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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.

‘Relentless’attacks

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
Council
have“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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