Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this timely discussion. I also would like to thank the distinguish speakers for their participation today.
On this eleventh anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad and as we mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel, we honor fallen UN personnel and humanitarian workers. I commend the work of humanitarian workers around the world, including national and local staff, and reaffirm our shared view that attacks on UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers are a flagrant violation of international law.
Humanitarian workers are the international community’s emergency lifeline to vulnerable and isolated communities. 108 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance, and more people are displaced by violence worldwide than ever before. Humanitarian workers are critical to this Council’s ability to respond to deteriorating humanitarian situations caused by threats to peace and security.
In the last eleven years, violence against humanitarian workers has intensified, with casualties tripling since the 2003 attack in Baghdad. Last year alone, there were 251 incidents of major violence against aid workers in 30 different countries.
Against the backdrop of increasingly challenging conditions for humanitarians, I’d like to stress three priorities for the United States: ensuring safety and access for humanitarian workers; facilitating humanitarian assistance; and pursuing accountability.
We are extremely alarmed at the increasing frequency of attacks against humanitarian workers and the number of humanitarian workers killed in 2013, especially in Syria, where 109 aid workers have been killed, detained, kidnapped, or held hostage since the beginning of the civil war. Despite the dangerous conditions, Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have continued to deliver much-needed aid to the people in Syria.
Mr. President, such attacks, in the words of the Deputy Secretary-General, represent a deficit of humanity. Not only do they rob the world of brave, committed individuals, but they also deny vulnerable populations critical life-saving humanitarian assistance during dire humanitarian situations. In the interest of ensuring the safety and security of aid workers, the United States reaffirms our commitment to the independence, humanity, neutrality, and impartiality of humanitarian operations.
Humanitarian workers today face a growing threat from non-state actors. Last November, insurgents ambushed and killed five Afghans working on a literacy project managed by a French charity. Just yesterday, this Council released a press statement regarding two UN peacekeepers killed in an attack in northern Mali over the weekend. And earlier this month, a militia targeted and killed at least five South Sudanese aid workers. We stress that the primary responsibility under international law for the security and protection of UN personnel and humanitarian workers lies with the governments hosting UN operations.
This leads me to the question of access. The United States is deeply disturbed by the rising number of humanitarian crises to which the international humanitarian community has little access because staff safety and security cannot be guaranteed. The lack of access in places like Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia, among others, has prevented millions of vulnerable citizens from receiving much-needed food, water, shelter, and medicine. We call on all parties, states and non-states actors alike, to facilitate full, immediate, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access.
UN peacekeeping missions can play an essential role in creating secure conditions for humanitarian operations, if they are mandated to do so. We welcome the collaboration, coordination, and cooperation between DPKO, OCHA, and UN humanitarian country teams, especially where mandates include creating the necessary conditions for facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as is the case with UNMISS.
Finally, impunity for violence against humanitarian workers must end. There has been little to no accountability for humanitarian workers killed in the line of duty. The United States supports efforts to strengthen accountability and to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanitarian workers. We encourage the Council to employ Commissions of Inquiry, fact-finding missions, and sanctions, as well as to support national authorities in their investigations and prosecutions. At the same time, we encourage the Council to develop creative solutions for dealing with the threat posed by non-state actors to the dedicated humanitarian workers we honor today. It is time for the Council to take action.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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