Closing Remarks by the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Joyce Msuya, at the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment

New York, 23 June 2022

As Delivered

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to close the 2022 ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

As Secretary-General Guterres noted at the start of this week, the world is confronting a megacrisis fuelled by conflict, climate change, the rising cost of living and a pandemic.

The result is an alarming increase in hunger, poverty, displacement and inequality almost everywhere. For hundreds of thousands of people, the threat of famine is all too real. And as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite, many countries are on the brink of economic devastation.

The number of people who need help has never been higher. And yet, as we have heard, we face a gaping financial gap that, unless closed, will plunge millions more people into destitution.

To respond to the rising tide of suffering, we must redouble our efforts to support a strong, flexible, well-resourced humanitarian system that is equipped to reach and protect people.

Our discussions this week have explored how to accomplish this. Before I formally close the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment, I would like to go over some of the key themes that have emerged.We looked at ways to improve respect for international humanitarian law to protect civilians in conflict and enable humanitarian access.

We agreed that all parties must do more to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and that Governments must ensure that humanitarian activities are exempt from sanctions and counter-terrorism measures.

We discussed how the pandemic highlighted the need to build more resilient health-care, education and protection systems, as it pulled children from school and plunged them into poverty.

And we discussed the need to stop the horrific levels of violence against women and children.

We spoke with urgency about the massive global hunger crisis, with needs rising at alarming rates. We agreed that with Humanitarian Response Plans lacking 80 per cent of the funds they need, this gap must be closed.

We also heard how we need to shift towards anticipatory action. In three months’ time, 3 million more people will go hungry in the Horn of Africa. We must increase flexible funding for predictable crises like this.

And we discussed how conflict, the climate crisis and disasters are driving more people from their homes, bringing internal displacement to a record high, with the most vulnerable hit the hardest. And we must not forget all those people who are unable to leave.

Last but not least, we heard about the worsening impacts of the climate crisis, with calls for Member States to deliver on the $100 billion of climate finance they promised to developing countries, including for adaptation and resilience.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We need new solutions to these problems, solutions that are locally owned.

The humanitarian system must become less northern and more local.

Now is the time to work with a new generation of local humanitarian agencies that can help shoulder the burden of today’s megacrisis, and that can analyse risks, create plans and have access to pre-arranged financing to put those plans into action.

Last year, more than a quarter of OCHA’s country-based pooled funds went directly to local and national NGOs. But more needs to be done to empower local organizations to lead.

All the solutions I’ve touched on have real power to transform the humanitarian sector’s ability to respond to the rising levels of suffering. But these solutions will fall short of their potential without three vital ingredients.

The first ingredient is perhaps the most important. We have a saying in my language, Kiswahili: Jeraha uliganga sharti ulione. It means that to treat a wound you must see it; to solve a problem you must understand it.

Unless we become better at understanding the people we set out to serve, in all their diversity, then we will never truly understand the problems they face. And without this essential understanding, our response will never be enough. So, we must make it our duty to listen and to respond accordingly.

This is what solidarity and respect mean.

Second, it is clear that we must address the root causes of today’s interconnected crises and work together to address them. Humanitarian assistance can only go so far.

Leaders need to redouble their efforts at peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

And invest in strengthening basic services, including national health-care systems and expanding social safety nets.

The last key ingredient, the one that will ensure success, is collaboration.

If we are to transform at the speed and scale necessary, then collaboration and multilateralism are key.

Interconnected crises require an interconnected response. Planetary emergencies require planetary politics. We know what we’re capable of when we cooperate, and how powerful we are when we act together. People in their hour of greatest need want first to survive, and second to find a way out of crisis. The distinction between saving lives and building resilience is ours, not theirs.

Humanitarian, development and peacemaking communities must work together and not let these institutional distinctions get in the way.

So now is the time to embrace difference, to address the issues that constrain collaboration, and to find common ground.

Our discussions over the last few days reveal a central truth: We know what we need to do to build a better humanitarian system, one that can rise to the enormity of today’s problems and those of tomorrow.

I know we can rise to this challenge.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs