The General Assembly today adopted five humanitarian‑focused resolutions, primarily on strengthening coordination of United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, while rejecting two amendments proposing to remove language related to reproductive and sexual health in emergency situations.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande (Nigeria) expressed alarm that more than 70 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced in recent years and that some 167.7 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2020. Not only is the need greater than ever before, today’s humanitarian crises are protracted and more complex, he said, adding that: “We are duty‑bound to serve. This humanitarian catastrophe demands urgent attention.”
This requires the international community to do more, he said, including to ensure that women and girls are safe from sexual and gender‑based violence and to address the disturbing trend of humanitarian workers being killed in the line of duty. Between January 2018 and July 2019, 16 United Nations staff and 32 aid workers were killed while making “the ultimate sacrifice”, he said, condemning all acts of violence against aid workers.
Before adopting the five texts by consensus, the Assembly rejected, by recorded vote, two amendments presented by the United States proposing to change language in two draft resolutions to remove references to sexual and reproductive health. It rejected an amendment to replace operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of the draft resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/74/L.34), by a recorded vote of 4 in favour (Guatemala, Nigeria, Qatar, United States) to 112 against, with 26 abstentions.
The Assembly also rejected an amendment proposing to change operative paragraph 62 of the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/74/L.31), by a recorded vote of 6 in favour (Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Qatar, Russian Federation, United States) to 106 against, with 25 abstentions.
The Assembly then, by separate recorded vote, decided to retain the above‑mentioned paragraphs, after which it adopted “L.34” and “L.31” without a vote.
By adopting “L.34”, the Assembly urged Member States to continue to give priority to efforts to investigate and prosecute acts of sexual and gender‑based violence in humanitarian emergencies. It underscored the importance of protecting all persons affected by humanitarian crises from any sexual exploitation and abuse and urged Member States, the United Nations, and others to reinforce preparedness and response capabilities to deal with outbreaks of infectious disease. The Assembly also urged Member States to do more to provide a coordinated emergency response to the food needs of affected populations.
By the terms of “L.31”, the Assembly called on States to adopt necessary legislation to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning. The Assembly urged the United Nations and all relevant stakeholders to strengthen the resilience of Member States, including through capacity‑building for communities, and the application of new technology. In addition, it called on Member States and relevant actors to address the consequences of humanitarian emergencies for migrants, particularly in vulnerable situations.
By adopting the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/74/L.32), the Assembly condemned the deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel. It also urged all States to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel and that crimes against humanitarian personnel do not remain unpunished.
By the terms of the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/74/L.33), the Assembly urged Member States and international donors to extend aid to the Palestinian people. Urging Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products, it called upon the international community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs. Stressing the need to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and facilities, it urged the international community to extend to the Palestinian people emergency economic assistance.
By the terms of the draft resolution “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/74/L.30), the Assembly stressed the need to continue the environmental and health monitoring of Chernobyl‑affected regions and communities for the purpose of assessing the efficiency of international assistance. It also requested the General Assembly President to convene on 26 April 2021 a special commemorative meeting in observance of the thirty‑fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
The Assembly also considered the following reports on: “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/74/464); “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations,” (document A/74/81); “Central Emergency Response Fund,” (document A/74/138); “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/74/319); “Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/74/89); and “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/74/461).
Also delivering statements today were representatives of Belarus, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden (also on behalf of India), United States, Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Ukraine, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Maldives, Turkey, Qatar, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, Spain, China, Canada, Malaysia, Philippines, Egypt, Russian Federation, Australia, Thailand, United Kingdom and Israel.
Observers for the State of Palestine (also on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 December for its high‑level event for the conclusion of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Strengthening Coordination of United Nations Humanitarian Assistance
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), introducing the draft resolution titled, “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/74/L.30), said millions of people continue to be affected by the consequences of that event; the zone of radioactive pollution, at one point, covered a quarter of Belarusian territory. This topic will remain relevant for a long time for the affected regions. Noting that the draft is consistent with previous resolutions and is based on the Secretary‑General’s report, he pointed to the role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in coordinating United Nations agencies to address the matter and said 45 country donors provide resources. The draft underscores the need to transition the affected local economies into sustainable ones and involve local people in political processes related to the Chernobyl disaster. It also requests the General Assembly President to convene a special commemorative meeting on 26 April 2021 to observe the thirty‑fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
JUKKA SALOVAARA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, presented the draft resolution titled, “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/74/L.32). Noting that humanitarian work depends on those who have the courage and determination for it, he said that reaching people in need while guaranteeing personnel safety is a complex and difficult task. Reporting an increase in the absolute number of United Nations personnel affected by safety and security incidents in 2018, he observed that attacks against United Nations premises and health care have also increased. “International and national laws provide solid frameworks for the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, but accountability lags behind,” he said. As such, the draft resolution describes the vulnerability of locally recruited personnel, recognizing the relevance of respecting international humanitarian law while undertaking counter‑terrorism activities.
