Famine: man-made humanitarian disasters [fr]
Famine and armed conflicts - Statement by M. François Delattre, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 12 October 2017
"Preventing and fighting famines is both a requirement of preventive diplomacy and an illustration of the fact that in order to be effective and produce results on the ground, the United Nations must make progress on the dual fronts of peace and development, including its humanitarian dimension." François Delattre, 12 October 2017
- Parachutage de nourriture pour des familles isolées au Soudan du Sud
- Crédits: Programme Alimentaire Mondial
I would like to begin by thanking the Secretary-General for being the first to alert us in February to the tragic humanitarian situation of the nearly 20 million people in Africa and Yemen on the verge of starvation. The Secretary-General’s impetus was crucial to triggering prompt action by the international community to contain the crisis and prevent mass starvation in the countries concerned.The link between international peace and security and famine is both proven and documented. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan, north-eastern Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia is a shock to our collective consciousness and a sad illustration of that link, since 60 per cent of those affected by food insecurity are in conflict zones. That shows the degree to which it is the Council’s responsibility to continue to remain actively seized of the problem. It is why France took the initiative to organize a first Arria-formula meeting in June on the link between famine and conflict, with the welcome participation of the World Bank. Many member States of the Council joined us in that initiative, and subsequently, together with Sweden and the United Kingdom, we drafted a Council presidential statement, adopted in August.
I am particularly grateful to the Secretary-General for continuing to alert us by reporting on developments in the situation we are discussing today. Many points have already been highlighted by previous speakers, and I do not wish to revisit the important points that they have raised. I will limit myself to citing five important lessons.
The first is that malnutrition, a consequence of poverty, food insecurity and inadequate development, weakens the most vulnerable populations and aggravates the scale of those tragedies. Chronic food-insecurity situations create conditions that can lead to starvation when crises occur. The working conclusion is that the fight against food insecurity must be a priority for all of us.
The second lesson is that it would not have been possible to cope with the magnitude of the needs without a strong, coordinated and rapid response from the international community. But let us be realistic as well as vigilant. We are not at the end of the road. Far from it, we must continue to intensify our action in financing food aid, and humanitarian aid in particular.
The third lesson is that without safe, comprehensive and unhindered humanitarian access, our efforts to eradicate famine in conflict areas will be useless. Obstacles to humanitarian access, attacks on humanitarian workers and the fact that hunger is still too often used as a weapon of war must be reported, documented and condemned as firmly as possible. Let me point out that such actions may constitute war crimes under international law and should be prosecuted as such. The medieval practice of using sieges to starve entire cities, as we have seen in Syria, is an extreme form of such barbarous practices. The Council must therefore redouble its efforts on such issues and provide practical responses.
The fourth lesson is that such famines are, to a large extent, man-made humanitarian disasters. In that context, only political solutions will make it possible to alleviate the people’s suffering. It is therefore up to the Council to find permanent political solutions to the conflicts that worsen a population’s food insecurity.
The fifth and last lesson is the accuracy of our shared understanding of the continuum. Preventing and fighting famines is both a requirement of preventive diplomacy and an illustration of the fact that in order to be effective and produce results on the ground, the United Nations must make progress on the dual fronts of peace and development, including its humanitarian dimension.
The presence of the Secretary-General here today has an undeniable galvanizing effect, and that is why I would like to join Sweden and several other members in appealing to the Secretary-General to come back to this subject in the Council. The Security Council must remain mobilized, and France will continue to play its full part in that.