General Assembly Adopts 4 Resolutions Aimed at Strengthening Coordination of Humanitarian, Disaster Relief Assistance
GENERAL ASSEMBLY PLENARY
SEVENTY-THIRD SESSION, 53RD & 54TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)
Speaker Notes Crises Now Last Longer, Majority Being Man-Made
The General Assembly today adopted four resolutions on coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief aid, as Member States echoed concerns that global crises and attacks on humanitarian personnel continue to increase as millions of people are forcibly displaced worldwide.
Adopting a resolution titled “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/73/L.61), the Assembly first acted on a draft amendment (document A/73/L.65), rejecting it by a recorded vote of 102 against to 7 in favour (Belarus, Cameroon, Guatemala, Iraq, Qatar, Sudan, United States) with 27 abstentions. It then decided to retain operative paragraphs 58 and 59 through a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 3 against (Guatemala, Sudan, United States), with 6 abstentions (Burundi, Ghana, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal, Togo).
By terms of those paragraphs, the Assembly encouraged Member States to ensure that the basic humanitarian needs of affected populations, including water, food, shelter, health, including sexual and reproductive health, education and protection, energy and information and communications technologies are addressed. It encouraged Member States to ensure that women and girls have access to basic health‑care services, including reliable and safe access to sexual and reproductive services and mental health and psychosocial support.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution titled “international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/73/L.18/Rev.1). It rejected a proposed draft amendment on that text by a recorded vote of 110 against to 6 in favour (Belarus, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Sudan, Togo, United States), with 22 abstentions. In that text it also voted to retain operative paragraph 59 by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 4 against (Guatemala, Philippines, Sudan, United States), with 6 abstentions (Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan).
By the terms of that paragraph, the Assembly encouraged Governments, local authorities, the United Nations system and regional organizations to address the vulnerabilities and capacities of women and girls through gender responsive programming, including regarding sexual and reproductive health.
Adopting a resolution titled “safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/73/L.51), the Assembly voted to retain its twenty-ninth preambular paragraph by recorded vote of 93 in favour to 13 against, with 26 abstentions. It also retained operative paragraph 7 of the draft by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 14 against, with 25 abstentions.
By the terms of the abovementioned paragraphs, the Assembly welcomed the efforts of the Secretary‑General to provide counselling to United Nations personnel affected by safety and security incidents, and emphasized the importance of making available stress management, mental health and related services for the Organization’s personnel throughout the system. It also called on all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Next, acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution titled “White Helmets Commission: participation of volunteers in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development” (document A/73/L.53).
Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, in a statement delivered by Assembly Vice‑President Kornelios Korneliou (Cyprus), said that the funding necessary to provide humanitarian aid to the 135.7 million people affected by conflicts or natural hazards has reached a record $23.5 billion. Targeting medical facilities and humanitarian personnel, and the hindering the delivery of life saving humanitarian assistance is a violation of international humanitarian law. Member States must work together to prevent conflict, enhance mediation efforts and prevent the catastrophic consequences of natural hazards by enhancing disaster preparedness.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the European Union said that the average humanitarian crisis now lasts more than nine years. Such crises also take up the bulk of the resources and funding available. In 2018, four crises accounted for 55 per cent of all funding requested and received. If the international community is genuinely interested in preventing and addressing humanitarian emergencies, it has no choice but to acknowledge that most of today’s crises are man‑made.
Speakers emphasized the need to adopt a people‑centered approach to humanitarian relief operations. India’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Sweden, stressed the need to adopt a victim‑centered approach to humanitarian response. He also called for more non‑earmarked flexible funding so that money could be utilized by the humanitarian agencies in the most effective manner.
The representative of Spain said humanitarian crises are compounded by the fact that 65 million people, who have been displaced by conflict, survive in environments of extended and protracted crises. Echoing the calls of several delegations, he emphasized the importance of paying greater attention to the unique challenges and needs of women and children.
The Assembly also had before it several reports of the Secretary-General including on “safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/73/392, Corrigendum 1, and Corrigendum 2); “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/73/78); “Central Emergency Response Fund” (document A/73/170); “international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/73/343); and “assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/73/84 and Corrigendum 1).
