Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Conflict and Hunger (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 17, 2020


Thank you so much, Mr. President. I want to thank you, Mark, David and Qu for your briefings. Ambassador Craft sends her regards and is sorry that she wasn’t able to stay for the whole briefing, but very much appreciates the work that you all are doing. And the reports that you made today, very much are, realized the stark warnings, not just the updates, but the stark warnings today on the disastrous consequences when conflict and hunger collide. The United States welcomes this important discussion on the eve of the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Week, a moment when we collectively reflect on the state of the world and consider ways to use our voices and actions to better people’s lives.

Just over two years ago, the Council passed Resolution 2417, which made clear the linkages between insecurity and hunger. These past two years have underscored that connection. Insecurity and violence borne of various sources, from terrorism to political violence, have a profound impact on vulnerable populations. Families are torn apart. Livelihoods are upended. Rule of law falls apart. Food production is disrupted. Health clinics and schools close. And as a result, food insecurity rises dramatically.

We cannot, of course, discuss hunger without also addressing the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a conflict environment it is inherently difficult to make a living, put food on the table, go to school, or consult with a medical professional. It is profoundly more challenging for those who face a range of systemic inequalities, including women, children, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and the displaced. And as David rightly told us in April, and again today, the economic and health challenges from COVID-19 will be made worse if authorities fail to address both the root causes of the conflict and the societal fragilities that have been exposed by the pandemic.

The situations in the four countries that we are focused on here today – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen – underscore just how difficult it is to address food insecurity and hunger when conflict pervades. In all of these contexts, we highlight the need to look in earnest at the root causes of conflicts and use peaceful means to end impunity and break the cycles of violence.

Moreover, the United States stresses that parties to armed conflict must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including respecting civilian objects and objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

In the DRC, ongoing and long-term displacement due to conflict compounded by multiple public health emergencies has left millions of Congolese facing hunger. Persistent conflict and violence in several provinces, including North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, and Tanganyika, has caused millions of families to flee their homes, livelihoods, and support systems. The continued violence in remote, often inaccessible regions, makes it all the more difficult for the local authorities, supported by the international community, to deliver life-saving assistance. We urge more attention to the regional dimension of the conflict in the Great Lakes, where heads of state could turn the page on a tragic history by boosting regional economic integration.

In Nigeria, 1.9 million people in Borno State cannot return home due to ongoing terror by non-state armed groups and terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa Province, which have no regard for international humanitarian law or the neutrality of those risking their lives to help. Case in point – over the past year, 15 humanitarian aid workers in Borno State were victims of heinous crimes carried out by terrorist groups. Constant insecurity prevents people from going to their farms or local markets, and from accessing health care and social services. Fear and violence also prevent humanitarian actors from reaching the most vulnerable populations.

In South Sudan, despite glimmers of hope, there has been little progress for the people since the Security Council last discussed conflict and hunger two years ago. The ongoing violence throughout the country, compounded by flooding, COVID-19, and access impediments leaves the lives of thousands in the balance. The scale and severity of acute food insecurity are dire and the highest levels recorded in South Sudan since 2014. We are also deeply concerned by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reports on the deliberate starvation of civilians, with parties to the conflict obstructing humanitarian aid on the basis of perceived ethnic or political identity. These acts may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. Food must never be used as a weapon of war.

In Yemen, the United States continues to be deeply concerned that the deteriorating economic outlook, Houthi interference in aid operations, and major funding gaps are driving higher levels of food insecurity. We reiterate our call upon the Houthis to cease interference in aid operations, and we call upon all donors to contribute further, and disburse funds to this emergency.

Mr. President, the United States remains proud to be the largest single humanitarian donor, including to the four countries of concern, which have received over $2 billion in aid in 2020 from the American people. In Yemen alone, the United States has responded with an additional nearly $200 million since the last Yemen pledging conference in June 2020. We thank those here today and other UN member states who have similarly contributed resources in support of the most vulnerable populations. We continue to urge donors who have not yet disbursed their 2020 pledges to do so expeditiously, as well as to consider additional financial support to avoid famine before it is irreversible.

The Trump Administration will continue to focus on this issue, and will continue to lead on this issue. I know the others members of this Council will join us. And we can make the world better by working together toward a common goal, and ending hunger and food insecurity for vulnerable populations around the world. And it is indeed a noble goal to work towards.

Thank you, Mr. President.