Reaching People in Times of Conflict, Strengthening International Law Focus, as Economic and Social Council Continues Its Humanitarian Affairs Segment

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

PLENARY

2022 SESSION, 27TH MEETING (AM)

The Economic and Social Council continued its humanitarian affairs segment today with a high-level panel titled “Reaching people in need, supporting humanitarian assistance for all in times of conflict and promoting good practices in the application of international humanitarian law”.

Diego Pary Rodríguez (Bolivia), Vice-President of the Council, opened the meeting, moderated by Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, Acting Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division, of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and featuring seven panellists from United Nations agencies, regional blocs and international humanitarian organizations.

Panellists made presentations and addressed ways of supporting humanitarian assistance, facilitating humanitarian access and ensuring the effective delivery of aid to people in need in times of conflict. They discussed trends, challenges and good practices related to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in past and present armed conflicts, considering 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.

Discussions included the ramifications of the war in Ukraine, and its impact on people and infrastructure, including how the most vulnerable — children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with disabilities — bear the brunt of the aggression. Other violations of international humanitarian law happening in Syria, Yemen, Palestine and Tigray were also addressed, with panellists stressing that respect for international humanitarian law is not negotiable.

Other comments concerned the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, including worsening humanitarian consequences and financial, logistical and geographical constraints in Africa, including the Sahel. In all critical situations, speakers stressed that that neutral and impartial humanitarian organizations and their actors must be allowed to directly assess the needs of affected populations, while access must not be unlawfully denied or withheld, nor should Member States criminalize or hinder dialogue with parties to conflict.

Panellists further addressed the possibility of a review of counter-terrorism operations and sanctions regimes to include safeguarding of humanitarian operations, as international humanitarian law was seen as a relatively low bar in view of the often terrible and tragic consequences of military operations on civilians. The humanitarian system can possibly scale up risk analysis, preparedness, early warning, early action and response in the face of the climate crisis, considering the lessons learned and good practices gathered so far.

After their presentations, the Council opened the floor to representatives of seven Member States and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for an interactive discussion with the panellists. Delegates noted the difficulties humanitarian actors experience in an increasingly conflict-plagued world, asking how they have adapted to the changed landscape, including the main challenges and risks faced in armed conflicts and the consequences for people in need.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 June, to hold a third and final high-level panel, titled “Humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis: escalating risks, challenges and actions”, followed by a closing afternoon session with remarks by Mr. Rodríguez and Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a general discussion and action to adopt the Council’s humanitarian resolution.

Panellists Ms. MOHAMMED, MICHAEL KÖHLER (Director-General a.i., Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, representing Mr. LENARCIC), LAETITIA COURTOIS (Permanent Observer of ICRC to the United Nations and Head of Delegation, representing Mr. MAURER), Mr. FONTAINE, Mr. SCHOPP and Ms. BOUCHET-SAULNIER took the floor for a second time in response.

Source: UN Economic and Social Council

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