Remarks at a UN General Assembly Humanitarian Debate

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 14, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. Last week, the United Nations released the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2019. The facts on the humanitarian needs around the world are sobering.

Over 135 million people across the world will need humanitarian assistance next year. The UN estimates at least $22 billion dollars is needed to meet the most basic needs of vulnerable people around the world.

And conflict remains the main driver of humanitarian needs, and protracted violence will force people to flee from their homes, deny them access to sufficient food, and rob them of their means of making a living. This includes situations where governments utterly fail to uphold, and systematically violate, their primary responsibility to protect the rights and well-being of their citizens.

Food insecurity is also rising with the number of people experiencing crisis-level food insecurity increasing from 80 million to 124 million people in just two years.

In the face of this need, the United States is proud to be a global leader in humanitarian assistance. In Fiscal Year 2018, the United States remained the world’s single largest humanitarian donor and provided more than $8 billion globally in humanitarian assistance.

While there remain critical gaps in humanitarian funding, we are reassured to see other donor countries increasing their contributions. 2018 is on track to be a year of record high humanitarian funding and we commend the spirit and reality of burden-sharing.

In addition to critical financial resources, we must continue coordinated efforts across the pillars of our humanitarian, development, political and security work. By drawing on our reach, influence, and subject matter expertise, we work in partnership to forge effective strategies to resolve problems, as well as advocate at the highest levels to support response operations on the ground, and elevate the needs and voices of the displaced.

This includes efforts to press governments and parties to conflict to uphold other obligations under international law. This also includes our longstanding work to keep the humanitarian consequences of crises such as Yemen, South Sudan and DRC squarely on the agenda of the Security Council and to ensure we are still a voice for those often forgotten.

In this context, the UN General Assembly can and should – through these resolutions – send an important message of concern and solidarity to the many courageous people who risk their lives to deliver humanitarian assistance to the millions of people around the world who suffer as a result of natural disasters, armed conflict, and other crises.

In recent years, there have been far too many casualties and deaths among humanitarians who were working to reach people in need. We are grateful for their service and compassion, and in some cases their ultimate sacrifice. We also call on Member States and parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including civilians’ right to assistance, and to take every action to respect the operational independence and neutrality of humanitarian organizations.

The resolutions we adopt today reaffirm the vital function of the United Nations in responding to humanitarian need around the globe, highlight the steps UN and other relief organizations can take to assist those in need better, and ensure that scarce resources stretch as far as possible.

These resolutions also articulate how Member States can better support the humanitarian community’s life-saving work more effectively, and reaffirm the importance of international law and standards meant to protect those affected by conflict and disasters.

The United States remains committed to standing by people in their time of greatest need, be they suffering due to conflict, such as in Syria, or surviving and recovering from the impact of natural disasters.

The United States believes that women should have equal access to health care, including in humanitarian emergencies. The United States is not only the world’s single largest humanitarian donor, but is also the world’s largest donor of bilateral assistance for reproductive health and voluntary family planning. We believe that in humanitarian emergencies women’s access to health care is life-saving and should be available from the onset of an emergency whenever possible, and we also believe it should not include abortion or the promotion of abortion as a method of family planning.

Thus, in order to address this concern, we have proposed an amendment to operative paragraph 59 of the resolution entitled International Cooperation on Humanitarian Assistance in the Field of Natural Disasters, A/73/L.18/Rev 1 . Similarly, in the resolution entitled Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, A/73/L.61, my delegation has proposed amendments to operative paragraphs 58 and 59. The amendments are contained in A/73/L.64 and A/73/L.65, respectively.

Mr. Chair, the United States remains firmly committed to our multifaceted role as a leader in humanitarian diplomacy and action around the world. We will continue to pursue improved coordination and efficient delivery of humanitarian aid for the millions across the globe in need of relief from conflict and other tragedies.

Thank you.