More people than ever before, displaced by conflict and natural hazards, required aid and relief from the international community, the General Assembly heard today as speakers stressed the need to strengthen coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.
“The great privilege of having a voice in these hallowed halls comes with a huge responsibility to our people,” said General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia).
In a statement delivered by Assembly Vice-President Zina Andrianarivelo-Razafy (Madagascar), Mr. Lajčák said that 65 million people in 2017 had been forcibly displaced, more than ever before, while 377 million in 2016 had been affected by natural hazards.
He said using people as pawns for narrow political victories was to deny a common humanity. Preventing and resolving conflict was a first line of defence against conflict‑induced crises. Vulnerability and poverty were also root causes of immense human suffering. All parties must allow humanitarian access and the targeting of humanitarian and medical personnel must be condemned. Protection must also be extended to those who experienced gender‑based and sexual violence.
Postponing action until Monday, the Assembly heard introductions of the following four draft resolutions under its cluster on humanitarian and disaster relief assistance: “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23), “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24) and “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).
By the terms of draft text, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel”, the Assembly would urge all States to make every effort to ensure the full and effective implementation of the relevant rules of international law. It would also condemn the targeting of humanitarian personnel and call upon all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
By the terms of draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development”, the Assembly would express concern at the increasing impact of natural hazards. Furthermore, it would reiterate the commitment to support the efforts of countries to strengthen their capacities to assess and reduce risks. It would stress the importance of equal participation of women in implementing disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery strategies.
The Assembly, by terms of the text “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations”, would call upon all States to continue to implement effective legislative to mitigate the effects of natural hazards, and to integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning. It would also stress the need to strengthen resilience, and in that regard, would encourage Member States and the United Nations system to integrate resilience into humanitarian and development programmes.
The Assembly, by terms of the draft text “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, would stress the importance of following up on the results of the Cairo International Conference on Palestine: Reconstructing Gaza to effectively promote economic recovery and reconstruction in a timely manner. It would also call on donors to transfer funds as soon as possible and urge Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms.
In the ensuing discussion, Member States outlined myriad ways they were aiding and assisting millions in need. The representative of the European Union said the bloc and its member States, collectively the world’s largest humanitarian donor, would continue to do their part. Protecting civilians and aid workers was essential, he underscored, also adding that lessons must be learned from past crises.
Israel’s representative urged the international community to “never turn a blind eye” to those in need. She stressed that her country would not let its call to action be diluted by politics, noting an Israeli hospital that had treated thousands of Syrians.
The representative of the United States said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and similar agreements remained non‑binding, underscoring that each country had its own development priorities.
“People’s lives must not become pawns in geopolitical games,” stressed the representative of the Russian Federation, noting that linking assistance with domestic political processes was unacceptable.
The rising risk of natural hazards was underscored as a major threat by some countries, with the representative of Maldives stressing that, on small islands, there were normally limited points of entry, which might face structural damage, obstructing access to humanitarian aid. It could be beneficial to establish pre‑existing systems that could immediately mobilize aid with the cooperation of Member States in close geographical proximity.
El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), emphasized the growing impact of extreme hydro‑meteorological phenomena associated with climate change on the entire Central American region. He called on the Assembly to recognize the impact of small‑scale and slow‑moving disasters.
Also before the Committee were the following reports of the Secretary-General: “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/490); “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/72/76); “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/348), “Central Emergency Response Fund” (document A/72/358); and Assistance to the Palestinian People (document A/72/87).
Also speaking were the representatives of Brunei Darussalam, Qatar, Thailand, Spain, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, China, Canada, Kuwait, Turkey, Ukraine, Bangladesh and Syria.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Myanmar, Israel and Syria.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m., Monday, 11 December, to conclude its consideration of strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations and take up culture of peace.
Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said more people were on the move than ever before — some by choice, but many others to escape conflict, natural hazards and other situations. Emphasizing that humanitarian and disaster relief was the business of every Member State, he said 65 million people in 2017 had been forcibly displaced, more than ever before, while 377 million in 2016 had been affected by natural hazards. Stressing that the deadline for the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was drawing closer, he warned that failure to conclude that instrument would be a blow to the United Nations and heap unspeaking suffering on human beings.
