High-Level Panel Discussion on “Reaching people in need, supporting humanitarian assistance for all in times of conflict and promoting good practices in the application of international humanitarian law”
22 June, 2022
United Nations Headquarters, New York,
H.E. Fatima Kyari Mohammed,
Ambassador, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations
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The panel will discuss ways of supporting humanitarian assistance, facilitating humanitarian access and ensuring the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to reach people in need in times of conflict. It will discuss trends, challenges, and good practices related to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in past and present armed conflicts and consider practical ways to strengthen the application of international humanitarian law, facilitate access to people in need and put into practice fundamental protections which save lives and reduce humanitarian suffering. This includes ensuring that humanitarian assistance and protection is provided to all affected people based on their humanitarian needs alone, without discrimination and regardless of nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs or political convictions.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to join you today and I would like also extend the apologises of H.E Minata Samate Cessouma Commissioner For Health, Humanitarian Affairs And Social Development who unfortunately could not be here due to other engagements.
I am however honoured to present some reflections on behalf of the African Union on a topic I am particularly passionate about.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a proud daughter of the Sahel, a region that in recent years has made headlines not for its rich culture, beautiful people, landscape, and natural resources, but for insecurity, instability, and in the last decade has left millions displaced. This combined with the climate crisis, and COVID-19 – has triggered a Humanitarian situation that feeds into a vicious cycle of hunger, displacement, and conflict.
Conflict, linked particularly to acts of terrorism is one of the key drivers of displacement in Africa. This has left millions of people without shelter, food, and basic needs, and in necessitating humanitarian assistance.
As a result, Africa continues to host increasing numbers of refugees, IDPs and others affected by conflict, persecution, and violence, within a humanitarian landscape characterized by new and emergent threats leading to other waves of refugees and IDPs. Humanitarian challenges in Africa are exacerbated by the erosion of respect for the core humanitarian principles, which exist in conflict situations, in implementation of development projects, in natural and human-induced disasters.
It is unfortunate, that amidst these increasing challenges, humanitarian action in Africa, continues to face several challenges related to financing, humanitarian access and humanitarian coordination. Security constraints, armed hostilities and violence are making it difficult to reach the people in need. These constraints limit or block access to people in need of humanitarian assistance and more so impede their ability to reach humanitarian assistance sites and access to basic services such as health facilities, food distribution points, water points, and other livelihood activities such as farming and markets this increases their vulnerability.
We have seen cases where humanitarian access has been negotiated and assistance has reached those in needs. In Niger for instance, the state has played a critical role, a high-level committee has been set up to work with actors on humanitarian access and to advance dialogue and decision-making in this area. Its members consist of the relevant ministries and the humanitarian country team. The AU recommends impartiality neutrality and more peacebuilding and negotiations while also working with Member states and REC in the national dialogue processes
The AU humanitarian policy also sets out to preserve, protect and save lives, alleviate suffering and enhance physical security and human dignity. The States remain primary actors in delivering humanitarian assistance and protecting people in humanitarian crises. In line with AU humanitarian policies and principles and other policies on humanitarian effectiveness, AU calls underscore the role of Member states in providing protection, security and humanitarian assistance and assuring appropriate access to humanitarian space, and security of humanitarian workers and infrastructure, in conformity with the national legislation of each State.
We do however need to strengthen the capacity of affected countries and local communities to prevent, prepare for, mitigate and respond to humanitarian crises including on International humanitarian law.
With those introductory remarks, permit me to make the following points:
First, as situations evolve proper early warning including monitoring systems to achieve enhanced predictability and information gathering on emerging and ongoing humanitarian situations more so in conflict affected areas is necessary. The use of community systems, innovations including digital mechanisms to assess degree of damage in conflict affected areas can provide more insights to guide humanitarian assistance. This should also be complemented by robust conflict analysis and rapid assessments to ensure humanitarian responders are providing wholistic support.
And of course we, the international community, must support, and share the burden imposed on host countries in order to ensure continuity of humanitarian assistance in areas affected by conflict. This requires greater collaboration with, Member States and within international organizations and humanitarian agencies, civil society organizations and other relevant actors needs to be enhanced in accordance with each of their mandate.
Second, and in line with International Humanitarian Law, all parties to an armed conflict are under an obligation to ensure that the essential needs of the population in areas under their control are met. However, it is unfortunate this has not always been the case. For instance, in the Sahel region, evidence has shown that it is particularly difficult to achieve due to worsening of the humanitarian consequences of the armed conflicts in the region, the financial limitations of the region’s countries, and logistical and geographical constraints. The presence of multiple armed actors has saturated the Sahel and poses a real challenge for States and humanitarians aiming to help the civilian population deal with the consequences of armed conflict in the region.
Third, We must recognize and commend all the efforts from international community and stress that that that the international community also has a key responsibility to share the burden of humanitarian aid. We have seen more approaches being used to reach those in need including airdrops, remote surveillance to assess the situation innovate means to transfer assistance. Some of these approaches are indeed costly. Subsequently, we need to identify more sustainable solutions to ensure un-impeded access.
One of these approaches which has also been found to be more effective and sustainable is adopting peace and confidence building efforts. These involves bilateral and confidential dialogue at regional, national and local levels with all parties involved in armed conflicts, whether they be States or non-State armed groups, need to take place.
Fourth, on transparency and accountability, I would like to highlight that the African Union Common Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness, humanitarian policy and other international frameworks emphasise that protection and assistance of vulnerable groups, specifically women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities in humanitarian crises situations need to be at the center of the humanitarian action and that humanitarian assistance should pay particular attention to their specific needs.
To realize this, we must involve beneficiaries in monitoring and evaluation and, where possible, the design and implementation of humanitarian response and; strengthen and put in place integrated monitoring and evaluation systems at national and local level to improved accountability and to better account for resources. This should also include two-way feedback mechanism between people affected/ beneficiaries and humanitarian agencies. To determine if assistance whether humanitarian or developmental is effective, we need to get feedback from the affected population. This will lead to transformative humanitarian response which address the specific needs of the population.
I would also like to emphasis the need for gender sensitive humanitarian response, acknowledging that people in humanitarian crises are affected differently and their needs may vary. This should be preceded by comprehensive context and gender analysis. With this I bring to your attention the need to embrace gender equality and the equal protection of women’s and men’s human rights in carrying out humanitarian and peace-building activities. Member states and Humanitarian actors need to provide remedies to address the increasing violation of women rights, gender-based violence especially in conflict settings.
Finally, Humanitarian assistance to focus on longer term developmental initiatives to enhance the resilience of communities and support recovery and long-term development and to ensure support, where appropriate, to facilitate transitions from humanitarian relief to recovery and development activities with focus on women empowerment.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your valuable contributions, pledges and discussions during the Humanitarian summit and Pledging conference held in Malabo from 25-27 May 2022.
I am particularly honored to contribute to this meeting right after Malabo meeting because this is a great opportunity to continue with our deliberations on how we can address the dire humanitarian situation in Africa as we put in place a plan of action to implement recommendations from Malabo Summit.
This is high level panel discussion is fundamental in building on recommendations from Malabo as we identify sustainable and durable solutions to address the worrying humanitarian crises in Africa. It is also critical that we find ways to strengthen humanitarian assistance, facilitating humanitarian access and ensuring the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance while ensuring protection of people affected is at the center of our collective response efforts, strategies and plans.
I Thank you