#Ethiopia; #HumanitarianCrisis; #HumanitarianAid;
New York/Canadian-Media: As the humanitarian crisis grows in Ethiopia’s conflict-affected north, the UN announced on Monday that $40 million in funds have been made available to scale up emergency operations.
A young child is screened for malnutrition at a food distribution site in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Image credit: © WFP/Claire Nevill
The UN’s top emergency relief official, Martin Griffiths, said that millions of people in northern Ethiopia are now “living on a knife-edge, as the humanitarian crisis is growing deeper and wider”.
After returning from visiting Ethiopia, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said that needs are rising across the country, and that the funds would help aid organizations reach some of the most vulnerable.
The situation has spiralled since November 2020, when central government troops clashed with forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
And neighboring regions Amhara and Afar have also been swept up in the deadly violence and terrible rights abuses
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocation will also support relief agencies providing protection and other life-saving assistance to people affected there as well.
“Women, boys and girls continue to bear the brunt of the conflict, yet their protection needs remain underfunded”, Mr. Griffiths warned, his comments coming after the UN humanitarian aid office, OCHA, said that 364 aid trucks have been waiting for authorization to access Tigray since 18 October.
According to OCHA’s latest update, the situation in northern Ethiopia remains highly unpredictable with civilians severely impacted and a broad state of emergency declared nationwide.
“It is estimated that 80 per cent of essential medication is no longer available in Tigray while most health facilities are not functional due to damage and lack of supplies,” OCHA explained.
Only 19 of the 59 mobile health and nutrition teams operating at the end of August are still providing services, owing to a lack of supplies and fuel, the UN humanitarian Office said.
At a hospital in the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, 47 people have reportedly died of kidney failure because the medical facility lacked dialysis equipment.
OCHA added that 32 patients with chronic kidney disease receive treatment twice a week, “instead of the standard three times, due to limited supplies and medicine”, while cancer patients are now using the last remaining stock of expired chemotherapy drugs.
“New cancer diagnosed patients are not receiving any drugs”, OCHA said, leaving an estimated 500 cancer patients without treatment.
In neighbouring Amhara to the south, fighting has caused large-scale displacements from North Gonder, Wag Hemra, North and South Wello zones as well as in and around Dessie, Kombolcha, Baati and Kamissie.
This has increased humanitarian needs, OCHA noted, including for shelter, food, water, medicines and health services, dignity and hygiene kits for women and protection services.
To the east of Tigray in Afar, thousands of people have also been reportedly displaced from Chifra Woreda, Awsi Zone and in Ada`ar Woreda.
In addition to providing help to Ethiopia’s conflict-affected northern regions, communities will also receive support for an early response to drought in the south of the country, Oromia regions and in Somali.
Relief agencies will provide drinking water, including to prevent waterborne diseases and mitigate the risk of cholera outbreaks and help pastoral communities preserve their livestock.
Although the new CERF allocation brings a total of $65 million to Ethiopia, the country still faces a funding gap of $1.3 billion, including $350 million for the response in Tigray.
#AfghanistanEconomy; #UNDP; #MobilizingResources; #EconomicCrisis; #HumanitarianAid
New York/Canadian-Media: Afghanistan’s economy is imploding, with all but three per cent of households expected to fall below the poverty line in coming months, the UN said on Thursday.
Conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan have left children at greater risk than ever. Image credit: © UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani
To help ordinary Afghans, the UN Development Program (UNDP) has announced the launch of a “people’s economy” fund, to provide desperately needed access to cash.
The fund will tap into donations frozen since the Taliban takeover in August. Germany has already pledged $58 million of the more than $660 million required over the next 12 months, UNDP chief, Achim Steiner, told journalists in Geneva.
“There are 38 million people who cannot be kept alive just from the outside”, he said. “We have to step in, we have to stabilize a 'people's economy’ and in addition to saving lives, we also have to save livelihoods.
UNDP is now in touch with other donors to mobilise resources, Mr. Steiner added.
Prevent total ‘crash’
Last week UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to take action during a "make or break" moment for the country. While reiterating that “humanitarian assistance saves lives”, the UN chief warned that “it will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses”.
The fund is part of a new program for the country called ABADEI, which denotes community resilience.
It’s designed to contribute to preventing a humanitarian catastrophe and the country’s economy from “completely crashing” by supporting the most vulnerable populations and collapsing micro-businesses in Afghanistan, the agency says.
ABADEI will see UNDP, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations providing community level solutions which complement the urgent humanitarian interventions.
Keeping local economies afloat
Cash in local currency will be provided directly to community groups and to Afghan workers in public works programs, such as drought and flood control.
Grants will also be given to micro-enterprises and a temporary basic income would be paid to the vulnerable elderly and disabled, added Kanni Wignaraja, Director of UNDP's regional bureau for the Asia Pacific.
This will enable people to stay and live and work on their lands and in their homes and allow them to earn an income and give them “the respect and dignity that they deserve and call for”, said Ms. Wignaraja.
All assistance provided will be based on impartial assessments carried out in conjunction with local community leaders and independently of authorities.
The UN has organized a COVID-19 vaccination drive for Afghanistan that began this week in Kandahar, targeting people in at-risk areas, according to the UN Spokesperson, briefing journalists on Thursday.
Starting on 8 November, a polio vaccination campaign is due to get underway in the region also, alongside the provision of Vitamin A, coordinated by WHO, UNICEF and other partners.
"We, along with our partners, continue joint needs assessments throughout Afghanistan to identify humanitarian needs and prioritize immediate assistance", said Stéphane Dujarric.
#UN; #Afghanistan; #G20; #Taliban; #Women; #Girls; #US; #HumanitarianAid; #Education
New York/Canadian-Media: Amidst a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, on Monday UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to take action during a “make or break moment” for the country.
Image: UN. Image credit: Twitter handle
“If we do not act and help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they but all the world will pay a heavy price”, Mr. Guterres told journalists in New York, ahead of Tuesday, when G20 leading industrialized nations will meet to discuss the nation embroiled in crisis.
Currently, at least 18 million people, or about half of the country’s population are affected.
For him, “this will not only badly affect Afghanistan itself, but also the region and the rest of the world”.
‘Race against time’
Despite many obstacles, the UN has a massive humanitarian operation in the country.
Mr. Guterres said that UN agencies and other non-governmental organizations are in a “race against time” to deliver life-saving aid and preposition supplies ahead of winter.
“They won’t let up”, he assured.
In September alone, more than 3.8 million people received food assistance; 21,000 children and 10,000 women received treatment for acute malnutrition; and 32,000 people received non-food items including blankets and warm clothes for winter.
Besides that, around 450,000 people were reached with primary and secondary healthcare; 160,000 farmers and herders with livelihoods support; and 12,000 people with emergency psycho-social and mental health support.
To achieve this, the Secretary-General said that UN agencies have been acting with the cooperation of the Taliban, “who have progressively granted access to the areas requested and provided security when needed”.
“The number of incidents during humanitarian operations has been in constant decline”, he added.
Breathe life into economy While reiterating that “humanitarian assistance saves lives”, the UN chief warned that “it will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses.”
Before the Taliban takeover in August, Afghanistan’s fragile economy had been kept afloat by foreign aid over the past twenty years.
Right now, with assets frozen and development aid paused, Mr. Guterres said “the economy is breaking down” with banks closing and essential services, such as healthcare, suspended in many places.
“We need to find ways to make the economy breathe again”, the Secretary-General argued. “This can be done without violating international laws or compromising principles.”
Returning from the abyss
For the top UN official, “the main responsibility for finding a way back from the abyss lies with those that are now in charge in Afghanistan”.
Since they regained control after the United States withdrew its troops from the country, the Taliban promised on numerous occasions that they would protect the rights of all Afghans.
Mr. Guterres stressed that the possibility of women to move, work, and enjoy their basic rights is central to this promise.
Recalling his visits to the country, he said that was always “deeply moved by the courage, resilience and determination of Afghan women and girls”.
Now, he is “particularly alarmed” to see the Taliban breaking their promises.
“Broken promises lead to broken dreams for the women and girls of Afghanistan”, he stated. “Women and girls need to be the center of attention”.
About 80 per cent of Afghanistan’s economy is informal and dominated by women.
Since 2001, three million girls have enrolled in school and, on average, education has increased from six years to 10.
#UN; #FoodInsecurity; #PreventingFamine; #Nigeria; #DisplacedWomen; #Hunger
New York/Canadian-Media: Thousands of displaced women in Nigeria suffering from hunger and food insecurity rely on the UN to survive, UN News reports said.
The world currently faces unprecedented catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity, according to UN agencies, and around $6.6 billion is needed urgently, to support 41 million in danger of sliding into famine.
To ramp up support, the United Nations on Monday convened a high-level event, calling for international action, before it is too late.
Close to half a million people are experiencing famine-like conditions (IPC phase 5, under the official classification) in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. In recent months, vulnerable populations in Burkina Faso and Nigeria have also been subjected to these same conditions.
In addition, 41 million people worldwide face emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC 4), only one slip away from the edge of famine, representing a 50 per cent increase in just two years.
Millions more are experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC 3) and are at real risk of rapid deterioration.
A toxic mix Opening the event, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said that “when famine finally opens the door, it goes viral in a way that other threats perhaps don’t.”
Mr. Griffiths thanked donors, saying that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been able to ramp up humanitarian operations in high-risk countries, such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Yemen, where the UN agency currently reaches 10 million people each month.
Mr. Griffiths warned, though, that it is time to redouble efforts and to show that the world can collectively rise to this challenge
“There is time, not much, and we need it to happen,” he said.
According to Mr. Beasley, there is $400 trillion of wealth in the world today and, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires were averaging a net worth increase of $5.2 billion a day.
#UN; #UNOCHA; #HumanitarianAid
UN/Canadian-Media: The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated much of the world’s attention over the last 12 months, but many other crises will continue to require the urgent attention of the UN and the international community in 2021.