Member States must protect the suffering and those who were helping them, he said. To use people as pawns for narrow political victories was to deny a common humanity. “The great privilege of having a voice in these hallowed halls comes with a huge responsibility to our people,” he said. Protection also extended to those who experienced gender‑based and sexual violence, which was on the rise. All parties must allow humanitarian access and the targeting of humanitarian and medical personnel must be condemned, he said.
He went on to underscore the need to prevent and mitigate conflicts and natural hazards. Preventing and resolving conflict was a first line of defence against conflict‑induced crises, he said, adding that vulnerability and poverty were also root causes of immense human suffering. International humanitarian law and human rights law must be upheld, while disaster risk reduction strategies, including early warning systems, must be put in place.
Concluding, he asked the General Assembly to recommit to taking action in line with its plans and today’s resolutions. It must also bear in mind also the United Nations Charter, the “master plan” that gave Member States the responsibility to save future generations from war, to maintaining international law and to promote better living standards for all. While humanitarian action was saving lives, there remained a 43 per cent gap for humanitarian funding in 2016, he said, welcoming pledges made today at the Central Emergency Response Fund pledging conference and inviting the Assembly to continue that quest together.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced draft resolutions A/72/L.22 and A/72/L.25, titled “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” and “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, respectively. Presenting the first text, she said risks facing humanitarian workers were on the rise. Humanitarian personnel were no longer spared, she added, emphasizing that the high purpose of their mission no longer protected them. The trend was worrying and must be reversed “if we want the people on the ground to be able to deliver their noble responsibilities”. Accountability was lagging, she said, adding that the international community had a collective responsibility to protect humanitarian personnel workers. She stressed the importance of ensuring that the safety of such workers was included in the planning of security management systems. Meanwhile, civil society must also be supported as it worked to provide humanitarian assistance. The vulnerability of locally recruited personnel was also underlined in the text.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly would also urge all States to make every effort to ensure the full and effective implementation of the relevant principles and rules of international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and refugee law, she said. It would also condemn in the strongest possible terms the increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, acts of terrorism and attacks on humanitarian convoys. It would call upon all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and stressed the obligation to respect and protect medical personnel. Further, it would have the Assembly stress that the effective functioning at the country level of security operations required a unified and robust capacity for policy, standards, coordination, communication, compliance, threat and risk assessment, and operational and deployment flexibility.
Introducing second text, she said that an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza had been worsening. Alleviating human suffering there required the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. She also noted the contributions of the European Union to the Palestinian cause. While the resolution would need an update in the coming years, she said, it was nevertheless constructive and timely.
By terms of that draft, the Assembly would stress the importance of following up on the results of the Cairo International Conference on Palestine: Reconstructing Gaza to effectively promote economic recovery and reconstruction in a timely and sustainable manner, she said. It would also call on donors that have not yet converted their budget support pledges into disbursements to transfer funds as soon as possible and encourage them to increase their direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. It would also urge Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms and to implement fully existing trade and cooperation agreements. Furthermore, it would stress the need for the full implementation by both parties of existing agreements, including the Agreement on Movement and Access and the Agreed Principles for the Rafah Crossing, of 15 November 2005, to allow for the freedom of movement of the Palestinian civilian population, as well as for imports and exports, within and into and out of the Gaza Strip.
IRINA MORENO GONZÁLEZ (Ecuador) introduced the resolution titled “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23), saying that it recognized that States had the primary responsibility to coordinate and deliver humanitarian assistance on their soil. The text also encouraged Member States and the United Nations to empower local actors to respond to community challenges and work to reduce risk, need and vulnerability. It also encouraged Member States to continue to collect, share and use critical data that informed policy. She said the draft was negotiated in a constructive spirit and expressed hope that it would be adopted by consensus.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly would express its deep concern at the increasing impact of natural hazards, resulting in massive losses of life and property worldwide, she said. It would also urge the United Nations, relevant humanitarian and development organizations, international financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen the capacity and resilience of Member States, including through the application of new science and technology. Furthermore, it would reiterate the commitment to support the efforts of countries, in particular developing nations, to strengthen their capacities at all levels to assess and reduce risks. It would also stress the importance of the full and equal participation of women in decision‑making and of gender mainstreaming in developing and implementing disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery strategies.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden), delivering a joint statement also on behalf of India, said that the partnership between the two countries was a reflection of their shared commitment to a strong international humanitarian response system. The number of those in need of humanitarian assistance was at its highest level since the end of the Second World War. The global humanitarian system reached tens of millions of people every year and saved millions of lives. It was an effective and responsive system staffed by dedicated and professional individuals.
