8 December 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr. Eduardo Fernandez Zincke, Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the General Assembly on Agenda item 69: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Today, the scale of human suffering is greater than at any time since the United Nations Organization was founded.
130 million people are now dependent of humanitarian assistance for their protection and survival from conflict and disasters. More than 65 million people have been displaced as they flee violence or persecution. It is the highest number since World War II. Half of the displaced are children.
Today, armed conflicts are tearing apart vast parts of the world. Millions of people are exposed to violence and live with less than adequate water, food, shelter and health services. Millions of children are out of school. International humanitarian law is increasingly disregarded by parties to conflicts. Hospitals are being attacked, patients, doctors, nurses and humanitarian workers targeted, often killed.
Natural disasters continued to cause important human and economic losses. Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards.
Today, humanitarian crises are a global phenomenon, they affect not only a large number of people, but their repercussions are felt way beyond the borders of affected areas. They are also much more protracted, meaning that it is not good enough to bring food, shelter and medical assistance to people, we also need to bring jobs, schools, and hope.
The gap between humanitarian needs and resources and capacity of response continues to increase. The world today spends around US$ 25 billion to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people devastated by wars and natural disasters. While this amount is twelve times greater than fifteen years ago, never before has generosity been so insufficient. Over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need – and the funding gap for humanitarian action amounts to an estimated US$ 15 billion.
The European Union and its Member States are committed to assume their part of the shared responsibility of the international community to save lives, alleviate suffering and preserve human dignity.
In the past months, UN member states made great progress in Sendai, Addis, New York, Paris and in Istanbul, at the first ever World Humanitarian Summit. Important commitments have been made by all relevant stakeholders. Now is the time to turn talk into action and to implement these commitments.
The EU and its Member States welcome the powerful vision set out in the UN Secretary-General’s “Agenda for Humanity”, that should now progress and deliver concrete results in a number of key areas.
We reaffirm our commitment to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and to preventing the politicisation and instrumentalisation of humanitarian aid. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political solutions.
In this regard respect for international humanitarian law, including safeguarding humanitarian access and combating impunity for violations, should top the international agenda.
Protecting civilians and aid workers is today, more than ever before, a priority. The entire international community needs to speak out and systematically condemn violations of International Humanitarian Law. Serious violations of International Humanitarian Law cause intolerable human suffering and aggravate humanitarian crises. When principled humanitarian action is respected by all parties to conflicts, humanitarian workers can operate in even the most tense, dangerous and volatile theatres of war. When international humanitarian law and principled humanitarian action are not respected, people are abandoned, the notion of protection loses its meaning, and humanity is flouted.
The EU and its Member States will continue to advocate strongly and consistently for the respect of international law, including international humanitarian law (IHL), refugee law and international human rights law. All parties to armed conflicts must comply with international humanitarian law, including with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution as also reflected in international customary law.
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.
We have to continue our efforts to make aid 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. We must work together to ensure that the humanitarian protection agenda and action genuinely also deliver to those who are most vulnerable and most in need.
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.
Humanitarian aid – and the humanitarian system overall – must also become much more efficient, through improvements by all actors, including donors and operators. This is not about saving money but saving lives in dignity and being more effective.
Donors should not simply give more but give better, by being more flexible, by providing more predictability and reducing as much as possible the administrative barriers; at the same time aid organisations should reciprocate with greater transparency and cost-consciousness and by employing the best and more efficient aid modalities, and by recognizing the comparative advantages of local, national and international implementing organisations for delivery of services.
Coherence and cooperation between humanitarian and development programming and financing must be put into practice, in accordance with their respective mandates, towards common results with the aim to reduce need and vulnerability over multiple years, based on a common understanding of the context of each actor’s operational strengths, planning and programming processes.
Last but not least we need to continue working towards shrinking humanitarian needs.
The best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts.
We should not forget that humanitarian aid can never be the 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.
There is also a need to increase investment in disaster risk reduction (DRR), especially in the most vulnerable communities and countries, integrating the latest scientific achievements to improve preparedness and response, and continue with the efforts to build resilience, as underlined in the Agenda 2030 and in the commitments of Sendai.
The European Union and its Member States remain collectively the world’s largest humanitarian donor. The solidarity of our citizens with those in need has withstood economic hardship in much of Europe. It is again being tested by the migratory and refugee crisis. We remain committed to providing protection to those fleeing persecution at home. We have stepped up humanitarian aid and civil protection resources to match the growing needs of refugees. We will also continue and enhance our humanitarian aid to affected populations in third countries, based on their needs and vulnerabilities only. 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, and count on others to continue – or to start – doing the same.
The challenges facing the humanitarian community today are enormous. As 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, sometimes under difficult circumstances, 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 by Slovakia 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 Ola and Omar for their remarkable service.
Allow me to emphasise that these and other humanitarian resolutions adopted by the General Assembly here today have been and should remain genuinely consensual, as a testimony to our shared humanity. Twenty five years after the adoption of the resolution 46/182 by this Assembly, our united voice is as needed as ever. In this spirit, facilitators have made their utmost effort to agree, in good faith and in a transparent manner, resolutions that can express our common views. We must support this effort. We owe that to the people who rely on humanitarian assistance. We owe that to the people risking their own lives on a daily basis in order to save the lives of others. They need the collective, unequivocal and unqualified support of the entire General Assembly.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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