Displaced women prepare food at an informal camp in Bagoundié, Mali.
Image credit: © UNOCHA/Michele Cattani
Syria and Yemen are probably the best known long-running conflict zones. A decade of fighting in Syria has seen millions of people displaced, many requiring humanitarian assistance. Yemen, meanwhile, remains the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, where the risk of large-scale famine has never been more acute.
Insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has compounded the country’s economic decline, and DRC now has the world’s second highest number of people who are classified as severely food insecure, and the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa.
And in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, a perfect storm of climate change, weak governance, poverty and chronic underdevelopment have combined to create an unprecedented security and humanitarian crisis.
#UN; #India; #FlashFloods; #HimalayanGlacier; #HumanitarianAid
UN/Canadian-Media: At least 14 people are reported to have died and over 170 missing after part of a Himalayan glacier broke away in India’s Uttarakhand province on Sunday, unleashing a torrent of water, rock and debris downstream. Key infrastructure, including a dam, are also reported to have been damaged.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Image credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
Some 15 people are said to have been rescued as of Monday morning (local time).
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of India.
“The United Nations stands ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts if necessary”, the statement added.
According to media reports, experts are investigating the incident, which occurred in a remote area, and the cause is yet to be determined.
Glacier bursts, and the resulting flash floods, are extremely destructive natural hazards, especially for communities and infrastructure downstream. The Himalayan region is particularly vulnerable to such disasters, with the risk aggravated due to climate change and temperature rise.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #ExtremePoverty; #Fragility; #Conflict; #Covid19
UN/Canadian-Media: With extreme poverty on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time in more than two decades, senior officials briefing the Security Council today called for redoubled efforts to break the “vicious cycle” of poverty, fragility and conflict still devastating many nations.
Humanitarian needs. Image credit: Unsplash
Briefing the 15-member Council, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global conflict landscape was deteriorating. Conflicts have become more complex, fuelled by greater regionalization, the proliferation of non-State armed groups and their links to criminal and extremist interests. According to the World Bank Fragility and Conflict Report, one of every five people in the Middle East and North Africa lives in close proximity to a major conflict. Humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since the Second World War and the number of people at risk of starvation has doubled.
Warning that such trends have put many countries in a vicious cycle — in which conflict breeds poverty, poverty breeds fragility and fragility decreases resilience to conflict — he went on to note that, for the first time in 22 years, extreme poverty was on the rise in 2020. The contraction of economic activity in fragile and conflict-affected settings is now expected to push an additional 18 to 27 million people into poverty, the gender equality gap is widening and the climate emergency is exacerbating insecurity.
“If we are to break the cycle of poverty and conflict, we need a more ambitious approach based on two principles enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, spotlighting both interdependence and inclusion. Efforts to prevent and resolve conflict must be driven by the pledge to “leave no on behind”, and the not-yet-fully-realized promise to increase women’s participation in peace processes must be met.
Noting that fragility in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region has been exacerbated by transboundary threats such as climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime and the proliferation of armed groups — and spotlighting the continued presence of armed groups and human rights violations in the Great Lakes region — he said the United Nations is working closely with the African Union and regional economic communities to reverse those trends. The organizations’ joint frameworks have served as key instruments to prevent and sustainably resolve conflicts in Africa, as well as to strengthen the resilience of States to withstand current threats.
At the Fourth United Nations African Union Annual Conference in December, leaders of the two organizations explored new ways to address the root causes on conflicts — including economic and social disparities — and accelerate the “Silencing the Guns in Africa” initiative. “My call for a global ceasefire [amid the COVID-19 pandemic] goes hand-in-hand with this flagship initiative,” he stressed, underlining the United Nations continued commitment to supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063. In that vein, the organizations have also decided to establish a Joint United Nations–African Union Group on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda and Agenda 2063, including in regard to COVID-19 recovery.
While prevention and peacebuilding are cost-effective, he went on to note that they nevertheless require national leadership, political commitment and financial support. “The international community continues to underinvest in these areas,” he said, reiterating his call for increased financing — in particular at the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund’s upcoming replenishment conference. He also called upon the Council to finalize its discussions on the question of providing predictable, flexible and sustained financing to operations authorized by the Council, but carried out by African Member States, through United Nations assessed contributions.
Also briefing the Council, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said that State fragility and the related challenges for peacekeeping are most acute on the African continent. Such root causes, from climate change to COVID-19, are playing out, affecting the health and socioeconomic situations of many people. For its part, the African Union has adopted related policies and guidelines to prevent conflict and tension, which continue to be obstacles to peace and sustainable development. Moreover, efforts to rebuild peace and foster diplomacy are active continent-wide, alongside tireless work to promote the principle of African solutions to African problems. Citing other ongoing initiatives, he said the African Union’s agreement on peace and development with the European Union and the United Nations lays the foundation for progress.
