12 December 2018

Sustainable Development ‘Best Tool’ for Resolving, Preventing Crises, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Humanitarian Policy Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks at the seventh Global Humanitarian Policy Forum, in New York, today:

It is a pleasure to open the seventh Global Humanitarian Policy Forum, on the theme:  Solutions for Humanity:  Creating opportunities for those furthest behind.  Global humanitarian needs have risen over the past decade, despite economic and development gains.  Yemen is at the brink of famine and Ebola is resurging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Cross-border displacements increase due to conflict and terrorism.  The number of people experiencing crisis-level food insecurity has risen to 124 million.  Some 2 billion people still lack safe drinking water - more than a quarter of the world.  Global hunger has increased for a third consecutive year.  Almost one in nine people suffer from hunger.

We have just launched our Global Humanitarian Overview for 2019.  Needs continue to rise and the gap between those needs and the supply of aid is also growing.  Some 132 million people will need aid and protection in 42 countries around the world.  Most are women and girls.  Thanks to the generosity of donors and the courage and commitment of humanitarian workers, we continue to support millions of people in need around the world.  In Yemen alone, WFP [World Food Programme] is providing aid to more than 7 million people every month.

But, this fire-fighting approach is not sustainable.  We should be trying to prevent these crises from happening in the first place, rather than helping people to survive them once they erupt.  We need political solutions and we need to invest in sustainable development to resolve and prevent crises of all kinds.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our blueprint for long-term investment in strong States and resilient societies and our best tool to prevent crisis and exit existing crises.  The SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] represent a universal commitment to leave no one behind and to reach those furthest behind first.  They also tackle the root causes of crisis, which often lie in competition over power and resources, inequality and exclusion, unmet aspirations, the marginalization of women, young people and minority groups, poor governance and the instrumentalization of ethnic and religious divisions.

They have transformed the way we look at development in humanitarian crisis situations.  They recognize that among the most vulnerable are refugees, internally displaced people and migrants, who are among those at greatest risk of deprivation and abuse.  They also recognize the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls in humanitarian crises, who face greater challenges in accessing the food and health care they need and are at higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence.  Sixty per cent of preventable maternal mortality takes place in crises, and girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to be out of school in crises.  In fact, children suffer the most in humanitarian crises.  In countries affected by emergencies, children often lose their homes, family members, friends, safety and routine.  But without access to education, they are also at risk of losing their futures.

Implementing the SDGs is first and foremost about saving and improving the lives of people and preventing suffering.  But it is not a matter of charity.  It makes sound economic sense as an investment in global resilience and stability, and in lasting development, and especially, peace and prosperity.  The recent United Nations-World Bank study, Pathways for Peace, estimated that preventing conflict could save some $34 billion in economic damage every year.  We also need to walk the talk by investing on women’s participation and gender equality.  We all know that when we invest in gender equality, humanitarian aid programmes serve everyone more effectively – men, women, girls, and boys.  Yet, less than 2 per cent of our humanitarian aid goes to meeting this goal.  This must change.

Achieving all the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, including reaching the furthest behind first, must be our overriding priority if we are to build more peaceful, stable and resilient societies.  The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016 was an important step in recognizing that we needed to shift our approach work response to prevention through sustainable development.  This led to the New Way of Working and a stronger and better relationship between humanitarian and development agencies and their partners.  This bold agenda for change will require the concerted efforts of Governments, the United Nations, development banks, bilateral development cooperation partners, the private sector, and most importantly, citizens.  The New Way of Working means that both humanitarian and development agencies and their partners work jointly towards common results.

To implement this, the Secretary-General created a Joint Steering Committee on Humanitarian and Development Collaboration soon after we assumed office.  This brings together United Nations agencies and the World Bank to work for collective outcomes.  We are now implementing joint analysis and planning in seven countries:  Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia, and we really must build on this to see the results sooner latter than later.  We are also bridging the humanitarian-development gap in Yemen, the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world.  The World Bank has provided financing for development alongside humanitarian interventions, to promote resilience and support recovery and stability.

I would like to encourage the speakers here today to think about innovative solutions and partnerships that could help us address the challenges that hinder our ability to prevent and exit existing crises while we continue to save lives and to do this at scale.  How can we collaborate better towards reducing risks, vulnerability and needs?  How can we make sure our resources are being used as effectively as possible, including in the complex operating environments where we work?  What steps can we take to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises and ensure that we invest in women and young people so that the day after they are able to take up their rightful place in society?

I hope this panel debate and all your discussions today will build on our successes and come up with concrete solutions to scale and accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs in and beyond humanitarian crises.  Those furthest behind need and deserve opportunities and hope of a better future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.