WFP Head Urges Business Leaders to Develop Smart Innovations in Fight against Hunger, Poverty, at Security Council Debate on Public-Private Partnerships
Against a backdrop of soaring global humanitarian needs fuelled by conflict, climate change and the impact of COVID-19, a new model for collaboration between public and private sector actors is needed to promote international security and tackle humanitarian needs, delegates heard today during the Security Council’s open debate on advancing public-private humanitarian partnerships.
Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking via videoconference, said the humanitarian sector is one of the world’s biggest growth industries, pointing out that war, economic turmoil, and increasingly, climate change and environmental degradation, are driving millions of people into poverty each year. Up to 783 million people do not know when — or if — they will eat again and 45 million under five years old are now estimated to have acute malnutrition, she reported.
“It’s time to rethink how we engage and find new models of cross‑sectoral partnerships,” she said, calling on business leaders to help develop the smart innovations and solutions required to build resilience and tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty, and on private enterprise to lead efforts to build essential infrastructure, supply affordable goods and services, and spur innovation. Detailing WFP’s partnerships with Mastercard, Amazon, DHL and other companies, to deliver assistance on the ground, she said: “When people and communities thrive, so do businesses.”
Jared Cohen, President of Global Affairs at Goldman Sachs, on that note, voiced hope that the Security Council can engage private sector stakeholders to rise to today’s challenges. Spotlighting the importance of sustained partnerships and local connections, he highlighted that Goldman Sachs, which has 45,000 employees in 42 countries, has deployed more than $2.2 billion in humanitarian aid, working with 9,400 non-profit organizations and impacting 140 countries. Recalling that businesses played a crucial role in Europe’s recovery during the Marshall Plan, he declared: “We are ready to do that again.”
Michael Miebach, Chief Executive Officer of Mastercard, concurred, stating that “the private sector stands ready to tackle the challenges at hand in partnership with the public sector.” The UN must be even more direct and deliberate in its outreach, so that actors can align on objectives, he said, underscoring the importance of structured public and private partnerships. Detailing how technology has facilitated the provision of life-saving assistance, he affirmed: “You have a willing and committed partner in the private sector. We just need to be engaged.”
In the ensuing debate, more than 30 speakers shared their views and suggestions on how the private sector’s role in response operations could be further strengthened, with many underscoring the importance of the knowledge and expertise, technology, financing and investment that companies can provide.
Igli Hasani, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, stressed the need for a greater and structured contribution by the private sector. The private sector can not only contribute funds, food and medicines but also offer access to cutting-edge technology, research and development, and operational capabilities, he said, presenting the concept of a private sector humanitarian alliance which can help mobilize resources more efficiently within the first few days of any crisis.
Malta’s representative underscored the importance of flexible financial contributions from the private sector, pointing out, however, that stringent safeguards must be put in place to ensure the legitimate origin of all funds. Private sector partners could provide more affordable and efficient communication systems and renewable-energy solutions to humanitarian organizations.
The speaker for the Republic of Korea said that public-private partnership can be used to bring private social entrepreneurs who leverage cutting-edge technology — such as artificial intelligence and blockchain — into the humanitarian-assistance domain. An example is the collaboration between WFP and Mastercard, he said, highlighting that the latter’s digital technology and electronic prepaid cards enabled millions of Syrian refugees to purchase food and other necessities without having to endure long waiting lines.
Other speakers spotlighted the positive outcomes of public-private partnerships in their countries, with Japan’s representative pointing to Fast Retailing, the parent company of UNIQLO, and its 12-year partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Fast Retailing has provided clothing to refugees and has implemented a sewing skills training project in Bangladesh, aimed at empowering 1,000 Rohingya refugee women by 2025, he said.
Poland’s representative said that, since the war in Ukraine started, his Government has cooperated with the private sector to transfer aid to that country and come up with logistical solutions, pointing to the temporary housing units for internally displaced persons constructed by a Polish company and assembled by Ukrainian companies, to the purchase by Poland of some 20,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine. Echoing other speakers, he stressed that humanitarian aid should be localized, as entities and businesses on the ground establish relationships with the communities more easily.
Several speakers, including those for the Russian Federation and Egypt, called on private sector actors providing humanitarian assistance to adhere to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.
South Africa’s representative also stressed that “we should prevent companies that are involved in conflict from engaging in humanitarian action to avoid the obvious conflict of interest”.
Brazil’s representative, meanwhile, reiterated the importance of resolution 2664 (2022) to address overcompliance to counter-terrorist financing regulations that impedes the provision of impartial humanitarian aid. In contexts where sanctions apply, the fear of criminal accountability has driven banks and companies to hinder the provision of neutral humanitarian assistance, he said.
Belgium’s representative, also speaking for Luxembourg and the Netherlands, underlined humanitarian aid principles and international humanitarian law in the context of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Spotlighting the sufferings in Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sahel, among others, he said: “There should not be a hierarchy among all these crises. They all deserve the same attention from the United Nations.” Some of the key elements of the Good Humanitarian Donorship could be taken on board by private actors, he added.
MAINTENANCE OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
CINDY MCCAIN, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking via videoconference, said that the humanitarian sector is one of the world’s biggest growth industries, pointing out that the relentlessly rising demand for the Programme’s services is happening across the United Nations and the wider humanitarian system. War, economic turmoil, and increasingly, climate change and environmental degradation are driving millions of people into poverty each year. Up to 783 million people do not know when — or if — they will eat again. WFP estimates that nearly 47 million people in over 50 countries are in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Phase 4 — just one step away from famine. Moreover, a staggering 45 million under five years old are now estimated to have acute malnutrition, she reported, warning that concurrent and long-term crises will continue to fuel global humanitarian needs, just as funding for humanitarian relief operations is drying up.
WFP has had to make the agonizing choice of cutting food rations for millions of vulnerable people, she continued, noting that more cuts are on the way. Pointing to the private sector’s contributions in reducing global poverty, bringing diseases under control and developing medicines and vaccines, she declared: “It’s time to rethink how we engage and find new models of cross-sectoral partnerships.” She called on business leaders to help develop the smart innovations and solutions required to build resilience and tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. Private enterprise must lead efforts to build essential infrastructure, supply affordable goods and services, spur innovation, expand skills and create new employment opportunities. In that regard, local businesses and private enterprise must be front and centre. WFP relies on the entrepreneurialism of private sector partners to help it deliver on the ground. Emphasizing that everyone benefits from this approach, she underscored: “When people and communities thrive, so do businesses.”
She went on to detail WFP’s work with partners such as Amazon, DHL and Takeda towards reinforcing its world-class supply-chain and logistics networks. Other private enterprises have helped improve its data analysis capabilities and food baskets’ nutrition, as well as remotely assess disaster zones via a satellite monitoring system. In 2022, WFP sourced 50 per cent of its food commodities locally and regionally, injecting $1.6 billion into local markets. "We are also the world’s largest humanitarian provider of cash and digital payments, distributing over $3.3 billion to 56 million vulnerable people in 72 countries last year,” she pointed out, noting that Mastercard shared its payments and technology expertise with WFP to help it improve and scale up its systems for delivering digital food vouchers. The Mastercard team has been supporting WFP’s mission to end hunger ever since they joined forces over a decade ago, she added.
In fragile places, the private sector is often what keeps extremely vulnerable populations afloat, she said. Yet, this also leaves them the most vulnerable to shocks like the war in Ukraine or sanctions regimes. Council members should be resolute in using the Council’s powers and influence to create the broader conditions that will allow public-private partnerships to flourish. Governments must use their convening power and public policy levers to create a conducive environment for public-private partnerships, and international financial institutions must support these efforts with capital finance. “We need the private sector to step up and embrace their responsibility to help build the societies that enable their enterprises to succeed,” she stressed, underscoring that private sector profitability can, and must, go hand-in-hand with the Sustainable Development Goals.
JARED COHEN, President of Global Affairs at Goldman Sachs, pointed out that the meeting follows a crisis that happened 760 days ago, 7,000 miles away, when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Recalling that hundreds of thousands of Afghans were put at risk, he said: “Most had nowhere to go. Much of the world closed its doors.” He recognized the assistance provided by Qatar’s and Iraq’s high-level officials in evacuating, resettling and transporting refugees, also noting that, around the world, “countless” chief executive officers and individuals with no business interests or connections covered planes, resettlement and living expenses for those people. He also outlined that many of today’s crises would look familiar to the leaders who founded the Security Council 78 years ago, but others are newer, including cyberattacks, climate change and lethal drugs, such as fentanyl.
“Our historic institutions must rise to today’s challenges,” he stressed, expressing hope that the 15-member organ can engage private sector stakeholders to that end. Underscoring that many challenges in today’s “era of great Power competition” cannot be solved by great Powers alone, he pointed to the “geopolitical swing States” — stable and thriving countries that have a global agenda, the will and the capacity to turn those agendas into reality. He recalled that Japan’s Prime Minister has not only pledged more than $7 billion in aid to Ukraine, but his statements of support and his visit to Kyiv have changed “how much the world thinks about the war”. In many instances, “geopolitical swing States” offer new leaders, who better represent a changing world with flexible resources, diplomatic leverage and credibility.
“The largest employers in the world are not just Governments — they are also businesses,” he underscored, noting that five American companies have more than 500,000 workers. Recognizing that globalization has put the private sector at the geopolitical table, he spotlighted the importance of sustained partnerships and real-time innovation. To that end, Goldman Sachs has deployed more than $2.2 billion in humanitarian aid, working with 9,400 non-profit organizations and impacting 140 countries. “Local connections matter. Goldman Sachs relies on our people,” he emphasized, reporting that it has 45,000 employees in 42 countries. Recalling that the White House has announced it would welcome more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees — a historic objective — he said that the technological knowhow to make that happen is in the private sector. For this reason, working with “Welcome US”, Goldman Sachs’ engineers built “Welcome Connect” — a platform to match American sponsors with Ukrainian refugees.
