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Statement by Mr. Sven Jürgenson, at the UN Security Council Arria-Formula Open meeting “Responding to the Secretary General’s Call to Action on the Risk of Famine in the conflict-affected areas of Yemen, Somalia, South-Sudan and Northeast Nigeria"

16.06.2017

While the importance and timeliness of an unfolding meeting is frequently stressed, it is rare that a meeting is more important, more timely, or more directly connected to saving lives, so thank you, Chairs, for convening today’s meeting. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his strenuous efforts to avert these crises. Estonia aligns itself with the statement (to be) delivered by the European Union, and I would like to make the following remarks in my national capacity.

More than 20 million people — more than at any time since World War II — are at risk of starvation and famine. Four months after the Secretary General’s call to avert the famines, we are gathered here to discuss what the Security Council and the broader UN membership can do in order to prevent the crises.

There are the three actions, in particular, that should be taken — ensuring the necessary funds, ensuring the crucial access, and, ultimately, ensuring the end of the underlying conflicts.

4.9 billion dollars are urgently needed for life-saving assistance to combat extreme hunger over the coming six months. Estonia has made a contribution, but so far only 38% of what is needed has been raised. So countries need to further increase  their financial commitments to prevent these tragic famines from unfolding.

However, while money is necessary, it is not a sufficient means to saving these lives at risk of starvation. The on-going violence is hindering an effective humanitarian response, as the threat of violence limits aid workers’ access to the affected regions. The Council must ensure the end of violence so that the humanitarian actors have the necessary access to administer aid.   

Yet, the crux of the matter is that no amount of aid will solve the crises if the underlying conflicts are not being addressed. Therefore, the Council needs come together to push for the end of these conflicts, and ensure accountability for those who have used starvation as a deliberate war tactic. The larger UN membership on its own part should do regular follow-ups to ensure that the Council lives up to its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security by ending these conflicts.

During these challenging times, humanity is looking up to the United Nations to provide hope. We all must do our part in making sure that the United Nations lives up to those expectations.  The international community must assume leadership in ensuring that the disastrous consequences of these famines are averted.

Finally, I would like emphasize that the suffering, that we are potentially facing, is fully preventable. To quote Stephen O’Brien, “It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines — to avert these looming human catastrophes." So there really is no excuse for the international community not to do so.  

Estonia remains fully committed to doing its part in averting these crises.

Thank you.

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