The General Assembly adopted five resolutions concerning humanitarian assistance today, as delegates wrestled with how relief efforts should respond to the compounding crises of COVID‑19, conflict and climate change, as they looked towards the challenges facing the world in 2022.
Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, in opening remarks, said that the United Nations and its partners will target assistance for the 183 million people most in need in 2022 at a cost of $41 billion — both figures representing the highest ever in their respective categories. The international community has a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable who, already burdened with debt and structural deficiencies, now must face yet another crisis in the form of COVID‑19.
“I urge the international community to support this appeal,” he entreated, stressing that vaccine equity must be prioritized. The pandemic has unduly impacted women and girls, who suffer a “shadow pandemic” of domestic violence and disproportionate impact. The climate crisis further complicates humanitarian responses, and even immediate action must still overcome “decades of impacts due to our delays”. Against that backdrop, he underscored the need to link humanitarian and relief agencies with efforts that support adaptation and preparedness for natural disasters.
The Assembly then proceeded to debate on, and adopt without a vote, five draft resolutions.
Adopting the resolution titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document A/76/L.23), the Assembly requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to continue strengthening the coordination and accountability of humanitarian assistance and leadership within the United Nations humanitarian-response system. Among other measures, the Assembly urged Member States to continue prioritizing efforts to prevent, respond to, investigate and prosecute acts of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies. The Assembly also called for the strengthening of national and multilateral approaches and international cooperation — such as the Access to COVID‑19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its COVAX facility — to enable the fair, equitable and timely access to COVID‑19 vaccines, testing and treatment. Further, the Assembly called on Member States, parties to armed conflict, the United Nations and other relevant actors to urgently increase measures to prevent famine and address acute food insecurity, while also condemning the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.
Through 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/76/L.24), the Assembly invited the Secretary-General to continue considering the use of the While Helmets initiative as a resource suitable for preventing and mitigating the effects of disasters and other humanitarian crises. It also invited Member States to consider means of supporting collaboration of the White Helmets with their programme activities and to consider making financial resources available to their special voluntary funds.
By the terms of the resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/76/L.25), the Assembly urged Member States, international financial institutions of the United Nations system and other relevant organizations to extend, as rapidly and as generously as possible, economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people. The Assembly also called on the international community to provide urgently needed assistance and services to alleviate the difficult humanitarian situation faced by Palestinian women, children and their families, and urged Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms. The Assembly also asked the Secretary-General to submit a report to the body at its seventy-seventh session on the text’s implementation, which assesses the assistance received by the Palestinian people, their unmet needs and specific proposals to respond to the same.
In adopting the resolution titled “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/76/L.26), the Assembly condemned the continued threats to, and deliberate targeting of, humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, along with acts of terrorism and attacks on humanitarian convoys. Among other things, the Assembly urged all States to take the requisite measures to ensure their safety and security and to ensure respect for the inviolability of United Nations premises. The Assembly called on all States and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies to ensure the safe, unhindered access of humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as their means of transport, supplies and equipment, while also underlining the urgent need to allocate adequate, predictable resources for the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel through regular and extrabudgetary resources.
Adopting the resolution titled “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/76/L.27), the Assembly called on States to adopt and continue to implement necessary legislative and other appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and integrate disaster risk reduction strategies into development planning. The Assembly also underlined the need to address the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change and urged Member States to develop, update and strengthen early warning systems, disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures at all levels. Further, the Assembly stressed the importance of the full and equal participation of women in decision-making — and of gender mainstreaming — in developing and implementing disaster risk reduction, preparedness, early action, rapid response and recovery strategies. Among other provisions, the text additionally urged Member States, the United Nations and humanitarian and development organizations to prioritize risk management and shift towards an anticipatory approach to humanitarian crises to prevent and reduce human suffering and economic losses.
In the preceding debate, delegates diverged on the responsibility for providing humanitarian aid, the form that assistance should take and its place within broader strategies for development and resilience.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, pointed out that 2021 has seen the consequences of COVID‑19, once again, exacerbate significant humanitarian need, which is already amplified by conflict, climate change and food insecurity. Against that backdrop, he said that the bloc and its Member States — collectively the world’s largest humanitarian donor — is ready to shoulder its share of the responsibility.
Canada’s representative similarly observed that the effects of climate change are compounding food insecurity. Nevertheless, the COVID‑19 pandemic has demonstrated the value of scaled-up, anticipatory approaches through flexible, coordinated and predictable financing for emergency preparedness. He said that Canada, for its part, has provided over $1.1 billion for 2021-22 in flexible, quality humanitarian funding.
The representative of Venezuela, however, stressed that those responsible for climate change lecture the world on morality while making only meagre contributions to crises, considering their resources. Also spotlighting the adverse impact of sanctions on the human rights of millions, he underscored that “humanitarian exceptions” thereto are ineffective and unproductive as they prevent aid from reaching people most in need. He therefore called for the establishment of an alternative system for global financing to create an international area free of coercive measures.
The representative of the Russian Federation concurred, stating that unlawful unilateral sanctions harm countries’ socioeconomic capacity and prevent humanitarian workers from providing vital assistance to those in need. He urged States to move away from this practice and cease politicising humanitarian assistance by making it conditional.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates highlighted his country’s approach to providing relief without any consideration of the religion, race or geographical location of recipients. Humanitarian relief is “a strategic investment in the development of people”, he said, also noting that aid is a tool in favour of stability and security around the world.
Haiti’s representative offered a different view, stating that the traditional approach to humanitarian aid weakens recipient countries by replacing their long-term, nationally led development, keeping them in a state of recurrent crisis. “Far from relieving suffering, humanitarian assistance has turned into a business for numerous international NGOs,” he said, stressing the need for humanitarian assistance to be part of a broader development strategy.
The representative of Somalia echoed that sentiment, stating that, to effectively manage recurring humanitarian emergencies, the General Assembly must continue to support the development of sustainable institutions. He also detailed the tangible humanitarian need in his country, where a devastating drought has affected more than 44 million people and will render 1.2 million children under the age of five acutely malnourished by the end of 2021.
Myanmar’s representative also provided a window into a distinct humanitarian crisis, pointing out that the military in his country has limited access to vulnerable people who require urgent humanitarian assistance and protection and has weaponized bureaucratic procedures to control the movement of humanitarian actors. The people of Myanmar are still counting on the United Nations at this profoundly difficult time, he stressed, appealing for an urgent, unified international and regional response.
Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden (also for India), Argentina, Slovenia (for the European Union), Guinea (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Brunei Darussalam (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Qatar, Bangladesh, Iran, the Maldives, Malaysia, Romania, Iceland, Morocco, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, China, Norway, the Netherlands, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Costa Rica, Bahrain (for the Gulf Cooperation Council), Egypt, the Philippines and Hungary.
Observers for the State of Palestine, International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
Representatives of the Russian Federation, Iran, Syria and Turkey spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 16 December, to fill vacancies in its subsidiary bodies and take action on a draft resolution under its agenda item on integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.