“Our business is business. It makes everything I said possible,” he stated, noting that his company works through global markets to allocate capital where and when it is needed. Recognizing that the private sector cannot do what Governments do, he said that business is still a part of the solution and economic growth is the foundation of sustainable recovery. “We’ve done this before. During the Marshall Plan, businesses played a crucial role in Europe’s recovery. We are ready to do that again,” he asserted.
MICHAEL MIEBACH, Chief Executive Officer of Mastercard, affirmed the shared belief that businesses cannot succeed in a failing world. Humanitarian relief has long been the domain of Government, philanthropic and development institutions, while the private sector was seen as a source of financial donations for supplies and in-kind aid. “That has changed,” he stated, as “the private sector stands ready to tackle the challenges at hand in partnership with the public sector” — further encouraging the UN to be even more direct and deliberate in its outreach. When like-minded groups come together, they can align on objectives, he said.
However, he cited the example of India’s COVID-19 surge in the spring of 2021, when many companies rushed in to help — but were working in silos. As a result, he recalled, the Government and non-governmental organizations had to identify what the needs were. From there, roles could be assigned so that the right impact — doctors, field hospitals, beds and respirators — could be delivered. “With structured public and private partnerships, we can see one plus one equal three,” he stressed. Further emphasizing the transformational power of technology, he noted that it “is not simply an app”, but a tool that can serve as a foundation and infrastructure to do more. There must be a deep understanding of the local context — an approach that has helped the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and others implement digital cash and voucher-assistance programmes — which “have since become a fast, transparent, secure and more effective way to deliver life-saving assistance at the last mile”, he stated.
The value of technology is also in making the complex simple, he said, noting that when a natural hazard strikes, data can direct people to the services they need. After the recent Hawai’i wildfires, data helped people find nearby fuel stations and other businesses that were still open. He urged partners to leverage generative artificial intelligence and other emerging technology in such efforts. Turning to capacity-building, he noted that in the Global South, 80 per cent of the agricultural industry are smallholder farmers. He cited the example of Christina Kibonde, a coffee farmer in Uganda, whose family, for generations, was dependent on middlemen to reach buyers, with a limited view about market prices. A technology platform called Farm Pass created new access, and technology ensured she is digitally included — and today, she is connected directly with buyers, negotiating the best price for her beans.
Millions of other smallholder farmers are activating this platform, he emphasized. He called for investment in local capacities like education, financial literacy, cybersecurity skills and more — and ahead of time, not only in response to emergency scenarios. “When we are successful in this effort, we will enable more people to create more opportunities for the long-term,” he stressed. Even with our collective effort, “we will not be able to stop disasters from happening” — but partnerships can help more people prepare and be resilient, having a say in their future. “You have a willing and committed partner in the private sector,” he affirmed. “We just need to be engaged.”
IGLI HASANI, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in its 2023 mid-year review of the Global Humanitarian Overview, the United Nations assessed that nearly $55 billion is needed to assist 249 million people. “Year after year, crisis after crisis, we are faced with a shortage of funds and available aid, despite the generosity of donors,” he said, stressing that a greater and structured contribution by the private sector can go a long way towards addressing this pressing shortfall. The private sector can not only contribute funds, food, and medicines but also offer access to cutting-edge technology, research and development, and operational capabilities. His country first started exploring the possibility of greater private-sector involvement in humanitarian operations when it welcomed thousands of Afghan men, women and children in 2021. Albania, a small country, does not have the resources and infrastructure needed for offering shelter, in dignified conditions, to such large numbers of people.
However, working closely with Schmidt Futures and the Yalda Hakim Foundation, his country managed to conceive a new model of humanitarian operations, he reported, adding: “We saw first-hand how efficient the private sector can be in providing humanitarian assistance and the essential logistical support in a timely manner.” It was out of this experience that the idea for a public-private humanitarian partnership was born. A private sector humanitarian alliance can help mobilize resources more efficiently within the first few days of any crisis in full compliance with the UN principles of humanitarian aid. Advancing the idea of this partnership is not only necessary, but the right thing to do. “By working together, we can maximize the impact of assistance, save more lives and build resilient communities in the face of adversity,” he said.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said that, today, global humanitarian needs driven primarily by conflict and climate change are placing unpredicted pressure on the global humanitarian architecture. As such, twenty-first century humanitarian action will require a realignment of its operating modalities, she pointed out, noting that the private sector can play a central role in providing technological support, resources and sustainable solutions to humanitarian challenges. Flexible financial contributions from the private sector would go a long way in bridging the current gaps in humanitarian response plans across the globe. However, stringent safeguards must be put in place to ensure the legitimate origin of all funds, she asserted. Outlining numerous ways the private sector can immediately contribute to humanitarian efforts, she said that private sector partners could provide more affordable and efficient communication systems and renewable energy solutions to humanitarian organizations. This would significantly enhance humanitarian operations in regions with poor connectivity and infrastructure.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said public-private humanitarian partnerships must no longer be considered simply as useful additions to the core of humanitarian work, but as a crucial part of that work. Noting that her country has been developing a digital platform to support Governments’ ability to better harness international support in the wake of natural hazards, she said that digital tool, by serving as a central information exchange and integrating advances in artificial intelligence, could be used by disaster-hit countries to specify the types and quantities of aid needed at specific locations. Her country looks forward to working on this with Governments, the private sector and humanitarian organizations in the coming months to launch a new tool to turbo-charge the international community’s crisis response capabilities. Moreover, a new public-private initiative between companies in her country and Africa50 aims to deploy $4.5 billion to accelerate clean energy projects across the African continent.
