United States Statement: UN General Assembly Humanitarian Debate

Courtney R. Nemroff
Acting U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Affairs Council
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 16, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations released the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2020. It paints a sobering picture of the challenges and human suffering we need to address in the year ahead.

Humanitarian needs are increasing amid disturbing trends such as prolonged and intensifying conflicts, exemplified by Syria, now in its ninth year of civil war, large-scale population displacement as a result of violent extremism, which we continue to see in Iraq, and increased attacks directed against humanitarian workers in emergencies like South Sudan. Needs are also being exacerbated by severe climate shocks in countries such as Chad and Niger, as well as large infectious disease outbreaks in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, bad governance, violence, and restrictions on civil society in countries such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela continue to drive food insecurity and exacerbate humanitarian crises.

According to the Global Humanitarian Overview released, in 2020, a record 168 million people will need humanitarian aid and protection. That is 36 million more than the overview released in December 2018. The UN and partners will require $28.8 billion to reach nearly 110 million of the most vulnerable people. The United States is the world’s largest humanitarian donor, providing over $9.3 billion in 2019. That figure represents nearly one-third of the $28.1 billion requested by the United Nations last year, and over 43% of the total money put forward for humanitarian needs as of November 2019.

Yemen is still the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Needs also remain high in Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Venezuela. In 2019 there were several underfunded Humanitarian Response Plans, including Venezuela (only 25 percent funded), Syria (only 36 percent funded), and Haiti (only 29 percent funded). This underscores the need for greater burden-sharing among donors. We are reassured to see other donors increasing their contributions; however, in the face of growing needs and suffering, we urge others to step up and do more.

The United States will continue to help people in their time of need. On average, the United States responds to over 65 disasters each year (more than one a week) in more than 50 countries, providing assistance to people affected by rapid-onset disasters—such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods—and slow-onset crises, including drought and conflict. USAID is also the largest provider of food assistance in the world. The United States has capabilities that no one else in the world has and is proud to use them in humanitarian emergencies for those who need it.

In addition to increasing financial resources and the number of partners sharing the financial burden, we must continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our humanitarian efforts, in part by supporting reforms in the international humanitarian system. This includes ensuring coherence between our humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development efforts; empowering local actors; improving transparency; and improving joint and impartial needs assessments. We must also press governments and parties to conflict to uphold their obligations under international law. This includes our longstanding work to keep the humanitarian consequences of crises such as Yemen and Syria on the agenda of the Security Council. In this respect, the United States and our partners will never allow voices of those suffering to be silenced or forgotten.

The United States is pleased to co-sponsor the resolution on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and the protection of UN personnel. This resolution sends 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 in urgent need.

In just the first nine months of 2019, there were 825 attacks against health workers and health-care facilities, resulting in 171 deaths. Attacks directed against civilians, including humanitarian workers, in armed conflicts reflect a callous disregard for human life and for international humanitarian law.

We proudly stand behind this resolution and convey our sincerest thanks and support to all humanitarian personnel working in many of the world’s most dangerous places. We are grateful for their extraordinary service and compassion. We call on Member States to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and to promote the protection of humanitarian workers.

The United States supports victims of gender-based violence and condemns exploitation of women and girls during emergencies. However, we would like to emphasize that sexual and reproductive health care should focus on health promotion and prevention, consistent with national legislation and policies, and not on abortion. We have thus proposed amendments to the operative paragraphs 58 and 59 of the humanitarian omnibus (A/74/L.34).

We have also proposed an amendment to operative paragraph 62 of the natural disasters resolution (A/74/L.31) to address these concerns.

Mr. President, the United States remains firmly committed to our multifaceted role as a leader in humanitarian action and diplomacy 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.

We request that this statement be made part of the official record of the meeting.

Thank you.