He then introduced the draft resolution titled, “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/74/L.33). Noting that the political and security situation in Gaza remains volatile, he said the immediate priority must be to reduce tensions and avoid another conflict in the enclave. To ensure lasting results, a fundamental change in the situation is crucial. He called on all parties to take urgent steps — including the full opening of crossing points and humanitarian access — while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. The European Union will continue to support efforts by the United Nations and Egypt towards the reunification of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under a single and legitimate Palestinian Authority. The bloc is also determined to sustain assistance to the Palestinian people, he said, noting that it was among the first to answer the call by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for additional funds over the past two years.
ANNA‑KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden), introducing the draft resolution titled, “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/74/L.34), said humanitarian needs have grown exponentially in recent years because of war, protracted conflicts, natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Except for minor technical adjustments, the text is the same as that adopted in 2018, she said. It is the result of efforts by many Member States, including countries providing humanitarian assistance and those receiving it. This broad and diverse ownership demonstrates the global nature of humanitarian solidarity. The text’s adoption by consensus sends an important message to the United Nations system and the wider world, she said. “It is important that we send this message and that we do so together.”
Delivering a joint statement on behalf of Sweden and India, she emphasized that humanitarian disasters reached a new high in 2019 and that global needs will require $26.5 billion. India and Sweden are committed to preserving — and strengthening — respect for humanity, neutrality and independence. Parties to armed conflict continue to disregard international law with impunity, she said, citing attacks on civilians and medical personnel. The responsibility to protect civilians always lies with the affected country. She commended the United Nations for effectively responding to emergencies, stressing that underfinancing remains a major challenge and calling on Member States to boost funding to United Nations agencies, as an attack on humanitarian personnel is not only an assault on the United Nations but on humanity. In addition, victims of sexual violence must be able to access justice. Underscoring Sweden’s humanitarian efforts, she likewise noted India’s aid to the victims of Cyclone Idai and launch of disaster resistance programmes in its region and beyond. Sweden and India call on all Member States to ensure that today’s unprecedented challenges are met with robust responses.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution titled, “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/74/L.31). The text recognizes the clear relationship between emergency response, rehabilitation and development, reaffirming that emergency assistance must be provided in support of short‑ and medium‑term recovery, leading to long‑term development. It also places particular emphasis on climate change, stressing the need for redoubled efforts in building community capacities to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. It also underlines the importance of taking early action to minimize and mitigate the consequences of such disasters, recognizing the contribution of healthy ecosystems to reduce risk and build resilience. He urged all delegations to support the draft resolution and reject the amendment proposed by the United States.
Speaking in his national capacity, he recalled a report by the Secretary‑General on Palestinian assistance. As long as Israel acts as State above international law, the international system will continue to address the implications of that problem, rather than its causes. Citing challenges to sustainable development, he noted variations in disaster impact because the process of mitigation and adaptation depends on resources at hand. Moreover, implementation and follow‑up are difficult in the occupied Palestinian territories because of Israel’s actions there. While the State of Palestine has a national plan, the occupation hinders its implementation and creates daily deprivations, particularly in Area C of the West Bank. In 2019, political and diplomatic work by the State of Palestine advanced thanks to its role in the Group of 77 and China, he said, pointing out that the Observer State also has proven to be an influential actor in global development.
