42nd Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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11-Dec-2020 03:16:16
General Assembly adopts 4 humanitarian aid resolutions, as delegates brace for COVID-19’s broader impact amid threat of famine, economic hardship.

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The General Assembly adopted four humanitarian-focused resolutions today, with delegates warning of ever-growing challenges in 2021 as the broader effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic — including prolonged economic hardship and threat of major famine — begin to take hold.

Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, in opening remarks, cited the Global Humanitarian Overview 2021, released earlier this month by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, saying that 235  million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. As the pandemic continues, he added, the international community must also urgently prepare for the possibility of famine.

“Clearly there is work to be done,” he said, calling for strengthened coordination and efforts to reach those in need, including internally displaced persons and refugees. Although promising COVID‑19 vaccines are on the horizon, fair and equitable access to them is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, he stated.

Like many resolutions before the Assembly this year, all four texts today were introduced as technical updates of versions adopted by Member States in 2019, owing to restrictions on the ability of delegations to hold in-person informal consultations.

By adopting the resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/75/L.11), the Assembly reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030. The Assembly also 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.

Through the terms of the resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/L.42), the Assembly strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of aid workers and urged all States to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel and to see to it that crimes against humanitarian personnel do not remain unpunished.

The Assembly adopted the resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/75/L.43), by which it urged Member States and international donors to extend aid as rapidly and as generously as possible. 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.

Adopting the resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/75/L.44), the Assembly requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to continue his efforts in strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. Among other things, it 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 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, the United Nations and others to urgently respond to, prevent and prepare for rising food insecurity.

In two separate recorded votes, the Assembly decided to retain operative paragraphs in “L.11” and “L.44” containing references to sexual and reproductive health. In both instances, the result was 128 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan, United States), with no abstentions.

Delegates shared experiences in dealing with the pandemic, with many saying already dire conditions had only worsened. Afghanistan’s representative said the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating worldwide, with COVID‑19 driving an unprecedented degree of need. In Afghanistan alone, he said, a staggering 18.4 million people require humanitarian assistance — an increase of almost 100 per cent this year. With a ceasefire the immediate priority, he called on the Taliban to consider ending its escalating violence when so many people are in need.

Canada’s representative said the pandemic’s impact threatens development gains, with women among those most affected as they face a growing risk of sexual violence. At the same time, an emerging and unprecedented global food security crisis threatens to affect 270 million people, in addition to 690 million people who already faced hunger before the pandemic. “It is time now for us to act together,” he said, calling for predictable and flexible humanitarian financing.

China’s representative, condemning unilateral coercive measures, underscored the importance of upholding multilateralism in assisting countries to face pandemic-related challenges. Echoing the Secretary‑General’s call for a global humanitarian ceasefire, he called for greater resources for poverty reduction to aid economic recovery and address the root causes of humanitarian crises.

Chile’s representative said that the COVID‑19 pandemic will not be the last and that substantive discussions on the protection of humanitarian personnel and the strengthening of cooperation for related assistance must continue. “Essential medical care must be provided on the basis of genuine commitment for social inclusion,” he added.

The representative of the United States, the world’s largest humanitarian donor, said the global system needs reform, including the empowerment of local actors. She also underscored her delegation’s position that there is no international right to abortion, adding that Washington, D.C., does not support references to the International Criminal Court in the resolutions adopted today.

The Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the pandemic has exacerbated humanitarian needs, exposing individual vulnerabilities and pre-existing systemic fragilities. “The broad destructive trends that existed before the pandemic remain in place,” she said, adding that all stakeholders must use the COVID‑19 pandemic to reflect on and innovate to improve responses to future crises.

In the same vein, the Permanent Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the world is not seizing the opportunity to recover from the pandemic in a greener, more inclusive and resilient manner. The Federation is also concerned that the COVID‑19 vaccine will reach only a few countries and leave the rest of the world struggling to curb the spread of the virus while losing economically.

The Head of the European Union delegation said it is unsustainable that the world’s top 10 aid donors contribute 80 per cent of humanitarian funding, urging the international community to come up with political solutions to conflicts, which remain the main driver of humanitarian needs worldwide.

The Assembly also considered the following reports: “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/246); “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations,” (document A/75/75); “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/75/238); “Central Emergency Response Fund,” (document A/75/317); and “Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/75/84).

Also speaking today were representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Germany (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Turkey, Thailand, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway, Kuwait, Spain, Morocco, Australia, Denmark, Russian Federation, India, Netherlands, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 December to take action on draft resolutions concerning, among other things, education for democracy, global health and foreign policy, and Vanuatu’s graduation from least developed country status.

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