The Security Council has been contributing to these efforts, he said, pointing to resolutions supporting such African Union strategies as its Silencing the Guns initiative. Responding effectively to challenges hinges on the adoption of a strong strategy. However, access to predictable resources and other related challenges are hindering response efforts. Exclusion is also a key obstacle, he said, underscoring that women and young people must be included in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Innovative approaches have been adopted in this regard, he said, and work is under way to promote solidarity and inclusion.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a member of The Elders and former President of Liberia, said there has never been a time when so many people wanted and needed the previous year to end. Today’s debate must remain faithful to the promise of 2021 and commit to steps forward. Emphasizing that the Council has the power to help end the cycle of conflict, poverty and despair that so many continue to face, she called for more attention to the festering root causes of conflict — even before they erupt. Among other things, she voiced support for local governance responses and for the training of more local women leaders, who can help “put out a smouldering fire before it becomes a major conflagration”.
Spotlighting lessons learned from the long conflict in her native Liberia, she said prevention is always better than cure. “The signs […] of active conflict are usually there, long before any helpful actions are taken,” she said, spotlighting human rights violations, deepening poverty and inequality and the dismantling of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms as red flags. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) helped support the implementation of a final peace agreement, protecting civilians even as armed militias contested election results and carried out sporadic violence.
Today, she said, peacekeepers must also contend with the spread and impacts of COVID-19. While raising concerns about the value of multilateralism, countries are also questioning the efficacy of peacekeeping operations and the cost of running them, often for years at a time. Advocating strongly for United Nations peace operations, she said that, like all things, their architecture must “change with flexibility to respond to challenging circumstances”. She also noted that 2021 marks the seventieth anniversary of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While praising the agency, she nevertheless declared that “its continued existence is a mark on our collective conscience”. The Security Council must be an active agent of hope for fragile nations that, for too long, have been left behind.
As Council members took the floor, Kaïs Saïed, President of Tunisia, Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, saying the open debate’s theme stems from a strong determination to underscore the notion that fragile situations can fuel violence and trigger conflict, sometimes lasting for decades, hindering States’ capacity and threatening their very existence. Ending wars does not always lead to lasting peace, which should be a long-term goal, and ceasefires do not mean an end to conflict, but a first step towards peace, he said, emphasizing that Africa has suffered greatly from conflict and tragedies that prevent stability. To address these challenges, there must be a holistic long-term approach for durable peace that tackles the root causes of conflict — including climate change, terrorism, pandemics and weak State institutions, he said, cautioning that this vicious circle can further stoke violence and strife. Peacebuilding efforts must focus on stability and progressively address fragility. The necessary guarantees — including promoting democracy and inclusive participation — must be provided to uphold peace and security.
Pointing out that instability, violence and terrorism persist in all regions, notably in Africa, decades after countries obtained their independence, he said such challenges require urgent attention, with the Security Council adopting a more comprehensive approach to international security. Coordinated efforts such as the Silencing the Guns initiative are key. All countries and relevant stakeholders must work together, including United Nations programmes and funds, international financial institutions and donors. The result would be a global peacebuilding strategy that supports national efforts to promote stability and sustainable development. The Council must support conflict-prevention and efforts to strengthen the rule of law and national institutions, he said, calling for collective action to help States cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and address fragile situations. Recalling a resolution introduced by France and Tunisia on the pandemic, he reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to security and development to meet the legitimate aspirations of all people worldwide.
Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Niger, said that as further information on fragile States becomes available, from an index on State fragility to the World Bank’s assessment tools, a range of root causes becomes clear. For instance, almost all fragile States have abundant natural resources, reflecting the consequences of poorly managed institutions, he said, citing a recent African Development Bank report. Indeed, fragility is one of the twenty-first century’s greatest challenges, often triggering displacement, violence and corruption. If nothing is done now, more than 80 per cent of the world’s population could live in fragile States. Citing current examples, he said 65 per cent of the global population that lacks access to clean water live in fragile States, flows of internally displaced persons and refugees are rising, and the broader impact of COVID-19 threatens to erase development gains.
Providing hope for a better existence is the ultimate goal, he said, emphasizing the need to boost efforts by investing in solutions with more resources, aid and data collection initiatives to better understand fragile States. Inclusive solutions must boost community resilience and tackle the root causes. The World Bank and the African Development Bank must be encouraged to do more, including by helping the continent to implement the African Union’s 2063 Agenda and addressing terrorism in the Sahel. Indeed, collective efforts must provide strong support to the Group of Five (G5) for the Sahel Joint Force and must help countries in the region to overcome the deadly violence it currently faces. The Security Council must also play its important role in supporting all fragile States in their efforts to advance peace and development.
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, said the fact that the bulk of the Council’s agenda is on conflicts in Africa is testament to the fragility of many countries and regions in the continent. “If we are to be true to the founding Charter of the United Nations, it follows, therefore, that we should invest more in building more effective approaches, or revitalizing existing mechanisms, that maintain peace and anchor stability in Africa,” he said. Citing a range of challenges facing nations in fragile situations, he pointed to the COVID-19 response as an example, emphasizing that the biggest difference is not between Eastern and Western approaches, but between States that can provide a strong bridge to allow their citizens and economies to successfully navigate extreme crises versus those that cannot muster such an effort. In countries afflicted by war, or recovering from it, peace will only be maintained if they are enabled to be strong enough to win control of their territory and provide public services, with the multilateral system, as embodied in the United Nations, helping these States attain such capacities. The political processes that build peace, and binding resolutions by the Council, should include measurable State strengthening elements.
Offering four proposals to build a multilateralism fit for the times, he first underlined the importance of leveraging the knowledge and buy-in of stakeholders closest to the crisis. In addition, the Council and associated United Nations bodies must do more to strengthen the capacity of key State institutions during post-conflict reconstruction, with the Peacebuilding Commission playing an invaluable role. Next, the international community should not let the COVID-19 pandemic be a major driver of insecurity; if fragile countries do not get prompt access to the vaccine, their economic problems will likely turn into political and security challenges. Finally, it is essential to strengthen the role of Africa and the global South in the multilateral system. Indeed, the road to revitalizing multilateralism to effectively deliver global peace and security runs through a united Africa and an active and engaged global South.
Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called for practical and people-centred solutions that bolster national ownership in countries requiring assistance.
There is no panacea for the root causes of fragility, but through solidarity and collective action, a better future remains within the grasp of those who yearn for it. Recalling that his country, Council President for November, held a high-level event on the contemporary drivers of conflict and insecurity, he said participants called for a comprehensive, coordinated whole-of-system approach to addressing the root causes of fragility and insecurity, including those that have been left largely unsettled by the rapid process of decolonization. The Council must work more closely with the other United Nations main organs to foster development solutions to peace and security challenges. The international community must leverage more often the strategic advisory capacity and convening platform of the Peacebuilding Commission to mobilize multilateral partners to help Member States build institutions, strengthen capacities and address the challenges of fragility.
Greater political will is vital to ensure no one is left behind, he said, appealing to developed countries to honour their official development assistance (ODA) commitments and increase support to conflict-affected countries through concessionary loans, debt relief, and quick impact projects, as well as support for climate adaptation and mitigation. Reparatory justice must form part of any serious international development agenda, he said, echoing recent calls by Sir Hilary Beckles for the Special Committee on Decolonization to finalize its work and for reparations to be made for the historical crimes of native genocide, African slavery and violent colonization. Encouraging all countries to not impose unilateral coercive measures on weaker nations, he said that even in the most difficult circumstances, a firm commitment to sovereignty and political independence, within the framework of multilateralism, offers the greatest defense against chaos and disorder. “Just as the Second World War provided the impetus for the United Nations to emerge from the ashes of conflict, so too can the COVID‑19 pandemic be used as a critical turning point,” he said, calling for a renewed, effective multilateralism that works in the interest of all nations and peoples.
Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, agreed that poor governance and human rights violations, combined with a lack of development, a scarcity of jobs and poor prospects for the future, are indications of countries and regions moving into fragility. Noting that systemic corruption and inequality are mutually reinforcing and increase the risk of conflict and destabilization, she added that of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change, half are also struggling with violent conflict. Assisting such nations requires a surge in peace diplomacy, she said, praising the various United Nations reforms aimed at making the Organization’s work more agile and conflict sensitive. In that regard, she sounded alarms over the continued humanitarian toll of conflict and fragility — which is exacerbated by COVID-19 — and underlined the need to put civilian protection at the core of all interventions. The Council should also put a stronger focus on early warning — as seen in its informal “situational awareness briefings” — while broadening its analysis and strengthening its capacity to act.
James Cleverly, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa of the United Kingdom, stressed that women’s meaningful participation can prevent conflict, support conflict resolution and maintain peace. His country has supported the International Civil Society Action Network to develop the protection framework for women peacebuilders, and it is the Council’s lead on the women, peace and security agenda, he said, urging all Member States to commit to its recommendations. The United Nations and the African Union are stronger together as peacebuilding partners, he said, citing their collaboration that delivered the Central African Republic peace agreement, and the bloc’s mediation in Sudan. Interventions also need to span humanitarian, development and peacebuilding operations. His country worked with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop recommendation on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to guide future interventions. The United Nations and international financial institutions should continue developing their working partnership. Noting the Organization’s positive steps aimed at maintaining peace in fragile settings, including the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, he said its capacity to prevent and respond to conflict has been bolstered through the Peacebuilding Fund, the multi-year appeal and the peace and development advisors. The Peacebuilding Commission is now a critical forum for international cooperation on fragile States and regions. In an evolving world, “partnerships are our strength, inclusion is our security, and the prize is peace,” he said.
Le Hoai Trung, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown more clearly the fragility of the world and its capacity to address global challenges. The biggest health crisis in a century has affected security and poverty and hunger increased more in 2020 than in the past decade, and rising numbers of displaced persons havw been seen alongside food and water insecurity. Rarely has the call for multilateralism been so strong. As such, maintaining peace and security in a fragile context requires a comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders, with the root causes of conflict and fragility at the centre of long-term solutions that respect national ownership and ensure capacity-building.
