Economic and Social Council Focuses on Recurrent Crises, Food Insecurity, Displacement, in Lead Up to Humanitarian Affairs Segment
Convening the “Meeting on the Transition from Relief to Development” today, the Economic and Social Council held two round-table discussions to examine ways to strengthen coordination between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to address multidimensional challenges, including displacement, acute food insecurity and risk of famine.
In accordance with General Assembly resolution 75/290 A, the meeting focused on countries in situations of conflict, post-conflict and facing humanitarian emergencies. The event was co-chaired by Diego Pary Rodríguez (Bolivia), Economic and Social Council Vice-President responsible for the humanitarian affairs segment, and Miia Rainne (Finland), Economic and Social Council Vice-President responsible for the operational affairs for development segment.
The morning session focused on assessing the scale and impact of food insecurity and mobilizing collective action in the most affected countries and regions, while the afternoon session examined current and future challenges relating to displacement and discussed mobilizing action and support for durable solutions.
The discussion and main recommendations and action points will be encapsulated in a jointly prepared Co-Chairs’ outcome summary to be shared after the meeting to help inform future action.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 June, to begin its humanitarian affairs segment.
COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE, President of the Economic and Social Council, noted that the Meeting on the Transition from Relief to Development focuses on Haiti, South Sudan and the Sahel region. The participation of all relevant stakeholders, including the Peacebuilding Commission and the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, will allow for much-needed in-depth discussions to inform and guide country-level coordination and support. It is also to focus on building resilience and preparedness and improve the efforts of the international community to respond better to the transition from relief to development, as well as to deliver better results for improving the situation of countries on the ground including for countries in situations of conflict, post-conflict countries and countries facing humanitarian emergencies.
The Meeting also reinforces bringing together the communities across humanitarian, development and peace efforts, to strengthen collaboration and cooperation addressing the extraordinary challenges confronting humanity, he said. Citing the recent report of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance and the recent Global Report on Food Crises, he warned that three-quarters of a million people risk falling into famine or famine-like conditions in 2022 if they don’t receive assistance. Displacement is also at record levels, he pointed out, emphasizing, however: “It is not beyond our reach to address the food and displacement crises. The stakeholders here present, working closer together, can revert food insecurity and prevent more hunger and famine.”
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that some 193 million people experienced food insecurity across 53 countries or territories in 2021, stressing that acute food insecurity is at a record high. Moreover, the ripple effects of the conflict in Ukraine are extending human suffering far beyond its borders, threatening global hunger on an unprecedented scale. “We cannot continue with business as usual. The war in Ukraine has combined with the climate crisis, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unequal recovery to create a perfect storm of needs in developing countries,” she stressed. As new approaches and policies commensurate with the challenges are needed, the Secretary-General set up the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, convening United Nations agencies, international financial institutions and partners around that triple crisis.
In that regard, she said the international community must stabilize global markets, reduce volatility and tackle the uncertainty of commodity prices. There can be no effective solution to the global food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by the Russian Federation, into world markets, despite the war, she stressed. To avert a food availability crisis in 2023, fertilizer availability must be restored, especially for smallholder farmers. Immediate suffering must be alleviated through humanitarian assistance and by investing in social protection systems. Country-specific responses are also needed, she said, noting that revitalized United Nations country teams must support Governments to translate national pathways into concrete actions and policy interventions. “We will rise to the challenge of meeting immediate needs while supporting programmes that build long-term resilience at scale, or we will face even greater humanitarian crises down the line,” she said.
The Economic and Social Council then held a round-table discussion, titled “Recurrent crises and sustainable solutions: building resilience and addressing rising food insecurity”, moderated by Heli Uusikyla, Director of the Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Featured speakers were Maximo Torero, Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Robert Powell, Special Representative to the United Nations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission; Valerie Guarnieri, Assistant Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Robert Keith Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations and Chair of the Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti; Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel; Fernando Quevedo, General Manager of the Country Department for Central America, Haiti, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic, of the Inter-American Development Bank; Qingfeng Zhang, Chief, Rural Development and Food Security Thematic Group of the Asian Development Bank; and Laurence Gros, Deputy Country Director in Burkina Faso at Action Against Hunger.
