Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message at the opening of the Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment, in New York today:
It is a pleasure to address the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Humanitarian Affairs Segment, even in very difficult times. Hope is wearing thin. Rarely has collective global action been in higher demand. As you gather today, global megatrends are converging into a mega-crisis of conflict, climate disruption, hunger and the rising cost of living.
Conflicts have turned schools and hospitals into rubble — with people buried inside. Senseless violence, persecution and insecurity of all kinds have forced more than 100 million people from their homes.
The climate crisis is dashing hopes of a decent harvest for people who live off the land. From Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa, millions of people live under the threat of starvation. Women and girls who are often last to eat are the first to miss meals as food shortages spread.
And recovering from the pandemic as a global community is a fantasy, as inequality deepens and millions of people are denied access to vaccines. But, losing hope is not a strategy. Taking action to support people in need is. That is what United Nations humanitarian agencies and our partners are doing, every day. These challenges require us to step up our efforts to support a strong, flexible, well-resourced humanitarian system that is better equipped to reach and protect even the most isolated and marginalized people.
A system that puts people’s needs at its heart and centre stays and delivers; [a system that] supports local partners on the front lines — especially women and women’s organizations; a system that is guided by science and data, so that it can anticipate shocks and take preventive action; a system that works in tandem with development and peace actors to find sustainable solutions.
We need to see greater respect for international humanitarian law. Civilians and civilian infrastructure are not a target. Humanitarian aid workers and schoolchildren are not a target. We need to find a way out of the economic crisis that is threatening people’s lives and well-being across the globe and bring an end to hunger by stabilizing food prices and encouraging the free flow of goods to vulnerable countries.
Funding for the Ukraine humanitarian response has been generous and now stands at 70 per cent of our appeal. But, needs are rising rapidly across the world, and funding for crises elsewhere stands at just 17 per cent. We need to step up for sustainable solutions and robust funding for every crisis; make the truce in Yemen last; find a path to peace in Ethiopia; end attacks on civilians in the Sahel; end the war in Ukraine; and support pandemic recovery in every country.
To protect our future, all Governments and corporations must understand that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not a choice, but an imperative. At the same time, developed countries must meet their commitment to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries. Fifty per cent of climate finance must go to adaptation.
The ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs segment is the place where the world comes together around solutions. You are here today because you are part of the answer. Your determination, compassion and foresight can keep people, and hope, alive. I wish you a successful meeting.