The international humanitarian system is under intense and growing pressure. Regions of Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Afghanistan are examples where the situation has gone from bad to worse.
At the same time, the combined effects of the financial crisis and high food and energy prices have put severe financial strains on humanitarian assistance efforts.
There are concerns that the financial crisis will affect the contributions of donor countries to development and to humanitarian aid.
A few weeks ago, in the midst of the unraveling of the financial crisis, we made the announcement in Norway that we have reached we set for ourselves 3 years ago of providing 1% of gross national income for international development and humanitarian aid.
And hopefully many more Member States will accelerate their efforts rather than cutting them, now under the prevailing conditions, when the most vulnerable and voiceless may become more victimized.
Norway is committed to continue making significant and predictable contributions to the UN Central Emergency Fund, Common Humanitarian Funds and UN humanitarian appeals.
Only when it is soundly funded will the UN be able to respond to the many serious, global challenges in the years to come, and we ask more countries to come on board and shoulder a larger share the financial burden.
The UN plays and must play a pivotal role in coordinating humanitarian assistance. Close cooperation between the UN and non-governmental humanitarian organisations, as well as between the UN and national authorities, are essential.
Norway expects its humanitarian partners to apply a gender-perspective in all programmes and activities. This is necessary, not only for justice and equality, but also for quality. It should be obvious that women and men have different needs, that young and elderly have different needs. We expect this need reflected in the UN humanitarian appeals that will be launched in December
Women and children are particularly vulnerable in humanitarian crises. Nowhere in the world is this fact more obvious today than in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo The widespread and systematic sexual violence has devastating consequences, not only for each and every victim, but for future peace and reconciliation in the DRC.
Sexual violence is internationally recognised as a savage weapon of war, in fact as a war crime. But sexual violence is not an inevitable feature of war. It can be stopped if we take it seriously enough. The awesome fact is that the world has to often looked away.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that such acts do not go unpunished. The Security Council has a key role in following up UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and to ensure the protection of women and children from sexual violence. Norway calls upon States, all relevant UN and humanitarian organisations to improve coordination and strengthen capacity, including surge capacity, in supporting victims and in establishing more effective preventive measures.
In many of today’s conflicts, and we have debated Afghanistan earlier today, access to vulnerable population groups is becoming increasingly difficult, and aid workers are being targeted. All parties concerned, including non-state actors and neighbouring States, must cooperate in ensuring access to civilian populations and to protect aid workers in armed conflict.
Norway will continue to work to promote respect for fundamental humanitarian principles and a clear division of roles between humanitarian organisations and military forces in increasingly complex situations. Humanitarian space must be understood and protected in all emergencies.
The establishment of the Central Emergency Relief Fund gave the UN a rapid response capacity. Still, the international community should be better prepared to respond to humanitarian crises than we in fact are.
We all know that it is less expensive to anticipate and prevent than to react and repair.
But the world community seems still more willing to pay for the damages after disaster strike than to invest in the lesser cost of preventive action.
Climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and preparedness should be lifted up to the top of the humanitarian reform agenda.
And moreover, the Security Council, the UN-system and member states must consider the links and improve the transition from humanitarian assistance, to longer-term development.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an historic milestone, and a good example of effective prevention of humanitarian disasters. It prevents the spread of cluster munitions to new countries, and reduces future humanitarian suffering.
Norway urges all member states, UN agencies and humanitarian agencies to recognise cluster munitions as a serious humanitarian problem, and to promote the rapid entry into force and full implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions will be signed in Oslo during the Signing Conference, 2 – 4 December 2008. All UN member states have been invited and we hope and expect to be able to welcome you all to the signing ceremony, and take part in this upgrading of humanity.