Ms. UUSIKYLA, setting the stage for the panel discussion, underscored record inflation, rising interest rates and unmanageable debt. The poor and most vulnerable are suffering the most, she said. The hunger crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic is now worsening as food, energy and fertilizer prices skyrocket. Today, three quarters of a million people are now facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. The women among them are more likely to go hungry, while their risk of gender-based violence and other threats rises, she continued. Humanitarians are ready to do all they can, but commodity and fuel price hikes mean higher operational costs. The supply chains are disrupted and sanctions may complicate responses. She noted that while these challenges are daunting, they are not insurmountable. “We can act to end global hunger,” she said.
Mr. TORERO said conflict has been the major driver of acute food insecurity, interacting with other drivers, such as economic downturns and climate change. Stressing the importance of food supply resilience, he pointed out that as the Russian Federation and Ukraine have become key exporters of cereal commodities, many countries consequently are import dependent on them for cereal exports. Outlining other issues such as climate change, drought and water scarcity, he said that on the short-term, the international community must provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, including inputs and cash to maintain critical production systems. Support must also be given to countries’ balance of payments to minimize their risks. As well, action to achieve efficiency gains is needed to reduce waste of fertilizer use. In the medium- and long-term, scaled up action on climate resilience and economic resilience is needed to lower the cost of nutritious foods. The international community must develop a portfolio of actions involving accelerators of innovation, technology, science and better data, as well as institutions with inclusive processes, he said.
Mr. POWELL said the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has compounded the pandemic — creating a crisis upon a crisis — devastating lives, dragging down growth and pushing up inflation. One lesson from the 2007-2008 world food crisis is that the international community needs to take fast and well-coordinated actions by maintaining open trade, supporting vulnerable households, ensuring sufficient agricultural supply and addressing financing pressures. IMF is working with the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and others to provide policy advice, capacity development assistance, and financial support to catalyse and complement financing from other institutions. IMF’s trade policy tracker is monitoring restrictions on food and agricultural inputs, already identifying some 20 countries that have resorted to such practices since the start of 2022. These measures can only lead to retaliation by other countries, exacerbate shortages, contribute to price pressures and generate higher market volatility. Vulnerable middle-income countries and small island developing States, as well as low-income countries, are eligible for IMF’s new Resilience and Sustainability Trust. IMF is also intensifying efforts to support debt restructurings, and recently approved a strengthened strategy for engagement with fragile and conflict-affected States, which spells out how IMF will work with development, humanitarian and peace actors.
Ms. FATIMA said the Peacebuilding Commission underscores the need to act early to avoid acute food insecurity and famine risk, and ensure the proper functioning of food systems and markets as a critical element in addressing the root causes of conflict and poverty and building sustainable recovery. It is also important to pay attention to persistent regional inequalities. In the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin subregions, climate change and environmental degradation have exacerbated the root causes of food insecurity, she said, also noting that after sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest number of countries facing the triple crises of food, energy and finance. Between 2017 and 2021, the Peacebuilding Fund supported countries to tackle challenges related to transborder farmer-herder conflicts, land tenure and scarcity of natural resources. Furthermore, it supported climate change adaptation strategies with the full participation of women and youth. As the devastating effects of conflicts, challenging recovery from the pandemic and climate change have pushed the most affected countries further off track from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, national ownership and collective international collaboration is the key to successfully advancing the Goals.
Ms. GUARNIERI, noting that a record 49 million people in 46 countries are teetering on the edge of famine, said that all the research and analysis points to the need for actions and investments that help not only mitigate famine but also prevent it. “This is the only way that we can prevent deaths — and help families and communities to stand on their own feet without the need for external assistance,” she stressed. Noting that women contribute to more than 50 per cent of food produced yet account for 70 per cent of the world’s hungry, she said the root causes of gender inequalities must be addressed and the economic empowerment of females must be advanced as part of the global response to this global crisis, in order to achieve zero hunger. Noting the wide proliferation of initiatives and networks to address the crisis in Ukraine and its global impact, she urged the international community to “connect the dots” between them, identify comparative advantages, use limited resources efficiently and work in concert to address that crisis. For its part, WFP is scaling up to meet immediate needs with food and cash support, supporting nations to strengthen safety nets, and working with partners to restore degraded land, help communities adapt their livelihoods and build resilience in the face of climate and other shocks.
