Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the UN Security Council Meeting on Protecting Civilians affected by Conflict Induced Hunger, 21 April 2020
At the outset, South Africa wishes to thank the Dominican Republic for convening this briefing to address the link between hunger and conflict.
We thank the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Mr Dongyu, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Mr Beasley, and the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mr Egeland for their detailed and factual briefings.
Hunger is both a cause and effect of war and conflict. The link between hunger and conflict is a persistent issue and it therefore comes as no surprise that sixty per cent of people suffering from food insecurity worldwide live in countries affected by conflict.
Armed conflict disrupts food systems, causes mass displacement of people, destroys livelihoods and triggers food insecurity. Food insecurity and competition for natural resources has in turn resulted in many current conflicts which we deal with today. These factors set the stage for multiple years of food shortages, especially where conflicts are exacerbated by natural disasters including the impact of climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate the already difficult situation in these countries as it will cause food shortages, destructive competition for limited resources and manipulation of food provision.
Civilians are the primary victims of these vicious cycles of food insecurity and armed conflict, in particular women, children, the aged and disabled persons. Civilian and essential infrastructure, aid convoys and humanitarian workers are also targeted during conflict situations.
In this regard we emphasise the plight of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants, who are subjected to difficult living conditions during conflict situations and more often than not, have limited access to humanitarian assistance, including food. We therefore underscore the importance and urgency of unimpeded access to food aid and humanitarian assistance to all vulnerable groups.
At the same time, we are witnessing an increase of parties to conflict using hunger as a weapon of war, which constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law and can also constitute a war crime. Violations of international humanitarian law must not be condoned and perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions.
In order to do more to minimise and prevent conflict-induced hunger, the Council could consider the following:
Making more effective use of prevention and early-warning systems, such as integrating indicators on alarming food insecurity levels and the restriction of humanitarian access to populations, in peacekeeping operations and country reports submitted to the Security Council;
Requiring coordinated and multifaceted responses as well as close cooperation between humanitarian relief and development efforts as part of the humanitarian-development nexus;
Promoting gender- and age-sensitive humanitarian assistance that remain responsive to the different needs of the population, thereby ensuring that these needs are integrated in the humanitarian response;
Making the provision of adequate health services in conflict areas as part of a strategy to eradicate hunger;
Taking into consideration the impact of economic sanctions imposed on a country in conflict, which may inadvertently also give rise to conflict-related hunger, as civilians could have less access to nutrition and medicine and are faced with higher prices for foodstuffs; and
Ensuring full compliance by all parties to a conflict to relevant international humanitarian law and international human rights law as well as holding those accountable that violate such international law.
Let me conclude by underscoring that peace and food security go hand in hand. In order to end hunger, as the Security Council, we need to address the root causes of conflicts and end all wars in the spirit of Silencing the Guns.
I thank you.
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