SEVENTY-FIFTH SESSION, 42ND & 43RD MEETINGS (AM & PM)
The General Assembly adopted four humanitarian-focused resolutions today, with delegates warning of ever-growing challenges in 2021 as the broader effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic — including prolonged economic hardship and threat of major famine — begin to take hold.
Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, in opening remarks, cited the Global Humanitarian Overview 2021, released earlier this month by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, saying that 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. As the pandemic continues, he added, the international community must also urgently prepare for the possibility of famine.
“Clearly there is work to be done,” he said, calling for strengthened coordination and efforts to reach those in need, including internally displaced persons and refugees. Although promising COVID‑19 vaccines are on the horizon, fair and equitable access to them is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, he stated.
Like many resolutions before the Assembly this year, all four texts today were introduced as technical updates of versions adopted by Member States in 2019, owing to restrictions on the ability of delegations to hold in-person informal consultations.
By adopting the resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/75/L.11), the Assembly reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030. The Assembly also urged the United Nations and all relevant stakeholders to strengthen the resilience of Member States, including through capacity‑building for communities, and the application of new technology.
Through the terms of the resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/L.42), the Assembly strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of aid workers and urged all States to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel and to see to it that crimes against humanitarian personnel do not remain unpunished.
The Assembly adopted the resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/75/L.43), by which it urged Member States and international donors to extend aid as rapidly and as generously as possible. Urging Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products, it called upon the international community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs.
Adopting the resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/75/L.44), the Assembly requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to continue his efforts in strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. Among other things, it urged Member States to continue to give priority to efforts to investigate and prosecute acts of sexual and gender‑based violence in humanitarian emergencies. It underscored the importance of protecting all persons affected by humanitarian crises from sexual exploitation and abuse and urged Member States, the United Nations, and others to reinforce preparedness and response capabilities to deal with outbreaks of infectious disease. The Assembly also urged Member States, the United Nations and others to urgently respond to, prevent and prepare for rising food insecurity.
In two separate recorded votes, the Assembly decided to retain operative paragraphs in “L.11” and “L.44” containing references to sexual and reproductive health. In both instances, the result was 128 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan, United States), with no abstentions.
Delegates shared experiences in dealing with the pandemic, with many saying already dire conditions had only worsened. Afghanistan’s representative said the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating worldwide, with COVID‑19 driving an unprecedented degree of need. In Afghanistan alone, he said, a staggering 18.4 million people require humanitarian assistance — an increase of almost 100 per cent this year. With a ceasefire the immediate priority, he called on the Taliban to consider ending its escalating violence when so many people are in need.
Canada’s representative said the pandemic’s impact threatens development gains, with women among those most affected as they face a growing risk of sexual violence. At the same time, an emerging and unprecedented global food security crisis threatens to affect 270 million people, in addition to 690 million people who already faced hunger before the pandemic. “It is time now for us to act together,” he said, calling for predictable and flexible humanitarian financing.
China’s representative, condemning unilateral coercive measures, underscored the importance of upholding multilateralism in assisting countries to face pandemic-related challenges. Echoing the Secretary‑General’s call for a global humanitarian ceasefire, he called for greater resources for poverty reduction to aid economic recovery and address the root causes of humanitarian crises.
Chile’s representative said that the COVID‑19 pandemic will not be the last and that substantive discussions on the protection of humanitarian personnel and the strengthening of cooperation for related assistance must continue. “Essential medical care must be provided on the basis of genuine commitment for social inclusion,” he added.
The representative of the United States, the world’s largest humanitarian donor, said the global system needs reform, including the empowerment of local actors. She also underscored her delegation’s position that there is no international right to abortion, adding that Washington, D.C., does not support references to the International Criminal Court in the resolutions adopted today.
The Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the pandemic has exacerbated humanitarian needs, exposing individual vulnerabilities and pre-existing systemic fragilities. “The broad destructive trends that existed before the pandemic remain in place,” she said, adding that all stakeholders must use the COVID‑19 pandemic to reflect on and innovate to improve responses to future crises.
