial matter that was in conflict with the purpose of humanitarian assistance, he said, stressing that the Rome Statute unfortunately negated the important principle of amnesty and instead relied on what some had termed “constructed ambiguity”.  Underscoring the divisive nature of the Rome Statute, he stressed that States should not be forced to embrace it.

The representative of Liechtenstein, speaking on behalf of a number of countries, said it was deeply disturbing that the consensus on draft resolution L.34 was being challenged, especially given the erosion for the respect for humanitarian law that had been witnessed in recent years.  That situation had made the draft even more relevant than in previous years, he said, strongly encouraging all delegations to uphold the consensus language.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his country had consistently advocated for the prosecution of criminals who had perpetrated international crimes.  In that connection, he expressed regret that the International Criminal Court had failed to meet expectations as an authoritative body of international justice.  After more than 14 years of work, the Court had rendered only four judgments after spending more than $1 billion.  From the outset of negotiations on resolution L.34, his delegation had set forth its position on preambular paragraphs 26 and operative paragraph 7.  The Russian Federation’s decision to withdraw its signature from the Rome Statute was a reason why it did not support those provisions and why it supported the proposal made by the delegation of Sudan.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolutions on the “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/71/L.28), “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/71/L.31), “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency assistance of the United Nations” (document A/71/L.32) and “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/71/L.33).

Taking up amendments to the draft resolution on “Safety and security of United Nations personnel” (document A/71/L.34), the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 80 against to 22 in favour with 23 abstentions, rejected an amendment (document A/71/L.36) to L.34, which would have replaced, in preambular paragraph 26, the words “in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and noting the role that the Court can play in appropriate cases in bringing” with “in international law, and expressing resolve to bring”.

By a recorded vote of 84 against to 16 in favour with 26 abstentions, the Assembly rejected an amendment (document A/71/L.37) that would have deleted operative paragraph 7 in L.34, which called upon all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted L.34 as a whole.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that while he had expected to exchange views on the agenda item, he had instead witnessed the politicization of the humanitarian dossier.  It was a pity that the meeting had not provided an opportunity for a meaningful discussion on building cooperation for humanitarian assistance, he said, calling on all delegations to focus discussions on the substantive content of cooperation and on meaningful initiatives that could alleviate the humanitarian situation of affected countries.

The representative of Israel said accusations that had been made against Israel during the meeting had distorted the facts.  Attacking Israel had become a hobby of some of his neighbours and was a failing attempt to distract attention from the brutal crimes that had been perpetrated by the Syrian regime.  The representative of the Syrian delegation had uttered words that were far from reality.  The Government of Syria had killed.  Concerning the Golan Heights, there was no comparison with the situation in the Golan and in Syria.  It was hundreds of thousands times better in terms of welfare and social services and the economic situation.

The representative of Ukraine said the Russian Federation’s actions had a direct link to the dire humanitarian situation in his country. In that regard, he invited delegations to attend a briefing to be held by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs the following week on the topic.

The representative of Syria said that Israel’s delegate persisted in misguiding Member States in believing that the crisis in Syria would make them forget their arch enemy, Israel, an occupying Power.  Israel’s terrorism had enabled them to build their entity, he said, recalling the actions of Israel’s terrorist gangs.  It was difficult to believe the claim by Israel’s representative that it took care of people when it had, in fact, deprived the Arab population of its rights and freedoms.  Recalling the terrorist role that Israel had undertaken, he said it had bombarded targets in Syria to boost the morale of terrorists.

For information media. Not an official record.