New York

09 June 2020

Secretary-General's video message for opening of ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment

It is a pleasure to greet the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

You gather as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across countries where millions of people are already struggling to survive.

The pandemic has the potential to be catastrophic in the some of the world’s poorest and most fragile places.

Since the outbreak began, we have seen the importance of the multilateral humanitarian response, which has never been more vital.

Support for coordinated action through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, with the leadership of the Emergency Response Coordinator, is crucial.

Even before COVID-19, the world faced unprecedented levels of humanitarian suffering. Now the virus threatens to increase hunger and poverty, and reverse decades of development gains.

We all need to stand in solidarity with those least able to protect themselves from the virus. This is not only the right thing to do -- it is the only way we will overcome this challenge.

I urge Member States and other donors to urgently fund the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan and sustain funding to existing humanitarian operations.

United Nations agencies and our partners are on the ground, continuing to set up transport systems for aid supplies and staff, supporting health authorities, and prepositioning stocks to meet rising needs. And we are doing this while maintaining ongoing operations.

All of this is possible thanks to the generous funding delivered so far. But more is needed.

We must act now to save lives and prevent future suffering. Funding should be rapid and flexible, and should include support to local, national and international non-governmental organizations.

I urge all national authorities to enable UN agencies and NGOs to carry out their lifesaving work. Humanitarian staff must be designated as essential workers so they have swift, unimpeded access to those in need.

Respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, must form the foundation of our response. When human rights are at the centre, we deliver better outcomes.

It is particularly important that humanitarian action addresses the specific needs and priorities of women and girls, and engages their leadership in the response.

We must also focus on the needs of children. They have been hit hard by the broader impacts of COVID-19, with schools shuttered, vaccination programmes put on hold, and protection concerns on the rise.

At the same time, we must not overlook the wider drivers of suffering around the world, including persistent inequalities, climate change and prolonged conflict. I reiterate my call for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.  

This humanitarian segment has many urgent matters to discuss, and I wish you productive deliberations in forging a responsive and resilient path forward.

Thank you.