In the same vein, the Permanent Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the world is not seizing the opportunity to recover from the pandemic in a greener, more inclusive and resilient manner. The Federation is also concerned that the COVID‑19 vaccine will reach only a few countries and leave the rest of the world struggling to curb the spread of the virus while losing economically.
The Head of the European Union delegation said it is unsustainable that the world’s top 10 aid donors contribute 80 per cent of humanitarian funding, urging the international community to come up with political solutions to conflicts, which remain the main driver of humanitarian needs worldwide.
The Assembly also considered the following reports: “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/246); “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations,” (document A/75/75); “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/75/238); “Central Emergency Response Fund,” (document A/75/317); and “Assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/75/84).
Also speaking today were representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Germany (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Turkey, Thailand, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway, Kuwait, Spain, Morocco, Australia, Denmark, Russian Federation, India, Netherlands, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 December to take action on draft resolutions concerning, among other things, education for democracy, global health and foreign policy, and Vanuatu’s graduation from least developed country status.
Strengthening Coordination of United Nations Humanitarian Assistance
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, called today’s debate a critical opportunity to stand in solidarity with the millions of people who find themselves in the most dire of circumstances and to reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to support humanitarian action, especially in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Citing the Global Humanitarian Overview 2021, released earlier this month by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, he said that 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year. The international community must also urgently prepare for the possibility of famine. “Clearly there is work to be done,” he said, calling for strengthened coordination and efforts to reach those in need, including internally displaced persons and refugees who are highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Humanitarian efforts must also reflect gender considerations. Noting that multiple promising COVID‑19 vaccines are on the horizon, he said that fair and equitable access to them is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. When it comes to humanitarian needs and resources, there is a clear rationale to vaccinate those most in need. The international community must also not forget that humanitarian crises existed well before the pandemic. It must continue to address conflict situations as well as climate and environmental concerns. The draft resolutions before the Assembly today are critical to the work of the United Nations, and Member States owe it to the peoples of the world to give them their utmost consideration, he said.
NEIL ORIN PIERRE (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/75/L.11). Owing to the pandemic, this year’s text is a technical update, but it remains fully relevant and its provisions applicable, he said. Among other things, it reaffirms that emergency assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters must be provided in ways that support short- and medium‑term recovery, leading to longer‑term development. It puts particular emphasis on climate change and its impact on natural disasters, and underlines the importance of taking early action with a view to minimizing and mitigating the impacts of natural disasters. The draft resolution goes on to encourage all States, United Nations entities and other relevant actors to promote ecosystem‑based approaches and nature‑based solutions for disaster risk reduction, and calls attention to private sector engagement in disaster risk management. It also encourages Member States, humanitarian organizations and other stakeholders to ensure access to safe drinking water and adequate and equitable sanitation for all, including women and girls, in the context of natural disasters.
GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany), on behalf of the European Union, introduced the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/L.42), by which the Assembly would, among other things, strongly condemn all acts of violence, attacks and threats against them and would urge States to take stronger action in their protection. Highlighting an increase in the number of these workers affected by safety and security incidents and of those killed in the line of duty, he said the world has also witnessed this year the continuation of violations of international humanitarian law and disrespect for its principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, as the pandemic has further exposed the underlying causes of insecurity and social and economic inequality, leading to increased needs. Underscoring that the security of locally recruited United Nations personnel and non‑governmental organisations’ staff must remain a priority, he said accountability for violations of protection rules remains alarmingly low. “International and national laws provide solid frameworks for the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, but accountability lags behind,” he said.
