Economic and Social Council

Humanitarian Affairs Segment 2022: High-level…

Theme: "Strengthening humanitarian assistance: good practices and mobilizing action in the application of international humanitarian law, the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and in response to the climate crisis" (E/2022/L.6).

Speakers Underscore Existential Threat Posed to Humanity by Climate Change

The Economic and Social Council concluded its humanitarian segment today, holding its third and final panel, titled “Humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis:  escalating risks, challenges and actions” — and also adopting the humanitarian resolution titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document E/2022/L.11).

Miia Rainne (Finland), Vice-President of the Council, opened the meeting, with the panel moderated by Anja Nitzsche, Chief of the Partnerships and Resource Mobilization Branch at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and featuring nine panellists from United Nations agencies, regional blocs and international humanitarian organizations.

Discussants stressed the existential threat posed to humanity by the climate emergency, with 12 of the 15 countries most at risk and least able to adapt being in Africa.  The Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Group reports that 107 developing economies are severely exposed to one of three elements of crisis — food, energy or finance — and 70 countries are severely exposed to all three at once, with 108 developing economies facing new economic shocks with dangerous debt levels.

Panellists from regional groups representing small island and developing States warned that their countries and regions are experiencing the dire effects of climate change.  Climate-related disasters destroyed a capital city and threaten to kill off the longest barrier reef system in the northern hemisphere — a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.  However, these types of disasters do not generate media attention or humanitarian response the way earthquakes or tsunamis do.  While it is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, much more funding is required for adaptation and resilience, as the loss and damage will increase exponentially with every tenth of a degree of global warming increase.

They further noted that developing countries continue to experience financing eligibility issues due to per capita gross domestic product (GDP) — with only nine Alliance of Small Island States qualifying for official development assistance (ODA) loans.  Loss and damage financing should be on the world’s balance sheet, not solely on local States — especially while powerful Governments are still pouring $500 billion into artificially lowering the price of fossil fuels.  Without more adaptation financing, they stressed that developing States will need more humanitarian assistance.

Citing the implications of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the humanitarian landscape, panellists noted how the pace and scale of change is outracing the capability of those in vulnerable situations to reduce risk and adapt, addressing priority actions needed for the humanitarian system to respond, and key gap areas that require more focus and investment.

After their presentations, the Council opened the floor to representatives of eight Member States, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), for an interactive discussion with the panellists — several of whom took the floor a second time in response to comments and questions about climate risks and the urgent need for action, as well as emergency and adaptation financing for developing countries.

In the afternoon, the Council took up its humanitarian resolution titled “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations” (document E/2022/L.11).  By the text, it would call upon the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to enhance accountability to Member States, including affected countries, and all other stakeholders, including local governments and relevant local organizations, as well as affected populations, and to further strengthen humanitarian response efforts.

Further to the draft, it would call upon all parties to armed conflict to respect, and all States to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, as well as to comply with their obligations under human rights and refugee law, as applicable, and also encourage States to renew their efforts for the effective implementation of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

Before action, the Council held a general discussion involving 26 Member States, as well as representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The resolution was then adopted unanimously without a vote.

The representative of Hungary spoke in explanation of position after adoption.

Ms. Msuya and Diego Pary Rodríguez (Bolivia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, then delivered closing remarks.