ZHANG JUN (China) noted that multinational corporations have benefited from developing countries’ resources and markets and thus bear the responsibility to help relevant countries out of their humanitarian predicament. However, the participation of the private sector should not lead to Governments cutting their investment or shifting responsibility. Further, public and private institutions should stick to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs and should not attach any political preconditions to their aid. “At the Security Council, there has been constant controversy over the issue of humanitarian access,” he observed, advocating against complicating simple issues and politicizing issues. He also stressed that the private sector should be more relevant to the actual needs "of the countries concerned. “For some time, international humanitarian assistance has been overly focused on certain countries. For the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Somalia, Haiti, South Sudan and the Sahel, humanitarian assistance in those countries or regions are severely underfunded,” he stressed, calling for resources to help all countries in need. He also urged that more importance be given to economic development. The international community should jointly urge relevant countries to immediately lift unilateral sanctions, eliminate their negative effects and create favourable conditions for international humanitarian actions, he added.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) outlined the Brazilian Government’s existing private sector partnerships to integrate refugees and migrants, including by creating a database of migrants’ curricula vitae for companies to directly search for employees. In addition, it has set up a private donor fund to partly finance the Interiorization Strategy which has relocated more than 100,000 migrants to nearly 1,000 Brazilian cities that offered better opportunities for socioeconomic integration. He also reiterated the importance of resolution 2664 (2022) to address overcompliance to counterterrorist financing regulations that impedes the provision of impartial humanitarian aid. In contexts where sanctions apply, the fear of criminal accountability has driven banks and companies to hinder the provision of neutral humanitarian assistance. Ultimately, “public-private partnerships are already a reality on the ground and exist out of sheer necessity”, he pointed out, adding: “A whole-of-society approach to humanitarian aid strengthens our power to assist people in the grip of conflict, natural disasters and forced displacement. Let us make full use of this powerful tool.”
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), expressing her condolences to the peoples of Morocco and Libya, stressed that, with these recent losses of lives and global humanitarian needs soaring, the role of the private sector is becoming increasingly important. An example of a public and private partnership was the removal of over 1 million barrels of oil from the decaying Safer tanker in Yemen to avert a catastrophe. Outlining three ideas for public-private partnership, she called for bringing together all efforts to sustain peace, including the development of “peace bonds”. She urged that all tools be engaged in order to get ahead of crises before they hit. In this regard, she voiced support for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) risk-transfer mechanism which would unlock $22 million of private funding in humanitarian crises to reach an additional 6 million people. She also emphasized supporting humanitarian responses through new technology, adding that the United Kingdom has invested in mobile innovation funds that have supported the rapid treatment of cholera, reducing its detection time from three days to just 30 minutes.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), underlining the necessity to reinforce humanitarian aid through public-private partnership, spotlighted several examples by his country’s private sector, including Fast Retailing, the parent company of UNIQLO, and its 12-year partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Fast Retailing has provided clothing to refugees and has implemented a sewing skills training project in Bangladesh, aimed at empowering 1,000 Rohingya refugee women by 2025. He also spotlighted other initiatives, including the Japan Bank for International Cooperation’s support of humanitarian efforts for displaced Ukrainians resulting from the Russian Federation’s unlawful aggression against Ukraine. The Bank provided guarantees for the issuance of Samurai bonds amounting to ¥93 billion by the Polish Development Bank for medical care, education, housing facilities and social security. The private sector is eager to support the Sustainable Development Goals, he emphasized, also drawing attention to the meeting of the Japanese Business Federation with various UN agencies, as well as the Japan Sustainable Development Goals Award for private companies. “Neglecting humanitarian needs, which may further destabilize fragile regions and exacerbate conflicts, helps no one, whether in the public or private sphere,” he stated.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), noting that 360 million people globally require humanitarian aid, spotlighted the $45 billion financial deficit for such assistance. Humanitarian needs are growing at the exact pace at which available financial resources are shrinking, he said, adding that sometimes financing is allocated in a manner detrimental to “almost forgotten wars”. Welcoming the $150 million mobilized for 14 Sahel countries through the Emergency Fund, he added that Gabon has contributed $2 million to UNHCR to support two countries in Central Africa. He also highlighted that only 30 per cent of all financial needs are met, underscoring the importance of partnerships with financial institutions. In this regard, he called for bolstering synergies between UN specialized agencies, the private sector and research institutes in providing data, technical capacity and monitoring tools to prevent conflict, emphasizing: “Science must be used to assist decision-making processes.”
