We Must Make Shift from Aid Delivery to Ending Humanitarian Needs, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Policy Forum

13 December 2017

We Must Make Shift from Aid Delivery to Ending Humanitarian Needs, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Policy Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Global Humanitarian Policy Forum, in New York today:

I am very pleased to be here at the sixth Global Humanitarian Policy Forum to discuss the crucial intersection between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the humanitarian mission.  The ambitions of the 2030 Agenda belong to all of us.  That includes the 136 million people around the world who are in need of humanitarian assistance, most of whom are women and children.

Over the last two years, many world leaders have committed to bold initiatives for change – the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.  At the World Humanitarian Summit, leaders and others demonstrated their support to the Agenda for Humanity.

Each of these initiatives aligns with and reinforces the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its promise to leave no one behind.  The 2030 Agenda draws attention to the scale and intensity of humanitarian needs, and highlights the necessity of dramatic changes in our response to crisis, vulnerability and fragility.

Some facts about maternal and child mortality will help to illustrate that humanitarian action plays a critical role in achieving the 2030 Agenda:  3 out of 5 maternal deaths take place in humanitarian crises; 60 per cent of preventable maternal deaths are in conflicts, natural disasters and when mothers are displaced from their homes; and nearly half the new-born children who die are in humanitarian crises.

Reducing the number of people in need of humanitarian aid will mean working more closely than ever with development agencies.  We need better ways not only to alleviate suffering, but to prevent the protracted and recurrent crises that are such an obstacle to sustainable development.  Progress is already under way.  We now need to speed up and scale up.

The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognizes the need to deliver the benefits of sustainable development to the most vulnerable, including people affected by complex humanitarian emergencies, climate-related extreme events and other shocks.  Refugees, migrants and internally displaced people make up a large proportion of these vulnerable people.

This shift in perspective means development actors — from Members States to United Nations agencies to international financial institutions — must take on greater risk by engaging earlier in situations of crisis and fragility.  The Secretary-General, António Guterres, has set in motion a series of reforms to the United Nations development system aimed at reinforcing this forward-leaning approach.

These reforms are based on empowering Resident Coordinators and strengthening United Nations country teams by increasing mutual accountability.  At the same time, financing and funding reforms will unlock greater investment in fragile countries and regions.  For example, the World Bank has already announced a $1.8 billion package to respond to the threat of famine in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, as well as in Ethiopia and Kenya earlier this year.  The package has helped to fill gaps in emergency response and early recovery, and has kick-started efforts towards building longer-term resilience.

These development reforms focus strongly on prevention.  They recognize that the most effective way to reduce suffering and vulnerability is to prevent crises from taking hold.  To this end, the Secretary-General has called repeatedly for the United Nations, Member States and the international community to take early action to prevent conflicts from breaking out or relapsing; to address human rights violations before they turn into full-fledged crises; to reduce the economic and social inequalities that can sow discontent; and to reduce the devastating impacts of climate change.

We all know that there is no humanitarian solution to humanitarian problems.  The solution is always political.  And the protracted nature of current humanitarian emergencies means we must view them from a perspective of medium- and long-term resilience and development.  We have to make the shift from delivering humanitarian aid to ending humanitarian needs.

To achieve this, development and humanitarian stakeholders must harness their diverse missions, mandates, capacities and resources towards the same goal.  Rather than bridging the traditional gap, they must work together from the very beginning of a crisis, reducing risks and building resilience to prevent it from escalating.  This means that in tandem with the United Nations development system, the global humanitarian sector must also change.

I see three specific areas for action, and for our discussions today.  First, humanitarian agencies need to identify ways to connect their strategies with development initiatives, and vice-versa, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  The “New Way of Working”, agreed at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, brings diverse actors and agencies towards collective outcomes that break the cycle of need, risk and vulnerability.

The Secretary-General has tasked me with leading a Joint Steering Committee to advance humanitarian and development collaboration and to provide high-level leadership on resolving political and institutional issues.  These include the alignment and sequencing of humanitarian and development interventions and multi‑year financing.

Second, humanitarian actors should seek to strengthen and enhance their partnerships with national and local actors that lead emergency response on the ground.  They need to take local capacities into account, reinforce them rather than replace them, and support local ownership of the response.

Third, the United Nations calls on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence at all times.  This is vital if humanitarian actors are to continue to access, assist and protect the most vulnerable.

I am aware of concerns that the New Way of Working could have an impact on these vital principles.  I assure you that our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda will never compromise the impartiality, neutrality and independence of the global humanitarian system.  These principles are grounded in the Geneva conventions and spelt out in various United Nations resolutions; they are the guarantors of humanitarian effectiveness on both sides of every conflict, and in peacetime, as well as war.

Warring parties continue to violate international humanitarian law with impunity.  They fail to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure; and they obstruct humanitarian access.  Without major efforts towards accountability and dialogue, these continued and widespread violations will present a serious obstacle to implementing the 2030 Agenda.  We must find new ways to rally political support and ensure that our global legal framework to protect civilians and ensure they have access to lifesaving aid is implemented.

The 2030 Agenda, together with the commitments made to deliver on the Agenda for Humanity, share an important common goal — to support and empower the world’s most vulnerable people.  The challenges are immense, but so are the opportunities.  We must all do everything in our power to deliver.

I now turn to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and invite him to talk about the implementation of the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit.

For information media. Not an official record.