India and Sweden reaffirmed that humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law provided the basis for humanitarian assistance, she said. She emphasized that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected during humanitarian action. More humanitarian workers were being targeted in violent attacks than ever before, she said, condemning all such actions directed against those workers. She also noted that India was among the first countries to make emergency aid available to those affected by hurricanes in the Caribbean and that Sweden was one of the single largest donors of core funding to United Nations humanitarian agencies.
Introducing a resolution titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/72/L.24), she said that the stakes have never been higher for millions around the world. That was why the concept of consensus and of collaborative approach was so critical. The resolution reaffirmed the unique leadership role of the United Nations in coordinating and responding to global humanitarian needs. It also put additional focus on the alarming food security situation for millions of people. Furthermore, it provided a stronger platform for humanitarian reform and humanitarian financing and reflected the interdependency and criticality of partnership between different aspects of humanitarian assistance. The strengthened resolution was the result of the common dedication of Member States of countries providing aid and of those receiving it.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly would call upon all States to adopt, where required, and to continue to implement effective, necessary legislative and other appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of natural hazards, and to integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning, she said. It would also urge Member States, the United Nations system and other humanitarian actors to consider the specific and differentiated consequences of natural hazards in both rural and urban areas when designing and implementing disaster risk reduction, prevention and mitigation, preparedness, humanitarian assistance and early recovery strategies. It would also stress the need to strengthen resilience at all levels, and in that regard, would encourage Member States and the United Nations system to integrate resilience into humanitarian and development programming.
SITI ARNYFARIZA MD JAINI (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said some of her region’s disasters in 2017 had been due to extreme weather events. She added that Southeast Asia as a region was disaster‑prone and vulnerable to climate change. To build disaster‑resilient nations, the group’s member States were working to ensure implementation and coherence of intra‑ASEAN policy frameworks, including through creating a Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. That Centre had delivered relief items for affected communities in Rakhine State in Myanmar, northern Viet Nam and Marawi City in the Philippines. ASEAN continued to invest in joint preparedness and disaster relief exercises.
Secondly, she said, ASEAN was strengthening collaborative partnerships through processes such as the East Asia Summit, among others, and was committed to enhancing cooperation with the United Nations in that field. Exchanges of inter‑operability of briefs between ASEAN officials and the United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator showed progress in turning words into action. ASEAN would continue to strengthen its coordination work to respond effectively to any future humanitarian and disaster relief needs.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, said that the tasks facing the humanitarian community had never been so daunting, with challenges both enormous in scope and very different than 26 years ago, when the Assembly adopted resolution 46/182. According to the Global Humanitarian Overview, an estimated 136 million people would need humanitarian assistance in 2018 and $22.5 billion would be required to meet the needs of 90.1 million. Many humanitarian crises had become so protracted as to be seen as permanent, while growth in needs had outpaced increases in funding, with an estimated funding gap of $12 billion. More importantly, underlying causes had not gone away, he said. Extreme weather events, environmental degradation and climate change consequences, amplified by conflicts, were causing unprecedented human suffering, death, food insecurity and the destruction of livelihoods, infrastructure and ecosystems. Conflicts also remained the main drivers of humanitarian needs, he said, noting that all but two of the 2018 humanitarian response plans were for situations involving conflict. Increasingly, conflicts were also a leading cause of hunger, while international humanitarian law was increasingly being disregarded.
The Union and its member States were committed to assuming their part of the international community’s shared responsibility to save lives, alleviate suffering and preserve human dignity, he said, noting that 2017 marked the tenth anniversary of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. Principled humanitarian action would remain at the core of the bloc’s response. It would persevere in its efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, refugee law and international human rights law, he said, emphasizing also the importance of accountability when serious violations of international human rights law occurred. Protecting civilians and aid workers was more than ever a priority. At the same time, there was no alternative to the more efficient delivery of humanitarian aid, he said, stressing that the Union would continue to support anticipatory humanitarian assistance. Lessons must be learned from past crises, while the international community must work on political solutions to end conflicts. Concluding, he said the bloc and its member States, collectively the world’s largest humanitarian donor, would continue to do their part in a principled manner.