ANNA KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden), associating herself with the European Union, introduced the draft resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/75/L.44), noting that this was the twenty‑ninth anniversary of the text that created the very foundation of today’s United Nations humanitarian system. Those needs have grown exponentially since 1991 due to war, natural disasters and the effects of climate change, and now compounded by the pandemic. With the number of people in need worldwide increasing by 40 per cent, humanitarian assistance remains the best way to reach them. The pandemic has also had a profound impact on work at the United Nations itself, she said, with “L.44” being a technical update on the same text adopted by the Assembly last December, in an approach coordinated with all Member States. By its terms, the Assembly would, among other things, encourage Member States, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to continue to work together to understand and address the different protection needs of affected populations, particularly the most vulnerable, in humanitarian crises and ensure that these needs are adequately integrated into preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Noting this is an exceptional year, not a precedent for the future, she looked forward to full‑fledged negotiations on next year’s text, marking its thirtieth anniversary.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, head of the European Union delegation, noting that his face mask, required by pandemic‑related safety measures, was made in Malaysia by Afghan refugees, reflected more broadly on the deep recession COVID‑19 triggered, which is reversing decades of developmental gains. “The 2021 Global Humanitarian Overview captures this sobering and bleak picture,” he said, expressing concern over pandemic‑related challenges. Access constraints mean that populations in 50 countries are not getting the assistance they require. The European Union will continue to promote compliance with humanitarian laws and principles, and insist on accountability. Turning to attacks on aid workers, 125 of whom were killed in 2019, he emphasized that: “Saving life should not cost lives; Humanitarian workers are essential workers, and we have a moral duty to protect them.” On post‑pandemic recovery plans, he called for an operationalization of the humanitarian‑peace nexus in line with the United Nations reform process, adding that activities must address the needs of vulnerable groups. Noting that the top 10 aid donors contribute 80 per cent of humanitarian funding, which is unsustainable, he called for flexible funding schemes, urging the international community to work on political solutions to end conflicts, which remain the main driver of humanitarian needs worldwide.
NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the pandemic creates unprecedented risks for humanitarian workers, compounded by conflict. In addition, the region is vulnerable to natural disasters, costing an annual average of $4.4 billion, she said, adding that many States were affected in the last two years, resulting in extensive damage and loss of life and, as a result, in complicating and limiting health and humanitarian workers’ efforts. Given the transboundary nature of disasters, ASEAN prioritizes strengthening the coordination of humanitarian response and disaster relief. Having launched in October the ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster Responsive Social Protection to Increase Resilience, with the assistance of United Nations agencies and partners, she highlighted other achievements, including a five year action plan to implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership adopted by the Association and the United Nations in October, which enhances cooperation in disaster risk reduction, emergency response and management, as well as projects to build and strengthen capacity, such as its Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management initiative, which aims at improving quality services.
GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/75/L.43), saying that the bloc remains gravely concerned about the difficult living conditions and humanitarian situation affected the Palestinian people. Commending the work of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the immediate priority must be to reduce tensions and avoid another conflict, he said lasting results require fundamental change. As such, he called for urgent steps in line with Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and the reopening of Gaza crossing points while also addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. Noting that the European Union and its member States are collectively the biggest financial contributor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said that the bloc will remain a strong, reliable and predictable supporter of the Agency going forward. By the terms of “L.43”, the Assembly would, among other things, urge Member States and international donors to extend aid to the Palestinian people as rapidly and as generously as possible and to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products. It would also call upon the international community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs and to extend to the Palestinian people emergency economic assistance, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
AYŞE ŞEBNEM MANAV (Turkey), describing the severe economic and social consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic, called for more innovative financing, including the exploration of such new sources of investment as public and private partnerships. According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Programme, Turkey was a leading donor country in 2019, providing $7.6 billion in humanitarian assistance. In addition, Turkey has responded to the medical needs of more than 156 countries and 11 international organizations during the pandemic. Also, she reported that since 2014, all the humanitarian needs in north‑west Syria have been addressed through the United Nations cross‑border mechanism through Turkey. “The mechanism has no alternative and cross‑border aid should continue without any hindrance,” she said, adding that Turkey is committed its leading role in the global response to humanitarian emergencies.
