The event was co-hosted by the Missions of Norway, Belgium, France, and the Global Protection Cluster, OCHA, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Center of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation.
Good afternoon. Dear colleagues,
Thank you, Ségolène and UNICEF, for setting the scene for this important discussion.
Protection of civilians is at the heart of Norway’s humanitarian strategy. It is therefore a great pleasure for me to co-host this event. I would like thank the Global Protection Cluster, for all your efforts in organizing this meeting, as well as our co-hosts. And particular thanks to our speakers from Syria, Haiti and Myanmar.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we are sitting here, more than 110 armed conflicts around the world are dramatically affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
It is telling that the number of armed groups has exploded, including those evolving into de-facto authorities. And we are very concerned that in several regions, protracted armed conflicts and complex humanitarian emergencies are becoming the norm, rather than the exception.
As the nature of the conflicts become more complex and even confusing, we strongly believe that it is important to uphold the humanitarian principles. And we believe it is important to speak with all actors in a conflict – even with those we disapprove of – to secure access.
In the absence of centralized governance and control, we see that more and more access negotiations are taking place at local levels. This makes it even more important to act on the promises from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, to increase the support to actors at local levels.
Local efforts are often being done on or near the frontlines, in high-risk operating environments. These efforts are having critical, tangible impacts, such as; enabling civilians to access medical clinics, ensuring entry of humanitarian assistance into besieged villages, or facilitating safe passage of school children through checkpoints.
But – local actors often do not get the needed support and investment. This includes needed acceptance, in terms of the role that humanitarian actors have in engaging and negotiating with parties to the conflict.
And, it includes the investment that enables them to develop needed relationships and trust, both with state and non-state armed groups and communities, to be responsive and flexible – while at the same time ensuring proper risk management of staff. Not least, to be able to ‘stay and deliver’ for as long as needs remain.
The discussion here today, is an opportunity to further unpack the different roles being played by protection actors, including local and national partners. And to look at how we, as the international community, can more effectively partner with, and invest in, efforts at local levels.
At the global level; we believe that the centrality of protection must become a reality in the humanitarian sector as a whole. One action we can take, is to support the implementation of the recommendations from the IASC Protection Review.
Norway also supports the renewed engagement by the ERC and OCHA to strengthen its overall efforts on humanitarian negotiations. We need more sustained assistance and protection services, and long-term engagement with communities – even in the most remote areas.
At the local level; wherever possible, international engagement should support the protection efforts by local and national actors. We firmly believe that the people affected by crisis need to be at the center of the response. Humanitarian action should be ‘as local as possible and as international as necessary’ to ensure that people in need receive proper assistance and protection.
As for Norway, important funding channels to local and national responders are the Red Cross/Crescent movement, Norwegian strategic humanitarian partners and the UN Country-based Pooled Funds. Protection will be a main priority when Norway soon takes over the co-chairmanship of the Pooled Fund Working Group.
Next month, Norway will be hosting the international conference “Protecting children in armed conflict”, together with Save the Children, UNICEF, ICRC, and in partnership with the Office of the SRSG for Children in Armed Conflict, the African Union and OCHA. We are calling for a strong political engagement and commitments from all stakeholders.
Coming to an end, I’d like to stress that even though the operational environment is complex, humanitarian needs are record high, and the level of funding is low – we must not lose sight of what we actually manage to achieve: Every day millions of people in need enjoys some level of humanitarian protection. That is thanks to the incredible efforts by the humanitarian community – and not least, local actors.
I hope that our discussion here today, will contribute to spark hope and motivation to further support local level protection efforts.