Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

ECOSOC - United Nations Economic and Social Council - Humanitarian Affairs Segment - EU Statement

Geneva, 25/06/2019 - 16:14, UNIQUE ID: 190625_11
Statements on behalf of the EU

ECOSOC - United Nations Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment Geneva, 25 June 2019 EU Statement

Mr Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, and the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, align themselves with this statement.

Let me start by thanking Morocco for chairing the Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the ECOSOC, and Switzerland and Indonesia for successfully facilitating the ECOSOC humanitarian resolution. We welcome the stronger language on persons with disabilities, provisions against gender-based violence, climate change and the promotion of education in emergencies, as well as the increased focus on localization and innovative humanitarian funding.

We would have welcomed more progress in other key areas. It is essential to better reflect today’s realities of predominantly conflict-driven humanitarian crises. Questions relating to the protection of civilians, in particular the protection of children, should not cause a controversy in the negotiations room. Another critically important area is further strengthening our compliance with international law, particularly international humanitarian law, including by addressing the impact of counter-terrorism measures and sanctions on the delivery of principled humanitarian action. We are also concerned about the continued efforts to undermine women's rights to sexual and reproductive health.

 Against this backdrop, there is merit in reflecting on the added value of the negotiation process, conducted in such restrictive circumstances this year. The ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment and the ECOSOC resolution provide a unique opportunity to make some of the normative dialogue on humanitarian action truly operational. While the links to the annual Humanitarian Omnibus resolution, adopted in the GA in December, are evident, the ECOSOC resolution should not merely be a repetition of this exercise. Instead, this instrument, if put to good use, could translate policy commitments into concrete and timely measures, with real impact on the ground. This is a missed opportunity. We regret that this year some chose to oppose updating the text to best reflect today's humanitarian challenges and required solutions. In view of these observations, we invite other Members to together initiate a deliberation on how to make this process more worthwhile.

 Mr Chair,

We live in troubling times for many millions of people across the globe. Humanitarian needs are on the rise whilst the resources are overstretched and the humanitarian space increasingly challenged Whole countries, even regions across the globe are stuck in a state of protracted crisis and fragility, where the impact of armed conflicts, natural disasters and climate change magnify each other. It is therefore essential that we engage in a collective reflection on how we can best, together, step up our actions and address the challenges on the ground.

This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, which have been universally ratified. Their continued relevance makes it a bittersweet occasion; daily, we are faced with reports of atrocities committed in violation of the rules established in these Conventions. The EU and its Member States have always been strong defenders of these international rules, and will remain so for as long as is needed.

 The vast majority of humanitarian needs today can be traced to conflict situations, and civilians are the ones to pay the price.

 Their basic needs often go unmet when humanitarian actors are prevented from accessing populations in need, in contravention of humanitarian principles. Additionally, the devastating link between conflict and hunger has been widely recognized, yet the use of starvation as a method of warfare, which constitutes a war crime, remains in practice in numerous locations. Children remain particularly vulnerable, to direct protection risks but also long-term consequences, such as those related to the lack of education in emergencies. As conflict has become increasingly urbanized, attacks can cripple a whole city for weeks, months or even years ahead.

 We also continue to witness how the medical mission, as well as other humanitarian workers, including locally recruited personnel, are being physically targeted for merely performing their life-saving duties. They are at the heart of operationalizing our humanitarian relief efforts, yet often the first to be hurt. We must ensure, including in counter-terrorism measures, that humanitarian and medical workers are able to provide assistance and protection in accordance with the humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law.

 Some of these observations are uneasy to admit. But if the international community is genuinely interested in preventing and addressing humanitarian emergencies, then we have no choice but to acknowledge that the majority of today’s crises are man-made.

 While there are other causes of humanitarian needs and emergencies – notably natural disasters and those related to environmental degradation caused by climate change – conflict is the single largest driver. It is also the one we have the capacity to prevent, or address. It is our moral obligation to do so, and we urge the international community to work on political solutions to put an end to on-going conflicts, which is the only way to put an end to the human suffering that follows in their wake. Humanitarian assistance can never ultimately be the solution to a conflict.

 The European Union and its Member States are committed to assume our part of the shared responsibility of the international community to save lives, alleviate suffering and preserve human dignity. Protecting civilians, ensuring respect for IHL and providing principled, needs-based assistance will remain the cornerstones of our continued commitment to remain at the forefront of the international humanitarian response.

 Thank you.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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