Humanitarian Relief in Armed Conflict

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In situations of global armed conflict, civilians are in need of vital supplies, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in partnership with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict launched the “Oxford Guidance on the Law Relating to Humanitarian Relief Operations in Situations of Armed Conflict.” According to Mr. Dapo Akande, one of the authors, its aim is to continue execution of the laws within the document as they stand, but provide better clarity with regard to humanitarian relief operations in situations of armed conflict.

One of the biggest problems humanitarian organizations face is obtaining consent from parties involved in the armed conflict in order to conduct humanitarian operations within their territory. The Oxford Guidance addresses the responsibility of the states or parties to meet the needs of their civilian population. If civilians are not being adequately provided with essential supplies as a result of state neglect, consent for the humanitarian relief operations must not be arbitrarily withheld. In response, failure to meet such responsibilities by withholding consent or denying civilians access to humanitarian relief programs will subject the states or parties to being charged with war crimes.

Non-belligerent states must allow neglected civilians access to humanitarian relief as well. These states must “allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief supplies, equipment, and personnel.” These states may also have technical arrangements that allow them to search any of the supplies or personnel, so long as it does not delay progress within the humanitarian operations.

Meeting: “Oxford Guidance on the Law Relating to Humanitarian Relief Operations in Situations of Armed Conflict”

Date/Time/Location: 27 October 2016; 10:00 to 12:00; Conference Room 11

Speakers: Ryan Goodman, Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law; Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Chief of Policy Development and Studies Branch; Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Oxford; Emanuela-Chiara Gillard, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict

Written By: Leticia Murillo, WIT Representative

 

Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies

As part of the ECOSOC humanitarian affairs segment, a meeting was held to discuss how to respond to the needs of people in complex emergency situations. Beginning the meeting, H.E. Mr. Dabbashi, gave a statement on how to provide more sustainable solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs), and stated how partnerships between international and local actors must be strengthened in order for humanitarian aid to have the greatest effect.

Following, Ms. Amos, the USG for Humanitarian Affairs, stated that 75% of crises requiring humanitarian response are due to conflicts or complex emergencies, and 33.3 million people worldwide are displaced in their own countries due to conflict. Furthermore, she emphasized the importance of talking with armed groups in conflict zones in order for aid workers to be able to gain access to the effected civilians.Image

Next, Mr. Ramos Horta from the UN peacebuilding office spoke about how civilians oftentimes bear the brunt of casualties from conflicts, especially in Syria, Central African Republic, and Iraq. In these areas conflict and violence against civilians are leading to massive displacement, loss of livelihoods, restriction of movement, sexual violence, and long periods of insecurity. Mr. Ramos Horta emphasized that shifts in global geopolitical and economic power must be accompanied by a growing responsibility of these actors to respond to humanitarian crises, and that this humanitarian action must be complimented by more intensive investment in peacebuilding, conflict prevention, mediation of political settlements, and post conflict recovery.

Following, Mr. Al-Kholani spoke about the growing crises in his home country, Yemen, where thousands of IDPs are in vulnerable situations due to conflict. Yemen has created a single governmental authority, the Executive Unit for Internally Displaced Persons, to handle their IDP crisis. Dr. Philip Spoerri from the Red Cross then spoke about using the international humanitarian law (IHL) framework to protect civilians in armed conflict, and to restrict the flow of weapons. IHL imposes obligations on both state and non-state actors, and the biggest challenge to IHL is that in conflict situations it is often blatantly ignored.

 

Meeting Title: Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment: Panel Discussion on “Serving the needs of people in complex emergencies”
Speakers: H.E. Ibrahim O. Dabbashi (Libya), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council; Ms. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau; Mr. Ahmed Al-Kholani, Director of the Executive Unit of Internally Displaced Persons and Camps Management, Yemen; Dr. Philip Spoerri, Director for International Law and Cooperation, International Committee of the Red Cross; Mgr. Dieudonne Nzapalainga, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui; Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, President of the Islamic Council in the Central African Republic; Reverend Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, President of the Central African Republic’s Evangelical Alliance
Date: 25 June 2014
Location ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations HQ, New York
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability

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Today an event was held which highlighted how environmental sustainability is an integral part in humanitarian aid effectiveness. The panelists in this meeting discussed the findings from a report entitled “Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability.”