SORAWUT NORAPOOMPIPAT (Thailand), aligning himself with ASEAN, highlighted the valuable opportunity presented by the COVID‑19 response and recovery. Inclusive social protection ensures that all parts of a society, particularly the most vulnerable, are well provided for in emergencies. Universal health coverage places countries in a better position to prepare and respond to the pandemic, he said, adding that particular attention should be paid to the disproportionate impacts of COVID‑19 on women and girls. The pandemic has exacerbated pre‑existing gender inequality, increased sexual- and gender‑based violence, and limited access to education due to lockdown measures. Also underscoring the importance of preparedness and resilience, he strongly encouraged Member States and other partners to consider enhancing their contributions to the humanitarian pooled fund.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) said the United Nations system has swiftly mobilized and reacted to reduce the impact of COVID‑19, including launching the First Response Plan two weeks after the official declaration of the pandemic. However, the impact has triggered increased humanitarian needs, more difficult access to those requiring it and targeted attacks on aid workers in addition to an emerging “ghost pandemic” of rising numbers of incidents of sexual violence stemming from coronavirus‑related confinement measures. As such, he advocated for an urgent and coordinated response based on humane principles. While the world’s attention is focused on addressing COVID‑19 this year, the international community must ensure that pre‑pandemic humanitarian needs are not neglected, he said, drawing attention to new technologies to make assistance more effective, with the essential precondition of confidentiality.
AZNIFAH ISNARIAH ABDUL GHANI (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN, said the scale and intensity of human suffering inflicted by the COVID‑19 pandemic has gravely impacted vulnerable communities, especially in countries facing poverty, conflict and the effects of natural disasters, climate change and unilateral sanctions. For its part, Malaysia and the World Food Programme (WFP) continue to support regional COVID‑19 operations and relief efforts through the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Subang. Highlighting the safety and security of humanitarian personnel in Palestine, he noted with concern the continued protection crisis, deep funding shortfalls and restricted access to essential services.
Ms. FELFALD (Norway), noting that 2020 has established “yet another record” for the number of people affected by humanitarian crises, said the United Nations system has adapted impressively. She underlined the importance of providing resources for crucial front‑line workers and equitable access to vaccines as the key to overcoming the pandemic. In terms of other crises, she said the international community must strengthen its protection of civilians in armed conflict, including children. Noting the dramatic increase in sexual‑based violence during the pandemic and its debilitating effect on societies, she encouraged more States to join the Call to Action on Protection from Gender‑based Violence in Emergencies. The plight of refugees and migrants must also be addressed, given an increased need for shelter, food and medicines amid the pandemic. As humanitarian workers risk their lives on the front lines, the international community must move from words to action in ending impunity on attacks against them.
TAHANI R. F. A. ALNASER (Kuwait) underscored the need for enhancing and coordinating international partnerships, given the greater humanitarian needs due to the pandemic. Kuwait shoulders its regional and international responsibilities, and will continue to provide assistance to address crises as needed, having already increased its humanitarian and development assistance contributions. Noting that since 2007, 10 per cent of the aid Kuwait provides goes through United Nations agencies, she said 2020 contributions include $1 million donations to UNRWA, United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) alongside support to mitigate the pandemic’s effects through initiatives involving the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) emphasized the need for effective multilateralism to address humanitarian concerns, noting that the impacts of the COVID‑19 will spill over into 2021. Commending WHO, WFP, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for their responses to the pandemic, he said that Organization’s development system should continue to improve in terms of coordination. This should be done just as the humanitarian system has, leading to a single United Nations system, he said, adding that as current problems are many, solutions must be complementary and multifaceted. He emphasized the importance of sexual and reproductive health services and acknowledged the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women) in combatting gender‑based violence. He went on urge those States that have not yet signed the Safe Schools Declaration to do so, and to investigate and prosecute attacks on humanitarian workers.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the pandemic’s impact threatens development gains, and women are among those most affected as they face a growing risk of sexual violence, especially in situations with limited access to such services as sexual and reproductive health care. School closures affected 1.5 billion children, with devastating consequences for girls and young women. Meanwhile, an emerging and unprecedented global food security crisis threatens to affect 270 million people, in addition to 690 million people who faced hunger before the pandemic. “It is time now for us to act together,” he said, calling for predictable and flexible humanitarian financing. Aid workers must have rapid and safe access to deliver assistance to those in need and their safety and security must be protected. However, many States and private armies are preventing assistance from reaching people who are starving and sick. Indeed, women and children are being deliberately targeted, he said, opposing the use of the term “collateral damage” to describe them, when instead the reality on the ground is “they are tracked, and they are killed”. Perpetrators of such atrocities must be held accountable, he said, also calling for gender-responsive inclusive humanitarian action, involving marginalized groups at every phase.
