Forum Umanitario Europeo 2024: Discorso programmatico del Sottosegretario Generale per gli affari umanitari e coordinatore degli aiuti di emergenza, Martin Griffiths

Di seguito il discorso programmatico del Forum Umanitario Europeo 2024. Presentato dal Sottosegretario Generale per gli affari umanitari e coordinatore degli aiuti di emergenza, Martin Griffiths.

Congratulations, Excellency, thank you very much for inviting me to attend, participate, speak in this beautiful location. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here, the third one. Gets bigger every year. It’s a unique event. Huge thanks to the presidency, the Belgian people, the Belgian government, and thank you, of course, to Janez [Lenarčič], ECHO, EU for this opportunity.

We all share common goals, I think. We share the common goal of a peaceful, more humane world. And we all know the challenges. An age of war in which reaching for the gun is increasingly the first option. We see this in Ukraine, we see this in Sudan, we see this elsewhere. An age in which the United Nations, for example, is prevented from doing its job and is then criticized for not doing enough. We see this in Gaza. And an age in which gangs can run an entire country as we have seen in Haiti. It is shameful for all of us.

As international attention frantically races from one big crisis to the next, we are failing to resolve those that came before: Syria, Yemen – as I know – and Mali alone account for almost 35 years of war. Across the world, civilians and humanitarians are being killed in unconscionable numbers – and a moment of peace for the leadership of UNRWA and the tragedy of those who have fallen in Gaza.

Rampant food insecurity and malnourishment as humanitarian access is treated as optional, or indeed wielded as a weapon of war. Displaced people, as many of us who have had the awful privilege of seeing, languishing in host communities in camps for years, years on end. My most vivid example of that from travels this last year was in Rakhine State in Myanmar, where in a Rohingya camp a woman whose home was, I think, about 20 kilometers down the road, but she had been 12 years in that camp. Twelve years, three children – what did she ask for? Birth certificates for her children, the opportunity to return home. And yes, a livelihood, something beyond a dependency on aid.

Women and girls facing entrenched inequality and as has been said by Janez [Lenarčič] a pandemic, indeed, of gender-based violence. I grew up in the Congo, in your era, and the terrible facts of what is going on in the east of that country makes us wonder whether we share any common humanity. Soaring climate change, pushing more and more people towards the mouth of disaster.

And despite the valiant efforts of donors, huge credit to those here today, huge credit, Janez [Lenarčič] to you to protect humanitarian funding amid challenging economic times. I commend you for your protection, also for the pledges that you’ve announced today. We are facing an alarming funding crisis. For example, just pick one example. We are at present in Sudan, where we face the needs of 25 million people, 4 per cent funded for this year – 4 per cent after the first quarter, and I know Filippo [Grandi] would say the same for the needs of those in the neighbouring countries. We are all – and our colleagues in the field in particular – daily making extremely difficult decisions. Decisions about life and death, about what to fund, who to prioritize, a sort of godlike powers over the prospects for people.

I’m more convinced than ever, not just because of these crises, but also out of a sense of values, on the need for a step change in how we deliver assistance. This has to start with a more precise understanding of what people in crisis really need, not what we think they need, what they think they need. Many, as we know from many surveys, do not feel heard. We need to learn how to listen. Last year, we launched what I have perhaps ludicrously called a flagship initiative in four countries, to find this more collaborative approach. It’s more than that. It’s an approach which gives leadership to those people we intend to serve, not to lead, but to serve.

We need to become less reactive, more proactive, better at building community resilience by the community. That woman in that camp, 12 years, with no livelihood, and but an hour from her old home. We need – thanks to Germany also for their leadership in this – more anticipatory action, to help people get ahead of predictable crises, reducing humanitarian impact and cost. More flexible funding – we’ll be hearing this for the next two days – that gets support where it needs to go fast, including to local actors and groups directly. We have many mechanisms to do this, we can do more with those. And we need to distinguish and support and respect the leadership of women. Their organizations are to be supported locally, globally, so that we can help them to show us how better to do our work.

And more community investment across the board, particularly on tackling climate change, breaking down silos, to provide humanitarian support, alongside bridging development and climate finance. Breaking down silos in front of those communities, not in high level panels but in learning and listening together to the needs of those we serve, and passing between us those aspects to which we can produce a response.

This is a lot on our plate. We are trying to change the business model at a time, as we have heard, when the world has never been as bad, certainly in my long age, as it is today. We’re facing protracted complex political crises. We need that political will as has been said, we need it desperately. We must not be allowed to be left alone helping people, we must allow the people to go away from us back to their lives and to have, I believe still, the hope for the future.

Thank you so much.


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