Mr. RAE said the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti consists of 19 Member States, including two new additions, the Dominican Republic and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Haiti is a country tested again and again by multiple challenges, including natural hazards, political instability, corruption and impunity, all of which threaten its sustainable development. He said he wished to say the situation had improved but unfortunately the contrary is true. He also highlighted the poor performance of agriculture and gang violence as aggravating Haiti’s plight. Attempts have been made to bring external solutions, which failed. Solutions must come from Haitians. Given these situations, the Group made recommendations, including the need to resolve the political crisis. Inclusive national dialogue is vital to create conditions for the holding of free, fair and credible elections, ensuring the participation of women and youth. Security must be restored, as gang activities are at the heart of the problem. There is a need to fight corruption. The international community must be mobilized to support Haiti’s long-term growth and investment in the agricultural sector. “Despair is not an option,” he said, adding that past failures do not prohibit yet another try.
Mr. DIEYE, United Nations Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, said the transition from relief to development is not an easy road and calls for a few prerequisites, including a set of political and economic preconditions, among others; the need to revisit patterns of production and consumption; and a security environment. “Time is against us. We must have a moratorium on studies and even on conferences and focus on action,” he stressed. Pointing to the Maputo Declaration and Malabo Declarations in Africa, he said the international community is not short of a policy framework to deliver food security but faces a deficit in implementation. In that regard, the primacy of agriculture and food security must be reaffirmed, not only on the food development agenda but also on the security agenda. Turning to financing, he said the energy with which the international community fought COVID-19 must be doubled to fight food insecurity, recommending that the Economic and Social Council declare a food pandemic. Various initiatives by United Nations agencies are already in place and just need to be scaled-up, he said adding that investments in the digital space could engage the youth in food production. Finally, the international community must shift from beneficiaries to agencies, he said, noting that public policies must benefit not only communities. The private sector must treat food security as a corporate social responsibility, he said, adding that where the private sector is investing in the country, they must also invest in food security.
Mr. QUEVEDO said that the latest global shock resulting from the war in Ukraine is exacerbating the sharp increase in food insecurity in recent years —driven by the pandemic and natural hazards — in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Inter-American Development Bank is working with its borrowing member countries with a two-pronged approach which aims to combine demand side support to maintain food consumption, with supply side incentives to maintain food production. On the demand side, it is key to strengthen social safety nets, including social protection programmes such as cash transfers. The Bank is preparing a $60 million cash transfer programme for Haiti to support vulnerable populations, as well as in Honduras, where food insecurity is rising fast. On the supply side, the region has been characterized in the past by having enough food availability. However, the Russian Federation-Ukraine conflict could undermine food availability in the region by altering production patterns in the upcoming seasons, particularly due to upward pressures on the prices of fertilizers and other inputs. Governments could provide agricultural vouchers that finance access to fertilizers or other technologies through market mechanisms. Several countries in the region have already implemented temporary reductions of import tariffs on agricultural inputs.
Mr. ZHANG said that to address the crisis in the short-term, ADB has responded with support for developing member countries facing acute food insecurity. In Sri Lanka, for example, ADB is repurposing existing sovereign projects of $200 million to address the social protection crisis, he said. ADB will strengthen its countercyclical support facility to provide fast disbursing financing to developing member countries to mitigate the impact of major shocks to food security. As well, ADB’s non-sovereign operations have been heavily engaged in responding to the food crisis to the tune of $2.2 billion, providing support for direct agribusiness lending for staple food working capital and liquidity in 15 developing member countries, among others. Moreover, the Bank is mitigating fertilizer shortages by supporting procurement where necessary and increasing efforts to improve fertilizer efficiency during usage. In the medium- to long-term, ADB is adopting three strategies to create future food systems that are stronger, more sustainable and equitable. It will step-up support for climate-smart agriculture across the entire agriculture and food value chains, including the blue economy. It is promoting digital transformation initiatives that can be applied to agricultural production and value chains and will introduce innovative financing mechanisms to scale-up nature-based solutions. For this purpose, ADB is in the process of developing an Innovative Natural Capital Financing Facility to attract natural capital investments to build better food systems as well as promote a more balanced diet.
Ms. GROS, recalling that she spoke in 2021 of the risk of famine and food insecurity due to compounded effects of conflict, the pandemic, social and gender inequalities, and climate change, said that the conflict in Ukraine in 2022 added another layer of desolation and risk of food insecurity, affecting hundreds of millions worldwide. She said that although food and security are high on the political agenda, she is desperate to see the results of solutions which have been put forward for years. The international community is going in circles again, she continued. The conflict exacerbated the food and nutrition crisis in Burkina Faso, she said, noting that in a country of 20 million people, 3.8 million are projected to become food insecure in the coming months, and 1.9 million are internally displaced. Food prices increased 41 per cent in a year. She called for efforts to recognize and tackle the root causes of hunger and food insecurity, including conflict, climate change, social and gender inequalities, lack of basic social services and food sovereignty, and a weak governance system.
