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UN Deputy Chief Warns Of ‘Hurricane Of Humanitarian Crises’

There is a“bloody surge” impacting humanitarian crises around the world, with civilians in conflict zones paying the highest price, the UN deputy chief told the Security Council on Friday.

Briefing on behalf of the UN chief, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, painted a grim picture of civilian executions,arbitrary arrests, detentions,forced displacement and sexual violence against children, on a massive scale, in theTigrayregion of Ethiopia.

She also spoke of “brutal attacks” in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, where 20 million people are living “face-to-face” with hunger.

“We are inuncharted waters”, she said, with the “sheer scale of humanitarian needs” never greater.

This year the UN and its partnersare seekingto assist 160 million people – its highest number ever.


The“hurricane of humanitariancrises”iscompoundedby a“relentlesswave of attacks” on humanitarianand medicalworkers, and the imposition of evernarrower constraintson humanitarianspace, according to the deputy UN chief.

“The Secretary-GeneralurgesthisCouncilto take strongand immediateactiontosupport itsnumerousresolutions ontheprotection ofcivilians, humanitarian and healthcare workers,and humanitarian space”, she told ministers and ambassadors.

Surge in incidents

Shootings, bodily and sexual assault, kidnappings and other attacks affecting humanitarian organizations, have increased tenfold since 2001, according to Ms. Mohammed.

“In the five years since this Council’s landmark resolution calling for an end to impunity for attacks on healthcare systems, workers and patients have suffered thousands of attacks”, she said.

Meanwhile, itisbecoming ever more difficult toprovide vital humanitarian aidtopeople in need.

Delaying tactics

Some authorities impose restrictions onthemovementsofhumanitarian staff and supplies,longvisaandcustomsprocedures anddelays at checkpoints. Other obstacles include hightaxesandfeeson humanitarian supplies.

And while every countryneedstoactagainst terrorism, each also has a responsibility to make sure its counter-terrorism efforts do not underminehumanitarian operations.

As Governmentscreatesystemsaroundhumanitarian aid delivery, the deputy chief reminded, “it is essential” thatthey support, rather thanblock aid.

Protect humanitarian space

Because thebestway toprotecthumanitarian spaceis byending violence andconflict, the Secretary-Generalhad called for a global ceasefire to focus on the common enemy: the COVID-19 pandemic.

And on Thursday, the UN chief issued a call for silencing the guns in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo: “People and nations can build on this temporary respite to establish lasting ceasefires and find paths towards sustainable peace”, he said.

“Turbo-charged” by COVID, humanitarian needsareoutpacingthe capacity tomeetthem, said Ms. Mohammed.

While the UN engages in difficult negotiations to create lasting ceasefiresand build sustainable peace, the delivery of life-savinghumanitarianaid must continue and that requires the necessary humanitarian space.

Member States and the Security Councilhave“aresponsibilityto do everything intheirpower”toendattacksonhumanitarians and assets, and seekaccountability for serious violations, she underscored.

Key steps

She said there needed to be greater respect for international humanitarian law that does not “blur the lines” between military operations, political objectivesand humanitarian efforts.

“Upholdingthe principles of humanitarian action…is essential tobuilding trustwithpolitical,military,security, non-State armedgroupsand others”.

Secondly, “investigation and accountability” areessentialtopreventattacks on aid workers, which she said was “completely unacceptable and may constitute war crimes” adding that “what goes unpunished will be repeated”.

Thirdly, governments need to protectthe abilityof humanitarianorganizations toengage with conflict parties, includingnon-State armed groups, because when humanitarian agencies are perceived as part of a political agenda, it puts workers in danger “and reduces their effectiveness”.

Principles of humanitarian action…essential tobuilding trustwithpolitical,military,security, non-State armedgroupsand others -- UN deputy chief

Counter-terrorism measures should include clear provisions topreserve humanitarian space, she said,minimizingthe impact on humanitarianoperations andensuring that humanitarianandhealthcare personnelarenotpunished fordoing their jobs.

Finally, the Council must use its influence to immediately stop attacks against schools and hospitals.

“The unprecedented healthcare emergency cause by the COVID-19 pandemic makes the protection of medical facilities and workers more critical than ever”.

Calls to action

Member States were urged toendorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, whichaims to protect alleducational institutions from the worst effects of armed conflict and support theHealthCare in Dangerinitiative.

Due to the enormous challenges faced by humanitarian agencies, the Secretary-General hasaskedhisincoming Humanitarian Affairs chief toappoint a Special Adviseron the preservation of humanitarian space and access, and to strengthen humanitarian negotiations.

“The international community oweshumanitarian aid agencies andhealthcare and humanitarian workersitsfulland unwaveringsupportin theirdifficult andoftendangerouswork”, Ms. Mohammed concluded.

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