COURTNEY NEMROFF (United States) introducing two draft amendments (documents A/74/L.35 and A/74/L.36) respectively related to resolutions “L.31” and “L.34”, said humanitarian needs are increasing amid war, large‑scale population displacement and attacks against humanitarian workers. Needs are also being accelerated by the effects of climate change and infectious disease outbreaks. Needs remain high in Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Venezuela — underscoring the need for burden‑sharing among donors. “We urge others to step up and do more,” she said, noting that the United States responds to 65 disasters a year, on average. In addition, Member States must improve transparency, as well as joint and impartial needs assessments. “The United States will never allow the voices of those suffering to be silenced,” she said, adding that attacks against civilians reflect a callous disregard for humanity and humanitarian law. While the United States supports victims of gender‑based violence, it does not believe that sexual and reproductive health care should include abortion.
NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that in 2018 alone, the earthquake and tsunami in Palau, volcanic eruptions in Bali, the super typhoon in the Philippines, and extreme floods in several countries resulted in $1.2 billion in damages and the loss of many lives, representing some of the worst natural disasters in the world. Because disasters are transboundary in nature, ASEAN has set up frameworks to ensure coordinated responses, including the Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, and the Risk Monitor and Disaster Management Review.
Citing other achievements, she said that in June and July, satellite warehouses were launched in Thailand and the Philippines under the aegis of the ASEAN Disaster Emergency Logistics System. These warehouses will enable the Centre for Humanitarian Assistance to enhance the mobilization of relief items to disaster‑affected areas within the region. However, ASEAN on its own can only do so much to prepare its countries and people. Given the growing challenges of climate change, expanding disaster hotspots, development gaps and environmental degradation, it is vital that the United Nations and its agencies, as well as the private sector, work together.
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union delegation, noting that the humanitarian landscape is increasingly defined by violations of international humanitarian law, said the bloc is working to ensure that counter‑terrorism measures and sanctions do not impede assistance and comply with international law. He called for full, prompt, impartial and effective investigations into violations of such law. The protection of humanitarian workers is a priority, he said, expressing concern about the growing number of people fleeing their homes due to forced displacement. As needs increase, ensuring a commitment among various constituencies towards collective outcomes is paramount, he emphasized. The European Union is determined to better integrate climate change and environmental preservation in the planning for and response to emergencies in a way that anticipates humanitarian need. Women, children, elderly and disabled people are disproportionally affected by disasters and conflicts, he pointed out, reporting that the European Union supports ongoing efforts to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation.
OKSANA KOLIADA, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine, associating herself with the European Union, said the country has suffered armed aggression by the Russian Federation for 2,075 days, with more than 13,000 people killed — including 3,375 civilians, 172 of them children. More than 100,000 Ukrainian children live near the conflict line, and more than 5 million people — 13 per cent of the population — live in the temporarily occupied territories, where human rights are being violated. She noted Ukraine lost more than 7 per cent of its land in the occupation of Crimea and the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. In Crimea, civilians are being persecuted, Ukrainian schools are closed and “the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar identity is being destroyed”. She cited the decision to expel the Crimean eparchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and demolish the chapel in Yevpatoria. More than 100,000 Ukrainian citizens are imprisoned for political reasons, and in 2014 alone, 500,000 Russian citizens were moved into Crimea. She thanked 50 humanitarian agencies working on both sides of the conflict line, noting $540 million in assistance that benefited 3.5 million citizens. She cited Ukraine’s efforts to simplify access to public services in the temporarily occupied territories and form an efficient information policy. She also expressed hope that the Assembly will support the draft resolution on the Chernobyl disaster.
TALAL S.S.S. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) highlighted the need to provide humanitarian assistance, noting that this position is integral to his country’s foreign policy. He underscored the importance of bolstering and coordinating humanitarian assistance provided by United Nations bodies, adding that Kuwait upholds its responsibilities in this regard by supporting various causes and responses to crises. Kuwait’s official development assistance (ODA) is double the internationally agreed percentage, he reported, adding that 10 per cent of its aid is allocated to disaster relief. In 2019, Kuwait pledged $1 million for the Central Emergency Response Fund, another $1 million for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as $2 million more for UNRWA.
MAHA YAQOOT JUMA YAQOOT HARQOOS (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the introduction of proactive and predictable funding mechanisms as tools that should be mainstreamed into all funds. Pointing out that greater efforts are needed to coordinate humanitarian action, security issues and development, she called for improved risk analysis. She reiterated her delegation’s support for the Central Emergency Response Fund and encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to steer donors towards this mechanism.