BING DAI (China) said humanitarian need is increasing worldwide under stressors including conflict, the pandemic and climate change. Condemning unilateral coercive measures, he cited the importance of upholding multilateralism in assisting countries to face the challenges of COVID‑19. Member States must strictly abide by norms governing international relations, respecting the sovereignty of States and avoiding interference in internal affairs. Calling on the international community to respond to the Secretary‑General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said States must uphold their responsibilities in protecting civilians and help developing countries with disaster prevention, risk reduction and enhanced disaster monitoring. Noting that people-centred development is key, he called for greater resources for poverty reduction to aid economic recovery and address the root causes of humanitarian crises. China has sent 36 medical teams to 34 countries, he noted, also providing $50 million in funding to WHO and the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID‑19.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) called for strengthened, vigorous action to be mobilized in service of those experiencing the ravages of climate change, conflict, pandemic and hunger, and for support to increase at all levels. Morocco has made humanitarian assistance a pillar of its foreign policy, providing assistance for food, field hospitals and medical tents. Since 1960, Morocco has participated in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations around the world, including in Africa. Under the aegis of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Morocco has launched a call for action to support the humanitarian response in the fight against the pandemic, which sets out practical steps to facilitate assistance and addresses obstacles hindering universal and equitable access to life-saving medication.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) emphasized that local partners and populations must be at the heart of humanitarian decision-making. While many countries in the Pacific region avoided the worst health effects of COVID‑19, the secondary impacts have been profound, compounded by increasingly ferocious disasters. The upcoming year will be one of compelling challenges for the international community, requiring humanitarian efforts and political solutions that include holding warring parties accountable and ensuring humanitarian access. Now more than ever before, it is time to invest in multisectoral approaches, he said, noting that Australia will host in 2021, in a virtual format, the ninth Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will highlight, among other things, unique regional challenges, experiences of women and girls and local and indigenous knowledge.
JENNIFER YUE BARBER (United States), noting her delegation’s status as the largest single humanitarian donor with its $10.5 billion contribution in, called on States to support response plans and underlined a need for reforms in the international humanitarian system, including by empowering local actors. Governments that are party to conflict must be pressed to uphold their obligations under international law, she said, pointing to the humanitarian crises in Yemen and Syria. The continued deaths of humanitarian workers due to terrorism are abhorrent, reflecting a systemic disregard for international humanitarian law and human rights law. Emphasizing that resolutions are not binding documents, she said the United States insists that there is no international right to abortion, does not support references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute and does not endorse the Global Compact on Migration, New York Declaration or the International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.
Ms. ENGELBERG (Denmark), associating herself with the European Union, said that amid grim current forecasts of growing needs, extreme poverty is rising globally for the first time in 22 years. Referring to what the Secretary‑General has called the “shadow pandemic”, she said that every three months of pandemic‑related containment measures witnesses 125 million new cases of gender‑based violence, among the most widespread crises in the world. Every humanitarian effort must include policies to mitigate these incidents and their effects, she said, with efforts focusing on gender equality, empowerment and enhancing access to education. Agencies and entities involved in global analyses should also address the issue, with more disaggregated data, and all United Nations partners must streamline their efforts to end gender‑based violence in emergency situations.
NATALIA A. KARMAZINSKAYA (Russian Federation) said the pandemic demonstrates the real need for solidarity to counter the crisis and provide support for those in need. She condemned attacks on humanitarian personnel, which exacerbate suffering and deprive hope for those expecting assistance. The Global Humanitarian Overview projects a sharp rise in the numbers of those in need, requiring “record financing”. She emphasized the importance of reliable data to help those providing humanitarian assistance to better assess needs and plan operations, adding that there has been an increased use of “unverified information sources” by international agencies. The legitimacy of such agencies is crucial, she said. She also expressed concern over unilateral sanctions, which are obstacles in the delivery of crucial medicine. “It is time to stop politicizing humanitarian assistance,” she said, highlighting the Russian Federation’s efforts to help combat the pandemic, including an $80 million contribution to United Nations humanitarian agencies.
MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) said substantive discussions on the protection of humanitarian personnel and the strengthening of cooperation for humanitarian assistance must continue, as the COVID‑19 pandemic will not be the last such crisis. Commending the work of humanitarian actors for their adaptability in providing assistance to people around the globe, he warned the Assembly that older persons continue to be disproportionately affected by the health crisis. “Essential medical care must be provided on the basis of genuine commitment for social inclusion,” he said. Beyond health concerns, the pandemic exacerbates pre‑existing drivers of humanitarian needs by reducing economic activity.
NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India), speaking also on behalf of Sweden, said the current humanitarian crises place higher demands on the international community, as the pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession since the 1930s, extreme poverty has risen for the first time in more than two decades and the employment situation globally has worsened. On a positive note, he said increased global Internet access coupled with new innovative technologies offers a new potential to improve humanitarian action, citing such examples as artificial intelligence used for outbreak mapping, drones delivering medical supplies and testing samples and 3D printers helping the production of face shields and ventilators. Indeed, 2021 will be the year with the highest‑ever humanitarian funding requirement, he said, calling on Member States to increase contributions to the United Nations humanitarian assistance system, including the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID‑19. Reaffirming that humanitarian principles and international law provide the basis for humanitarian assistance, he reiterated India and Sweden’s commitment to humanity, impartiality and independence in responding to all humanitarian situations. Expressing concern over repeated violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, he said parties to armed conflict continue to perpetrate human rights abuses with impunity, calling for strengthened international cooperation to bring perpetrators to justice.
SARA OFFERMANS (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, said COVID‑19 has triggered grim consequences, but it has also resulted in launching a global response plan, an example of the humanitarian community’s resilience and perseverance, with all parties and agencies coming together in a coordinated manner. The international community must use its influence to hold perpetrators to account, as attacks on humanitarian workers are unacceptable. Citing the importance of mental health and psychosocial support, she said the Netherlands facilitated a related joint inter‑agency call for action. While it is important to celebrate successes, she said the international community must also do justice to what happened in 2020, adopting the resolutions in question by consensus.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, said a stronger global humanitarian response is needed due to proliferating challenges stemming from the pandemic, and priority should be given to the current United Nations agencies’ humanitarian programmes, which use a comprehensive approach to providing assistance to countries. Turning to the situation in Ukraine and the ongoing aggression by the Russian Federation, he said that, despite attempted ceasefire agreements, civilians in the region continue to face grave risks to their well‑being and human rights due to continuing hostilities and the prevalence of landmines and other explosive ordnance. United Nations involvement is crucial in overcoming challenges resulting from the conflict, he said, pointing to assistance over the past six years in helping internally displaced persons and in deploying food, shelter, winterization support, health care and water access. “Only the United Nations global response can help countries overcome the consequences of the current ongoing crises in the health, economic, and social spheres,” he said.
ALISTAIR ROBERT STEVEN KELSEY (United Kingdom) said that while the pandemic has triggered a global recession, lost decades of human progress and rising levels of extreme poverty, the main drivers of humanitarian crises remain. Conflict continues to take a heavy toll on civilians, violence against humanitarian workers persists, and the impact of climate change continues to grow, affecting the most vulnerable, especially women and girls. Amid a daunting prospect of famine, he voiced concern about Burkina Faso, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. The United Kingdom is among the leading donors to humanitarian assistance, providing $1.8 billion in 2020 and including support for aid workers in the field. As budgets are under pressure across the world, he said that investing in a more proactive response to humanitarian crises could reduce costs by 30 per cent. However, a humanitarian response alone is not enough, he said, calling for political solutions.
NAZIR AHMAD FOSHANJI (Afghanistan), reflecting on the unprecedented degree of need driven by a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation worldwide and exacerbated by the pandemic, condemned the Taliban and other terrorist groups who target aid workers. There are 18.4 million Afghans in need of human assistance, an increase of almost 100 per cent in 2020, “a staggering number”, he said. However, the country cannot let the magnitude of need force it to give up. Afghanistan is making every effort given its limited resources, he said, asking the international community to help in overcoming challenges. With a ceasefire the immediate priority, he called on the Taliban to consider ending its escalating violence when so many people are in need. Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry is working through the COVAX Facility to vaccinate 20 per cent of the population, but that is not enough. Country-based pool funds and emergency assistance have been invaluable in addressing the crisis, but they must be replenished, as addressing the needs of today will forestall a worsening situation.
LAETITIA MARIE ISABELLE COURTOIS, Permanent Observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), declared that the pandemic has exacerbated humanitarian needs, exposing individual vulnerabilities and pre-existing systemic fragilities. Calling for long‑term systemic responses to the crisis, she said: “The broad destructive trends that existed before the pandemic remain in place; We must ensure that people are supported to deal with shocks to their well‑being, livelihood and aspirations regardless of who they are and where they live.” To that end, she called on States to meet their humanitarian obligations and commitments. All stakeholders must use the COVID‑19 pandemic to reflect on and innovate to improve responses to future crises, she said, pointing to the acceleration of the digital delivery of humanitarian services as a priority. She also urged States and international financial institutions to ensure that people living in vulnerable regions receive adequate resources to strengthen the provision of basic services.
RICHARD BLEWITT, Permanent Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, laying out three critical points in a pivotal year marked by the spread of COVID‑19 and one of the hottest year’s on record, said “the pandemic took the world by surprise and further unravelled the fragility and gaps in our systems”. First, climate change is exacerbating the world’s growing humanitarian needs, he said, pointing to findings in the World Disasters Report 2020 showing that in the past decade, 83 per cent of all disasters triggered by natural hazards were caused by extreme weather and climate‑related events. Second, the most vulnerable people with the least adaptive capacity suffer the most from the combined impacts of climate change and COVID‑19, he explained, referring to the Federation’s findings that in 2020 alone, 132 extreme weather events have occurred so far, and 92 of them overlapped with the pandemic. The third and perhaps most important point is that the global response is not commensurate to the global need, he said. Voicing several concerns, he worried that the world is not seizing the opportunity to recover in a greener, more inclusive and resilient manner and is instead locking in policies and structures that will cause more damage to the climate system and pose existential threats to many communities and nations. Equally concerned that the COVID‑19 vaccine will reach only a few countries and leave the rest of the world struggling to curb the spread of the virus while losing economically, he said migrants and refugees must not be left behind.
The representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union and other countries to explain her position on the draft resolutions before the Assembly, expressed deep regret over the United States decision to call for a vote on operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of the humanitarian omnibus resolution, “L.44”, and operative paragraph 62 of the natural disaster resolution, “L.11”, which have traditionally been adopted by consensus. There was wide agreement among delegations during negotiations in 2019 to revert to previously agreed language in operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of “L.44” and operative paragraph 62 of “L.11” when it became clear that efforts to find alternative wording would not be acceptable to all delegations, she said, emphasizing how balanced and carefully crafted these long‑standing paragraphs are.
The representative of the United Kingdom, expressing disappointment over the United States call for a vote, voiced an unwavering commitment to reproductive and sexual rights, as those health services are often life‑saving and the need particularly acute in times of crises and humanitarian settings. They are critical to empowering women and girls everywhere, and the international community will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without them. As such, his delegation cannot accept an attempt to “walk back” previously agreed language in the draft resolutions.