PASCALE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) noted that with the world in the grip of more than 100 armed conflicts, the number of people with humanitarian needs has more than quintupled — while in 2022, only half of those needs were funded. The Security Council is on the front line, but humanitarian needs can be reduced through investing more in anticipatory action, “and if we work in partnership”, she affirmed. New technology plays an important role, making early warning systems more effective, while a stable and secure Internet connection is crucial, she stressed. Further, taking full advantage of technological innovation requires stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors. She cited Switzerland’s long experience in this area, emphasizing that local actors must be at the centre of any humanitarian response, better integrating their expertise and networks. Despite the progress made over the last 10 years, she emphasized that the potential of public-private partnerships still remains under-exploited.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) praised the significant increase in private sector participation in humanitarian initiatives over the past 15 years, citing the response to the war in Ukraine as an example of what can be envisioned in the future. He applauded the signing of conventions in France and across Europe with businesses that are keen to contribute to humanitarian initiatives, such as the School Meals Coalition. It is the world’s collective duty to be innovative and think of the modernization and effectiveness of humanitarian action, he underscored. The private sector can be a valuable partner not only in the response, but also in the prevention and forecasting of crises. At the same time, a number of questions need to be addressed, such as ensuring that all parties respect the principles of humanitarian law to avoid deadweight costs, he stressed.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), highlighting the 30 per cent increase in people requiring humanitarian assistance, warned that the gap between humanitarian need and financial resources available continues to widen, with the recent release of $125 million from the Central Emergency Fund as proof thereof. To step up humanitarian efforts, the private sector can play a vital role, especially in light of its capacity for innovation. Observing that the private sector is often among the first to respond to humanitarian emergencies on the ground, he called for enhancing that sector’s strategic commitment to humanitarian, development and peace agendas. He also urged that the normative framework governing the relationship between the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the private sector be strengthened. The Black Sea Initiative serves as an example of a successful cooperation between multiple stakeholders, he pointed out.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said that from the recent fight against the pandemic, to efforts to eradicate endemics such as malaria, to the conquest of some of humankind’s last frontiers, public-private partnerships have proven their worth. The humanitarian sector should not be an exception. The private sector can magnify the impact of humanitarian assistance in finance, logistics and technology. However, Governments hold the primary responsibility for supporting their affected communities. Partnerships should not overshadow or diminish a Government’s fundamental duty to care for its citizens during crises. His country created the National Institute for Disaster Management in 2020 under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It evolved into a fully autonomous and legally independent entity, pioneering various aspects of integrating public-private partnership, enhancing coordination and guaranteeing quick delivery. Now it is at the forefront of building resilience in the face of climate challenges and other nature and human-made emergencies.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that Ukraine remains the leader in attracting donor attention. The UN has already provided $1.83 billion in humanitarian assistance to Kyiv. This is more than its aid to Syria and Afghanistan. The independent economic and agricultural development of African States has been deliberately limited for decades by the former colonial Powers. Against this backdrop, Western donors have no choice but to shift financial responsibility to others for the crises they unleashed across the world. While acknowledging the benefit of bringing in business in humanitarian operations, he stressed that it is, however, imperative to obtain the consent of Governments and strictly adhere to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence in providing humanitarian assistance. Welcoming competition among suppliers of humanitarian goods and services within the framework of UN procurement activities, he called for greater transparency in selecting providers. The West’s so-called “humanitarian exemptions” from sanctions do not work because businesses fearing punitive measures choose not to participate. Albania, in its concept note for today’s debate, cites the Black Sea Initiative as the only successful example of public-private partnership. But, that agreement is not humanitarian in nature, he said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) spotlighted the application of emerging technologies to anticipate needs and facilitate the reach and effectiveness of humanitarian responses. In addition, he encouraged public-private partnerships at the regional level to diversify capabilities, create resilience and nurture home-grown solutions — including through frameworks established by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Further, he stressed the need to prioritize investments that address the root causes of growing humanitarian needs, including structural and institutional drivers affecting governance and development. In this regard, he reiterated support for the Peacebuilding Commission’s continuing role in helping countries resolve fragilities from conflict, climate change and COVID-19. He also called for all segments of society — especially women and youth — to be at the forefront of national processes. Noting a staggering gap of $39 billion for humanitarian responses, he urged that new opportunities be explored to assist those most in need.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that the world’s most vulnerable are in a moment of great peril, with humanitarian needs growing at a blistering pace and a gap between funding provided and UN-assessed needs standing at nearly $40 billion. In this context, she pointed to recent catastrophic flooding that swept through Libya, claiming thousands of lives, as well as the devastating earthquake that rocked Morocco. Recalling her trip to Chad’s border with Sudan, she said that refugees were deeply traumatized and children and babies severely malnourished. Humanitarian workers need the international community to provide them with more resources. “This moment calls for bold action,” she said, underlining the need to think holistically about ways to address protracted crises. In places like Haiti, where gang violence is impeding humanitarian access, the private sector is playing a vital role. Further, the private sector has stepped up to provide aid to Ukraine’s people. It also contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the earthquake response in Türkiye. She emphasized that the public sector must do more to proactively work with the private sector.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said the approach to addressing the root causes of growing humanitarian needs must ensure complementarity between achieving sustainable development and setting conflicts and humanitarian crises. Underscoring the need to support States hosting growing numbers of migrants and refugees who have left their homes due to humanitarian crises, he said his country, which is hosting 9 million migrants and refugees from 58 countries, ensures that that they are being provided with basic services. He called for international support so that efforts of countries like his are made sustainable. The private sector must play a bigger role in bridging the funding gap between donors’ contributions and the needs of humanitarian operations, he said, pointing out that the provision of humanitarian assistance should ensure full commitment to the principles of humanitarian work, namely neutrality, independence, non-politicization and non-interference in the internal affairs of recipient countries.