HANNE MELFALD (Norway), citing the priority of responding to worsening situations in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and other conflict‑affected countries, said efforts must break the downward spiral that turns protracted complex crises into the new norm in several regions. The unacceptable scale of sexual and gender‑based violence being used as a method of warfare must also be addressed. With that in mind, her country joined Iraq, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, OCHA, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in convening in May the international conference Ending Sexual and Gender‑Based Violence in Humanitarian Crisis, which saw States committing to more than $363 million for prevention and response, including Norway’s $115 million pledge over three years. Women and girls must be acknowledged as powerful agents of change, she said, expressing regret that agreed language on sexual and reproductive health care in several resolutions is currently being challenged. Noting that one of the most successful disarmament treaties is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, she said “a mine‑free world by 2025 remains our vision”. There is also an urgent need to galvanize action on the needs of internally displaced persons, which should be linked more closely to the sustainable development agenda.
ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) said food insecurity remains a major humanitarian need, with intensified climate change and extreme weather events leading to lost lives and displacement. She expressed solidarity with other small island developing States experiencing recent hurricanes. Despite progress made in predicting, preparing and responding to such disasters, she observed that small island developing States are unable to adapt and recover from them without compromising long‑term development prospects. As one of the world’s lowest‑lying island nations, the Maldives is combating the challenges of climate change. Rebuilding after the 2004 tsunami took more than five years, efforts that resulted in the relocation of people from two destroyed islands. The Government established a national disaster management authority and work is underway to build climate‑resilient infrastructure. This involves reversing dependence on imported fuel, and investing in renewable energy, safe water and sanitation.
RAZIYE BILGE KOÇYIĞIT GRBA (Turkey), noting that armed conflicts, persecution and natural disasters are driving record numbers of people from their homes, pointed out that her country alone now hosts 18 per cent of the world’s refugees. Condemning those responsible for the man‑made humanitarian disaster in Yemen, she said Turkey is providing aid to that country, complementing efforts by OCHA. The tragedy in Syria will soon enter its ninth year, she recalled, adding that Turkey addresses the needs of more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Calling on Member States to mobilize sufficient funds for the United Nations humanitarian work, she stressed that there are no local humanitarian problems: every crisis has a global repercussion.
AHMAD SAIF Y.A. AL-KUWARI (Qatar) said that in 2018, his country’s Fund for Development financed projects in more than 70 countries to the tune of $580 million. Qatar is the leading nation in the region in terms of contributing to global humanitarian efforts. Promoting humanitarian cooperation remains a cornerstone of Qatar’s foreign policy. Qatar will continue to finance the Central Emergency Response Fund, and allocate funds to help States address the effects of climate change. In 2019, Qatar pledged $180 million to support United Nations aid efforts in the occupied Palestinian territories, while its donations to that cause over the last eight years amount to more than $1 billion. Qatar is committed to the principle of neutrality as United Nations agencies work to address humanitarian emergencies.
DOMINIQUE MICHEL FAVRE (Switzerland) said that as needs grow, as civilians are regularly targeted by attacks and as humanitarian operations become more complicated, his country will strive to promote a culture of cooperation. Switzerland supports Sweden’s approach, as demonstrated in the omnibus “L.34” text, of holding interactive discussions on various themes, rather than individual negotiations. Switzerland is interested in the cross‑cutting issues of protecting civilians, the impact of conflict in urban settings and humanitarian operations in the context of United Nations reform, he said, noting that his country will host the Third United Nations Data Forum in Bern in 2020. All actors must respect international humanitarian law, including in conflict, and it is the duty of the international community to better protect all civilians and humanitarian workers as laid out in the Geneva Conventions. He also welcomed the establishment of the High‑Level Panel on Internal Displacement and pledged to support its work.
