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Humanitarians are beacon of hope amidst global turmoil: Guterres

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Addressing the 2024 Humanitarian Segment of the Economic and Social Council via video, António Guterres drew attention to the blatant disregard of the Geneva Conventions by warring parties worldwide.

Dubbed the rules of war, the Geneva Conventions and their optional protocols set out specific rules and standards for the conduct of parties involved in armed conflicts, and require specific protections for civilians, civilian objects and humanitarians.

Suffering everywhere

Mr. Guterres pointed to the wars in Gaza and Sudan that have claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives and driven countless more from their homes.  

The same “cruel pattern” of suffering is seen from Haiti to Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Myanmar, and beyond.

In most cases, there is no accountability … the perpetrators enjoy complete impunity
– Secretary-General Guterres

“In most cases, there is no accountability. The perpetrators enjoy complete impunity. Meanwhile, vulnerable communities and countries are being pounded by the humanitarian and economic impacts of the climate crisis,” he said.

Humanitarians the ‘ray of hope’

The UN chief highlighted that for millions suffering amidst crisis, the only “ray of hope” is humanitarian aid, often provided by the UN and partners on the ground, working to save lives and reduce suffering.

“Humanitarian workers represent the spirit of multilateralism and humanity; they are the face of our duty of care for our fellow human beings,” he said, adding that many relief workers are themselves attacked and even lose their lives.

“This is totally unacceptable,” Mr. Guterres said, pointing also to meagre resources for aid programmes. Midway into 2024, only $8 billion of the $48 billion required for aid efforts have been received.

Nations must step up

He called on UN Member States to commit to political solutions for conflicts and climate crises, champion international law and provide humanitarian funding.

He urged them to use September’s Summit of the Future to make bold commitments to ensure that people affected by humanitarian crises receive the assistance and protection they need.  

“It will take a holistic view of conflict, as set out in the New Agenda for Peace, and will seek to ensure that we can better address the root causes of all forms of violence in the 21st century,” he concluded.

UN vehicles were destroyed when armed fighters attacked the town of Monguno in Borno state, Nigeria. (file)

UN vehicles were destroyed when armed fighters attacked the town of Monguno in Borno state, Nigeria. (file)

Not just a slogan

Also speaking at the opening of the Humanitarian Segment, Joyce Msuya, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, applauded aid workers.

“I am in awe of frontline responders who continue to display astonishing levels of sacrifice, resolve and courage to reach people in their darkest hour … these people know exactly what it means to put humanity first, they do it every single day, no matter the cost.” she said.

She also highlighted the need for adapting and innovating humanitarian operations, including involving local organizations, fostering inclusive decision making and enhancing accountability.

2024 Humanitarian Segment

Since its inception in 1998, the Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) has served as a vital forum for advancing UN humanitarian efforts.  

The 2024 HAS, chaired by Ivan Šimonović of Croatia, will convene from 25 to 27 June at the UN Headquarters, in New York.  

Under the theme putting humanity first in the face of conflicts and climate change, discussions will focus on enhancing humanitarian assistance, respecting international humanitarian law, fostering innovation, and empowering women and girls in crisis response.

Video feed of the 2024 Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the Economic and Social Council.



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