The first speaker, Ms. Gebremedhin, the Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland, began by addressing various environmental issues that need to be taken into account during humanitarian action, in order for it to reach its full potential. For example, management of solid wastes and hazardous materials and safeguarding natural resources are essential, and the reduction of deforestation, desertification, and pollution is necessary for sustained livelihoods in the aftermath of a disaster. Furthermore, efficient leadership and accountability are needed in humanitarian situations, and addressing environmental concerns is a shared responsibility between donors and humanitarian organisations.

Following, Mr. Khalikov, Director of OCHA Geneva, stated the effectiveness of humanitarian aid is dependent on environmental conditions. He cited floods and draughts as main environmental threats that can complicate an already existing humanitarian crisis, like a famine or armed conflict.

Ms. Anita van Breda from WWF USA spoke about combining climate change adaptation strategies with disaster risk reduction. She highlighted the Green Recovery Program – a partnership between WWF and the American Red Cross –, which works to sustain livelihoods, provide adequate water, sanitation, and shelter, and deals with disaster management. Her three key recommendations to take the environment into consideration when taking humanitarian action included: updating academic training and professional development, learning to manage change and developing new ways of learning, and ensuring that staff and volunteers have the necessary discipline, skills, and aptitude.

Concluding the meeting Ms. Costa, the Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission spoke about the threat faced by women and girls when they have to leave their refugee camps to collect firewood for cooking and heating. Many have to travel 5 or 6 hours a day to collect enough wood to cook just one meal, and on the journey are raped, beaten, or killed. Ms. Costa emphasised the importance of shifting communities away from dependence on wood fuel and towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable options in order to decrease the threat of this gender based violence and to reduce deforestation and resource overconsumption.

Meeting Title: Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability
Speakers: Ms. Anna Gebremedhin, Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland; Mr. Rashid Khalikov, Director of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Geneva; MS. Anita van Breda, Director of Humanitarian Partnerships, WWF USA; Ms. Sarah Costa, Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Commission
Location: Conference Room 5 NLB, United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 23 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

Humanitarian Crises in Colombia and Myanmar

Rakhine camp._(8288488088)Today in the Trusteeship Council a meeting was convened on the humanitarian crises in Colombia and Myanmar. Beginning the meeting, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Kang, gave a briefing on the situation in Colombia, which continues to be grave as the country faces various humanitarian challenges including natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, as well as widespread violence from armed conflict. Currently, there are over 5.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, with the biggest threats to human security coming from violence against women, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the use of land mines. She pointed out the importance of humanitarian relief funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), but urged donors to do more in supporting Colombia’s humanitarian needs.

Next, Mr. Hochschild, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Colombia, gave a statement about how decreases in poverty in Colombia have not been matched by decreases in inequality. He pointed out the three main dimensions of inequality that persist in Colombia, which are gender inequality, ethnic inequality, and geographic inequality. This inequality combined with ongoing conflict is only making the humanitarian situation in Colombia worse. Following, the Permanent Representative of Colombia spoke about how Colombia must overcome conflict in a sustainable way, so victims and survivors are at the center of the post conflict resolution process. She called for the support of the UN, and pointed out how war is a significant driver of poverty, and every opportunity needs to be taken to promote peace.

Next, Ms. Kang then gave a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, where thousands of people in Rakhine and Kachin states continue to rely on humanitarian aid, and are so far unable to rebuild their lives due to conflict. The IDP camps are in terrible condition, severely restrict freedom of movement, and seriously lack access to adequate health care, water, and jobs. Myanmar also suffers from regular earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, which contribute to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Concluding the meeting, the Permanent Representative of Myanmar spoke about the trust deficit that exists between the government and the donor community. He called for a human rights based approach to humanitarian aid, and an improvement of relations between Myanmar’s government and UN organizations/NGOs.

 

Meeting Title: “The Humanitarian Situation in Colombia and Myanmar” (Organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA))
Speakers: Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Resident and Coordinator for Colombia; H.E. Ms. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN; Mr. Kyaw, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN
Date: 18 June 2014
Location: Trusteeship Council, United Nations HQ, New York
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan