Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg.Photo: NorwayUN/Marte Fløan Beisvåg

GA: Humanitarian Debate

Last updated: 12/13/2013 // This general statement was held by Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen in the UN General Assembly.

Thank you Chair,

Natural disasters are becoming increasingly disastrous, claiming thousands of lives and affecting millions of people.

A few weeks ago, the largest typhoon ever hit the Philippines, killed several thousand people and caused enormous damage to infrastructure and livelihoods of millions of people. The Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos took a firm leadership along with the Government of the Philippines.  The declaration of a “Level 3 crisis” quickly triggered personnel, plans and support. We look forward to the evaluation and the lessons learned from the international humanitarian response.

The disaster in the Philippines also reminds us of the importance of local disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness plans. The consequences of the typhoon could have been even worse if not around 700.000 people had been evacuated.

The message that disaster risk reduction and preparedness saves lives and is cost effective has been repeated in many forums and for many years.  We may not avoid disasters, but the consequences for a well prepared community may be less disastrous. Despite this, Disaster Risk Reduction measures continue to be poorly financed and are not systematically integrated into existing strategic and fund raising tools.


We welcome the declaration of a “Level 3 crisis” in the Central African Republic. Hopefully, it will raise the awareness and lead to more commitment from the international community. People have suffered for a long time and are in critical need of assistance and protection.

Despite the fact that millions of people find themselves in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, and despite the fact that humanitarian actors stand ready to respond, governments continue to deny civilian access to lifesaving assistance. A particularly grave example is the besieged areas in Syria, where hundreds of thousands girls, boys, women and men continue to suffer under dire circumstances.

We are particularly concerned about health workers’ ability to provide humanitarian aid, save lives and alleviate suffering. Large numbers of people in Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, DR Congo, Sudan and Somalia are not receiving treatment due to lack of access to health care.

In armed conflict situations, medical personnel, facilities and transports are increasingly under attack. This lack of understanding and disregard of international humanitarian law challenges basic humanitarian principles and values, as well as the right of populations to access health care.

Medical personnel and those in need of medical assistance must be respected and protected in all circumstances.

Norway is determined to strengthen our own humanitarian policy in this field, and to work with partners to enhance the protection of health facilities and health care workers as well as to ensure affected populations’ access to health care. We need to reiterate the obligations of parties to conflict to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. And we need to bring countries together across regional and political divides to forward this agenda and to reduce the suffering of innocent civilians.

While the United Nations have a leading role to play in the coordination and delivery of international humanitarian assistance, the primary responsibility for the protection of people in need remains with their own governments. However, enormous protection needs, in a number of crises, continue to be ignored.

In order to meet their responsibilities, governments must live up to their obligations under international law as well as invest in preparedness and resilience.  This is ultimately a question of political priority – to invest for the better of all – including the poor and vulnerable.

Thank you.

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