General Debate of the Humanitarian Segment of ECOSOC.
(New York, July 15, 2005)
Statement by Ambassador María Angela Holguín, Permanent Representative of Colombia
We thank the Secretary General for the three reports that are under examination during this humanitarian segment of the Ecosoc and Mr. Egeland for their presentation.
Colombia subscribes to the statement made by Jamaica, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and wishes to address certain additional aspects.
We consider that all humanitarian work and assistance finds an effective answer through a strict compliance to international humanitarian law and to resolution 46/182 of the General Assembly, which gave the mandate to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations.
The principles of neutrality, humanity, and impartiality must rule all humanitarian activities. Humanitarian assistance should not be politicized nor rushed into exploring options that could aggravate the people's situation. We would like to reaffirm that humanitarian assistance is to be offered at the request of the affected State, with its consent and respecting national laws and international law.
We also wish to restate the primary role of the concerned state in the organization, coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance. We understand that the UN has a supportive role when responding to the cooperation needs of States to strengthen different national actions, projects and programs.
Regarding the reports, an issue of concern lies with paragraph 53 of the report on "Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations" (E/2005/78), where it indicates that "though the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rests with States, international assistance is often required, with the consent of national governments, or when a state cannot protect its citizens alone." In this context, we reiterate that assistance by the UN must be extended with the consent of the affected State, and that all actions undertaken by the international community should be in accordance with the Charter and international law.
Another issue of concern within the report "Transition from Relief to Development" (E/2005/79), is the fact that in paragraph 40, it speaks of humanitarian agencies continuing to substitute for national authorities. We believe that this could put in jeopardy the humanitarian principles, and that efforts should be made to develop national capacities, and strengthen national institutions.
The tragedy of the tsunami demostrated not only the solidarity of the whole world facing a humanitarian tragedy, but, it also showed how countries respond in an efficient manner when they receive the support of the international community. This is how humanitarian assistance should always function, through a rapid economic response focused on cooperation with the affected States by humanitarian organizations.
As President Clinton said yesterday, all efforts should be made to help strengthen national capacities so that States can respond better to the needs of their people. He also recognized the important national efforts and capacities shown by affected States in dealing with disaster. Efforts and capacities from which the UN could learn important lessons.
In this context, we believe that the UN humanitarian work must be one, regardless of the emergency in question. In all emergencies, the UN must work closely with the States and contribute to strengthening of their response capacities.
Both the tsunami immediate needs and its aftermath have challenged the international community and especially the UN humanitarian response capacity and coordination to deliver the right kind of assistance that would be effective in finding answers to needs and problems in a short period of time. In this context, we would like to commend the work of Mr. Jan Egeland and his team in OCHA.
My delegation believes that looking towards a predictable humanitarian response capacity for natural disasters, is important. We also stress that strong national capacities are the only guarantee for sustainable recovery and development.
We would also like to extend a special recognition to the ICRC that with its specific mandate valued by us has made over the years a fundamental contribution to humanitarian assistance while preserving and being faithful to its principles.
We firmly believe that cooperation and a good working relationship with the national authorities are essential for making humanitarian assistance more efficient, effective and sustainable.