In this regard, he said the Security Council must adopt effective approaches and make efforts to better use the tools at its disposal, including diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping at the outset and after a conflict has been resolved. Multilateralism, with the United Nations at its centre, must prevail. In addition, cross-regional cooperation must address all related challenges. Indeed, these efforts are critical along the path to peace in fragile situations, before, during and after a conflict, and in the face of such threats as climate change and pandemics.
Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, said national priorities during his delegation’s Council membership will include building peace and addressing fragility. Early warnings of conflict must be heeded, and all parties must be included in conflict resolution and dialogue. In addition, the Council must use all tools available, as doing so can make a real difference on the ground. Peacebuilding efforts are stronger when they are inclusive. Noting Ireland’s more than 60 years of involvement with United Nations peacekeeping, he said that operations must have a clear mandate to be effective. In terms of strengthening conflict prevention, efforts must address the causes of conflict, including climate change and socioeconomic inequality, he said, emphasizing that COVID-19 and climate change have only amplified existing challenges and must be viewed through a security lens.
Cooperation is needed, he said, pointing to the African Union’s Silencing the Guns initiative as an example of a strong regional response. Efforts must also promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that human rights violations are a root cause of conflict and must be addressed. There is power in prevention, and when crises occur, efforts must aim at protecting individuals and ending impunity for perpetrators. Moreover, the Council’s decisions must be respected and implemented. Around the Council’s virtual table, it is important to recognize differences and work together to maintain international peace and security, he said, pledging Ireland’s commitment to contributing to the Council’s work.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State for Tourism, French Nationals Abroad and Francophonie of France, underlined the need to better understand the drivers of conflict in fragile States and to develop enhanced support modalities. Agreeing that “endless cycles of crises” often share an underlying factor, namely weak or absent governance, he spotlighted the importance of conflict prevention and capacity-building in that regard. Addressing climate change, health crises, inequality and the lack of inclusivity in peace processes is therefore crucial. The United Nations has successfully reformed itself into a stronger and more agile presence on the ground, he said, also calling for more mobile and reactive troops equipped with the multilingual skills needed to work with civilians. He welcomed the growing role of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, noting that France plans to quadruple its support to the latter. Meanwhile, United Nations support to the G-5 Sahel Joint Force is an important partnership — which can serve as an example for other collaborations — and the management of post-conflict transitions requires more flexibility. In that regard, he cited the important establishment of United Nations peace operations in the wake of peacekeeping missions’ drawdowns.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of India, said fragility stems from the absence or breakdown of the social contract between people and their Governments. These can also be caused by extremist political ideologies, and there is a strong correlation between such breakdowns and the conditions of poverty, terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism and pandemics — as well as the predations of regional powers and international actors. Meanwhile, climate change, water scarcity and resource wars are adding new dimensions to these complexities. Noting that democracy is undoubtedly gaining ground in Africa, he echoed concerns about drivers of instability and poverty, among them over-exploitation and conflicts such as the one in Libya.
“Let us not fail to acknowledge that the legacy of colonialism constitutes the foundational basis of the current instabilities that plague the African continent,” he stressed, adding that “we should not paint all fragility issues with the same brush”. The Council should remain primarily concerned with those directing affecting the maintenance of international peace and security. He also underlined the importance of respecting national ownership, emphasizing that the Council should remain respectful of the regional approach adopted by countries, including those in Africa. United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions, along with the G5 Sahel Joint Force and similar initiatives, must also be sufficiently mandated and resourced, he said, drawing attention to India’s significant contributions.
Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said threats to international peace and security are not just military in nature, but are often linked to human rights violations, discrimination, environmental degradation, the irresponsible trafficking of weapons and now COVID-19. Underlining the need for full and inclusive civic participation by all members of society, he went on to echo support for enhanced prevention and efforts aimed at tackling the root drivers of conflict. The Council must always put people at the centre of all of its activities, he stressed.
The representative of the United States said fragility can result from ineffective or unaccountable Governments or leaders who disrespect human rights. The rise of terrorism and violent extremism makes States more vulnerable and is exacerbated by COVID-19. Some actors, including Iran, use fragile States or non-State actors as proxies for their malign activities, and humanitarian needs continue to outpace assistance. The international community must support fragile States “lest they become failed States”, as the issues with which they grapple do not stop at national borders. She warned against politicizing humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts. She also spotlighted the United States Global Fragility Act of 2019 as well as a related strategy aimed at putting partnership, accountability and national ownership at the heart of Washington’s foreign assistance. Indeed, 70 per cent of United States foreign aid goes to fragile States, and the country has provided some $30 billion to fragile countries in recent years. Pledging to continue such support, she also pointed out that the United States leads the way in funding United Nations peacekeeping operations, providing 25 per cent of their budget.
