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Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz during the Security Council VTC Meeting on Protecting civilians from conflict-induced hunger, April 21, 2020

22.04.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery


Let me first of all welcome His Excellency, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic. Let me also thank our briefers for their comprehensive updates. They were sobering and quite alarming.

Mr. President, first of all, let me congratulate you for your timely choice of the topic of today's council meeting. Germany has joined you in hosting several informal meetings of the Security Council titled Monitoring Food Security in Countries with Conflict Situations. These briefings have illustrated the link between conflict and food insecurity on the basis of evidence from several country situations. Today's briefers made clear that conflict remains the primary driver of acute food insecurity.

In 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417, condemning the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, as well as the denial of humanitarian assistance in conflict situations. This landmark resolution paved the way for addressing conflict-induced hunger, underlying the clear causal link between armed conflict, food insecurity and starvation. Two years after the adoption of Resolution 2417, the international community expects the United Nations Security Council to act more decisively on the nexus between conflict and food insecurity. The Global Report on Food Crisis released today found that in 2019, 135 million people were affected by acute food insecurity, the highest number in the four years since reporting started. This trend needs to mobilize all actors involved in global conflict prevention and resolution.

Mr. President, in these COVID days, we talk a lot about flattening the curve. When it comes to the nexus between conflict and food security, we actually need to get ahead of the curve. This is why prevention is so critical in this context and this is why David Beasley's clear warning was very important today. Resolution 2417 has initiated an early warning mechanism which allows the Security Council to act prior to the onset of a hunger hazard. This can safeguard lives and preserve livelihoods. But this council needs to reinforce its preventive approach, identify any threats to food security in conflict settings early on, and take early and appropriate action to preserve international peace and security.

There is still a lot of potential for this kind of early warning in our opinion. We call on the U.N. Secretariat to closely monitor fragile countries and to report swiftly to the council on risks of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity in armed conflicts.

Mr. President, Germany is a top donor for humanitarian assistance in the UN context. German humanitarian assistance places great emphasis on food security, as well as on promoting a paradigm shift towards a forward-looking humanitarian system that can anticipate crises and act very early on. Since 2015, Germany's support of preventive humanitarian action of different partners with more than 30 million euros. Of all humanitarian sectors, food assistance has received the largest amount of funding from Germany in past years. And given what we have heard today by our briefers, I can assure you that food security will certainly remain one of our priority areas for this year as well.

In that context, let me also stress what many others have said before me. That is, the importance which Resolution 2417 attaches to the adherence to international humanitarian law and to sustaining humanitarian access. All parties to a conflict must comply with their obligations under international law, and we as Security Council members should help create the conditions that allow humanitarian workers deliver principled humanitarian assistance and bring relief to those most in need. This is also the purpose of the humanitarian call for action, which Germany initiated together with France in April 2019, which has been endorsed by 44 member states as of today.  

Mr President, our briefers and some previous speakers have rightly said we need to address the root causes of food insecurity and we have all talked about one of the main drivers, which is conflict. But there is growing evidence that there is a second main driver for food insecurity in the world, and that is climate change. The nexus between conflict, climate change and food insecurity in an already vulnerable context has devastating impacts on civilians and poses a serious threat to achieving sustainable development. We see this in the Sahel, where tangible repercussions of the link between climate change, security and food insecurity are flaring up between herders and farmers and have very serious implications. To secure and sustain peace in some of the world's most fragile context like the Sahel, support to agricultural livelihoods should be considered as one part of the holistic response. This is why this council has to deal with this nexus between climate and security, climate and food insecurity.

We need to act. We need to act at the right time. And we need to live up to the world's expectations. In our opinion, this council needs to act upon this nexus very strongly and clearly.

Mr. President, before concluding, let me say a word on COVID-19 related issues. Around 183 million people are at risk of slipping into acute food insecurity if confronted by an additional shock or stressor, as the Global Report on Food Crisis released today underlined. We are concerned about the impact of pandemics on food security. Unfortunately, the pandemic disproportionately affects those groups that already belong to the most vulnerable. And we fully concur with DSG Amina Mohammed's assessment that  the risks faced by people everywhere go far beyond the virus itself. At the moment, sufficient amounts of food are available, but the threat of supply chain disruptions to work, travel and trade restrictions is obvious and clear. To avoid rising hunger levels due to COVID-19, not only unimpeded access to means of production needs to be maintained that also workers in agriculture, logistics, processing and distribution have to remain available and therefore need to be adequately protected. Therefore, we expect that large scale humanitarian assistance will be required to prevent and cope with the consequences of the disease on food security and to deliver support to millions of people, especially to the most exposed and vulnerable groups. And we call on all relevant actors to take measures to ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance despite border closures, travel bans, quarantine orders and procurement processes.

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