Participating in the ensuing interactive dialogue were the representatives of the Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Morocco, United States, Haiti, Zambia, Indonesia, Thailand, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Norway and Argentina.
The Economic and Social Council then held a round-table discussion, titled “Recurrent crises and sustainable solutions: building resilience and addressing rising displacement”, moderated by Helena Fraser, Director of the Policy Programme Branch of the United Nations Development Coordination Office.
Featured speakers were Robert Piper, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement; Kelly T. Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees; Ugochi Daniels, Deputy Director-General, International Organization for Migration (IOM); Michael Köhler, Director-General a.i, Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid; Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, South Sudan; Rose-May Guignard, Présidente du Comité de Liaison Inter ONG, Haiti; and Tariq Ali Bakheet, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian, Cultural and Social Affairs and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, Acting Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, also delivered remarks.
Ms. FRASER, outlining the guiding questions for the second panel discussion, said it will seek to uncover actions needed across humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts to address rising displacement and build resilience. The discussion will also explore successful examples of joined-up approaches that reduce vulnerability, build resilience and achieve solutions for the internally displaced. It will aim to address how efforts and resources of the United Nations system, working together with Member States, relevant partners and affected people and communities, can be leveraged to advance durable solutions to internal displacement. As well, it will aim to explore, among other topics, how humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts complement one another to advance resilience and solutions to displacement from the outset of humanitarian emergencies, during emergencies, and after emergencies.
Mr. PIPER said over the last 10 years, the number of internally displaced persons has doubled, reaching 59 million globally. On 24 June, the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on Internal Displacement will be launched, building on the work of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement and identifying three distinct areas of action around prevention, humanitarian response and solutions. Noting that his own focus will be especially on the third area, solutions, he said he will work with Governments, resident coordinators and others to make concrete progress. He will support the systematic inclusion of displacement solutions in development financing, working with international financial institutions and bilateral donors to support more predictable financing - including through catalytic financing and sharing risk analysis and other relevant data. This will also include setting up a solutions window in the Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund. He will also step up and systematize the United Nations work on solutions by working with the world body’s agencies and entities related to humanitarian issues, development and peace, as well as climate and disaster risk reduction, to improve collaboration and strengthen internal capacities.
Ms. CLEMENTS said refugees, internally displaced persons and others who are affected by conflict form part of an at-risk population who should be systematically included in development-driven socioeconomic responses. Citing successful examples of such responses, she said the use of social impact bonds in Colombia — which has the world’s largest internally displaced population — is supporting a range of employment measures, including skills training, psychosocial support and job placement and retention services for vulnerable people. Also important is the strengthening of local capacity, she said, noting that in Honduras, for example, where gang violence and organized crime are leading causes of displacement, UNCHR and the country’s second-largest city adopted a more integrated approach to internal displacement at the municipal level. In addition, when addressing the needs of forcibly displaced populations, area-based approaches should target people in geographic areas based on their needs irrespective of their status, facilitating peaceful coexistence between communities. Outlining the shared characteristics of such interventions, she stressed that local solutions must be grounded in local knowledge and understanding. Moreover, where Governments show a willingness to address internal displacement, international actors must adopt a development-oriented approach, she said, noting that resident coordinators are well positioned to lead such efforts.
Ms. DANIELS said that, with almost 60 million people living in internal displacement and many of them in protracted situations, moving beyond responding to immediate needs and towards ending displacement sustainably is critical. The drivers and impacts of displacement as well as barriers to durable solutions are unequivocally multidimensional and include physical, social, economic, political and environmental factors, all of which are connected and interrelated. It is imperative to improve the international community’s understanding of the drivers of vulnerability, she said, adding that the Solutions and Mobility Index provides IOM, States and other stakeholders with a granular and solid evidence base for designing interventions. She also stressed the need to strengthen the collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace interventions and to address the common, but erroneous, narrative that the approaches of humanitarian, development and peace actions and actors are intrinsically defined by opposing values, practice and objectives. She also emphasized the need to adopt a conflict sensitivity lens in programming and to recognize the strengths of populations impacted by crisis and their leadership, emphasizing that evidence-based planning is the only way to improve the collective delivery of solutions.
