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Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller – Closing Remarks at ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment, 26 June 2019

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Geneva, 26 June 2019

Thank you, Vice-President.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for your active participation throughout this past week. In particular, I thank the Vice-President of this year’s ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment, Ambassador Hilale for your leadership and effective chairmanship, and I want to thank the many panelists, moderators and participants for your thought-provoking insights and practical recommendations during this week’s productive discussions.

We are meeting at the HAS on an annual basis – and almost every year we are discussing new record levels of needs and suffering. This year again, we face a record high 140.8 million people needing humanitarian assistance, calling for our collective attention and action.

This week, we have heard a lot of interesting solutions and commitments to address conflict, which remains the main driver of humanitarian need, as well as natural disasters, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. We also discussed ways to better include local communities in humanitarian response efforts.

Through first-hand experience, we heard the powerful testimony from cyclone-affected countries, underlining the need for strong humanitarian coordination. We need to continue to engage collectively with a wide range of partners to assist people, before and when disasters occur.

Moreover, we shared experiences, innovations, insights and best practices from across regions and sectors, hearing the voices of national and regional authorities, international and local humanitarian organizations, women leaders and women’s groups, people with disabilities and youth. We made every effort this year to ensure strong inclusivity on the high-level panels, including regional perspectives, gender diversity and the perspectives of persons with disabilities.

We strove to showcase grassroot experiences and perspectives of local actors as well as the contributions of international humanitarian organizations and agencies.

Throughout these three days, people caught in humanitarian crises were at the centre of our discussions. We have discussed not only how we can better meet their needs, but also how we can work with affected communities, as well as with development and peace partners to support communities in their work to reinforce resilience, reduce risk and vulnerability and respond to crises.

Allow me to highlight some of the key messages that emerged from our discussions. During event on transition from relief to development, we saw the crucial importance of leadership and appropriate funding mechanisms to respond to the complex challenges in contexts involving humanitarian, development and peace interventions, and the criticality for more joined-up approaches and collaboration.

Through concrete examples from the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, this discussion showcased the progress that has been made in the past years in fostering collaborative efforts between development and humanitarian actors as well as the many challenges we still have to address. We learned of creative solutions that have been implemented, allowing for complementary multi-year planning and financing, through the pursuit of collective outcomes, while ensuring the respect of distinct mandates and of humanitarian principles for humanitarian action.

The High-Level Event on International Humanitarian Law reinforced the continued relevance of the Geneva Conventions since their adoption 70 years ago. While the Security Council of the United Nations has dedicated the past 20 years to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, compliance with International Humanitarian Law remains too low. In particular, speakers called for States to act to end impunity by incorporating these principles into domestic law and implementing accountability mechanisms to hold perpetrators responsible.

The high-level panel on climate change addressed the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai and Kenneth, while highlighting challenges posed by the climate crises and extreme weather events. Speakers stressed the crucial opportunity the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit offers to avoid a climate crisis. We heard a quote that resonates with me and should guide our work moving forward: “policy without action is hallucination.” It is a tragedy if we do not take the necessary measures to reduce risk, vulnerability and need and to prevent and protect communities and persons at risk before the next emergency strikes.

The high-level panel on localization considered ways in which international actors and structures can reinforce rather than replace local capacities, allowing local actors to be better represented in decision-making and coordination structures. In particular, speakers called for the voices of communities, particularly women, girls and persons with disabilities, to be better reflected and represented throughout the Humanitarian Programme Cycle.

An important message we heard in this panel was to focus on how to prevent, prepare and invest in local communities and women’s groups on the ground. Speakers stressed the need to “implement the talk” to put commitments into action. We must do this and recognize the enormous contributions that local communities and international actors can achieve by working together to complement and reinforce local response.

The rich discussions in the many side events and the interesting market-fair booths displayed the truly vibrant nature of the humanitarian system. Many of their observations and recommendations are reflected in the Vice-President’s summary, which he will now present.

I would like to conclude with a quote by one panelist during the high-level panel on localization: “implement what you promise”. I am looking forward to continuing to work with you all to fulfil our promises and to putting these ideas into action before we meet again next year. Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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