The Assembly then considered the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/75/L.11), first deciding, by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan, United States), with no abstentions, to retain operative paragraph 62. By its terms, the Assembly would encourage Governments, the United Nations system and others to address the vulnerabilities and capacities of women and girls through gender‑responsive programming, including with regard to sexual and reproductive health needs.
It then adopted “L.11” without a vote.
Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolutions “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/75/L.42) and “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/75/L.43) without a vote.
The Assembly then turned to the draft resolution “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/75/L.44). By a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 3 against (Libya, Sudan, United States), with no abstentions, it decided to retain operative paragraphs 58 and 59. Through those paragraphs, the Assembly would encourage Member States to ensure that basic humanitarian needs, including sexual and reproductive health, are addressed as components of humanitarian response. It would also encourage Member States to ensure that women and girls have access to basic health care, including reliable and safe access to sexual and reproductive health‑care services.
It then adopted “L.44” without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining his delegation’s position, said that while Washington, D.C., supports the victims of gender‑based violence, it believes that sexual and reproductive health should focus on health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery, and not on abortion. His delegation therefore disassociates itself from operative paragraph 62 in “L.11” and operative paragraphs 58 and 59 in “L.44”, as well as references to WHO in both resolutions.
The representative of Hungary, associating herself with the European Union, pointed to preambular paragraph 13 of “L.11”, recalling that her delegation had voted against the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration when the Assembly considered the agreement in 2018 and will not take part in its implementation. With that in mind, Hungary cannot accept references to the Global Compact in international documents.
The representative of Sudan said his delegation voted against the retention of operative 62 in “L.11” and operative paragraphs 58 and 59 in “L.44”, adding however, that it supports and appreciates the other provisions of both texts.
The representative of the Russian Federation said her country would normally join consensus on “L.42”, but its position is well known regarding the International Criminal Court, which has failed to become a truly independent, international legal organ. As such, the Russian Federation disassociates itself from preambular paragraph 29 and operative paragraph 7.
The representative of Algeria, addressing “L.11”, expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 13 regarding migration, as the language does not distinguish between legal and illegal migrants. The resolution also does not refer to practical procedures that could prevent illegal immigration, she said, adding that the implementation and follow‑up of the Global Compact’s principles should fall under national matters.
The representative of Brazil, also referring to “L.11”, said the international community´s duty is to assist nations, especially in the face of the present pandemic. However, Brazil is not a signatory of the Global Compact and disassociates itself from preambular paragraph 13, believing that migration issues are national concerns.
The representative of the Philippines, pointing to references to the International Criminal Court in “L.42”, said her delegation has withdrawn from the Rome Statute and does not recognize the Court’s jurisdiction.
The representative of Libya said his delegation voted against the inclusion of operative paragraph 62 in “L.11” and operative paragraphs 58 and 59 in “L.44”, as there is no international consensus on the concept of sexual and reproductive health. Those concepts also run contrary to the Constitution of Libya and to the Muslim religion, he added.
The representative of Chile, referring to preambular paragraph 13 of “L.11”, said that her delegation did not participate in the intergovernmental conference that led to the Global Compact. Chile is now in the process of updating its immigration laws to include the orderly management of migration.
The representative of Qatar, referring to “L.11” and operative paragraph 58 and 59 of “L.44”, said her delegation considers references to sexual and reproductive health from the perspective of national legislation and religious and cultural values.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Ukraine continues to use the United Nations to politicize discussions on humanitarian assistance. Noting high levels of Ukrainians seeking refuge in the Russian Federation, she said this migration pattern is due to poor conditions in Ukraine.
Mr. BOZKIR said that in the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic, humanitarian assistance provided by the United Nations is more important than ever before. Expressing appreciation for Member States’ contributions to this discussion, he also thanked the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF and WFP, as well as all local, national and international workers and agencies involved, who are likewise indispensable in providing humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it.
For information media. Not an official record.