BEN COLLINS (New Zealand) said his delegation is deeply troubled by the ongoing targeting of medical facilities and personnel in armed conflict, noting that 2019 has seen a threefold increase in measles cases, and that in the Pacific region, measles has taken young lives despite being a preventable disease. Moreover, he said, “sexual and reproductive health rights are not optional extras in humanitarian action.” These are core, universal rights. Humanitarian action requires the meaningful inclusion of the most vulnerable and excluded groups as representatives and decision‑makers. Also, ongoing localization efforts make humanitarian policy and action more effective and are aligned with community priorities. New Zealand supports innovative funding approaches, anticipatory financing, timely collaboration between humanitarian and development partners and local ownership of initiatives, he noted.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said the complexity of the crises driving humanitarian need has increased. While the single greatest driver is conflict, becoming more protracted, fragmented and urbanized in recent years, humanitarian need has been increasingly triggered by natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. “Climate change […] is simply the single greatest threat facing humanity,” he said, warning that without sufficient collective efforts, today’s disasters are only a forewarning of those to come. Meanwhile, conditions in which humanitarian workers operate have become more challenging, with a further erosion of respect for international law and a closure of safe space. Noting that some such changes are deliberate, driven by those intent on targeting humanitarian workers, he said inadvertent pressure is also created by ill‑thought‑out sanctions regimes or counter‑terrorism measures. “It is our collective responsibility to address these challenges,” he said, calling for redoubled efforts to address the underlying causes of humanitarian need, particularly by assisting countries in resolving and preventing conflict.
TATSUHIKO FURUMOTO (Japan), noting that the Global Humanitarian Overview estimates that in 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection at a cost of $28.8 billion, said his country extended $98 million of its supplementary budget to the United Nations and other organizations engaging in humanitarian assistance. It also dispatched the Japan Disaster Relief Team to Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Mozambique and Samoa. Highlighting the scale and complexity of the situation in Syria, where an estimated 11 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2020, he said Japan is contributing $14 million to four organizations operating in the north‑east. As aid organizations alone cannot address the entire spectrum of issues, his delegation continues to advocate strongly for the humanitarian‑development‑peace nexus, welcoming the convening of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva on 17 December. Innovation and technology in addressing ever‑increasing needs on the ground is also important, he said, pointing to the launch of a virtual farmers’ market in Mozambique and the introduction of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the United Republic of Tanzania.
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) said the recent OCHA review document covers guidelines for humanitarian response. Citing violations of humanitarian law, he said the International Criminal Court plays an essential role and has the mandate to try war crimes, which constitute the most serious such violation. He also highlighted the International Humanitarian Fact‑Finding Commission, which was established to investigate breaches of international humanitarian law, and he called for exploring potential mechanisms for collaborating with it. He advocated better protecting health and education in conflict situations, adding that principles‑based humanitarian action must be guaranteed in efforts to counter terrorism. Therefore, coordinated and effective identification of the most acute needs is paramount so that no crisis is overlooked by humanitarian response, he said, highlighting the early warning approach in this regard.
WU HAITAO (China) said the present global humanitarian situation is grim, with prolonged conflicts in certain regions, deteriorating food security in some countries, frequent extreme weather events and a prevalence of infectious diseases. To address these challenges, he called for strict observance of international law and the norms with a view to effectively protect those in vulnerable situations. The international community must reduce humanitarian needs by addressing both their symptoms and root causes through integrated policy implementation. Highlighting the global trend of protracted humanitarian crises, linked to such deep‑rooted causes as extreme poverty and unbalanced development, he said the international community should prioritize implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, eradicating poverty and hunger, and helping developing nations to achieve lasting peace and stability. These States also require assistance in capacity‑building to respond to natural disasters and climate change, including increased financial and technical assistance, enhanced information sharing and improved early warning systems.
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) noted that, despite improvements to the humanitarian system, civilians account for the majority of casualties in armed conflict, attacks against humanitarian personnel persist, and the scope and frequency of natural disasters has created unprecedented humanitarian need. As a leader of the “Call to Action on Protection from Gender‑Based Violence in Emergencies”, Canada is working to prevent, mitigate and respond to such abuse, he said, also noting its participation in the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. In 2018, Canada provided more than $870 million to vulnerable populations in crises and has provided more than $109 million to assist Bangladesh and Myanmar since 2017. Should Canada be elected to the Security Council for 2021‑2022, it will bring a constructive approach, he said, calling for stronger dialogue on how humanitarian action and peacekeeping efforts can work together more effectively.