MERVE KARATEPE (Türkiye) said that Ankara has capitalized on its enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, while also advocating for global cooperation and multilateralism. In 2016, it hosted the first-ever humanitarian summit, which served as a unique platform for Governments, United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Spotlighting Türkiye’s key role in the Black Sea Initiative — that has ensured the export of over 33 million tons of grain and foodstuffs through commercial vessels, she added: “The Initiative has proved to become a ‘textbook example’ of good public-private humanitarian partnership.” In this regard, Ankara continues its efforts for the resumption of the Initiative. More so, it is a co-founder of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Istanbul International Centre for Private Sector in Development and a host of the Technology Bank for the least developed countries. The country’s long-term recovery vision, set in the aftermath of the earthquake, is based on the principle of building back better, she added.
MARTHINUS CHRISTOFFEL JOHANNES VAN SCHALKWYK (South Africa) noted that, while his country’s humanitarian risk profile is primarily weather-related, “we also focus on providing humanitarian assistance in conflict-induced humanitarian contexts”. He called for support for UN-led humanitarian responses that ensure respect for the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. He further stressed that “we should prevent companies that are involved in conflict from engaging in humanitarian action to avoid the obvious conflict of interest”. The private sector can mitigate against the occurrence of conflict-driven humanitarian crises through clear arrangements and procedures on the distribution of humanitarian assistance. Areas of focus include: the distribution and mobilization of resources; the creation of new finance mechanisms for humanitarian relief in collaboration with relevant agencies; the establishment of sustainable financing mechanisms, such as risk transfer or insurance, to enhance resilience within States; and the provision of enhanced technology for effective responses.
HEDDA SAMSON, Deputy Head of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, said that the combined impacts of climate change, rising food prices and armed conflicts worldwide, including the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, have pushed humanitarian needs to unprecedented levels. The international community should find creative new ways to address this gap and achieve a more balanced funding structure. Involving private sector actors, in partnership with traditional public sector actors, can improve the humanitarian response in two ways: logistics and financing. One example is the Logistics Emergency Team comprising four of the largest global logistics and transportation companies. It provides pro bono support for emergency response and large-scale natural hazards.
Noting that blended finance — combining public-sector donations with private-sector investment — has been used extensively in development cooperation, she said that this practice can be expanded in humanitarian contexts with long-term needs, where market-building and recovery can replace emergency financing. The European Commission first committed to exploring humanitarian blended finance in its 2021 Communication on Humanitarian Aid. The Commission has launched pilot projects to demonstrate how humanitarian grants can attract private investment in fragile contexts in 2022.
MAURIZZIO MASSARI (Italy) stressed that the private sector “can come to the rescue” regarding the underfunding of humanitarian initiatives. Foundations have a large potential to lead and encourage private investments in the humanitarian sector, and public-private cooperation is the only way to overcome the overarching funding issue. In addition, it can provide the technological added value of solutions that can only be designed by the private sector. The international community needs to be faster, more effective and less risk-averse — all aspects where the private sector may contribute, he pointed out. In that regard, the private sector is essential to address and minimize the humanitarian consequences of conflicts, climate change and environmental risks. To be successful, all parties need to work collectively before, during and after the crisis. “We need to act now,” he stressed, underscoring that public-private humanitarian partnerships are one of the ways to act.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia) stressed that forging partnerships between the public and private sector is essential to address today’s numerous and simultaneous challenges. “Such collaborations can serve as a vital complement, pooling expertise and tapping into new and existing resources,” he emphasized, pointing out that the burden cannot be borne by individuals or States alone. Slovenia actively supports the further development of public-private partnerships in humanitarian affairs, as outlined in its newly adopted guidelines for cooperation with development and humanitarian non-governmental organizations. In humanitarian assistance, Slovenia emphasizes food security, access to drinking water and the fight against gender-based violence. In that regard, his country has initiated projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, including Uganda, South Sudan, and Lebanon. However, while public-private partnership can lead to cost reduction and increase the quality of humanitarian aid, he emphasized: “We must always prioritize the well-being and interests of people.”
JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea), highlighting the widening gap between humanitarian needs and the funding required to address them, stressed that the increasingly complex nature of humanitarian crises necessitates greater engagement from the private sector, with its resources, experience, advanced technology and logistics capacities. Further, public-private partnership can be used to bring private social entrepreneurs who leverage cutting-edge technology — such as artificial intelligence and blockchain — into the humanitarian-assistance domain. An example is the collaboration between WFP and Mastercard, he said, adding that the latter’s digital technology and electronic prepaid cards enabled millions of Syrian refugees to purchase food and other necessities without having to endure long waiting lines. Additionally, IKEA’s partnership with UNHCR has been crucial in delivering 80,000 innovative housing units to displaced people in 80 countries worldwide.
CHRISTINA MARKUS LASSEN (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said those five countries have a long tradition of providing humanitarian relief and are frequently among the top humanitarian contributors globally. All can do more to create synergies and further collaborate with the private sector, she emphasized, highlighting that the Black Sea Initiative is an example of the public and private sectors coming together to avoid a further deterioration of the global food crisis. She deplored, however, the Russian Federation’s decision to withdraw, calling on Moscow to resume participation in the Initiative.
Noting that the private sector creates 90 per cent of job opportunities in the developing world, she emphasized that further developing local economies benefits and empowers communities and reduces dependency on humanitarian aid. Coordinated action among all relevant actors is needed given the growing complexity of today’s humanitarian emergencies, she added, stressing the need for an inclusive humanitarian architecture that enables the meaningful participation of the private sector. “Our programming and operating models should, where relevant, streamline private sector engagement across sectors and provide openness and predictability on opportunities for collaboration,” she emphasized. This is especially important in the context of the commitment by the countries for whom she speaks to develop localized solutions that truly engage and empower communities for the benefit of peace and security, she added.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that public-private partnerships provide a unique collaboration platform for multiple stakeholders. Governments enact the legal and regulatory framework, civil society contributes to conflict resolution and humanitarian aid and the private sector offers resources, technology and innovation. However, it is essential to strike a balance between interests, maintain ethical standards and ensure accountability for these partnerships. Recalling the collaboration of national disaster-management agencies with multiple stakeholders, she spotlighted a provincial authority’s partnership with local businesses to mitigate the impact of Cyclone Fani in 2019. Additionally, the country has been a reliable first responder in humanitarian- and disaster-relief situations through its operations in Sudan, Türkiye, Afghanistan, Yemen and Ukraine. “Our actions are rooted in the ethos that views the world as one vast family,” she emphasized.
CARLA MARÍA RODRÍGUEZ MANCEA (Guatemala) said that achieving peace and prosperity in a world where threats reign requires that Member States find new ways to act collectively and cooperatively, adapting to today’s realities. It is vital to strengthen the humanitarian response architecture of public-private partnerships, including those that involve innovation, research and entrepreneurial effectiveness. She cited the Black Sea Initiative, which guaranteed global food security and alleviated global hunger with special emphasis on those regions in conflict — voicing regret that the Russian Federation has put an end to it. The integration of new digital technology or advances in medicine or satellite mapping are essential for the quality of the humanitarian response. In that vein, research and business development are a determining factor in protecting the most vulnerable and acting immediately to save lives, and improve the security environment and humanitarian response.
KARL LAGATIE (Belgium), also speaking for Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and aligning with the European Union, underlined the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and international humanitarian law in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and Moscow’s recent withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which directly affects global food security. He also spotlighted the sufferings in Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sahel, along with many other places. “There should not be a hierarchy among all these crises. They all deserve the same attention from the United Nations,” he declared, adding that some of the key elements of the Good Humanitarian Donorship could be taken on board by private actors.