Mr. KÖHLER, pointing to the steep increase in the number of internally displaced persons, said the international community is not living up to expectations. While refugees crossing national borders attract attention and become the target of international cooperation, internally displaced persons who did not cross borders are the most neglected. Recalling his visit to a “model” camp in Yemen, he said people lived there in harsh conditions. When he asked a woman about her most pressing need, he expected to hear pleas for health care, childcare, drinking water and sanitation. Instead, she told him that what is needed most is a job for her husband. As a humanitarian worker, what he could do on that front was limited. That episode made him better understand the need to employ a humanitarian-development nexus approach from the start, including by bringing together stakeholders across the different constituencies. “The glass is not half full yet,” he said, emphasizing the need for the two arenas to better complement each other.
Ms. GUIGNARD said Haiti has one of the highest levels of chronic food insecurity in the world. Some of that stress is in part due to lack of properly functioning public agencies, she said, adding that for the past year the country has experienced a high level of gang related violence, which is disrupting market, educational and health systems. For the first time in a long time, Haiti’s metropolitan areas are experiencing a massive displacement of populations due to gang violence. Turning to recommendations, she said what Haiti needs most is the provision of psychological services for women suffering gender-based violence. Resources must engage in action and processes that allow displaced people to regain their normal activities. It is also important to consider ways to incorporate incentives for operators to work across lines, she said, citing deep-rooted structural problems and stressing the importance of addressing them.
Ms. NYANTI said displacement in South Sudan constitutes the largest refugee crisis in Africa, with 2.3 million refugees from that country living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The drivers of displacement include flooding and drought, violence and such multidimensional factors as corruption, lack of rule of law and gender-based violence. Wau is the only place in the country so far where the State Governor launched a road map to end displacement, covering approximately 32,000 individuals. Turning to United Nations initiatives, she noted that refugees and returnees are engaged with the World Bank and UNCHR project to produce organic fertilizer. Since 2019, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has provided vocational training for thousands of internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees in training centres, she said, also citing other short- and longer-term interventions. Longer-term aims should envisage solutions that are owned by the whole-of-Government and whole-of-society. A humanitarian, development and peacebuilding nexus approach, with community participation and adaptive programming, is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, stressing the need for increased financing in that regard.
Mr. BAKHEET said nearly 193 million people experienced crisis-level or worse food insecurity in 2021, an increase of almost 40 million over the previous record in 2020, according to the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises. The situation is particularly alarming in Africa’s Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Noting that OIC and its agencies are committed to adapting their policies and action plans to key pillars in effective interventions, he said humanitarian and development solutions should go hand-in-hand, and humanitarian and development financing are complementary tools that need to be scaled up. There is a need to invest in qualitative data on food security to anticipate, prevent and mitigate risks. He also stressed the need to strengthen coordination and partnerships at the local, national, regional and global levels to facilitate support, capacity-building and training, as well as the sharing of best practices. A comprehensive response to food insecurity also requires a gender lens, he said, noting that food security and women’s empowerment are intertwined as the role of women is pivotal at all levels — from producing food to cooking it to ensuring that it reaches children. In that context, women-led organizations working to secure the food system should be particularly supported, he said.
Ms. MUDAWI said the way in which the international community responds to the Secretary-General’s call to Member States to deliver on their $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries — and to dedicate at least half of those funds to climate change adaptation and resilience — will determine whether it can effectively address the growing internal displacement challenge. Stressing that the climate crisis is a threat multiplier, she noted that in 2021 the World Bank warned that without stepped-up climate action, 216 million people may be displaced by climate-related disasters by 2050 in six subregions alone. That warning must drive home the urgency with which the international community invests in climate adaptation in countries that need it most, she stressed, pointing out that currently only 5 per cent of multilateral climate financing goes to adaptation. Of that amount, only around 5 per cent goes to the 15 countries most vulnerable to climate change. Although humanitarian assistance supports millions of internally displaced people, it is not enough to only meet their most immediate needs. “Without massively scaled-up climate adaptation, our work will only provide an increasingly inadequate band-aid to an ever-more gaping wound,” she cautioned.
Participating in the ensuing interactive dialogue were the representatives of the United States, Norway and Switzerland.