MOHAMMAD AL HAFIZ BIN MOHD NADZIR (Malaysia), aligning himself with ASEAN, expressed concern about security challenges facing aid workers, including those with UNRWA. Malaysia’s participation in humanitarian and disaster relief assistance is based on a three‑prong approach, comprising Government‑to‑Government assistance, involvement through non‑governmental organizations (NGOs), and people‑to‑people participation. Commending OCHA for effectively delivering humanitarian relief, he recalled Malaysia’s pledge of financial contributions to its work in several African countries and Iraq.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), aligning herself with ASEAN, recalled that her country is constantly and increasingly battered by all manner of natural disasters. The Philippines can only brace for such events, not being able to turn the tide on climate change or move the location of the country, making international humanitarian relief essential, she said, commending all humanitarian workers who are currently helping in the wake of Typhoon Kammuri. As the frequency of humanitarian emergencies has grown exponentially over the years, taxing global resources for assistance, there is a need to collaborate with the private sector and with non‑traditional sources of support to address related needs around the world, she said, calling for mainstreaming disaster risk mitigation and management across every Member State’s development plans and policies.
MOHAMED KAMAL ALI ELHOMOSANY (Egypt) said the Palestinian people’s suffering has increased in recent years due to Israel’s disregard of international law. The only way to end their plight is through a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question and creation of an independent Palestinian State in line with United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. “Until then, it is our duty to provide relief and assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said, urging support for the draft.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said international cooperation to address growing humanitarian needs is essential. He called on all partners to maintain political neutrality and impartiality and to always respect States’ sovereignty and lead role in humanitarian relief operations. “We used to be able to move beyond political disagreements,” he said, calling for a return to the practice of adopting humanitarian resolutions by consensus. To comments by Ukraine’s delegate, he said responsibility for the serious humanitarian crisis in the south lies exclusively with Kyiv. He called on all actors to respect the neutral nature of humanitarian debates and not allow the conversation to slip into politics. “We must be focused particularly on caring for people,” he said, recalling the Russian Federation’s $50 million contribution to United Nations aid work in 2019 and citing plans to step up its relief efforts in Africa.
NERYL LEWIS (Australia) said her delegation does not support the reference to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in the natural disasters draft resolution, “L.31”, as it is an unnecessary addition. However, Australia is still pleased to co‑sponsor and support the draft. Turning to humanitarian action, she called for disability inclusivity and the search for political solutions to political crises, adding that Australia will co‑host the Asia‑Pacific Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in June 2020.
MONRADA YAMKASIKORN (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said that bringing concrete and timely assistance to people in need depends on concerted efforts from all stakeholders. “We also believe that humanitarian services and disaster relief should be provided on the basis of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence,” she added. In addition, it is imperative to ensure the safety and security of all humanitarian personnel. Disaster preparedness, readiness and response are inseparable, she said, underscoring Thailand’s focus on promoting risk reduction, preparedness and community resilience. Regional cooperation and coordination are instrumental in mobilizing the necessary resources to build resilience and achieve more effective humanitarian responses, in addition to the provision of adequate funding for effective relief assistance.
The representative from the United Kingdom said that in 2020, nearly 168 million people in 53 countries — one in every 45 people worldwide — will need humanitarian assistance and protection. His country is proud to be the third largest bilateral donor of global humanitarian funds. Member States have provided a record $16 billion of humanitarian funding in 2019, but this is still not enough to cover global needs. The United Kingdom is proud of its commitment to double its use of cash in crises by 2025, but is keen to explore how Member States can renew momentum to deliver on reform priorities, including fostering a more accountable humanitarian system. “Disasters and crises should no longer be treated as unpredictable catastrophes,” he said, highlighting the need to improve the ways to anticipate and prepare for crises and to act earlier and invest better in prevention, resilience, preparedness and risk financing. This is why the United Kingdom supported the launch of a risk‑informed early action partnership at the United Nations Climate Summit. His delegation was disappointed that Member States have been asked to make amendments today on two draft resolutions today.
ANAT FISHER‑TSIN (Israel) said humanitarian crises now last nine years on average, with increasing drought, storms, food insecurity and conflict all causing or contributing to the suffering. The right way to deal with such crises is to combine immediate assistance with a long‑term strategy. Moreover, strong, transparent institutions, democratic governance and the rule of law can avoid crises and build resilience. Israel is known for being among the first on the scene whenever disaster strikes, she said, noting that doctors, nurses, search‑and‑rescue specialists and engineers are saving lives around the world without consideration for politics. Israel’s agency for international cooperation, MASHAV, plays a role in the country’s humanitarian activities, including building local capacities, working with others to combat desertification and climate change and offering training for professionals who deal with crises.
An observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross, cited a trust deficit among humanitarian actors, parties to the conflict, affected populations and donors. As such, ICRC is working to improve its accountability to States and conflict‑affected people, strengthening integrity measures and improving community engagement. Expressing concern about people wrongly deprived of protections under law because of associations or perceived associations with armed groups or those designated as terrorists, he called on all actors to ensure that no one faces discrimination and to reserve space for principled humanitarian action. The conduct of hostilities and law enforcement, when carried out in urban areas, must be in accordance with the law, he said, calling on all actors to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas and emphasizing the importance of development finance for the continuity of urban infrastructure projects and services.
RICHARD BLEWITT, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the rising human toll of humanitarian emergencies will come with a huge financial price tag. Climate‑related humanitarian costs could balloon to $20 billion per year by 2030, and the international community must take urgent action to build resilience and address the current environmental crisis. With the proper initiative, the number of people needing assistance can be reduced to 70 million by 2030 and to 10 million by 2050. He called on Governments and humanitarian actors to reduce long‑term vulnerability and exposure by building stronger infrastructure like dikes and pumping stations that will protect people and economies. They must also do more to better anticipate risks, improve early warning systems and strengthen emergency response. More emphasis is needed on early warning systems that reach vulnerable communities. Rebuilding and repairing with the next emergency in mind can also greatly reduce the impact of future hazards.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Assembly then took action on the draft resolutions before it: “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/74/L.30); “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/74/L.31) and an eponymous amendment (document A/74/L.35); “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/74/L.32); “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/74/L.33); and “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/74/L.34) and an eponymous amendment (document A/74/L.36).
It first heard from delegates making general statements and explaining their position.
The representative of Canada, speaking on behalf of a group of countries on draft text “L.34”, expressed regret that the language regarding sexual and reproductive health services in the draft resolutions on the natural disasters and humanitarian assistance is being challenged. The need for reliable and safe access to comprehensive reproductive health services is acute, especially for women and girls in fragile and conflict‑affected States. Ensuring sexual health services in humanitarian settings requires coordination that “L.34” seeks to promote, she said, adding that Canada will always meet its international obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.
A representative of the European Union expressed regret over the United States decision to table an amendment on “L.31”, given the wide agreement during negotiations to revert to the previously agreed language in operative paragraph 59. Referencing the 2030 Agenda commitment to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, he warned that weakening the language would set a negative precedent and undermine the commitments made by Member States. Likewise, he expressed regret at the decision by the United States to table amendments on “L.34”, given the wide agreement among delegations not to open discussions during the current session and to opt for a technical rollover. There was wide agreement during the seventy‑third session’s negotiations to revert to previously agreed language in operative paragraphs 58 and 59, he said, noting that the United Nations membership has always been able to agree on that language, despite divergent views on the issue.
The representative of Sweden, associating herself with the European Union, said that the humanitarian consensus “L.34” has enjoyed for years sent a collective message of solidarity to those in need. Expressing regret that one Member State introduced an amendment, disrupting 30 years of consensus, she called on all Member States to vote against the proposed changes.
The Assembly first adopted the draft resolution “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” (document A/74/L.30), without a vote.
It then turned to the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/74/L.31). It first rejected, by a recorded vote of 6 in favour (Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Qatar, Russian Federation, United States) to 106 against, with 25 abstentions, the eponymous amendment “L.35”, which proposed to add to operative paragraph 62 of “L.31” the words “consistent with national legislation and policies” with reference to addressing women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health needs.
The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 136 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Guatemala, Russian Federation, Sudan, Togo), to retain operative paragraph 62. By its provisions, the Assembly would encourage Governments, local authorities, the United Nations system and regional organizations, and invite donors and other assisting countries, to address the vulnerabilities and capacities of women and girls through gender‑responsive programming, including with regard to sexual and reproductive health needs and means to address sexual and gender‑based violence and various forms of exploitation during emergencies and in post-disaster environments, and the allocation of resources in their disaster risk reduction, response and recovery efforts in coordination with the Governments of affected countries.
Acting without a vote, it then adopted “L.31” as a whole.
Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/74/L.32).
It then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people,” (document A/74/L.33).
Turning to the draft resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/74/L.34), it first rejected the eponymous amendment (document A/74/L.36), by a recorded vote of 4 in favour (Guatemala, Nigeria, Qatar, United States) to 112 against, with 26 abstentions. The amendment would have replaced language in two paragraphs. In operative paragraph 58, a reference to sexual and reproductive health care as part of the assistance services humanitarian providers offer, with the following “critical and life‑saving health care, health promotion and disease prevention across the lifespan, support for victims of sexual and gender‑based violence, including health education and protection, and access to voluntary and informed family planning”. In operative paragraph 59, the amendment would have removed a reference to “reliable and safe access to sexual and reproductive health‑care services” as part of assistance efforts.
The Assembly then decided to retain operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of “L.34”, by a recorded vote of 140 in favour, 2 against (Mexico, United States), with 4 abstentions (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Togo, Sudan). By the terms of operative paragraph 58, the Assembly encouraged Member States, in cooperation with relevant United Nations humanitarian organizations, to ensure that the basic humanitarian needs of affected populations, including clean water, food, shelter, health, including sexual and reproductive health, education and protection, energy and information and communications technologies, where possible, are addressed as components of humanitarian response, including through providing timely and adequate resources, while ensuring that their collaborative efforts fully adhere to humanitarian principles.
By the terms of operative paragraph 59, the Assembly also encouraged Member States, in cooperation with relevant United Nations humanitarian organizations, to ensure that women and girls have access to basic health‑care services, including reliable and safe access to sexual and reproductive health‑care services and mental health and psychosocial support, from the onset of emergencies, and recognized that such assistance protects women, adolescent girls and infants from preventable mortality and morbidity that occur in humanitarian emergencies, and called upon Member States, the United Nations and other relevant actors to give such programmes due consideration.
The Assembly then adopted “L.34”, as a whole, without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, said that while her country joins consensus on the draft resolutions, it must dissociate itself from operative paragraphs 58 and 59 in “L.34” and operative paragraph 62 in “L.31”. United Nations resolutions are non‑binding and do not change the current state of international or customary law; no States are obliged to join or implement agreements of which they are not a party. The United States cannot support references to the International Criminal Court because the language does not distinguish between parties and non‑parties, she said. It furthermore cannot accept language that would promote abortion, as each country has its own policies and laws on the topic, she said, recalling that the United States does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning and has objected to this language in various General Assembly meetings.
The representative of Hungary, aligning with the European Union, expressed concern over the continued impact of natural disasters around the world. However, it cannot accept references, in any international document, to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as it is not a party to that agreement, nor will it take part in its implementation. Defining migration policies remains a national prerogative, he said.
The representative of Chile, speaking on “L.31”, said his country does not participate in the Global Compact for Migration and therefore must disassociate itself from references to it in resolutions before the Assembly.
The representative of Brazil said effective humanitarian response is a binding duty of the international community and that the resolutions before the Assembly should remain focused on these core concerns instead of migration. While Brazil has joined consensus on “L.31”, it must disassociate itself from preambular paragraph 13, which refers to the Global Compact for Migration, to which Brazil is not a party.
The representative of Algeria said the reference in preambular paragraph 13 of “L.31” to the Global Compact for Migration does not distinguish between illegal and legal migrants and thus does not allow States to tackle illegal migration. However, he welcomed the provision of the sovereignty of States to implement the draft resolution alongside its non‑binding nature.
The representative of Libya, joining consensus on “L.31”, expressed reservations about preambular paragraph 13, which mentions the Global Compact for Migration.
The representative of Qatar expressed reservations about operative paragraph 62 in “L.31” and language contained therein regarding sexual and reproductive rights.
The representative of Italy said her country joined on consensus on “L.31”, but noted that support for this text does not change her country’s position on the Global Compact for Migration.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he joined consensus on “L.32”, but expressed reservations about preambular paragraph 29 and operative paragraph 7, which contain references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute. Emphasizing that States have the responsibility to combat and prosecute the most heinous crimes, he disassociated himself from these paragraphs.
The representative of Saudi Arabia disassociated himself from preambular paragraph 29 and operative paragraph 7, containing language on the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute.