I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
Thank you for convening this Arria-Formula meeting, which brings us an opportunity to discuss a matter of paramount importance for the European Union in presence of Member States, civil society and media. Thanks also to the distinguished panellists, who represent the broad partnership required to assess this grave situation. Because, as we are gathered here, famine is spreading.
The EU is deeply concerned by the unfolding humanitarian crises in North-Eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
It is crucial not to forget that today’s crises are first of all man-made. On the one hand, years of conflict reinforce natural disaster in vicious circles. And on the other hand, climate change, environmental degradation and the unsustainable use of natural resources can cause crises and conflicts. Without political solutions, those crises will continue to exacerbate existing fragile situations and will deepen the vulnerability of affected populations. And by limiting the access of these populations to aid, resources and shelter, they will further contribute to an ever growing number of internally displaced people and refugees. To improve the food security of populations affected by, or at risk of, crises in a way that addresses underlying causes, also contributes towards realization of the right to adequate food. Above all, we need political solutions, if we are to address these famine and pre-famine situations in a sustainable manner. Preventive diplomacy and mediation are cost-effective ways to finding sustainable political solutions to conflicts and ending violence.
The EU, the world’s largest development and humanitarian aid donor, is already investing significant resources to respond to long-term vulnerabilities of the famine affected countries. Development funds invested in the past years amount to EUR 1 billion in the Horn of Africa and EUR 1.6 billion in West Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad, complemented by EUR 800 million of humanitarian funds. To date, EU response to the four crises in 2017 is in the tune of EUR 668 million for responding to both humanitarian and development needs (EUR 296 and 372 million respectively). If we add to this the EU Member States’ commitments and pledges, it corresponds overall to the majority of the available funding for the four crises.
To reach the affected populations, we must first of all have access. Actions, including by governments, to deny or restrict humanitarian access remain a major obstacle to an effective response. The international community needs to take a more outspoken stance to demand full, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to all populations in need and the UN should take the lead in steering this forward.
But to address the root causes of these crises, we need more than humanitarian aid. So while the EU is committed to immediate life-saving action, we must learn the lessons from past crises, put people at the centre of humanitarian action, be accountable to them, and pave the way to more sustainable responses. The recurrent and protracted nature of crises underscores the need for investment in resilience building, for multiannual funding and for joint up efforts by governments, donors and international, regional and local organizations, both public and private. The EU reiterates its strong commitment to resilience building and to strengthening the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance, in respect of humanitarian principles.
Our response must be urgent, coordinated, at scale, and comprehensive: it is paramount to continue deploying efforts linking development, humanitarian as well as security approaches wherever possible, especially as these crises are not the result of forces of nature alone, but are also a complex mix of man-made crises from the Sahel belt to the Horn. We need to tackle the underlying root causes of vulnerability, emphasising resilience, to ultimately break this recurring cycle of emergencies.
It is our collective and shared responsibility.