I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Montenegro, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Armenia, align themselves with this declaration.
At the outset, we wish to thank you for your opening remarks as well as the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary General, Sir John Holmes, for introducing the Secretary Generals Reports under this segment. The European Union also wishes to reiterate its support to the work of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and for its role as a global coordinator of humanitarian assistance.
As always, the ECOSOC humanitarian segment provides an excellent common space to bring together the humanitarian community, to reflect upon our collective performance, to consider the challenges that lie ahead, and to identify ways to improve the humanitarian response. In this context, we believe the Secretary-Generals reports offer many interesting points for discussion on possible improvement in the area of humanitarian operations.
Over the past year, positive developments in some long-standing emergencies offer a degree of optimism regarding the possibility for durable peaceful solutions. On the other hand, the aggravation of some existing emergencies as well as a significant increase in the incidence and severity of consequences caused by natural disasters calls for continued engagement in providing humanitarian assistance as well as for continued support of the humanitarian community and the need to strengthen capacity of humanitarian actors to address these situations. The intensity and severity of natural disasters underlines the need for improved disaster preparedness at all levels. It also underlines the need for urgent action to prevent natural disasters and to mitigate their effects. This work on disaster-risk reduction should be closely linked to work on climate change adaptation.
While underlining our continued commitment to the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, the European Union wishes to highlight some specific points and challenges where we believe improvements can be made in the context of humanitarian reform:
System wide response and Current challenges to humanitarian activities
A pre-requisite for an effective humanitarian response is the ability of humanitarian actors to speedily reach affected populations so that they receive the humanitarian assistance they need. Unfortunately, issues of lack of access and obstruction of aid, including bureaucratic obstacles, continue to raise concern and pose serious challenges to providing an effective humanitarian response. More is required to ensure that such access is granted, maintained and sustained on the ground. In this regard, much can be done by governments and the United Nations.
In this context, we are also deeply concerned with the number of attacks against humanitarian workers in the field which in turn have forced many organizations to cease operations in situations where assistance is much-needed.
The spillover effects of individual conflicts and disasters are yet another example of an element that deepens humanitarian crises and complicates the delivery of assistance. In these cases, regional approaches and the engagement of regional organizations should be considered as part of the efforts to reach favorable solutions.
On natural disasters, the European Union continues to see a need to strengthen UN leadership in disaster preparedness and risk reduction in cooperation with the ongoing work of the Global Facility on Disaster Reduction and Recovery. The rising number of these disasters and their increased impact on affected populations demands that the international community works towards a strengthened, collective and coordinated management approach. We reiterate our call for all States to implement the priorities set out in the Hyogo Framework for Action and welcome the outcome of the first meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. We draw particular attention to Priority 5 of Hyogo which urges the incorporation of risk reduction strategies into preparedness plans. The EU welcomes initiatives underway by United Nations humanitarian agencies and their partners regarding capacity-building efforts and preparedness, such as community-based training and the pre-positioning of relief items. We also agree with the Secretary General that continued investment by governments in the development and support of disaster preparedness and contingency plans can do much to limit the human and material toll of future disasters. Still in this context, the EU believes that gender and disability issues should be included, from the earliest stages, in strategies for disaster response and reconstruction programmes.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, in all the work and activities I have mentioned, it is also crucial to improve the accuracy of data and methodologies for data collection in order to efficiently address each situation the humanitarian community encounters. Without the provision and use of accurate data and properly assessed needs, humanitarian actors will be in risk of not being able to provide the most suitable and best equipped response to crises.
The cluster approach
The European Union strongly supports the cluster approach not as an end in itself but as providing an important tool in identifying gaps in humanitarian response and as a means to enhance the quality and coherence of humanitarian action, both at the global and country level. Initial feedback from the ground regarding the impact and benefits of this approach has been encouraging but there is still room for improvement. In this context, we invite cluster leads, in close cooperation with other actors and local government authorities, to strengthen surge capacity and stand-by rosters as well as to improve working arrangements in order to deliver more timely, predictable and effective humanitarian aid to populations in need. The clusters can also play an important role concerning transition from relief to development by ensuring overall coordination and increased response capacity in many areas, including, for example, on internal displacement. We therefore call for a joint effort to inform local, national and regional authorities about the operations and benefits of the cluster approach. We also call on all States to respond to the final Appeal for Building Global Humanitarian Response Capacity launched in April of this year.
The Humanitarian Coordinator System and Humanitarian Partnerships
The strengthening of the Humanitarian Coordinator System is a key element of humanitarian reform. The EU welcomes initiatives to this end, including the establishment of an HC candidate pool which identifies qualified individuals able to provide effective and accountable country-level leadership. We also support efforts to promote the expertise of Humanitarian Coordinators and Resident Coordinators, including training on disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction and humanitarian emergencies.
The EU is also in favour of enhancing the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance through the broadening of humanitarian partnerships. We encourage Governments, the UN, other humanitarian and development organizations, the ICRC in full respect of its independence and neutrality and NGOs to coordinate their work to benefit the people in need. We encourage priority and strategy setting, capacity-building, exchange of expertise and the improvement of stand-by capacities. The effective engagement by NGOs in particular and, in some cases, by the private sector, is increasingly important in many situations of response to humanitarian emergencies. In this context, the Global Humanitarian Platform, which brings together many of these humanitarian actors can be an important forum to consider best practices and address continued challenges.
Establishing partnerships, creating capacities at the global, regional, national and local levels as well as better priority setting and assessment of needs will be critical to addressing humanitarian vulnerability in the coming years.
Before I conclude I would like to touch upon the issues of use of foreign military assets in natural disaster relief as well as needs-based humanitarian financing. We will naturally elaborate further on these topics during the two panel discussions of this segment, but for now the EU would like to make the following brief remarks:
Military assets in natural disaster relief
We take the view that humanitarian aid should be first and foremost implemented by organizations with a humanitarian vocation. However, recent natural disasters, most notably the South Asian earthquake, have shown that national and international military forces can play a very important role in providing logistics for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as in search and rescue, particularly in the early stages of an emergency caused by a natural disaster. In these cases, the use of military assets – upon the request, consent or concurrence of the affected government can be the only available option in addressing gaps in the civilian response capacity. In this regard, the EU emphasizes the importance of the Oslo Guidelines, which should be fully respected by Member States and integrated into national disaster preparedness plans and national policies.
Needs-based Humanitarian Financing
On financing, allow me to recall that the EU is collectively the largest provider of international humanitarian assistance, channeled through both the UN Relief Agencies and other Humanitarian partners. We recognize, however, the need to continue equitable, flexible and timely funding in response to humanitarian emergencies and, in this regard, we underline the importance of the full range of financial mechanisms, including the consolidated and flash appeals, agencies emergency funds, as well as pooled funding mechanisms notably the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in addressing the funding challenge. The EU welcomes all contributions to the CERF and encourages further contributions that provide additional funding for relief efforts.
As stated in the SG report, the effective use of humanitarian funding mechanisms depends on the development of an accurate picture of beneficiaries needs, of common performance measures and of quality analysis on funding levels and trends. At the same time, it is also important to promote transparency and accountability regarding the way funds are resourced and spent. In this regard, accurate reporting to the Financial Tracking Service as well as the reliability and accuracy of the FTS system can help with effective resource allocation.
To conclude, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for guiding these discussions and to reiterate our full support to the Emergency Relief Coordinator. Many challenges remain and we look forward to working on these with him and others to improve humanitarian response and to reduce human suffering.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.