29 January 2017

Secretary-General, at High-Level Event on Ethiopia’s Humanitarian Situation, Hails Government’s Effective Approach to Building Resilience, Promoting Development

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high-level event on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa today:

It is, to me, an honour and a pleasure to be here today in this high-level event on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.  This high-level event must express our total solidarity with the Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian Government at the present moment.  And let’s be clear:  that solidarity is not a matter of generosity; it is a matter of justice and of self-interest.

First of all, it is a matter of justice; justice in relation to the enormous generosity of the Ethiopian people themselves.  I have [witnessed], during 10 years as High Commissioner for Refugees, the way Ethiopia became not only the largest African refugee-hosting country, but the country with the most determined policy of keeping all its borders open, even in the most difficult security situations; an example that, I would say, needs to be thought about in a world where, unfortunately, so many borders are being closed.

But, not only did it keep its borders open; it kept the doors of the houses and the hearts of the people open.  And in a country with huge challenges of development, you see thousands of young Eritreans, Somalis and South Sudanese that have received already a diploma or are now in Ethiopian universities supported by the Ethiopian Government.  But, it is an act of justice also because this crisis has not caught the Government and the people of Ethiopia unprepared, even if the magnitude of the crisis clearly is above the capacity of the country to resolve.

Ethiopia has persistently applied a policy of building resilience in relation to the natural disasters that, unfortunately with climate change, have come to be more and more frequent and intense.  And not only a consistent policy of strengthening resilience, but of creating the reserve necessary for Ethiopia itself to respond to the crisis.

Of last year’s appeal that was mentioned, it was the largest in relation to the response to the appeal in the world [that was provided]: 90 per cent.  It’s 90 per cent because half of it was provided by the Ethiopian Government itself.  And it is absolutely remarkable that a Government is able to respond to half of the humanitarian needs that are presented to the international community in such a devastating crisis like the one [we have seen] in Ethiopia.

On the other hand, I think this is also something that pays tribute to justice when you recognize that, here, we do not have the usual gap between humanitarian and development actions.  If there is a Government where humanitarian and development actions are perfectly integrated, it is the Ethiopian.

We have, of course, provided food and water to people in need, yes, it’s true.  But, this is now done in the context of building resilience and preparing the future development of the country.  Here, the Government, agencies, donors, all hands work to address both the most pressing needs on the humanitarian perspective and the long-term development and resilience response to the challenging problems that the Ethiopians are facing.  If this approach was copied in many other parts of the world, we would be much more effective not only in humanitarian aid but also much more effective in relation to building resilience and to promoting development.

But, this is also a question [of] self-interest:  because the link between humanitarian and development with peace and security is growing everywhere.  And to invest in building resilience of populations, and to invest in the best humanitarian needs in situations of stress like the one we are facing is also to contribute to strengthen peace and security.

And nobody in the world is more relevant from this point of view.  Around Ethiopia, we have a number of countries in deep crisis:  Somalia, of course South Sudan, Eritrea, with a situation that we all know.  Ethiopia has been a pillar of stability in this region and the very important factor to allow the international community to be able to, I would say, soften the impact of these crises without major stress to global peace and to global security.

But, we cannot allow the effect of drought to be a promoter of additional instability, to be a promoter of social unrest, to be a promoter of conflict because that would have dreadful consequences not only in relation to the conflicts in the area, but in connection to displacements of populations in a world that is so little inclined to receive more migrants, and to global terrorism that is now a threat everywhere in the world.

So, let’s transform this session of solidarity into a commitment to work together not only to address the pressing humanitarian needs of Ethiopia, but also to join efforts in addressing the huge challenges from a development perspective, a sustainable development perspective and from a peace and security perspective the world faces today.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.