The speaker for China said that, after a turbulent 2020, multilateralism is more crucial than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic is surging in a new wave and all countries should respect science, joining hands to stop the spread as soon as possible. Meanwhile, more mediation and conflict prevention efforts are required, and COVID-19 vaccines should be equitably distributed around the globe. He outlined China’s massive humanitarian response to the pandemic, noting that it is supporting 150 countries and ten international organizations and was the first to make vaccines a public good. Strengthening economic and social “weak links” is also crucial as developing countries face new difficulties, which threaten to further expand the gap between the global North and South. In that context, he called for more efforts to support peacebuilding, strengthen Government capacity, build consensus and provide development assistance aimed at building resilience. “No country can work alone,” he stressed, adding that countries have no choice but to safeguard the international system and support each other.
The Russian Federation’s representative said factors impacting peace and security in fragile contexts are pertinent for discussions in the Council and other United Nations bodies. However, issues not directly linked to international peace and security should be addressed in the relevant fora with a view to identifying effective solutions. At the same time, duplication of efforts must be avoided. Some factors undermining stability mentioned in the concept note for today’s meeting, such as climate change and other environmental issues, require practical measures through decisions made in the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, he said, adding that each United Nations body should work within its own mandate. In Africa, environmental issues must be considered on an individual basis, and external actors must not illegally exploit Africa’s natural resources for their own aims. Links between human rights and development should not automatically be made nor should they be based on arbitrary definitions. External interference, including illegally overthrowing a Government, must not be tolerated. Raising concerns about illegal sanctions that bypass Security Council decisions, he voiced support for the Secretary-General’s call to lift unilateral coercive measures. In terms of regional efforts, he emphasized that Africans know best the situation on their own continent.
The speaker for Estonia urged the Council to treat not only the symptoms but also the causes of violence, highlighting the importance of acknowledging the interdependence of security and sustainable development. Climate change exacerbates existing conflicts and contributes to the onset of new ones. The Council must take climate-change-related threats to peace and security seriously, he said, expressing hope that in 2021 it is finally able to adopt a thematic resolution on climate and security, mandate the Secretary-General to report on climate change’s impact on international security, and provide robust mandates to the relevant missions the Council authorizes. A dedicated climate expert in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) is a good start. In addition, rule of law, access to justice and human rights are essential for maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts. It is also vital to include persons belonging to marginalized groups, especially women and girls. Greater efforts are needed to win the trust of youth. The Council must make all the relevant mandates robust in these aspects and constantly adapt to changing times. This includes being open to new topics, being willing to employ new tools to tackle emerging issues and reviewing its current practices, he said.
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UN/Canadian-Media: A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, a near- 40 percent increase on 2020 which is “almost entirely from COVID-19”, the UN’s emergency relief chief said on Tuesday.
A family flees the violence in Idlib, Syria. (file). Image credit: UNOCHA/HFO
In an appeal for $35 billion to meet humanitarian needs next year, Mark Lowcock said that the global health crisis had impacted dramatically people already reeling from conflict, record levels of displacement, climate change shocks. He said that “multiple” famines are looming.
The situation is “desperate” for millions and has left the UN and partners “overwhelmed”, he added.
“The picture we are presenting is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs in the period ahead that we have ever set out. That is a reflection of the fact that the COVID pandemic has wreaked carnage across the whole of the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet.”
Mr. Lowcock’s call for global solidarity, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to “stand with people in their darkest hour of need”, as the global pandemic continues to worsen.
Although the humanitarian system had delivered “food, medicines, shelter, education and other essentials to tens of millions of people “the crisis is far from over”, the UN chief insisted in a statement.
56 countries to benefit
This year’s Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) sets out plans “to reach 160 million of the most vulnerable people in 56 countries and most plans, if they are fully financed, will cost $35 billion”, Mr. Lowcock said.
He noted that while richer countries had invested some $10 trillion in staving off economic disaster from the COVID-induced slump and could now see “light at the end of the tunnel…the same is not true in the poorest countries”.
The COVID-19 crisis had lunged millions into poverty “and sent humanitarian needs skyrocketing,” Mr. Lowcock explained, adding that aid funding was needed to “stave off famine, fight poverty, and keep children vaccinated and in school”.
Cash will also be used from the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to tackle rising violence against women and girls linked to the pandemic, Mr. Lowcock said.
Climate shocks add to woes
"If we get through 2021 without major famines that will be a significant achievement," said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Lowcock.
He also highlighted how climate change and rising global temperatures had further ;contributed to the bleak outlook for humanitarian needs in 2021, their impact being “most acute in the countries which have also got the biggest humanitarian problems. Indeed, eight of the 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are ones where humanitarian agencies have got a huge amount of work to do already.”
Conflicts new and old had also contributed to increased needs, the UN relief chief continued, pointing to “new spikes of conflict in places that were previously more peaceful. We’ve seen that obviously recently in Nagorno-Karabakh, we’ve seen it in northern Mozambique, we’ve seen it in the Western Sahara and at the moment obviously, tragically, we’re seeing in northern Ethiopia.”
