Arria: Conflict and Hunger - Nordic Statement

Nordic statement in the Arria-Formula meeting on Conflict and Hunger, 21 April 2022.

Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Sweden Ambassador Anna Karin Eneström on behalf of the Nordic Countries

Madam President,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and my own country, Sweden.

I would like to begin by thanking Ireland for organising this meeting – ever since the adoption of the landmark resolution 2417 in 2018, following a Dutch-Swedish initiative. It is important that the Council continues to keep this matter high on its agenda, including through arria meetings.  

As we have heard, the world currently faces unprecedented catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. Famine conditions are already a reality for thousands of families in places like Yemen and South Sudan and the same threat is looming over many more people worldwide.

Famines do not break out by themselves in our time. They are man-made, and the result of political failures. Conflict is the single most important driver of hunger and nearly all countries with risk of famine or famine-like conditions are affected by protracted conflict.

The latest example is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in violation of the UN Charter. We reiterate our full solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and condemn, in the strongest terms, the aggression by the Russian Federation and the involvement of Belarus.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will have serious global implications. Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing and supply chains are being disrupted, which endangers global food security. The poorest countries and the most vulnerable people will be hit hardest.

Rising food prices were already driving hunger in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and many other places. The FAO Food Price Index has now reached its highest level since its inception. The number of people facing acute hunger could rise to 323 million people.

This calls for a strong and coherent international response. We welcome the Secretary General’s establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance. We also welcome its first report released last week.

Let me propose a few actions that we believe could help mitigate the negative trends in the near term:

First, humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law is paramount. 

In resolution 2417, the Council emphasised the obligation of Member States to help ensure that food assistance reaches those in need and condemned the use of starvation as a method of warfare. The resolution also calls on all parties to armed conflict to spare infrastructure needed for food production and distribution. Non-compliance with these provisions could constitute war crimes. Those responsible for any violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.

Second, we need to address the link between climate change, environment, conflict and hunger urgently. Impacts of climate change spur conflicts and have an immediate impact on food security. Strengthening food security cannot be done without tackling climate change and safeguarding biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems. Environmental impact of conflict, as seen in Ukraine, can cause and aggravate food insecurity. Wilfully causing widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environmental may also constitute a war crime. We welcome in this context the ongoing work of the International Law Commission on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts and the recently updated ICRC Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Armed Conflict.

Third, Member States need to step up their humanitarian financing. UN Member States have an obligation to provide flexible and rapid humanitarian funding to support the prevention of famine and hunger through timely, independent, effective and efficient humanitarian action.

Increasing food prices and insufficient humanitarian funding have already forced the WFP to reduce or suspend food assistance to millions of people in need in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has now resulted in the WFP facing an additional cost of 29 million dollars per month for food assistance to the most vulnerable.

The Nordic countries will continue our engagement for and support to people caught in humanitarian crises all over the world.

Flexible funding enables organisations to quickly respond to sudden and unforeseen crises and to use funds where needs are most urgent. It also supports anticipatory action by allowing the pre-positioning of resources including food.  We call on all donors to step up their humanitarian funding to enable humanitarian organisations to scale up in response to this unprecedented global food crisis.

Finally, as key donors of both humanitarian and long-term development support through the UN system, including to Rome based agencies, the international financial institutions, and other actors, we call for close cooperation between actors across the humanitarian-development and peace nexus. Humanitarian interventions cannot stand alone but must be supported by actions to protect livelihoods and build resilience to external shocks for vulnerable communities and affected people. Investments in sustainable food systems must target those most in need and gender equality must be at the forefront of our coordinated response.

In 2022, no-one needs to go hungry. This is all about choosing peace over conflict, generosity and humanity over immediate self-interest, and action over indifference.

Thank you.