Mr. HASSAN (Maldives) said the United Nations system must be structured so that it adequately catered to existing humanitarian situations as potential emerging ones. Responses must be tailored to needs through strategic analysis of them in consultation with affected countries and communities. Disaggregated data must be used for more informed responses, which must be constantly revaluated with the most recent information. In the case of small island developing States, acquiring that data could be challenging due to inherent structural and resource constraints. On small islands, there were normally limited points of entry, which might face structural damage, obstructing access to humanitarian aid. Through strategic planning in disaster‑prone areas, it could be beneficial to establish pre‑existing systems that could immediately mobilize aid with the cooperation of Member States in close geographical proximity.
ANAT FISHER-TSIN (Israel) said that conflict, natural hazards and disease continued to impact the lives of millions worldwide. Humanitarian crises were not bound by borders and could affect developed nations in all regions of the world. It was the responsibility of the international community to act and “never turn a blind eye” to those in need. Israel was committed to providing humanitarian assistance to those who need aid and relief. The ongoing conflict in Syria left so many devastated. Her country would not let its call to action be diluted by politics, she said, noting that an Israeli hospital had treated thousands of Syrian patients. From Syria to Sierra Leone and from Mexico to Puerto Rico, Israel would never waver in its commitment to help others. She noted how Israel had recently sent relief to victims of the earthquakes in Mexico.
Mr. AL-HAMMADI (Qatar) said that the growing number of crises and conflicts had brought great suffering. The enormous number of people requiring humanitarian assistance had also burdened the United Nations. Millions had been displaced by natural hazards, he added, also underscoring the economic and social disaster faced by the Palestinian people. He said Qatar supported the Central Emergency Response Fund and noted that his country’s foreign affairs policy was based on constructively facing common challenges and peacefully settling conflicts. Qatar had also strengthened its regional and international partnerships in the area of humanitarian response. In financing humanitarian assistance, Qatar had offered millions in funding to Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
KANJANATORN KANJANASOON, aligning himself with ASEAN’s statement, said humanitarian crises continued to be the most urgent challenge facing the world today and pointed to the scale of human suffering inflicted by war, natural disasters and poverty as larger than ever before. Countries had taken steps to combat growing humanitarian crises, but it was perhaps time to dive into serious conversations on establishing long‑term solutions to those crises through better risk assessment and preparedness. The most vulnerable areas must have adequate prevention measures and resilient infrastructures. In cases of humanitarian crises resulting from war and political turmoil, the end goal was not only to find political solutions to country‑specific conflicts, but to protect and save human lives. Humanitarian operations should be carried out with humanity and impartiality, while fostering trust and cooperation with relevant Governments.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said the news for the coming year was not good, with 133 million people expected to require humanitarian assistance, an increase of 4 per cent from this year. Mechanisms at the United Nations for prevention and humanitarian assistance were not working as they should despite the efforts of Member States. He emphasized the connection between conflicts and serious violations of humanitarian law, as well as the high degree of impunity in armed conflicts, insufficient implementation of Security Council resolutions, and forgotten protracted conflicts. He went on to underscore the impact of climate change in relation to natural disasters, saying that the Security Council should consider that issue.
WON DOYEON (Republic of Korea) said that the international community had provided record levels of humanitarian funding to cope with unprecedented humanitarian crises. Consolidating its fight against famine in four regions, the pre‑emptive actions of the United Nations had saved the lives of many people who could have become victims of famine. Highlighting the linkages between environmental degradation, underdevelopment, inequality and violent extremism, he called for greater coordination and collaboration among the United Nations and its partners. At the same time, he noted that improving the overall efficiency of the humanitarian system could make a real difference. For example, the “New Way of Working” programme had provided important guidance to Member States and agencies to help make the whole ecosystem robust. Calling for humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable people, he expressed concern about the increased risk of gender‑based violence in crises against women and girls.
OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said humanitarian needs continued to grow with each passing year. Both civilians and humanitarian workers continued to be targeted, which required a strong united response from the international community. He reiterated that humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality. Access to people in need must be ensured. The protection of those who risk their lives to care for the sick and wounded must be strengthened. The phenomenon of forced displacement caused by natural hazards, climate change or armed conflict required close coordination between various humanitarian and development instruments, as well as peace‑building and human rights instruments. Given the immense humanitarian challenges, progress made in 2017 had been an encouraging sign. Nevertheless, the text being adopted today still fell short of the requirements of the global humanitarian situation, especially in terms of aid access and complementarity of humanitarian and development approaches.
