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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, Closing Remarks to the 2018 ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment

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New York, 21 June 2018

Thank you very much to all of you for your active participation throughout this week. I particularly want to thank the Vice-President of this year’s ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment, Ambassador Matjila, and the many excellent panelists and participants for your insights and the work you do to give voice to people affected by humanitarian crises.

Once again, this Segment is taking place in the context of staggering levels of humanitarian need.

Over the past 3 days on panels and in packed side events, we reflected not only on the dimensions of the challenges we face, but also on solutions.

We shared experiences, innovations and best practices from across regions and sectors, including from national and regional authorities, international and local humanitarian organizations, women’s groups, people with disabilities, young people, and the private sector.

The words of Mari Malek, founder of Stand for Education, and herself a refugee, resonate strongly– words of hope, ambition, and compassion for a better future for all crisis-affected people. Words that capture humanity and dignity and override stigma, prejudice and inaction.

Let me highlight some of the messages from the discussions we held over the three days.

Failure to protect civilians caught in conflict has resulted in incalculable suffering.

Natural disasters are affecting more than 100 million people every year. Tens of millions of people do not have enough food to eat.

Not only are needs high, but humanitarian workers are being attacked and harassed when trying to carry out their work. Safe, rapid and unimpeded access is being denied, limiting our ability to reach those in need.

Last year was the fifth year in a row that a record number of people were displaced.

Crisis heightens risks to women and girls. As families and communities are broken apart, women and girls face a greater risk of violence.

During the first high-level panel, we heard how armed conflict strips away the layers of protection afforded by families and society, just when children need it most. Children face violence, displacement and separation from family. They are recruited and used in hostilities. As conflict continues, they face disease, hunger and greater vulnerability.

Education is the least resilient public service when conflict strikes. Special attention needs to be paid to education for girls, and children with disabilities, who are often left behind.

We have a comprehensive legal framework to minimize the impact of armed conflict on children and civilians. Yet a large gap remains between the law and the reality on the ground. It is critical to engage with all parties to armed conflict to enhance their compliance with the law.

The second high-level panel addressed the challenges, risks and impacts of extreme weather events and climate change. The need to enhance coordination, collaboration and partnerships at all levels was emphasized.

The humanitarian system has improved its early warning, preparedness and response. But the panel emphasized the need for a more anticipatory approach, backed by predictable forecast-based financing especially to avert food crises.

And this morning, the final high-level panel discussion highlighted the importance of strengthening the capacity of local actors. International engagement should reinforce and not replace national and local systems.

Importantly, this year’s Humanitarian Affairs Segment was preceded by ECOSOC’s Transition from Relief to Development event. Concrete examples from Somalia – which UNDP’s Administrator Achim Steiner and I visited on a joint mission this year – reflected the broader call to overcome silos in all aspects of our work and highlighted the importance of effective join-up between humanitarian and development systems. Today’s crises require stronger joint focus on long-term solutions.

I know many of you attended excellent side-events. They covered food insecurity, internally displaced people, localization, the inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian action.

The prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, innovations in humanitarian financing and working with the private sector, and international humanitarian law and protection of civilians, as well as specific events on Yemen and the Lake Chad Basin.

Two years after the World Humanitarian Summit we have made progress on many of the issues and commitments made there.

But I am convinced that we can do even better. And we will do better.

I would like to thank all Member States for working so hard to ensure agreement on the humanitarian resolution. We are committed to diligently work on its implementation.

Thank you, your Excellency, dear Jerry, for your distinguished leadership as Vice-President of this Segment. No one shines more than you do. Thank you for South Africa’s strong stewardship throughout the process this year, and for reminding us in this centenary anniversary of this birth of the inspiration that Nelson Mandela, through his words and warmly remembered deeds, provides for our work.

I am sure you will all want to join me in thanking the countless humanitarian aid workers, who are helping the people most in need in our world, every day.

And, finally, thanks to all the staff of Conference Management, our interpreters, and sound engineers, and all the invisible hands that made this week of events possible, the ECOSOC Secretary and his team, my colleagues and all the partners who have helped to make the Humanitarian Affairs Segment a success.

I thank you.

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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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