This includes the protection of civilians, strengthening the capacity of affected countries and local communities, he continued. Such efforts should aim to provide humanitarian assistance for recovery and sustainable development, supporting the central and unique role of the United Nations and ensuring predictability and flexibility in funding to the United Nations and other key humanitarian actors. He also voiced support for innovative approaches, such as the first "Humanitarian Impact Bond", a financial instrument to encourage social investments by the private sector to the benefit of victims of conflicts, as well as humanitarian innovation accelerators and humanitarian hackathons involving multiple actors from new technologies. He further welcomed the creation, last month, by the Secretary-General of an Advisory Board on Science and Technology.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the unprecedented global challenges caused by armed conflict and natural hazards culminate into a catastrophic humanitarian crisis to which the international community must respond. Her country is at the forefront of efforts to provide aid to developing, least developed, fragile and post-crisis countries. Qatar provided hundreds of tons of relief aid to Libya and Morocco in the wake of recent disasters. It also supported Syria and Türkiye in the aftermath of an earthquake. For Afghanistan, Doha provided education to local girls and assisted in rebuilding airports. She stressed that the transformative power of the private sector can contribute not only funds but also technology, including data and artificial intelligence. Qatar looks forward to more public-private humanitarian partnerships to honour its commitments.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) expressed support for the private sector’s role through finance, technology, innovation and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Public-private partnership should not only uphold international humanitarian law and principles, but also contribute to peace efforts across the entire continuum – from alleviating suffering in the immediate term to peacebuilding and development in the longer term. Citing the Thai Government’s first national assembly in July convening public and private stakeholders to co-design disaster management policies, he called for a whole-of-society approach with people front and centre. The private sector’s expertise can strengthen emergency preparedness and humanitarian responses through satellite, drone, and artificial intelligence technologies, as well as logistical support and local engagement. Public-private partnerships are most beneficial for sustainable financing, in line with national priorities and inclusive peacebuilding and development efforts. He called for collective support to alleviate hardship, build institutions and infrastructure for sustainable growth, promote resilience after conflict and prevent compounding crises from contributing to cycles of violence.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), underscored that to address current complex humanitarian disasters, a coordinated response that also includes the private sector is needed. Humanitarian aid should be localized, as entities and businesses on the ground establish relationships with the communities more easily. Nevertheless, while it is necessary to show the advantages of private sector partnerships in humanitarian response, transparency and accountability is to be guaranteed. Since the war in Ukraine started, his Government has cooperated with the private sector to transfer aid to Ukraine and come up with logistical solutions. From temporary housing units for internally displaced persons constructed by a Polish company and assembled by Ukrainian companies, to the purchase by Poland of some 20,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, the examples testify that “the engagement of private sector makes humanitarian aid more effective and contributes to building resilience of the communities”, he stated.
ANA PAULA ZACARIAS (Portugal) called for the root causes of armed conflict and climate change to be addressed and for a social-just green transition and peace secured by promoting sustainable and inclusive development and encouraging all States to protect, respect and fulfil human rights. Dealing with the growing funding gap, estimated at $41 billion, it is necessary to diversify funding sources and operations, both in terms of deployment and management. Although risk assessments and robust due diligence procedures are needed, public-private partnerships are already crucial in areas such as disaster risk reduction, logistics and information and communication technologies. Portugal is ready to share its experience, she said, citing the example of the 2019 cyclones Idai and Kenneth hitting Mozambique when, together with the private sector and local authorities, a financing mechanism was designed to pool funds from different sources. The private sector drives technological innovation which can render the humanitarian system more efficient – financially and operationally, she stressed.
THOMAS PETER ZAHNEISEN (Germany), aligning himself with the European Union, highlighted that four donors provide 60 per cent of all humanitarian funding. This is not a sustainable situation, he said, strongly encouraging other States to share the burden more broadly and fairly. At the same time, it is necessary to rethink how the humanitarian system is working, he said, calling for innovative financing schemes and strategic investments to make the system more responsive. The private-public partnerships have the potential for being a financial source for the humanitarian system, as proven by UNHCR. In this context, he expressed support for the initiative of the Albanian presidency to create the digital platform to help alleviate the desperation of people around the world. Private-public partnerships can make a difference in the humanitarian world, he said, adding: “We must all collectively be ready to make those strategic necessary investments to scale up these partnerships.”
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), noting that more than 300 million people globally need rapid humanitarian assistance — worth $152 billion — said that the international response has only provided $15 billion. In this context, States are turning to public-private humanitarian partnerships, he added, underscoring the importance of their neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence. Humanitarian works need to be results-based and provide data on the number of aid recipients, he stated, pointing to the need for maintaining UN agencies’ primacy in extending assistance to prevent funds from being diverted. Recalling that King Mohammed VI deployed more than 17 campaigns and provided millions of medical services for local refugees in 14 countries, he also reported that, since the pandemic, medical assistance has been extended to 20 countries, as well to ECOWAS. In 2020, as Chair of the Economic and Social Council, Morocco launched an appeal to action for an international response to the pandemic. Furthermore, in 2014, it introduced an immigration policy for refugees.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile) stressed that the private sector is essential to humanitarian response, due to the quality information it can access on the ground and greater flexibility in managing innovation. In certain crisis situations, private entities can react faster than the State; however, he emphasized that States have the main responsibility for humanitarian response, as the private sector complements it and should not replace the functions of the State. Any entrustment or attribution of functions to the private sector must be carried out within national legal standards, under ethical considerations and maintaining a gender focus, with guarantees of transparency and accountability. He specified that the financial sector can play a crucial role in providing predictable resources in response to crises. In critical moments, that sector can grant soft credits, provide facilities for settling monetary liabilities and carry out risk assessments with a gender perspective.