Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Strengthening coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the UN, including special economic assistance

New York, 08/12/2017 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180116_4
Statements on behalf of the EU

8 December 2017, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by H.E. Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations at the General Assembly on Agenda item: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.

– Check against delivery–

Mr President,

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

The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

Mr President,

Twenty-six years ago, on 19 December 1991, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 46/182. This pivotal resolution marked the collective commitment of the international community to help alleviate human suffering and help the world’s most vulnerable people in their greatest moments of need.  Since then, hundreds of millions of people who have experienced the horrors of violent conflict and natural disasters have received life-saving assistance.

This is a poignant reminder every year, as we negotiate and adopt the annual package of humanitarian resolutions.  Now is the moment to be frank and spare no effort in addressing the reality and humanitarian challenges on the ground. Now is the moment to ensure that humanitarian workers have the necessary support and tools in fulfilling their honourable mission.

The tasks facing the humanitarian community have never been more daunting. Challenges today are not only enormous in scope but also very different than the ones 26 years ago, when our predecessors first adopted this resolution.

The number of the humanitarian crises and their magnitude has grown exponentially. The Global Humanitarian Overview, recently launched in Geneva by the Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, estimated that 136 million people around the world will need humanitarian assistance in 2018.  $22.5billion is required to meet the needs of 90.1 million people.

At the same time many humanitarian crises have become so protracted that they seem permanent. Nineteen of the twenty one humanitarian response plans presented by OCHA are for humanitarian crises that have been ongoing for five years or more. Three of these crises have required humanitarian plans and appeals each year for at least eighteen consecutive years.

Funding for humanitarian response continued to increase in 2017. However, the growth in needs has outpaced the increase in funding. Donors provided record levels of funding to Humanitarian Response Plans—nearly $13 billion by the end of November, with humanitarian agencies reaching more people in need than ever before: tens of millions of them, saving millions of lives.  Nonetheless, never before has generosity been so insufficient; the funding gap for humanitarian action amounts to an estimated US$ 12 billion.

The long-running mismatch between needs and resources is crucial but one part of the equation. More importantly, the underlying issues have not gone away.  Whole countries, even regions across the globe are stuck in the vicious cycle of protracted crises and fragility. The increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, environmental degradation and climate change consequences, amplified by spiralling conflicts, cause unprecedented human suffering, death, destruction of livelihoods, infrastructure and ecosystems, food insecurity.

At the same time, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that conflicts are the main drivers of humanitarian needs. All but two of the 2018 humanitarian response plans are for situations that involve a major element of conflict. In addition to the tragic human cost of violence, conflicts often lead to people fleeing from their homes. More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, either across borders or, in the majority of cases, internally, as they flee violence or persecution. Half of the displaced are children. Forced displacement is a grim reality, now lasting on average 17 years.

Conflicts are increasingly a leading cause of hunger, undermining food security in multiple ways, and creating access problems for governments and humanitarian agencies who often struggle to reach those most in need. As a direct consequence, the world is suffering one of its largest humanitarian crises, with millions of people facing the threat of starvation and famine.

Furthermore, we have witnessed how International Humanitarian law is increasingly disregarded by parties to conflicts. Hospitals are being attacked, patients, doctors, nurses and humanitarian workers targeted, often killed. Civilians are being trapped in sieges. Constant care is not being taken to protect the civilian population.

Thus, the consequences are beyond devastating. The already vulnerable are hit first and they are hit the hardest and for a longer time.

Mr President,

This is the reality that we need to address today.

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. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, thus a timely opportunity to validate the commitment of the EU family to remain at the forefront of the international humanitarian response.

As global citizens we are devoting substantive resources and attention to engage inside Europe, in Europe’s neighbourhoods and responding to emergencies across the globe.

Principled humanitarian action will remain at the core of our response, whether in case of natural disasters or man-made crises. We remain strongly committed to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

We will persevere in our efforts to ensure that the respect for international humanitarian law, refugee law and international human rights law, including safeguarding full, unconditional, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access, remain at the  top of the international agenda.

And where serious violations of IHL take place, accountability is of the greatest importance. Full, prompt, impartial and effective investigations are needed, including through the use of the International Criminal Court as a court of last resort.

Protecting civilians and aid workers, from the UN, Red Cross movement or NGOs, whether internationally or locally recruited, is today, more than ever before, a priority.

In parallel, achieving greater efficiencies in the delivery of humanitarian aid has no alternative. We will continue to support anticipatory humanitarian assistance that enables preparedness action before disasters strike. Furthermore we will continue our efforts in making our response more effective and more accountable towards the people it aims to serve. The EU and its Member States reiterate their continued commitment to put people at the centre of their humanitarian action. Women, children, older persons and people with disabilities are disproportionally vulnerable to the effects of disasters and conflicts. Humanitarian operations must take into account their specific needs and capacities and involve them throughout the response cycle.

We must learn the lessons from past crises, as well as pave the way for more sustainable responses. The recurrent and protracted nature of crises underscores the need for coherence and cooperation between humanitarian and development actors, in accordance with their respective mandates, towards common results with the aim to reduce need and vulnerability over multiple years.

We should not forget that humanitarian aid can never be the only solution to a crisis. 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.

Mr President,

The challenges facing the humanitarian community today are enormous. As the UN General Assembly, we need to contribute to their work through the resolutions we are adopting today. By strengthening further the agreed framework for humanitarian action in the successor resolution to 46/182, introduced and skilfully facilitated by one of our Member States, Sweden. By recalling strongly the need to ensure the safety and security of humanitarians and UN personnel, through the resolution introduced on the joint behalf of the 28 Member States of the European Union. By better addressing the consequences of Natural Disasters, through the resolution introduced by the G77, and ably facilitated by Morocco. We thank Jesús, Ola and Omar for their remarkable work.

The European Union and its Member States remain collectively the world’s largest humanitarian donor. The objective of our humanitarian aid is to save lives and alleviate suffering, wherever it is found.

We shall continue doing our part in a principled manner;

It is our collective and shared responsibility.

Thank you.


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

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