Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Conflict and Hunger
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Conflict and Hunger, 23 March 2018, New York.
As we have heard this morning, the number of women, men, children in our world who are suffering from food insecurity is increasing. At the same time, more and more people are living in areas torn apart by war and conflict. This, we see every day in this Council.
As this year's Global Report on Food Crises sets out, these are not separate trends; the links between conflict and hunger are clear and undeniable. Over the last year, in the 18 countries where 74 million or 60% of those in acute need live – conflict and insecurity was the main driver of food insecurity. Conflict often also prevents humanitarian access. At the same time, food insecurity can trigger conflict, creating a vicious cycle. And, as we heard from Mark Lowcock this morning, hunger is today used as a weapon of war. So, let me begin by thanking the Dutch Presidency, and you personally Madam President, for organizing today's meeting on this important issue, which we cannot ignore if we are to meet our responsibilities to maintain international peace and security.
Let me also thank Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, and Executive Director Beasley, for their candid and forthright briefings today. You have clearly outlined the challenges you and your partners face on a daily basis, as you seek to meet the needs of people who are trapped by mutually reinforcing conflict and hunger across the world. But you also pointed to the opportunities when this Council effectively meets its responsibilities.
Last year, the Secretary-General came to us and warned that 20 million people were at risk of famine. In response, the Council heeded his early warning and took early action to avoid disaster. Working together, the international community managed to avert famine and we demonstrated the important role that the Council has to play. However, and as I said yesterday during the briefing on the Lake Chad Basin region, our actions only addressed the acute symptoms of these crises. The situation for millions of people around the world remains perilous.
In South Sudan, for example, the protracted conflict has led to a shocking rise in hunger. While outright famine may have been averted, many individuals are suffering famine-like conditions. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, with women often being the first to sacrifice their food consumption for others in the family. Continued fighting and displacement have disrupted planting and harvesting, meaning that next year there will be less food again, making it still more unaffordable. Food security is being exacerbated further by economic collapse. Seven million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. And even when food is available, and humanitarians are ready to respond, assistance to people in need is impeded and denied due to access restrictions.
This vicious cycle is now all too familiar and all too common. In Somalia, violence and conflict, combined with severe droughts, continue to cause mass displacement. Denial of access is hindering an effective response aimed at reaching 6.2 million people. In Yemen, disrupted and restricted delivery of humanitarian assistance is affecting the 22.2 million Yemenis desperately in need of humanitarian aid.
More decisive and long-term action is clearly needed. So, Madam President, how can this Council respond?
Firstly, the role of the Council is to maintain international peace and security. This entails preventing conflicts, effectively working for their cessation and contributing to sustaining peace. Prevention of conflict requires proactively addressing the deeper, underlying risks that prevent sustainable development and peace. In order to efficiently deal with root causes and complex drivers of conflict – like those discussed today – we need a better understanding of these risks.
Regular reporting on food insecurity and early warning indications from agencies such as the WFP and FAO helps making the linkages between conflict and food insecurity and hence this Council can act more proactively to prevent human suffering.
Secondly, the Council has an important role in upholding and ensuring respect for international law, including international humanitarian law. This includes calling on parties to armed conflict to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, including objects necessary for food production and distribution, and forcefully calling them out when these norms are not respected. Parties must refrain from attacking, or rendering useless, objects such as foodstuffs, agriculture areas, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies.
Another fundamental element of ensuring respect for international law includes ensuring rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all those in need of assistance. Arbitrarily denying humanitarian access to people in need is a violation of international humanitarian law. Starvation as a method of warfare is outlawed and unacceptable.
As we have heard this morning from previous speakers, accountability for violations of these fundamental norms is critical, and this Council must play its full role in ensuring that its demands are adhered to.
Adequate and flexible funding is also essential for an effective and swift humanitarian response. Sweden is a long-standing donor to the Central Emergency Response Fund and to all humanitarian appeals, and we call on others to contribute in order to ensure that sufficient funding is available for time-critical assistance and protection for civilians in need.
Humanitarian assistance should, however, only be a short term solution to the immediate crisis. To break the vicious cycles of hunger and conflict, we must invest in building sustainable peace: allowing farmers to return to their lands, to rebuild their livelihoods, and for sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems to re-emerge.
In conclusion, Madam President,
The task that the Secretary-General passed to this Council year is far from completed. In the Presidential Statement adopted in August of last year, facilitated by Sweden, this Council committed to work with the Secretary-General to pursue all possible avenues to end conflicts, and to take action to avert famine in conflict- affected countries. We look forward to continued updates from the Secretary-General on this matter. The Council must remain seized, and consider further action.