Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, 25 April 2017
Statement by Margot Wallström – Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Secretary-General, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank all of you for attending this important conference.
We meet here today in solidarity with the people in Yemen, who are suffering a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis. We meet to make our pledges to a conflict that has far too long been neglected and forgotten by the global community, the human suffering too long uncared-for. Their hardship is difficult to imagine.
In light of developments, I would like to address three concrete points concerning how we can move forward.
1. Remind ourselves who are most affected by conflict and the financial pledges we are all here to make.
2. The necessity to respect the rules of armed conflict, International Humanitarian Law and guarantee humanitarian access.
3. Not forget that a political solution is the only way to reach sustainable peace and development in Yemen.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
As mentioned by Secretary General Guterres, the international community has so far been slow in reacting to the enormous humanitarian needs in Yemen, with only 15% of the Humanitarian Response Plan funded. We can change that here today. Our combined support for the response plan will allow humanitarian operations in Yemen to reach millions of people in need, regardless of their politics, religion and ethnicity or their geographical location.
I would like to join my fellow co-hosts in highlighting the dire situation among Yemen's children. Recent reports from UNICEF and other humanitarian actors are painful reminders that children most often pay the heaviest price. More than 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished. An increasing number of children run the risk of being recruited as soldiers or facing sexual and gender-based violence. More than two thirds of all girls are married off before they reach 18 years.
The dramatic economic downturn and liquidity crisis further aggravate the situation.
Add to this the breakdown of health care services; an outbreak of cholera; the internal displacement of 2 million people. The combined picture leads to the conclusion that we must act now, and we must start with the most immediate needs.
In 2017, Sweden has already disbursed SEK 165 million (approximately USD 18 million) and is today pledging an additional SEK 70 million (approximately USD 7.8 million) for immediate disbursement within ten days. We are also substantial donors of un-earmarked core funding to UN agencies and humanitarian organisations operating in Yemen. Un-earmarked support is particularly important, since it allows UN organisations to act more flexibly and more rapidly.
But an increase in resources will not be enough without immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access for delivery of life-saving assistance. This includes all seaports, particularly Hodeidah, and Sana'a airport. If these life lines are made unusable, there is little doubt that Yemen will face a famine of catastrophic scale. The United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism needs our full support.
Furthermore, aid workers are still risking their lives to deliver humanitarian assistance to people in need inside Yemen. Later today, we will have the opportunity to listen to representatives from different local NGOs that form part of the OCHA Humanitarian Country Team.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
We remind all parties to the armed conflict that attacks on aid workers are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law. All parties must respect the rules and principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.
We also have to bear in mind the specific impact that the catastrophic situation in Yemen has on women and girls. A recent report from the United Nations Security Council informal expert group on women, peace and security states that 17 000 incidents of gender-based violence have been reported since the conflict escalated, with few medical professionals trained to attend these kinds of injuries. Girls represent 63 per cent of the children who are forced out of school, and many previous gains in educational terms have been reversed.
We know that women's involvement increases the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian assistance, as well as the likelihood of successful peace negotiations. The importance of mainstreaming gender equality throughout the whole humanitarian response, as well as the political dialogue, cannot be emphasised enough.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Mr Secretary General,
Let me finish by saying that increased humanitarian funding is a short-term solution. A political solution is the only way to achieve sustainable peace and development in Yemen. Sweden lends it full support to the UN Special Envoy and the process to reach a new cessation of hostilities and a negotiated political agreement.
On behalf of the Swedish Government, I thank you all for attending this event. Your presence sends an important signal to the people in Yemen that the international community cares.
Let's make sure that the result of our meeting will make a real and substantial difference for the many people in need.