Joint Statement on behalf of India and Sweden by Mr. R. RAVINDRA, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of India to the UN at the 77th United Nations General Assembly on “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance”, 6 December 2022, New York
It is my privilege to deliver a Joint Statement on behalf of India and Sweden on the agenda item ‘Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance’.
Our joint statement is a reflection of our shared commitment to strengthen the United Nations system to respond to the complex humanitarian challenges of our time.
We would first like to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of UN humanitarian and medical personnel around the world, who have been at the frontlines of our joint response to humanitarian emergencies across the world, often at immense personal risk and sacrifice.
We believe that the primary responsibility for providing protection and assistance in a humanitarian crisis lies with the concerned country and its national government. However, international humanitarian assistance, when provided, must be given impartially, in accordance with the guiding principles outlined in General Assembly resolution 46/182 and other relevant resolutions. India and Sweden remain committed to preserving the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence in responding to all humanitarian situations. We also believe that respect for the principles of the UN Charter, including sovereignty, political independence and the territorial integrity of Member States, should remain the basis for all humanitarian assistance.
The magnitude and scale of some of the unprecedented natural disasters that the world witnessed during the last couple of years, together with a number of other complex emergencies has not only exerted pressure on the humanitarian response system, but also disrupted progress towards the 2030 agenda and the SDGs.
The world is still experiencing the pandemic’s after-effects that resulted in economic instability, disrupted global markets and added to poverty. Development gains in employment, food security, education and health care have been affected seriously, and in some cases even reversed. Those most severely affected are often the most vulnerable segments of populations.
India and Sweden deeply value the coordinating capacities of the United Nations system, through the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and encourage all actors to continue enhancing their support of the office.
The latest Global Humanitarian Overview report, released just a few days ago, illustrates in detail, the humanitarian challenges the world is facing now. As noted by the Secretary General, 2022 has been a year of extremes. The conflicts and tensions across the world have triggered unprecedented challenges to global food and energy security. The Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters such as floods and climate change continue to cause and exacerbate humanitarian emergencies.
The 2023 Global Humanitarian Overview calls for $51.5 billion to bring life-saving support to 230 million of the most vulnerable people. This is a formidable challenge for the entire international community, and one we cannot afford to downplay.
While the outlook provided by the Global Humanitarian Overview report, may be bleak, there are some encouraging indicators on delivery by the UN and the entire humanitarian system.
Data collection has improved, flexible instruments like the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) and Country-Based Pool Funds have allowed to quickly re-direct resources to address the most acute needs. The private sector is increasingly stepping in as a strong and creative partner to traditional humanitarian actors.
Increased global internet access coupled with new innovative technologies offer the potential to improve humanitarian action. For example, artificial intelligence was used for pandemic outbreak mapping, drones were delivering medical supplies and testing samples, and 3D printers have helped production of face shields, PPE kits and ventilators.
The collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts has increased, as also evidenced during the pandemic. The localization of humanitarian work has been strengthened. Building on this will help meet the needs of those in need of humanitarian assistance in the future.
Violence against humanitarian workers in situations of armed conflict remains a matter of serious concern. We extend our condolences to the families of humanitarian workers who were reported to have been killed over the last year. We strongly condemn all attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel. Member States must take all measures to ensure the protection of humanitarian personnel and actors, in accordance with international law. All humanitarian organizations must also strictly adhere to the policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, and ensure that the victims are provided adequate protection.
The persistent shortfall in financing of humanitarian appeals remains a challenge. Today, funding to the humanitarian system relies on too few donors. Currently, ten donors provide 90 percent of humanitarian funding. This is not sustainable. We call upon Member States to consider increasing their contribution to UN humanitarian assistance system, including the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, country-based pooled funds, and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to which India and Sweden are long-standing donors. We would also like to emphasize to our humanitarian partners, the value of non-earmarked flexible funding and predictable support.
We believe that our approach to humanitarian response must put those affected at the very centre - this ensures respect for human dignity, as well as flexibility to make choices on the goods and services that affected populations need the most.
The need for greater complementarity between humanitarian action, and development cooperation is well recognized. Development action by national governments and the international community should focus on reducing risk and vulnerability which will contribute to building resilience and capacity. We encourage further efforts to enhance coherence between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts, with full respect for the respective mandates.
Guided by its ancient philosophy of viewing the world as one family, India has been at the forefront of supporting fellow developing countries through assistance and relief efforts in humanitarian emergencies, including natural disasters. These efforts have ranged from immediate supply of relief material to emergency evacuation of large numbers of persons of various nationalities from affected zones.
Moving forward, we need to look beyond immediate relief and rehabilitation. India’s call for promoting disaster resilience of infrastructure through the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) has been receiving global attention, with many new countries adopting the CDRI charter. Currently, CDRI’s Membership has expanded to include 30 countries and seven multilateral organizations. Several countries have supported the mandate of CDRI through the commitment of technical assistance and financial resources.
CDRI's strategic initiative for the Small Island Developing States, 'Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS)' has also been launched last year. IRIS is envisioned to be truly owned by SIDS to achieve sustainable development through a systemic approach to promote resilient, sustainable and inclusive infrastructure.
Humanitarian assistance is a strong priority for the new Swedish government. Sweden will remain one of the top humanitarian donors. In 2022, Sweden is contributing a record of over 900 million USD in humanitarian aid.
Sweden will remain a strong voice for principled humanitarian assistance and a leader in developing new, innovative and efficient solutions to the challenges facing the world in the humanitarian field.
As part of its EU Presidency, Sweden will co-host the European Humanitarian Forum together with the European Commission next March in Brussels. We look forward to discussing with international partners the main strategic challenges facing the humanitarian system today.
Sweden and India remain particularly concerned by the deterioration of global food security which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. India and Sweden fully support the Black Sea Grain Initiative and welcome its extension by 120 days, as announced on November 17, which means that the export of Ukrainian grain, foodstuffs and fertilizer can continue from the Black Sea ports. To help support the delivery of grain from Ukraine to people facing acute hunger, Sweden has contributed some 50 million USD to allow for the delivery of wheat from Ukraine to Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, for humanitarian purposes. To help low-income countries fight against price rise and shortage of foodstuff, India has exported more than 1.8 million tons of wheat to countries in need, including to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, and Yemen.
The humanitarian system makes a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people every day. It provides assistance to the people that are suffering the most. And it saves lives in some of the worst places across the globe. But we must ensure that 2023 is not the year that breaks the system. This is a shared responsibility.
The creativity and magnitude of our response must match the unique nature of the challenge. We – India and Sweden – reiterate our commitment to work with all member states to ensure a unified and effective response to the world's humanitarian challenges. Our debate today presents an opportunity to send a strong and unified message of support to those in need of humanitarian assistance, and to humanitarian actors worldwide. India joins Sweden in calling on the delegations to adopt the humanitarian resolution by consensus.