LUO JIN (China) said the international community should promote development and maintain peace to reduce the demand for humanitarian relief. Recent years had witnessed numerous humanitarian crises caused by armed conflicts, where poverty was an important root cause of the turmoil. The global community must also strengthen capacity‑building in developing countries to enable them to effectively cope with natural disasters. Over the past year, natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts, floods and earthquakes had caused enormous property losses and human casualties, with climate change further exacerbating the adverse effects. The international community must increase financial and technical assistance to affected countries, based on their national conditions and specific needs, to enhance their capacity for risk management. It should also help those countries with infrastructure building to provide a solid basis for the transition from disaster relief to development.
LOUISE BLAIS (Canada) said the international community had faced a challenging year again, with millions of people forced into protracted displacement by conflict, famine and food insecurity, which had reached historic levels and resulted in escalating levels of humanitarian needs. The humanitarian community must address the root causes of conflict, including by addressing the needs of women and girls. Canada, for its part, had launched an action plan to support women’s and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health services in emergency and conflict settings, among other initiatives. The international community must make efforts to allow greater humanitarian access, she said, adding that bureaucratic restrictions and attacks on humanitarian workers meant denial of life‑saving assistance. Member States could better address the needs of persons in conflict by upholding their international obligations to respect international humanitarian law.
Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait), noting that her country provided foreign assistance through a programme known as “Humanitarian Diplomacy”, said the world was witnessing increasing disasters and conflicts. That required collective action, she stressed, adding that humanitarian ties must be strengthened and obstacles to aid removed. Kuwait had adhered to the Arab Cooperation Convention on facilitating relief operations, which among other things exempted relief supplies from customs or fees, organized and streamlined relief responses and provided for licenses to necessary personnel. She expressed hope that parties would join together to provide efficient humanitarian responses to the world’s various challenges.
Ms. BLAKE (United States), noting that an estimated $22.5 billion would be required in 2018 to provide humanitarian assistance to just 91 million of those in need, said conflicts and protracted violence would likely continue to push people from their homes and deprive them of food. Today’s text on humanitarian assistance highlighted how the United Nations and other organizations could better address such needs. The text on the safety of humanitarian personnel sent an important message, as there had recently been far too many deaths of such personnel. On the resolution regarding the coordination of the United Nations emergency humanitarian assistance, she welcomed the inclusion of language on needs assessments. Measures to address fraud and abuse were also important.
Outlining several clarifications regarding her delegation’s position, she said the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and similar agreements remained non‑binding. Each country had its own development priorities. Recalling that the United States had communicated its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement pending the negotiation of different terms, she said that while such policies remained under review her country must express its reservation to all references to the Agreement in today’s texts. Previous explanations of her delegation’s position on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and other such agreements remained valid, she said, adding that further Assembly resolutions did not alter existing international law. Noting that any reaffirmation of prior documents applied only to those States that had agreed to them initially, she underscored that conflict and access constraints — rather than volatile commodity prices — were the drivers of humanitarian crises, and that the United States did not recognize the right to abortion or include abortion in any of its humanitarian assistance policies.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), emphasized the growing impact of extreme hydro‑meteorological phenomena associated with climate change and El Niño on his country and the entire Central American region, triggering humanitarian emergencies, displacement, food insecurity and displacement. In that regard, he invited the General Assembly to keep an eye on that issue and to increasingly recognize the impact of small‑scale and slow‑moving disasters. El Salvador supported efforts in Geneva towards a mechanism that would more specifically safeguard respect for international humanitarian law, he said, adding that solid implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help prevent or reduce the impact of humanitarian crises.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said that with 136 million people in need of assistance and protection in crises, the gap between the humanitarian needs and the resources available to address those needs had continued to widen. It was hard to sit idle in the face of crises in Syria, Myanmar, South Sudan and Yemen. Turkey, for its part, was sheltering close to 3.3 million Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who had fled violence; Turkish humanitarians of national agencies were working to assist them as well as those in need in Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Iraq. In Istanbul at the World Humanitarian Summit, Turkey had announced its support for the commitments in five core responsibilities, including the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. As humanitarian needs mounted, now was the moment for all stakeholders to, among other goals, address the need for fair burden-sharing.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said today’s resolution was especially important for his country, given the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine that was a direct consequence of ongoing Russian aggression. Citing United Nations figures, he said 3.4 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection. After nearly four years of conflict, 1.5 million Ukrainians were registered as internally displaced. Continuation of the Russian aggression could also lead to an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe. A cessation of hostilities remained essential to enable an effective humanitarian response as well as the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel, he said, adding that the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission would allow an improvement in the humanitarian situation. He went on to express his country’s full support for the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts, particularly in humanitarian assistance.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) drew attention to the influx into Bangladesh of nearly 630,000 mostly Rohingya people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, saying they were entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance. He urged donor countries and organizations to respond to that catastrophe in a spirit of responsibility and burden‑sharing. While his Government was engaging with the Myanmar authorities to facilitate the return of those displaced, it was incumbent on the international community to work with Myanmar to create an environment for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of Rohingya to their homes without fear of reprisals or discrimination, he said. It was also imperative that those committing horrific crimes against Rohingya were identified and brought to justice. He went on to underscore the great importance his country attached to United Nations humanitarian and emergency relief assistance, and its support for international efforts to build resilient societies and nations.
AMMAR AWAD (Syria) said each year the Assembly met to agree to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need without discrimination or politicization. Stressing that such assistance must be provided in strict accordance the United Nations principles, including respect for State sovereignty — as well as the roles of nations in overseeing the distribution and provision of aid in their territories — he expressed regret that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the States presenting some of the texts before the Assembly today were in engaging in such politicization. The only solution to any humanitarian crisis was to address its root cause without selectivity. Regarding the fight against terrorism, he welcomed the text’s reference to “terrorist acts” as a true step forward, noting that the co-sponsors had finally admitted that poverty and disasters were not the only causes of displacement — terrorism was another.
Noting that the resolution on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel could have benefitted from a clearer condemnation of terrorist attacks, he said such attacks were the main cause of suffering among the Syrian people. Combating that phenomenon required cooperation and coordination with the Government of Syria, he said, reiterating his call to apply pressure on States to end the financing and arming of terrorist groups. In addition, he said, the texts failed to mention the negative effects of unilateral coercive economic measures, which had serious impacts on the well-being and economies of many countries. It was strange that today’s draft resolutions referred to the 2030 Agenda, but did not mention the unilateral coercive measures whose impacts could prevent its implementation. Responding to the statement delivered by the representative of Israel — an occupying Power — he said the latter’s accusations against Syria were aimed to hide Israel’s own crimes against both Syrians and Palestinians. Among the root causes of the crisis in Syria was the longstanding Israeli occupation, as well as that regime’s support to Nusrah Front, Da’esh and other terrorist groups.
SERGEY B. KONONOUCHENKO (Russian Federation), echoing calls for enhanced cooperation to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, said his country had more than $65 million in 2017 including more than $1.5 million allocated specifically to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Expressing support for calls to increase the Fund’s capitalization to $1 billion, he called on all humanitarian actors to act in a neutral and impartial manner and to respect State sovereignty. “People’s lives must not become pawns in geopolitical games,” he stressed, noting that linking assistance with domestic political processes was equally unacceptable. Warning against the double standards that were increasingly emerging in the unbalanced funding of humanitarian operations, he added that the overwhelming majority of Member States — including his own — had not supported the outcomes of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and were unwilling to include them in United Nations activities. He also expressed regret that the representative of Ukraine had made today made several politicized statements and remained unwilling to accept the fact that Kyiv had created the bloody conflict in the east of that country.
Right of Reply
The representative of Myanmar, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the statement by Bangladesh, saying his Government took heed of the international community’s concerns regarding the situation in Rakhine State. The Government was deploying all means and resources to address the humanitarian situation, he said, adding that issues between neighbouring States should be resolved amicably through bilateral contacts.
The representative of Israel, responding to her counterpart from Syria, said the truth should not be expected from the representative of a State that was committing war crimes against its own people. She noted that her country was providing medical treatment to Syrian women, children and the elderly.
The representative of Syria, in response, said Israel was an official declared partner of Nusrah Front, Da’esh and others, providing them with weapons and other assistance, and on 4 December, committing aggression against Damascus in coordination with terrorist partners. He added that the occupying authorities had continued to carry out acts of aggression against Syria in violation of Security Council resolutions, preventing his country from advancing to fight terrorist groups.