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Humanitarian General Debate - Australian National Statement

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Deputy Permanent Representative Australian Mission to the United Nations

12 December 2013

 

Mr President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates

Australia welcomes the adoption of this year’s UN General Assembly Resolution on strengthening the coordination of the UN’s humanitarian assistance as a further expression of the commitment of Member States to effective humanitarian aid for those who need it most.

The numbers of those affected by natural disasters and conflict are increasing exponentially.

There are now three system-wide Level 3 humanitarian emergencies. This time last year there were none.

We thank Ms Amos for her commitment to ensure the UN system responded to the demands of a Level 3 Emergency, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

We know this disaster was of an unprecedented scale, and the road ahead for those affected will be long and difficult.

Australia will stand by the Philippines, our neighbour and friend, in the challenging days and months ahead – as we did in the immediate humanitarian response.

In this spirit, we also look to the UN system to ensure well-coordinated humanitarian and development efforts in support of the Government and people of the Philippines.

With more than half the population of the Central African Republic in need of humanitarian assistance, we also welcome the declaration of the Level 3 emergency by the UN today.

Mr President

It is clear that the international humanitarian system, despite its best efforts, is being tested to its very limits.

Member States must demonstrate strong leadership and assist the UN to deliver assistance in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Mr President

Last year in this forum, we expressed grave concern over the Syrian crisis.

At that time, 4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. One year on, 9.3 million in Syria alone are in need of assistance, 6.5 million of them are displaced.

The immense suffering of the Syrian people is exacerbated by the denial of humanitarian access, particularly in besieged areas.

In the UN Security Council, Australia, with Luxembourg, has been working hard to help remove the obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Syria.

The Council’s Presidential Statement on the Syrian humanitarian situation was an important step forward.

And we are working with fellow Council members, key member states and OCHA to ensure implementation of that statement’s provisions.

As UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Amos has frequently reminded the Council, facilitating safe and unimpeded access to those in need – wherever they are – is a fundamental responsibility of all member states.

And those who deliver assistance must be able to do so without risking their own lives.

Australia will continue to insist that humanitarian access must never be arbitrarily denied and we will continue to advocate for rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access wherever it is needed.

We are pleased that this year’s resolution recognises protection of affected populations as a fundamental part of humanitarian response, including the importance of respecting and protecting humanitarian and medical personnel.

Mr President

Sexual and gender based violence is one of the most atrocious aspects of emergency situations and prolonged crises.

Australia’s Foreign Minister is a champion of the Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative, and Australia congratulates the UK for putting the spotlight on this issue.

Through our aid program and diplomatic efforts, we are focusing on initiatives to end the culture of impunity and assist survivors.

The resolution’s recognition of the need to include those people living with disability in disaster preparedness and response is also vitally important.

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability.  Their vulnerability becomes even more acute during emergencies.

In these times, it is vital to safeguard the dignity and security of persons with disabilities, including from violence, exploitation and discrimination.

The system must do more for the most vulnerable.

Mr President

Australia welcomes the efforts of the United Nations, under the leadership of the Emergency Response Coordinator, to improve leadership, coordination and accountability in the humanitarian system.

Those efforts will continue to be critical to the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Mr President

The Typhoon Haiyan disaster has highlighted the importance of effective disaster risk reduction.  Disaster risk reduction is key to economic sustainability, and we call for an inclusive process to develop a post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework.

We look forward to this framework being people-centred, accountable and effective in building resilience.

For the Asia Pacific region, the most disaster prone in the world, this will be vital.

Mr President

In closing, let me emphasise the importance Australia attaches to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 and the need for it to have a strong focus on improving partnerships with emerging donors, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and militaries

The Summit to be held in Istanbul provides the opportunity to review the state of the global humanitarian system, and agree a way forward to ensure the system is able to meet the challenges of future crises.

Thank you.

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