Addis Ababa

29 January 2017

Secretary-General’s remarks at High-level event on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia [as delivered]

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocol observed.

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 ten 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%. It’s 90% 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 promote 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 crises: 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 in a commitment to work together not only to address the pressing humanitarian needs of Ethiopia but 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.