Statement delivered by Counsellor Kjetil Elsebutangen, Norway
Thank you for the update on UNHCR’s operations in Africa. We would like to comment on two situations.
Firstly, South Sudan, where one of the world’s most serious displacement and humanitarian crises is continuing to unfold. The famine that is declared in parts of the country could spread if there is no improved access to deliver emergency relief. This is a man-made disaster and the responsibility for the acute situation lies with the warring parties. Access for humanitarian aid is fundamental and funding is urgently needed before the rainy season will set in in a few months’ time. It is important to get help through now, while the roads are still dry and passable. There are also huge protection needs in South Sudan. We encourage UNHCR and other actors to do everything they can to prevent and respond to sexual and gender based violence. There are certain practical measures that we know have an effect on prevention, and we urge UNHCR to ensure that these are implemented. Norway recently announced further humanitarian support to the country, and we encourage UNHCR and other states to continue assisting the South Sudanese people.
Secondly, the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region is of great concern to us. This crisis has been largely overlooked. In an effort to mobilise greater international attention, involvement and increased funding for humanitarian efforts, Norway, together with Germany, Nigeria and the UN, organized a conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region last month. We thank UNHCR and the High Commissioner for his strong contributions. Food insecurity, which is highlighted as a serious concern in the regional update paper for Africa, was a key topic at the conference. Education was another key topic, with 14 million primary school age children out of school across the four countries of this region. Access, protection, health and return and recovery were also high on the agenda. Pledges amounting to US$ 672 million for 2017 and beyond were announced, of which US$ 458 for this year. These pledges will fund one third of the humanitarian UN appeals for 2017 and will make great impact as they are timely in terms of life saving responses to the food crisis and vital investments in the agricultural sector ahead of the planting season.
The Conference welcomed a number of multiyear pledges, including from Norway, both for principled humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. This is an example of the follow-up of our commitments through the Grand Bargain. Multiyear pledges provide greater predictability, enable a more efficient response through simultaneous use of different approaches, and demonstrate commitment to address both the immediate humanitarian needs and to identify long-term solutions for those affected by the crisis.
The conference further underlined that special attention must be directed to protection against gender-based sexual violence, and to the leadership role of women in identifying long-term solutions.
The need for solidarity with host communities of the region was also underlined, as well as the importance of ensuring the voluntariness of return in safety and dignity.
We see this Conference not as an end point, but as the beginning of sustainable commitments to strategic investments in the region.