ECOSOC’s three-day Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) brings together UN agencies, diplomats, humanitarian workers, the private sector and other partners, to discuss current and emerging challenges and priorities, and share experiences and lessons learned.
ECOSOC President Collen Kelapile recalled that the world is witnessing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, and that non-compliance with international humanitarian law remains a major concern.
“Restrictions on humanitarian access continue to prevent affected people from receiving life-saving assistance. Too often, humanitarian staff are harassed, threatened and even killed.,” he said.
Preparation is vital
Mr. Kelapile urged participants to learn from the pandemic in order to adapt their work and better prepare for future crises. He also called for greater accountability and strengthen respect for international humanitarian law.
“We need to preserve the humanitarian space and work so that people in vulnerable situations receive the assistance they need,” he added.
“We need a better understanding of the humanitarian impacts of climate change and prepare for the ever-increasing threats that the crisis will bring. This spirit of cooperation is much needed to overcome the enormous challenges that lie ahead.”
In his remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted how UN humanitarian agencies and their partners take action every day to help people in need.
“These challenges require us to intensify our efforts to support a strong, flexible and well-resourced humanitarian system that is better equipped to reach and protect even the most isolated and marginalized people,” he said in a video message to the meeting.
Mr. Guterres called for a humanitarian system that is focused on the needs of people, among other attributes, and that supports local partners on the front lines, especially women and women’s organizations.
The UN chief also reported that a humanitarian appeal for Ukraine is now 70 percent funded, but needs are rising rapidly around the world.
In response, he called for stepping up both sustainable solutions and financial support, helping all countries recover from the pandemic, and protecting the future by limiting global warming.
Strengthening humanitarian assistance must be synonymous with preventing humanitarian crises, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid told attendees.
Protect humanitarian workers
“Relief and humanitarian assistance are already at the forefront of climate emergencies. We must diversify humanitarian assistance, so that it attracts the experience and skills of local communities,” he said.
Mr. Shahid also focused on the dangers humanitarian workers face when delivering aid, adding that more must be done to ensure their safety.
“With your continued support and commitment, we can not only strengthen humanitarian assistance, but also protect the lives of the many selfless humanitarian workers in the field,” he said.
Register the numbers they need
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has warned that today’s “global megacrises” are growing at a speed and scale that threaten to undo decades of hard-won gains in development, governance and social protection.
More than 300 million people across the globe require humanitarian assistance, a number that has never been higher, while the number of displaced persons and refugees has exceeded 100 million, another “historical marker”.
Taken together, the UN’s humanitarian appeals this year add up to $46 billion. “We usually get a little over half of that,” she said.
Mr. Griffiths called for a “change in tactics”, starting with making surplus food available and removing blockades on trade in food and fertilizer.
Like the Secretary-General, he also called for putting the needs and priorities of beneficiaries at the center of humanitarian work, “not only to listen to them, but to be instructed by them.”
Empower partner NGOs
He added that the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding communities must also work together, “not one following the other.”
Meanwhile, more action is needed on humanitarian negotiations and access in places like Ethiopia, the Central Sahel, Ukraine and Yemen.
The humanitarian sector must be as proactive as possible, he continued, stressing the importance of preparation.
“In the case of natural disasters, we have opportunities to be better prepared to provide aid, to preserve assets in the event of a crisis, and we need to do it more often, more reliably, and again, in concert with the communities that will be hit. .”
Finally, the UN relief chief insisted that local non-governmental organisations, civil society and aid agencies on the ground must have a greater role in the humanitarian space.
“They see suffering every day. They know what it takes to make a real difference, and they are our messengers as well as our defenders and our liberators,” he said.
“We need to empower them, bring them closer to our councils and support them in their efforts and their desire to expand their reach.”