Remarks by Jill Derderian, U.S. Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs, at the 68th UNGA Plenary on Agenda Item 70: Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance of the United Nations, December 13, 2013

Jill Derderian
U.S. Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs 
New York, NY
December 13, 2013


Madam President, the United States welcomes the Secretary General’s reports, which describe the accomplishments and continuing challenges in international humanitarian assistance.

We would like to acknowledge the tremendous pressure that national and international humanitarian staff are under and the great sacrifices they are making in responding to the multiple crises going on around the world.  It is also important to recognize the contributions made by persons affected by conflict even in the most dire of situations.  

The United States is pleased to be a leading humanitarian donor to support the responses to crises around the world.  We continue to strongly support the international humanitarian system.  Our commitment to working with the United Nations and other partners to protect and assist civilians uprooted by conflict and devastated by natural disasters remains firm.  

We fully endorse the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda, and we urge all UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other humanitarian actors to continue to implement the various elements of the agenda so that together we can help to make the system more coherent, coordinated, and effective.

Madam President, we share the Secretary-General’s concern about the increase in the number of persons displaced by conflict and other violence to 28.8 million at the end of 2012, the highest figure ever recorded by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.  It is logical to assume that this number has only grown in 2013, with new displacement in Syria, Mali, and the Central African Republic, among other places.  We call on UNHCR, OCHA, UNICEF, OHCHR, and other UN actors to redouble their focus and efforts on this population, particularly as they relate to durable solutions and cooperation with development actors.  We strongly back the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and urge all Member States to fully support his efforts.

We continue to note that as the world becomes increasingly urbanized, so do humanitarian crises.  Of the more than 1.1 million new refugees in 2012, many of them found refuge outside of camps and in urban and other settings.  We urge the UN and its humanitarian partners to continue to rethink their responses in non-camp settings and develop appropriate tools, strategies, and programming that best serve those in need.  More often than not this will mean connecting refugees and others to services rather than providing direct aid.

The United States was pleased to participate in a panel discussion in October with Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos to discuss OCHA’s recently released report on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on principled humanitarian action.  As we noted during the Washington event, the United States has taken several steps to address these issues and looks forward to continued dialogue and cooperation on sanctions, counter-terrorism, and humanitarian assistance. 

The United States completely endorses the wide variety of efforts aimed at increasing compliance with international humanitarian law, human rights law, and refugee law.  We agree with the Secretary-General that protecting people from harm requires a comprehensive response from the humanitarian community, involving legal, policy, operational, and advocacy elements.  This approach is necessary to address issues ranging from access to legal documentation to gender based violence.  


Madam President, as we look back at humanitarian responses over the last year, we continue to be deeply troubled by the lack of access, risks to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and attacks against medical and healthcare workers, hospitals, and other medical facilities that are protected under applicable international law.  These attacks are unacceptable and remind us of the extreme risks that humanitarian personnel take each day to perform their basic duties.  To help mitigate these risks, humanitarian actors must be able to operate in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner and be perceived by local populations as doing so.  We also call on states and parties to conflict to facilitate rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian and medical personnel to civilians in need, including by simplifying and expediting procedures for humanitarian personnel and goods.  Further, consent by states and parties to conflict should never be withheld arbitrarily.

These issues and others are some that we hope the Secretary-General will consider advancing at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, an event we fully back.  The United States plans to be centrally involved in the consultations leading up to the Summit and looks forward to working with the United Nations, Member States, other humanitarian organizations, and affected populations to make the international humanitarian system more inclusive, responsive, and effective.

Thank you, Madam President.



PRN: 2013/265