FEEDBACK – OCHA will appoint a new Special Adviser on the preservation of humanitarian space | July 30, 2021
Humanity & Inclusion welcomes the decision by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ask his incoming Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths to appoint a Special Adviser on the preservation of humanitarian space and access, and to strengthen humanitarian negotiations in this context. Since the beginning of 2021, 191 humanitarian workers have been killed, injured […]
Humanity & Inclusion welcomes the decision by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ask his incoming Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths to appoint a Special Adviser on the preservation of humanitarian space and access, and to strengthen humanitarian negotiations in this context.
Since the beginning of 2021, 191 humanitarian workers have been killed, injured or abducted. Attacks such as those against Médecins sans frontières in Tigray, Acted in Niger or People in Need in Afghanistan are just another in a long list of tragedies, the majority of which affect national humanitarian workers working on the front line and therefore more exposed to risk. Faced with this reality, on July 16, the Security Council, under the French Presidency held a briefing session on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the preservation of humanitarian space. Briefers included UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, ICRC Director General Robert Mardini, and Delegate Director for advocacy of Action Contre la Faim (ACF) Lucile Grosjean.
At the session, the UN Deputy Secretary-General announced the creation of a Special Adviser to OCHA on the preservation of humanitarian space and access. This announcement responds to a long-standing call of HI and a number of international NGOs. Ms. Grosjean, who delivered a speech endorsed by 19 organisations including HI, asked for humanitarian NGOs to work with OCHA to ensure that the Special Adviser will take into consideration their concerns, as well as those of local staff and local implementing actors.
Ms. Grosjean emphasized the Council’s inability to arrest the shrinking of the humanitarian space due to growing disdain for international humanitarian law as well as the inertia and deadlock of Council members, which threaten the lives of both those in need and those helping them. Too many times Council’s resolutions are not perceived as binding on the parties to the conflict and they do not hesitate to circumvent them.
We need swift condemnation followed by ambitious action when humanitarian space is ignored” said Ms. Grosjean.
Through the collective statement, the 19 organizations are calling the Council members for:
- The reaffirmation of an unequivocal support for principled assistance by ensuring that their decisions do not impede humanitarian space.
- The adoption of a systematic humanitarian exemption, excluding impartial humanitarian action from the scope of sanctions and counterterrorism measures. These exemptions are essential to ensure the provision of essential services in safety, to engage with all parties to the conflict without fear of prosecution and in accordance with humanitarian principles.
- The systematic and collective denunciation of all crimes against civilians, medical and humanitarian workers. Violations of international humanitarian law cannot go unanswered. They must be addressed within the Council and at the highest level by each member state.
- The prioritization of the fight against impunity for crimes against medical and humanitarian personnel. It must systematically demand and support national and international investigations, so that these crimes do not go unpunished.
During the session, Council members voiced concern over increasing attacks on humanitarian workers, stressing the need to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes in order to end the cycle of impunity. Many also highlighted the negative impact of sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism measures on the delivery of humanitarian aid and warned that such policies must not hinder the work of humanitarian organizations and workers. Others stressed the need to avoid politicization of humanitarian operations and while some recalled the primacy of national jurisdiction in protecting humanitarian workers, others called on the Council to play a greater role in referring cases to the International Criminal Court when States are unwilling or unable to prosecute offenders. Finally, some States recalled the need to respect the principles of humanitarian action and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Humanitarian aid should neither be a pretext nor a long-term action, as States remain the primary actors in the provision of aid and must be helped to address the roots causes of crisis.