Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Briefing on Risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria


National Statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, 12 October 2017, New York.

Thank You Mr President,

I would like to join you in welcoming the Secretary-General to the Council today for this important meeting, and to thank him for his comprehensive briefing.

Secretary-General Guterres,

Your call to action last February should not have been necessary. However, by giving your voice to some of the most vulnerable people in our world, we may have, just, avoided a humanitarian disaster of massive proportions.

Your early warning to this Council - asking for our support in addressing an acute risk of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and North-Eastern Nigeria - triggered the early action needed to prevent a catastrophe.

This type of interaction between us, with prevention at its heart, presents a model for the future, particularly as humanitarian crises more and more are being driven by conflict. The Council's Presidential Statement, proposed by Sweden with others, makes clear that ongoing conflicts and violence are having devastating humanitarian consequences.

Moreover, these conflicts are at the same time hindering effective humanitarian response, leading to shocking levels of human suffering, including famine, in these situations. This is a worrying trend.

Secretary-General Guterres, your consistent leadership and advocacy for the humanitarian and longer-term response to the threat of famine has been invaluable. Since your call to action, the international community has mobilised, and humanitarian efforts have been scaled up in all four countries. Yet, as you have pointed out today, much more is needed.

Mr President,

I would like to make three points this afternoon on the response so far and on what more can be done.

Firstly, I pay tribute to the women and men of local communities who have been at the forefront of responding to these crises. I also pay tribute to the humanitarian workers who risk their lives to save others. They must receive our full support. We are appalled by the lack of humanitarian access and continuing attacks on humanitarians as well as against hospitals, clinics and medical personnel. This is unacceptable and endangers lives of humanitarians, as well as their ability to save the lives of others. As has been stressed by this Council before, full respect for international humanitarian law by all parties is essential.

We welcome the generous response of international donors to the Secretary-General's call to action. Ambitious commitments have been made by donors at successive donor conferences in Oslo, London and Geneva. Sweden has supported the response in the four countries with more than 131 million USD in bilateral humanitarian assistance.

The flexible and time critical humanitarian funding available from the CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund), which has so far allocated 118 million USD, has been particularly important in kick-starting the humanitarian response.

As the Secretary-General has said, keeping famine at bay, does not mean keeping suffering at bay. For this reason, we welcome the reinforced engagement by development actors, as part of a comprehensive response that aims to build long-term resilience. We also welcome the renewed and deepening partnership between the UN-World Bank, which is an essential part of this work to break the cycle of vulnerability, need and humanitarian response.

Mr President,

Secondly, while we can rightly welcome the response to the Secretary-General's call to action, we must also recognise that we failed collectively by allowing these crises to develop, to this level, on our watch. And, widespread food insecurity as well as the risk of famine remains, in these four countries, as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and – sadly – in an unacceptable number of other places.

What these crises have in common is that they are not accidents, not natural disasters, but man-made catastrophes, driven by conflicts and violence. Yes, we need more funding; yes, we need more access; but this will not end these crises or stop new ones from emerging.

There must be political solutions to the conflicts that are driving these entirely preventable humanitarian crises, increasing needs and suffering exponentially, and making a robust humanitarian and longer-term response so much harder.

Ending these conflicts also means tackling the root causes that are driving these crises, including underdevelopment, inequality and exclusion, which are, in turn, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. We need to make, build and sustain peace. We all have a role to play in these longer-term response strategies – as host communities and governments, as regional partners, humanitarian donors, and as members of this Council.

Finally, Mr President, Sweden took the initiative to propose a PRST on the risk of famine in these four contexts and on the humanitarian response. We did so, because we believed that it was important that the full weight of the Security Council was behind the Secretary-General's call to action. The issue of how conflicts are driving humanitarian crises and preventing the humanitarian community from responding is not unique to the four countries addressed in the PRST. Delivering essential humanitarian assistance to those most in need is a challenge that humanitarian agencies are increasingly faced with as they seek to carry out their life-saving work. The Security Council has a role to play in ensuring that they can do their job when a conflict having devastating humanitarian consequences and hindering an effective humanitarian response risks leading to an outbreak of famine.

Mr President,

We are ready to continue to lead on humanitarian issues in 'complex emergencies' during the remainder of our term on the Council, and to work with present and future members to explore further Council action.

In this vein, and as a first next step, we would welcome an update from you, Mr Secretary-General, in early 2018, on where we stand in relation to the challenges that you have outlined to us today, on any lessons-learned that could be applied more broadly, and on what further support you need from the Council in addressing these challenges and preventing further suffering. We are committed to standing with you in this work.

Thank You


Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis