Recognizing Evolving Nature of Humanitarian Crises, General Assembly Encourages Dialogue among Member States, UN Agencies to Bolster Emergency Response System

from UN General Assembly
Published on 13 Dec 2012 View Original


Sixty-seventh General Assembly
54th & 55th Meetings (AM & PM)

Assembly Adopts Texts on Strengthening Disaster Relief Assistance, Safety, Security of Humanitarian Workers, Assistance to Palestinian People

Adopting today a number of resolutions focused on the vital humanitarian interventions of the United Nations and its partners, the General Assembly – recognizing that populations around the world were becoming ever more vulnerable to the effects of disasters, conflicts and the ongoing fall out from the global financial and economic crisis – called for a more coordinated, strategic and accountable response to such increasingly complex challenges.

By its annual consensus text on strengthening the coordination of emergency assistance of the United Nations, the 193-Member body expressed its deep concern about such ongoing crises, and called on the humanitarian community inside and outside the United Nations system to enhance its cooperation and coordination. Those institutions were further requested to develop appropriate tools to deliver humanitarian assistance in ways that strengthened resilience at the local, national and regional levels.

The Assembly also called upon Member States and the international community to improve dialogue on humanitarian issues, including on policy, in order to foster a more consultative and inclusive approach to humanitarian assistance. Stakeholders were also encouraged to increase and commit adequate, timely, flexible and predictable resources for disaster risk reduction in order to build communities’ resilience – a sentiment that was echoed throughout its wider discussion today.

By another key provision, the Assembly called on United Nations humanitarian organizations, in consultation with Member States to strengthen the evidence base for humanitarian assistance by further developing common mechanisms to improve the quality, transparency and reliability of, and make further progress towards, common humanitarian needs assessments, including through improved collection, analysis and reporting of data disaggregated in terms of sex, age and disability.

The representative of Sweden, introducing the resolution, stressed that the text reaffirmed the key position of the United Nations in global humanitarian assistance but included both new and reinforced elements that reflected today’s realities. The strengthening of dialogue on all levels, particularly in national and local communities, was emphasized with the aim of enhancing acceptance of humanitarian assistance.

“The current global challenges of […] increased climate-related natural disasters, conflicts and complex emergencies require dynamic adjustments and urgent attention of the United Nations and it’s Member States”, said Malaysia’s delegate, taking the floor later in the meeting. Indeed, humanitarian needs had evolved over time, and the current system had not adapted quickly and flexibly enough to meet the new realities, he said.

Commending the Secretary-General’s action agenda - which provided a five-year timeline for humanitarian organizations to agree and implement measures to increase effectiveness and transparency – he also joined other delegates in expressing support for the much-discussed “Transformative Agenda” process. Led by an Inter-Agency Standing Committee, that process was aimed at improving the effectiveness of humanitarian response through greater predictability, accountability, responsibility and partnership. It would also improve the quality of leadership, strategic planning and coordination in humanitarian response, he said.

The representative of the United States underscored that recent crises had tested the ability of the United Nations system to provide timely assistance to people struggling with events beyond their control. While some strides had been made in implementing the Transformative Agenda, she said, the United States remained “deeply troubled” by current impediments facing humanitarian workers in their efforts to deliver aid to people in need, and was gravely concerned for the safety of those workers.

She was among the many speakers who demanded an end to attacks against relief workers, and urged that they be allowed access to the populations in distress. Particularly troubling, she continued, were the attacks on medical personnel and facilities, which she described as “despicable and unacceptable”.

Several representatives pointed to one of the world’s most recent disasters, October’s hurricane Sandy, as evidence of the tragic repercussions that a large-scale natural could have on one of the most developed countries in the world, the United States. “Such a situation becomes more challenging when a natural disaster strikes a developing country,” pointed out the representative of Pakistan.

His country had experienced major humanitarian challenges in the past several years, he said, including earthquakes and continuous floods – the result of climate change, he said. Those experiences had not only reinforced Pakistan’s belief in the “cardinal principles” of international humanitarian assistance, but had also helped identify gaps that needed to be filled. In that regard, he emphasized that more investment was needed in long-term, development-oriented risk reduction strategies.

Agreeing with other speakers, the South African delegate also recognized, with concern an increase in human vulnerability as a result of both natural sudden onset disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies. As developing countries – in particular in Africa – were bearing the brunt of those scourges, he urged the international community to strengthen support to those countries, as well as to strengthen their national capacities and improve their state of preparedness when humanitarian emergencies struck.

“More investment in building early warning systems and the resilience of communities through disaster risk reduction should be prioritized”, he continued, stressing that the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action remained a critical guide to international humanitarian action. To that end, the transfer of disaster relief and education technologies and expertise to developing countries remained of paramount importance.

Also speaking today were several members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), who noted that their Group had been the first organization to adopt a legally binding regional cooperation agreement for disaster risk reduction, through its 2005 Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.

In that regard, the representative of Thailand, recalling the devastating floods that had struck his country last year, said that Thailand chaired the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management and worked with other members of the Group to better prepare and coordinate regional humanitarian responses. In 2013, he added, Thailand would host the Second Asia-Pacific Water Summit, a forum for sharing experiences and best practices to manage flooding, drought and rising sea-level.

Also adopted by consensus today was a resolution on the participation of volunteers – known as “White Helmets” – in the humanitarian and related activities of the United Nations, which was introduced by the representative of Argentina.

The Assembly also adopted consensus texts focused on bolstering the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protecting United Nations personnel, as well as a resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people in particular. Both were introduced by the representative of Cyprus on behalf of the European Union.

Also speaking were the representatives of Cambodia (on behalf of ASEAN), United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada, Syria, China, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, India (on behalf of Sweden), Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Grenada.

The head of the Delegation of the European Union also took part in the discussion, as did the Observer of Palestine.

The Observers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), also addressed the meeting as did a representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 14 December, at 10:00 a.m. to take up the reports of the Sixth (Legal) Committee.