In other matters, the Assembly took note of the President’s decision to appoint Iran as a member of the Committee on Conferences for a term of office beginning on 1 January 2019 and ending 31 December 2021. It also postponed the electing members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission to Friday, 21 December.
The Assembly further postponed to a later date to be announced the consideration of items titled “strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution”, “zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic”, and “the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Argentina, Sweden, Singapore (on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Thailand, Kuwait, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Canada, China, Switzerland, Russian Federation, El Salvador, Ireland, Ukraine, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Syria, United States, Bangladesh and Malta.
The representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also delivered statements.
Speaking in explanation of position were representatives of Sudan, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, Canada, United States, Egypt, Israel and Iraq.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 17 December to consider reports of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, in a statement delivered by Assembly Vice‑President Kornelios Korneliou (Cyprus), said that at the end of 2017, another record was reached with 135.7 million people requiring humanitarian assistance. “Colleagues, we are all responsible to ensure that people affected by conflicts, violence, and natural disasters are assisted and protected,” she stressed. In 2017, the funding necessary to provide humanitarian aid to the 135.7 million people affected by conflicts or natural hazards reached a record $23.5 billion. Also, in 2017, 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, because of persecution, conflict or generalized violence.
Civilians continue to be targeted, hospitals continue to be bombed and humanitarian assistance continues to be hindered, she said. “This is unacceptable,” she stressed. Targeting medical facilities and humanitarian personnel, and the hindering the delivery of life saving humanitarian assistance is a violence of international humanitarian law. Member States must work together to prevent conflict, enhance mediation efforts and prevent the catastrophic consequences of natural hazards by enhancing disaster preparedness. It is essential to address the root causes of poverty and ensure respect of human rights and good governance. “We cannot assume all is well when the evidence begs to differ,” she said. The international and multilateral system must act together, she added, stressing that it is possible to provide disaster relief faster and more efficiently.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution titled, “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/73/L.18/Rev.1), recognizing that affected States have the primary responsibility in the initiation, organization and coordination of humanitarian assistance within their territories. The draft continues to recognize the clear relationship between emergency response, rehabilitation and development, and reaffirms that, to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance must be provided in ways that will be supportive of short- and medium‑term recovery leading to long‑term development. The draft also addresses the growing scale and scope of natural hazards. It stresses upon the need to double efforts to build the capacities of communities and encourages the increased efforts and engagement by the private sector in disaster risk management activities.
JAN KICKERT (Austria), on behalf of the European Union introduced the draft resolution titled “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/73/L.51), noting that the number of humanitarian crises, and their magnitude, has grown exponentially in recent years. The Global Humanitarian Overview estimates that overall, nearly 132 million people across the world need humanitarian assistance and protection. Aid workers have increasingly come under attack, he said, noting that in 2017 alone at least 139 aid workers were killed in the line of duty. The international community has an obligation towards those who put their lives at risk to make a difference on the ground. “We have a collective responsibility to protect United Nations and humanitarian personnel, and to hold accountable those who put their security at risk,” he added. The resolution continues to recognize the diverse and multifaceted threats and different exposure that female and male humanitarian personnel face in the overall deteriorating global security environment.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) introduced the draft resolution titled “White Helmets Commission: participation of volunteers in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development” (document A/73/L.53). He said since the creation of the Commission some 300 assistance missions have taken place across all continents. “The Commission responds to requests by affected States and is always guided by the principles of impartiality and neutrality.” A cooperation network coordinates immediate disaster response, he said, noting that the Commission accounts for gender‑specific needs and the needs of children. He said the draft has innovative updates since its last adoption, including references to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030. It also acknowledges the need to collaborate with the private sector and academia when responding to humanitarian situations.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) introduced the omnibus draft resolution titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/73/L.61). “Humanitarian needs have grown exponentially in recent years,” she warned, calling for efforts to effectively come to the aid of women and men affected by crises. Language in the draft resolution on international humanitarian law has been strengthened, she noted, adding that the safety of security and medical personnel in armed conflict is a key priority for Sweden. The draft reinforces provisions on sexual- and gender‑based violence, putting victims and survivors of such crime at the core of response efforts. Furthermore, the text condemns the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and stresses the interdependence of different forms of humanitarian assistance.
JO-PHIE TANG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted challenges faced by the United Nations humanitarian system in ensuring the effective and efficient delivery of assistance and commended efforts by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “We encourage the United Nations system to strengthen regional partnerships,” she asserted, warning that her region faces complex emergencies and human‑induced disasters. She identified the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Affairs as the primary coordinating regional body on disaster management and emergency response.
She said that over the past seven years the Centre has facilitated responses to 30 emergencies. It has responded to multiple natural disasters and aided communities affected by Tropical Storm Son‑Tinh and flooding in the Lao Democratic People’s Republic. ASEAN member States are increasing cooperation with the United Nations on humanitarian affairs and seek to position the bloc as a global leader in disaster management by 2025. “ASEAN hopes that national and regional efforts will continue to complement and contribute positively to the work of the United Nations system”.
KIM ELING of the European Union delegation said that many humanitarian crises have become so protracted that they now seem permanent. The average humanitarian crisis now lasts more than nine years. Such crises also take up the bulk of the resources and funding available. In 2018, four crises accounted for 55 per cent of all funding requested and received. More importantly, the increase in needs continues to outpace the increase in funding. Whole countries, even regions, remain susceptible to fragility, stretching the humanitarian system to address the wider ramifications of the refugee crises, protracted displacement and the vulnerability of internally displaced persons, further amplified by conflicts, food security and climate change. If the international community is genuinely interested in preventing and addressing humanitarian emergencies, then it has no choice but to acknowledge that most of today’s crises are man‑made.
In 2019, conflicts are projected to remain the main drivers of humanitarian needs, he continued. Furthermore, conflicts are increasingly a leading cause of hunger. Conflict situations undermine food security in multiple ways and create severe access problems for humanitarian actors, who often struggle to reach those in need. “We must stay the course in 2019,” he said, adding that rather than reacting to humanitarian consequences it is important to address looming aid needs in an anticipatory manner. Protecting workers is a top European Union priority. Humanitarian operations must take into account the specific vulnerabilities of women, children and persons with disabilities. Humanitarian aid can never ultimately be the solution to a conflict, he said, urging the international community to work on political solutions to put an end to ongoing conflicts.
TANMAYA LAL (India), also speaking on behalf of Sweden, stressed the need to adopt a victim‑centered approach to humanitarian response. While there is a need for enhanced complementarity between humanitarian action and development cooperation, humanitarian action must focus on addressing more immediate and acute challenges while contributing to collective outcomes. He also called for more non‑earmarked flexible funding so that money could be utilized by the humanitarian agencies in the most effective manner. All humanitarian actors need to strictly adhere to the policy of zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse. Sweden, already one of the single largest donors of core funding to United Nations humanitarian agencies, has increased its budget in the last five years. India’s efforts have ranged from immediate supply of relief materials to emergency evacuation of large numbers of persons from danger zones. In the last four years, it has rescued 90,000 people caught in natural hazards or strife.
YANISA CHUCHOTTHAVORN (Thailand) stated that 2017 was “punctuated by humanitarian emergencies fuelled by conflicts and natural disasters” and was the second‑most costly year on record for losses caused by hurricanes, monsoon floods and drought. She accented that humanitarian assistance be extended to all, especially vulnerable segments including women, persons with disabilities, children, youths and the elderly, with that aid hewing to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Addressing the persistent gap between global humanitarian needs and funding, Thailand annually donates $20,000 to the Central Emergency Response Fund, and has allocated an annual assistance budget of $1 million to be disbursed as needed. Emphasizing the importance of disaster risk reduction, she noted Thailand works closely with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and aims to ensure a more comprehensive approach to humanitarian situations.
TALAL S. S. S. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said his Government accords special importance to assisting those affected by crises worldwide. Noting that Kuwait’s foreign policy is guided by humanitarian principles, he affirmed the need to strengthen the United Nations humanitarian system to better position it to assist populations in need. His nation continues to provide humanitarian support globally with its official development assistance (ODA) being double the agreed upon international standard. He said 10 per cent of Kuwait’s assistance funding is channelled to humanitarian crises, including through United Nations agencies. “Syria, Yemen and Myanmar are examples of the effects of conflict and violence,” he said, adding that his Government in 2019 will provide $2 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
ANAT FISHER TSIN (Israel) said some 134 million people worldwide are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. “The scale of the problem, and the depth of human suffering is staggering.” Calling on Member States and other relevant actors to strengthen coordination of humanitarian responses, she said Israel’s efforts are guided by its 60‑year‑old official humanitarian aid agenda. Israel has sent humanitarian assistance to more than 140 countries, saving thousands of lives, she noted, adding that its agency for international development cooperation has the capacity to rapidly dispatch medical assistance anywhere in the world. Pointing to several recent assistance efforts, she asserted that “giving assistance to people without regard to the country they live in is what Member States must aspire to do”.
SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77, voiced approval for calls to strengthen anticipatory and forecast finance mechanisms of the United Nations humanitarian system and said the mechanisms have proven that they successfully predict disasters. He called for stronger markers as critical tools to ensure that the needs of all people in humanitarian settings are met, pointing to the “gender with age” marker as a positive development. “We need an enhanced focus on early childhood development in humanitarian responses,” he said, recognizing significant progress by United Nations agencies in providing education to children in emergency settings.
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain) said that millions of people will be needing assistance in 2019, compounded by the fact that more than 65 million of those in need have been displaced by conflict or natural hazards. Those people survive in environments of extended and protracted crises, he noted, emphasizing the importance of addressing the causes of conflicts and other forms of violence which continue to cause humanitarian crises. He emphasized the importance of paying greater attention to the unique challenges and needs of women, children, the disabled and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons community. It is also essential to ensure protection of humanitarian workers and medical facilities. Environmental degradation and the consequences of climate change accelerate every humanitarian crisis. It is therefore critical to examine synergies between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and relevant international agreements including the Global Compact for Migration. Beyond financing, Spain will work to meet the myriad humanitarian challenges in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) stressed that women and girls should be empowered as drivers of change and their equal voice and representation in decision‑making ensured. Appreciating the inclusion of new language on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in this year’s humanitarian resolutions, he welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to implement a zero‑tolerance approach to protect the rights of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. In January 2019, his Government will take the lead of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender‑Based Violence in Emergencies. Addressing forced displacement, he noted the Global Compact will make “a measurable difference in improving responses to refugee situations”. He stressed the need to increase efforts to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in hard to reach and besieged areas, noting impediments of access as well as attacks on civilians, health‑care facilities, medical and humanitarian personnel. Emphasizing support for a consensus‑based adoption of humanitarian resolutions, he expressed concerns about attempts to revisit and remove language that promotes and protects safety, well‑being and dignity of crisis‑affected populations, in particular sexual and reproductive health and rights. Lastly, he commended the remarkable dedication of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers and medical personnel for delivering life‑saving assistance in increasingly complex and volatile environments.
LUO JIN (China) said that the world today faces a sustained and high level of humanitarian need due to natural hazards, armed conflicts and protracted crises. At the same time, climate change, food crisis and global threats of pandemics have further exacerbated humanitarian challenges faced by developing countries. Therefore, the international community needs to uphold the concepts of a shared future for mankind, to strengthen unity and cooperation, and increase input and take measures to address the system and root causes of responding to humanitarian needs. International humanitarian assistance must adhere to the principles of humanity, neutrality, respect for sovereignty, and comply with international law and the law of the host country. Parties to armed conflicts must observe international humanitarian law, fulfilling their obligations of protecting civilians, humanitarian and medical personnel. There needs to be investment in long‑term development and enhancing the ability of developing countries to achieve self‑development will help reduce humanitarian needs from arising in the first place. Factors leading to humanitarian crisis are complex and the solution lies in promoting development and peace. Natural hazards are causing ever greater human and property losses and have wiped out in one stroke what had been achieved over a long period of time. Developing countries generally suffer from inadequate disaster relief capability and financing.
DOMINIQUE MICHEL FAVRE (Switzerland) said humanitarian needs are growing, with almost 70 million people forcibly displaced by violence or disaster in 2018. Civilian populations and humanitarian workers worldwide are regularly targeted by attacks, with the threat of famine again looming. He emphasized the need for a strong united response from the international community, and that assistance must be provided under the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Affirming that international humanitarian law is the universally accepted framework for protecting victims in armed conflict and providing assistance, he stressed it is of “cardinal importance” that all parties respect it in all circumstances. He stated a concerted response must ensure access to people in need, protect civilians and aid workers, and prosecute perpetrators of violations. Forced displacement by natural hazards, climate change or armed conflict requires close coordination between humanitarian, development and peace‑building actors, as “internally displaced persons still too often fall between the cracks”.
DILYARA S. RAVILOVA-BOROVIK (Russian Federation) said her country regularly supports the major United Nations humanitarian agencies and sends rescue teams to regions suffering from natural hazards and conflict. In 2018, her nation’s financing to humanitarian operations surpassed $80 million. The Russian Federation supports the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and provides funding to the Central Emergency Response Fund, she said, echoing calls to continue broadening and diversifying the community of donors. “We are only beginning to assess the reforms taking place in the global humanitarian spectrum,” she continued. The Russian Federation is not ready to support the concept of a nexus between humanitarian assistance, development and human rights. Combining them creates confusion in mandates and the allocation of resources. She also reminded that there is no agreement among Member States on the concept of such a nexus. It is unacceptable to use the humanitarian agenda as a lever of political needs. “This is inhumane and unfair,” she added. Solving the multifaceted humanitarian problem is possible only through mutual respect.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador) stressed the need to manage risk and better prepare for humanitarian crises and the reconstruction process that follows. He emphasized the importance of international cooperation and called on Member States to work together to implement the goals and commitments outlined in the Sendai Framework and the 2030 Agenda. Stressing the need to boost humanitarian funds, he noted that Central America has been affected by floods, drought and other natural phenomena. This has the potential to generate displacement, food insecurity and migration. He also expressed regret that the relevant resolution failed to mention the “El Niño” risk and defended the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to constructively participate in the humanitarian global system.
PATRICK HAUGHEY (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said the scale of humanitarian challenges facing the international community cannot be overstated. “The majority of crises we are facing are driven by conflict,” he noted, adding that 65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes because of humanitarian crises. He voiced concern over the situation in Yemen, calling for a political solution to the conflict and for unrestricted humanitarian access to affected populations. “We are deeply concerned about the increasingly challenging operating context for humanitarian workers,” he said, paying tribute to aid workers that have died in the line of duty. He asserted that the international community must come together to respond to crises and said Ireland is committed to increase its development spending to 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said all countries face the risk of humanitarian emergencies and urged increased international cooperation in responding to such crises. “Conflict remains the main driver of humanitarian needs,” he said, adding that conflict — including ongoing aggression against his country — is often fueled by States pursuing their own political interests. “Almost five years of armed conflict caused by ongoing Russian aggression have resulted in protracted and complex humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine.” He pointed to United Nations figures that indicate that 3.5 million Ukrainians are affected by Moscow’s intervention. “Cessation of hostilities remains essential in enabling effective humanitarian response and the protection of civilians,” he asserted, thanking the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for advancing its harmonization response plan. Due to the Russian Federation’s recent aggression in the Sea of Azov, Ukraine calls for concrete assistance in the region. He concluded that “humanitarian aid cannot replace long‑term political and development solutions”.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) said the Global Humanitarian Overview reports increasing numbers of people are being displaced by conflict, natural disasters and climate change. As such, timely assistance is needed more than ever before, he said, noting Japan’s $2.8 billion pledge for humanitarian assistance to refugees and migrants. Turning to increasingly complex humanitarian crises, he said aid should be effectively used alongside an approach that recognizes the humanitarian‑development‑peace “nexus”. In this regard, he hoped to see more examples of good practices in the field. On natural disasters, he emphasized the importance of disaster risk reduction. Moving forwards, Japan would like to continue to strengthen work in humanitarian assistance with a focus on needs on the ground and on using effective approaches to reach the people most in need.
HANNE MELFALD (Norway) said the unprecedented scale and complexity of today’s humanitarian crises demand that “we must step up our efforts on several fronts”. Noting that parties to conflicts often disregard humanitarian principles, with attacks on health facilities and schools becoming commonplace, she called for the international community to unequivocally condemn such acts and take effective measures against perpetrators. The international community must also ensure the safety and human rights of women and children, promoting the participation of women in humanitarian responses and combating sexual- and gender‑based violence. Noting that the Global Compact on Refugees addresses the international refugee response, she emphasized that internally displaced persons have not received that level of attention despite a rising need for assistance and protection. Calling for strategies and solutions in this domain, she said people must be at the centre of humanitarian responses.
CRAIG JOHN HAWKE (New Zealand) said humanitarian needs are greater than ever before and continue to be driven by a lack of political will to prevent and end armed conflicts and to respect the rules of war designed to limit human suffering. The human cost of armed conflict in 2018 is deeply worrying, as 14 million people are on the brink of famine in one country. This alone should strongly motivate all to strive harder to uphold human dignity and find political solutions to end conflict. Raising concerns about the devastating impact from the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas, he said measures must be taken at all times to avoid, or at the very least, minimize incidental harm to civilians. While armed conflict and violence continue to drive global humanitarian needs, climate change is rapidly becoming a humanitarian issue too.
AMMAR AWAD (Syria) said every year the Assembly meets to promote humanitarian assistance for all people in need, based on the principle of non‑discrimination. Calling for respect of national sovereignty in the provision of assistance, he said some United Nations officials are intent on politicizing humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian‑related resolutions are being manipulated to interfere in the affairs of certain States, he warned, adding that responses to humanitarian crises must address root causes without politicization. He condemned “immoral manoeuvres” by certain States that alter the nature of humanitarian‑related texts and said the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation is being ignored. “Terrorism is the fundamental reason for the suffering of the Syrian people, particularly women and children.” Calling on the United Nations to put pressure on States that support terrorists in Syria, he said several of the Organization’s mechanisms in that county have proven to be “great failures”. He condemned the use of unilateral coercive measures by the United States and European Union and called for their immediate end.
COURTNEY NEMROFF (United States) said some 135 million people worldwide need humanitarian assistance and pointed to United Nations estimates that meeting their needs requires $21.9 billion. The United States — “a global leader in humanitarian assistance” — provided over $8 billion in aid in 2018. She said 2018 is on track to be a year of record high humanitarian funding and commended the international community’s spirit and reality of burden-sharing. Calling for increased pressure on Governments and parties to conflict to uphold international obligations, she said the United States will work to keep the situations in Yemen, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Security Council agenda.
She said the drafts before the Assembly reaffirm the importance of the function of the United Nations in responding to humanitarian crises and articulate how Member States can support the international community. “We believe that in humanitarian emergencies women’s access to health care is lifesaving.” However, she asserted that such care “should not include abortion or the promotion of abortion as a method of family planning”. To address those concerns, the United States proposes an amendment — as contained in document A/73/L.64 — to operative paragraph 59 of the draft resolution “L.18/Rev.1”. She also proposed amendments contained in document A/73/65 to operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of the draft resolution “L.61”.
Mr. RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the international community must build resilience and eventually reduce the dependency on humanitarian aid. It is imperative to promote better cooperation between humanitarian and development actors to enable the smooth transition from relief to development. There is also a need for discretion in apportioning financing support for humanitarian and development work without compromising their respective priorities. Bangladesh is doing its best with its modest capabilities to provide the 1.1 million displaced Rohingyas with humanitarian support. But it is not enough, he continued, urging United Nations agencies to help address the critical needs of those displaced and calling for unfettered humanitarian access to the Rakhine state. He condemned the indiscriminate attacks on humanitarian personnel and convoys, medical and peacekeeping personnel and civilian infrastructure. For its part, Bangladesh is making substantive investments in disaster risk reduction, prevention and relief.
OSCAR R. DE ROJAS (Malta) said that the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview and the 2018 World Humanitarian Data Trends recently compiled by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs clearly shows that humanitarian crisis have been increasing. Humanitarian crises have roughly doubled between 2005 and 2017 and last in average seven years or longer. Despite development gains, one in every 70 people around the world is caught up in crisis and urgently needs humanitarian assistance. In the next year, humanitarian needs will remain extremely high with up 132 million people in 42 countries around the world in need of assistance and protection. Violations of international humanitarian law must cease. Deliberate attacks on hospitals, schools and humanitarian supply chains are deeply worrying and unacceptable, he added.
ROBERT MARDINI of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that all States must ensure the physical security and safety of civilians. For impartial humanitarian organizations to address crises and other pressing humanitarian demands, they need the trust and cooperation of States to work freely and effectively. Impartial humanitarian organizations cannot reach out to people in a timely and effective way if humanitarian action is at risk of criminalization or is hindered by elaborate sanctions and counter‑terrorism measures. Increasingly, strict funding conditions and rigid counter‑terrorism legislation have run counter to the commitments States have made to respect long‑established humanitarian principles. This can undermine trust. He called on States to ensure that national legislation and international regimes on counter‑terrorism and sanctions include exemption clauses for aid activities of impartial humanitarian organizations.
LIANA GHUKASYAN of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies noted the reality of how new risks affect communities around the world, from more frequent and intense disasters, to accelerated health risks, loss of housing and situations of long-term displacement and protracted crises. Referring to the Federation’s “World Disasters Report 2018”, she said the international community has reached around 90 million out of 134 million people through joint humanitarian response plans. She called for ensuring that those in greatest need, such as persons with disabilities, the elderly, people that are off the map and difficult to reach, survivors of sexual- and gender‑based violence and irregular migrants, receive improved assistance. Stressing the importance of local humanitarian action, she deplored that commitments to support local actors, also through the Grand Bargain, have not yet become reality, while underlining the need for more attention to partnership, institutional capacity enhancement, financing and cooperation. “Increased investment and action are needed in climate‑smart laws and policies targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized.” She noted the need to address financing for scaling up early warning and early action. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of a community‑centred participatory approach, adding that “it is hard to leave people behind if you are actually there in the community with them in the first place”.
Action on Draft Resolutions
Several delegations took the floor to explain their positions before acting on the draft resolutions.
The representative of Sudan paid tribute to all humanitarian workers around the world for their valuable sacrifices. He said his Government has serious reservations over references to the International Criminal Court in draft resolution “L.51”. He requested separate votes on the twenty‑ninth preambular paragraph and operative paragraph 7 of the draft. “The court is not an organ of the United Nations,” he asserted, adding that the Rome Statute and other international treaties are incompatible with established norms of international law. “We have opposed the Court since its inception,” he said, while still reiterating his full support to the overall draft resolution as “humanitarian assistance is a vital means to address crises.”
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, deeply regretted the decision by the United States to table amendments on two of the drafts before the Assembly. The sponsors of those resolutions conducted fair and transparent negotiations as part of efforts to maintain consensus. “Let us not forget that the international community made a shared commitment in the 2030 Agenda to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” He said European Union member States would vote against the amendments.
Turning to the proposal made by the representative of Sudan, he said references to the International Criminal Court have existed since the first version of the resolution was adopted in 1999. The bloc reiterates its support for the Court as the world’s first permanent international criminal court and gross violations of human rights are a sharp reminder of its relevance. “The creation of the Court has given millions of victims of atrocity crimes new hope that justice will be done,” he said, noting that European Union member States would vote to retain the the twenty‑ninth preambular paragraph and operative paragraph 7 of draft “L.51”.
The representative of Sweden, associating himself with the European Union, called on all Member States to vote no on all the amendments proposed on resolution “L.61”.
The representative of Canada, speaking also on behalf of Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay, expressed regret that the agreed language related to sexual and reproductive health is being challenged in draft resolutions “L.18” and “L.61”. Access to sexual and reproductive health services is essential to ensuring the health and well‑being of all people, especially women and girls. It is estimated that 60 per cent of maternal mortality occurs in humanitarian and fragile settings because women do not have access to the services they need. She called on delegations to vote against amendments.
The representative of Canada, delivering a second statement also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Switzerland, expressed regret that a vote has been called on two paragraphs. Preambular paragraph 28 recalls that attacks intentionally directed against civilian personnel are war crimes and notes that the Court can play a role in bringing about justice. Operative paragraph 7 calls on all States to consider becoming parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It is disturbing that established consensus is being attacked, she said, calling on all delegations to vote against this amendment.
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution “international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/73/L.18/Rev.1).
Acting on draft amendment “L.64”, it rejected that text by a recorded vote of 110 against to 6 in favour (Belarus, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Sudan, Togo, United States), with 22 abstentions.
The representative of the United States took the floor to call for a separate vote on operative paragraph 59 of draft “L.18.Rev1”.
The Assembly decided to retain operative paragraph 59 by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 4 against (Guatemala, Philippines, Sudan, United States), with 6 abstentions (Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan).
The Assembly then acted on draft “L18.Rev1”, as a whole, adopting it without a vote.
It then turned to the draft resolution titled “safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/73/L.51).
The Assembly first decided to retain the twenty‑ninth preambular by recorded vote of 93 in favour to 13 against, with 26 abstentions.
It then retained operative paragraph 7 of the draft by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 14 against, with 25 abstentions.
Then, acting on draft “L.51”, as a whole, it adopted the draft without a vote.
Next, acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the resolution titled “White Helmets Commission: participation of volunteers in the activities of the United Nations in the field of humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and technical cooperation for development” (document A/73/L.53).
The Assembly then turned its attention to the draft resolution titled “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/73/L.61).
It first acted on draft amendment “L.65”, rejecting it by a recorded vote of 102 against to 7 in favour (Belarus, Cameroon, Guatemala, Iraq, Qatar, Sudan, United States), with 27 abstentions.
The representative of the United States requested a separate single recorded vote on operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of draft “L.61”.
The Assembly then decided to retain operative paragraphs 58 and 59 through a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 3 against (Guatemala, Sudan, United States), with 6 abstentions (Burundi, Ghana, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal, Togo).
The Assembly then adopted the resolution “L.61”, as a whole, without a vote.
The representative of the United States, explaining her country’s position after the adoptions, said it joined consensus on the drafts as they “reaffirm the vital function of the United Nations in responding to humanitarian need around the globe”. Noting references to the International Criminal Court and Rome Statute in draft resolution “L.51”, she said the text fails to properly distinguish between parties and non‑parties to the treaty. “The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any assertion of ICC [International Criminal Court] jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not parties to the Rome Statute.”
While joining consensus on draft resolutions “L.61” and “L.18/Rev.1”, she said those texts make references to non‑binding documents that do not create rights or obligations under international law. On the United States position on the 2030 Agenda, she referred to statements made by her delegation at the General Assembly on 3 December, further noting that Washington D.C. announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. She further reiterated views on the Sendai Framework delivered on 18 March 2015.
“The United States supports international cooperation on immigration issues,” she said, asserting that it is the primary responsivity of sovereign States to ensure that immigration is managed consistent with law. “The United States cannot support processes or documents that may result in the infringement of our sovereign rights,” she said, noting that the New York Declaration on refugees and migrants contains policy goals that are inconsistent with United States law and policy. While asserting that her nation believes women must have equal access to health care, she said international documents on the matter do not create new international rights, including on abortion.
The representative of Egypt requested to correct her delegation’s vote on “L.51”. She also called on all Member States to deploy further efforts to remove obstacles to consensus on this important resolution.
The representative of Israel noted that the State of Palestine was listed as a co‑sponsor, adding that while an Observer State has the right to co‑sponsor a resolution it could only do so on issues relating to it. This issue does not pertain to the Middle East. Allowing such a practice undermines the United Nations and its work.
The representative of Iraq requested a correction on the record of vote.
For information media. Not an official record.