Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening remarks to Member States on preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit, today in New York:
Thank you for joining me to continue our discussions on the preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). Our dialogue and cooperation with Member States is crucial for the success and follow-up of this first-time Summit, placing the human plight and the humanitarian imperative in the centre.
Let me begin by once again expressing my profound appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting this momentous event, which is now only 50 days away.
Over the course of the past three years, we have greatly benefitted from the engagement and contributions of Member States and other stakeholders to advance the WHS process. That spirit of cooperation drives today’s briefing — and that spirit will continue right up to the Summit and for the follow-up.
In recent months, Deputy Secretary-General [Jan] Eliasson, Under-Secretary-General [Stephen] O’Brien and I have been engaging with you to ensure a successful Summit. As we near the end of the preparation process, I would like to acknowledge the important contributions of so many Member States. I appreciate the efforts of all those who hosted regional, thematic and global consultations: Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States, as well as the regional groups across the globe.
I also thank the many Member States who hosted national consultations or contributed to the World Humanitarian Summit through financial or technical contributions. The positions for the Summit developed by the African Union, CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] and the European Union have contributed enormously to our common agenda. I am also pleased with the great interest that has been expressed for the special sessions, the side events, the innovation marketplace and the exhibition fair. My thanks go to all Member States who have submitted ideas for interesting and stimulating events.
Now we are entering the final, crucial phase of preparations. Let me briefly focus on two aspects of the Summit — the Leaders’ Segment and the round tables.
First, the best way to achieve bold, courageous change is to make sure that leaders are there to deliver it. That is why I will convene a Leaders’ Segment for Heads of State and Government on day one — 23 May. The Leaders’ Segment will be an opportunity to discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity. These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives — from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.
We have in front of us a singular opportunity to stand together and deliver a message that we will not accept the erosion of humanity which we see in the world today. We must not fail the people who need us when they need us most. Istanbul is this opportunity. History will judge us by how we use this moment. We must not let down the many millions of men, women and children in dire need. This is the message that I ask you to deliver to your capitals: to come to Istanbul at the highest level and to show leadership on the great challenges of the twenty-first century; to show that we stand ready to work together to serve “we the peoples”, in the words of the United Nations Charter.
Second, through the course of the two-day Summit, we will convene seven round table sessions. These will provide a space for leaders from Member States, civil society and the private sector to focus on a number of challenges crucial to achieving the 2030 Agenda and other shared goals. In too many countries, conflicts are destroying lives and ruining economies. Civilians suffer horrific acts of violence and brutality in violation of international laws and norms. This is why I urge you to participate at the highest level in the Round Table on Preventing and Ending Conflict and the Round Table on Upholding the Norms that Safeguard Humanity.
In February, I met with women and children uprooted by conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Last week, I visited refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and heard moving stories of suffering and loss. Around the world, record numbers of people are being forced to flee their homes. Many of your countries have hosted refugees and dealt with internal displacement for years. Your attendance at the highest level at the Round Table on Leaving No-one Behind will be a critical stepping stone in our global endeavour to share this responsibility and reduce displacement.
Natural disasters and weather-related hazards are compounding humanitarian stress. At the same time, investments in disaster risk reduction save lives and money. In January, I saw the devastating impact of El Niño in Ethiopia, where 10 million people are in need of life-saving food assistance. Much of Africa and Latin America are also feeling the effects of this phenomenon. In parts of Asia and the Pacific, climate change is an existential threat and risks displacing millions of people. We would value your engagement at the highest level in the Round Table on Natural Disasters and Climate Change.
Wherever risk and vulnerability are greatest, we must increase people’s resilience and strengthen local and national capacities. The international aid community must work differently to meet humanitarian needs and reduce risk and vulnerability. Humanitarian and development agencies must break out of silos and collaborate much more. We must work for collective outcomes based on comparative advantage across the entire cycle of a crisis — from multiyear planning to assessing needs and monitoring results, to ensuring that national systems are reinforced, not replaced. And we must make sure that women and girls are part of and benefit from all our efforts.
This means we must change the way we do business, including in the United Nations, its agencies, funds and programmes. Change is difficult, but Istanbul provides us with an opportunity to push for a better way to serve humanity. This is why we must work together at the highest level to give people the hope of a better future through the Round Table on From Delivering Aid to Ending Need and the Round Table on Gender Equality. All of this can only be made possible if we commit to invest in the most impactful ways in people, communities and countries. This is why the Round Table on Investing in Humanity is so important for you to attend.
Last week, we circulated proposed core commitments that reflect some of the changes necessary to turn the Agenda for Humanity into action. They were developed in support of each of these round tables, and with the support of many of you. In the coming weeks, you will have the opportunity to discuss the core commitments and exchange further ideas on the round tables through briefing sessions and other outreach. Based on these discussions, we will seek to finalize the core commitments by 18 April.
Let me emphasize three fundamental points.
First, these commitments are voluntary and non-binding. I encourage your leadership and bold thinking by supporting these core commitments and offering individual and joint commitments that can bring tangible change to people’s lives.
Second, the World Humanitarian Summit is not an end point. It must be the beginning of a new era of international solidarity to halt the terrible suffering of people affected by conflicts and disasters and who are depending on us.
Third, the messages and the actions tied to the Summit go far beyond the Istanbul meeting. Success at the WHS will make an enormous qualitative difference in advancing action on so many other fronts — not least the 2030 Agenda.
The Summit outcomes will include a Chair’s Summary that will be issued in Istanbul, and a “Commitments to Action” document that will follow some time later. Along with the Agenda for Humanity, these all constitute important elements to the framework for action and follow-up. That follow-up will begin with the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Humanitarian Affairs Segment in June. In September, I will present my report to the General Assembly for your consideration presenting the outcomes of the Summit and further possible steps ahead.
At that point, Member States can decide to take forward some or all of the report’s recommendations through intergovernmental discussions and negotiations. The annual General Assembly humanitarian resolutions in the autumn will likely be vehicles for many of these important discussions.
Last year we achieved major victories for global solidarity: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Agreement. If we are to succeed in realizing our goals, fulfilling our promises, and living up to the United Nations Charter, urgent action is now needed.
The World Humanitarian Summit is a unique opportunity to generate the momentum for change and send a message of solidarity and support to the 125 million people in immediate crisis.
Let us make the World Humanitarian Summit a historic step forward for our common humanity.
Thank you for your attention.