Sadly, these flare-ups “haven’t replaced conflicts which have been resolved and calmed down in other places”, Mr. Lowcock continued. “In fact, things are just as bad now in the biggest humanitarian settings driven by conflict as they were when we spoke to you a year ago.”
He added: “We’re overwhelmed with problems, as you know, but just the scale of the need and the scale of crisis is such that these efforts to anticipate things make things a little bit better than they would otherwise have been, but they still leave us with a terrible, desperate situation.”
Spending wisely counts
n addition to providing the means to help communities in crisis, Mr. Lowcock underscored the UN appeal’s focus on preventive action.
This included a cash injection for the World Health Organization (WHO) in February at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, to ensure that poorer countries received protective equipment to tackle COVID-19.
Similarly, tens of thousands of potential flood victims in Bangladesh also received “support and cash” help in good time so that they could protect their belongings and livelihoods.
“What we ended up with there was a much cheaper, more effective response as well as one that dramatically reduced the human suffering we would have had than if we’d done the traditional thing - waiting until floods arrive,” Mr. Lowcock insisted.
Alarm bells ringing
The concept of “nipping problems in the bud” and acting on them before they become critical was “increasingly well-established now”, he maintained.
Nonetheless, the UN emergency relief chief underscored that the scale of the challenges facing humanitarians next year are massive – and growing. “If we get through 2021 without major famines that will be a significant achievement,” he said. “You know, the red lights are flashing, and the alarm bells are ringing.”
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UN, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): Parties to the conflict in Yemen must do more to protect civilians, a senior UN humanitarian official there has said, as the number of civilian deaths has witnessed a sharp rise over the last few weeks in the war-ravaged country.
Tents and makeshift shelters at an IDP camp in Yemen. Years of conflict has left millions at crisis levels of hunger, with some facing starvation due to COVID. Image credit: UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi
“Innocent Yemenis continue to die and suffer because of this terrible war,” Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, said in a statement on Saturday.
Since the end of September, several civilians – including children – have been killed and many more injured in fighting in Hudaydah governorate and Taizz, according to the statement. Important civilian infrastructure, including schools and health centres have also been damaged.
“We share our condolences with the many grieving families and wish the injured a swift recovery, added Ms. Grande.
Famine looming In the statement, Ms. Grande also said that with famine looming and funding for humanitarian assistance running out, the parties “have to find the strength” to end fighting and start dialogue.
“We have to be clear, absolutely clear about this … Parties which have taken up arms are responsible, morally and legally, for doing everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they receive the assistance they are entitled to and need,” she stressed.
“There are political options on the table to end the fighting and move to political dialogue. With famine looming and funding running out, the parties have to find the strength and courage to do this,” added the UN official.
World’s worst humanitarian crisis Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the result of five years of a brutal conflict, disease, economic collapse and a breakdown of public institutions and services.
A staggering 80 per cent of Yemen’s population – over 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, including about 12.2 million children. A total of 230 out of Yemen's 333 districts (69 per cent) are at risk of famine.
Despite a difficult operating environment, humanitarians continue to work across Yemen, responding to the most acute needs. However, funding remains a challenge: as of mid-October, only $1.4 billion of the $3.2 billion needed in 2020 has been received.
Bad situations ‘only get worse’ without disaster risk governance, UN chief says on International Day
UN, Oct 13 (Canadian-Media): With nations facing multiple crises simultaneously and a dramatic rise in extreme weather events in recent decades, the UN Secretary-General has called for strengthening disaster risk governance, to build a safer, more resilient world.
In a message commemorating the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that without good disaster risk governance, “bad situations only get worse.”
Noting that disaster risk isn’t the “sole responsibility” of local and national authorities, Mr. Guterres highlighted the need for political commitment at the highest level to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
“Good disaster risk governance means acting on science and evidence,” he added.
COVID-19 and disaster risk reduction The Secretary-General also referred to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact, highlighting that lessons from the global crisis can be applied to strengthen disaster risk governance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the importance of strengthening disaster risk reduction … COVID-19 has shown us that systemic risk requires international cooperation,” he said.
“To eradicate poverty and reduce the impacts of climate change, we must place the public good above all other considerations,” he added.
Multi-sectoral policies Meanwhile, Mami Mizutori, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, also highlighted the lessons from COVID-19.
In a separate message, she explained that COVID-19 has underscored the need for “clear vision, plans and competent, empowered institutions acting on scientific evidence.”
“We need to see strategies which address not just single hazards like floods and storms but those that respond to systemic risk generated by zoonotic diseases, climate shocks and environmental breakdown,” she urged.
“Good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must be multi-sectoral linking policies in areas such as land use, building codes, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation,” added Ms. Mizutori, who is also the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
The International Day The theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is strengthening disaster risk governance – one of the Priorities for Action of the Sendai Framework – to build a safer and more resilient world.
Disaster risk governance refers to the way in which the public authorities, civil servants, media, private sector, and civil society coordinate at community, national and regional levels in order to manage and reduce disaster and climate related risks.
Held every 13 October, the International Day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face. The International Day was designated by the UN General Assembly in 2009.