Economic and Social Council: 26th Plenary Meeting, 2022 Session

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21-Jun-2022 02:26:57
Secretary-General urges ‘stepping up for sustainable solutions, robust funding for every crisis’, as Economic and Social Council opens humanitarian affairs segment.

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The Economic and Social Council began its humanitarian affairs segment today, exploring solutions that alleviate human suffering caused by growing hunger and displacement, compounded by the triple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict.

“The issues confronting the international community are profound,” said Collen V. Kelapile, President of the Economic and Social Council, in his keynote address to the three-day session. “The rise in food insecurity, hunger and famine is deeply worrisome. Also troubling are the unprecedented displacement numbers globally.”

“Yet, the issues facing the humanitarian community do not stop there,” he continued, noting that the world’s most vulnerable are still suffering from the impacts of the pandemic. Women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected and endure setbacks, including gender-based violence, lack of access to education and opportunities to thrive.

He, therefore, appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and stand in solidarity with those affected by humanitarian emergencies.

Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said the scale of today’s mega-crises requires a new approach. Although demands for humanitarian assistance keep growing, aid budgets are not. As such, the international community must shift its tactics, he said, calling for a free flow of food across the planet by making surplus stocks available and removing any blockages of trade in food and fertilizers.

He went on to say that the humanitarian, development and peacemaking communities must work together and “not let institutional distinctions get in the way”. Moreover, the international community must work harder on humanitarian negotiations and access, such as in Ethiopia, Central Sahel, Ukraine and Yemen. The humanitarian sector must be as anticipatory as possible, he said, stressing that preparedness and early action not only protect lives and preserve people’s options but also reduce the financial cost of humanitarian action.

It is way beyond time to allow for a bigger role for local non-governmental organizations, civil society and aid agencies. “They know what is needed to make a real difference. They are our messengers, as well as our advocates and deliverers,” he said, calling on Member States to empower those groups and support them in their efforts and desire to extend their reach.

In a pre-recorded video message, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that funding for the Ukraine humanitarian response has been generous, at 70 per cent of the appeal, but funding for crises elsewhere stands at just 17 per cent. “We need to step up for sustainable solutions and robust funding for every crisis,” he said, urging efforts to make the truce in Yemen last, find a path to peace in Ethiopia, end attacks on civilians in the Sahel, end the war in Ukraine and support pandemic recovery in every country.

To protect humanity’s future, he emphasized, all Governments and corporations must understand that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not a choice, but an imperative. Developed countries must meet their commitment to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries. Fifty per cent of climate finance must go to adaptation, he said, adding that the humanitarian affairs segment is the place where the world comes together around solutions. “You are here today because you are part of the answer,” he said.

Also in a pre-recorded video message, Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said the humanitarian system is at the pinnacle of the principles and values of the United Nations. Calling for implementing more sustainable solutions, he said that a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is necessary to promote and strengthen local mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change.

The war in Ukraine alone has displaced more than 13 million civilians and compromised global food security, meaning 46 countries are likely to face famine-like conditions. Stressing that every week, humanitarian workers across the world are killed, injured, sexually assaulted, kidnapped or detained as they work to help the world’s most vulnerable people, he stated: “This is unacceptable and it must stop,” and more must be done to protect humanitarians on the frontlines.

Injecting voices of the affected populations, Darío José Mejía Montalvo, the Chair of the twenty-first session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, stressed the need to recognize and guarantee the rights of indigenous people, who live in more than 90 countries, including their rights to land and natural resources. The pandemic has shone a light on the need to improve disaster management, he said, calling for creating emergency protocols tailored to indigenous peoples.

Siale Ilolahia, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, noted the people who least contribute to the climate crisis are the very people that must live with its devastating impact. Pointing out that the global approach is not fit for purpose, she said alternative, traditional and cultural locally-led systems should be empowered, with a transition from a relief and welfare approach to human rights and development.

Hawa Coulibaly, a 17-year-old high school student in central Mali, said children are facing a problem of access to education, a food crisis and health threats. To help them, the United Nations must support Mali in fighting insecurity and putting an end to the violation of children’s rights to guarantee them a better future, she said, expressing hope that she can continue her studies and one day become a journalist.

In other business, the Economic and Social Council began a general discussion under the agenda item “Special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance”.

In the afternoon, the Council held a high-level panel, exploring lessons learned for the humanitarian system from the impact of the pandemic and consider the implications for future action, particularly through the lens of children and women.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 June, to hear a second high-level panel, titled “Reaching people in need, supporting humanitarian assistance for all in times of conflict and promoting good practices in the application of international humanitarian law”.

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