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U.S. Statement to ECOSOC on Economic, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance
July 15, 2013

Item 5 UN Special Economic, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment

Item 5 UN Special Economic, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

Statement by Terri Robl
Deputy US Representative to ECOSOC

July 15, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.  And thank you, Under Secretary General Amos, for your statement and for the work of OCHA.  The United States welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on “Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations,” and appreciates its clear focus on efforts underway to continue to improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian system.  We continue to strongly support the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda (ITA), initiatives to build new and strategically important partnerships, and efforts to improve needs assessments and information management.

The United States remains deeply concerned about humanitarian access, and the lack of protection for civilians in many places, including Syria, Somalia, and Sudan.  We call on all parties to allow rapid, full and unhindered humanitarian access to all populations in need of assistance.  We are acutely aware of the risks that humanitarian staff and medical personnel take each day to reach those in need of assistance.  It is critical that all actors collectively provide the necessary support to reduce these risks, particularly in situations of armed conflict, to enable humanitarian actors to operate in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner, and to be perceived by local populations as doing so.

The Transformative Agenda continues to be an important initiative in the ongoing humanitarian reform process.  We are particularly pleased with the progress that has been made on strengthening humanitarian leadership.  The Humanitarian Coordinator pool is growing in size and increasingly, the most experienced leaders are selected for these positions.  We appreciate the new Humanitarian Coordinator mentoring program, which is helping to build depth and experience among the UN’s humanitarian leaders.  Empowered Humanitarian Coordinators, working with capable Humanitarian Country Teams, are essential to the delivery of lifesaving support to those most in need.  We encourage all UN agencies to continue to nominate top candidates to the Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator pools.

We also encourage the United Nations Development Group Chair to strengthen the Resident Coordinator system on which the Humanitarian Coordinator system is based by improving the Group’s efforts to attract, select, and retain individuals with appropriate skills; developing and putting into place a holistic strategy for system-wide support to Resident Coordinators; and ensuring that Resident Coordinators are mandated to lead on behalf of the entire United Nations system.

We continue to support the Secretary-General’s focus on building partnerships to deliver humanitarian assistance more effectively, and in that regard look forward to the World Humanitarian Summit.  The Summit will be an important opportunity to share knowledge and best practices with the aim of building a more diverse and inclusive humanitarian system.  We believe that new lines of communication and partnership are essential to solving challenges such as access, resource limitations, and capacity issues.

Our collective humanitarian response is only as good as the information on which it is based.  That is why we appreciate the effort to develop guidance on best practices in needs assessment and information management.  At the same time we recognize the practical challenges to  turning this guidance into standard operational practice.  The United States fully supports OCHA’s work to develop an integrated information management system capitalizing on modern information technology.

The United States remains concerned about sexual and reproductive health and we believe we must do more to ensure that reproductive health programs are incorporated into emergency response activities from the outset.  Reproductive health issues are the leading cause of death and disability among women of childbearing age in the developing world, and in crisis settings this situation is exacerbated.

We welcome the clear conclusion of UN bodies, including the Food and Agricultural Organization, that there is no longer a global food crisis.  The FAO has just announced that 2013 global cereal production is expected to reach a new record level.  While we share concerns over food price volatility, and potential local and regional food crises, we are relieved that the situation has improved from years past through the efforts of national governments and international actors.

Finally, we appreciate the Secretary General’s emphasis on protection, and in particular, the important focus on internally displaced persons (IDPs).  Protecting and assisting IDPs is a U.S. government priority.  We welcome the Human Rights Council’s recent renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs and strongly encourage him to work closely with development actors in the pursuit of long-lasting, sustainable solutions for IDPs.  We also applaud the African Union Member States for bringing into force the AU Convention on the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, the first legally binding treaty on internal displacement.

Thank you.