Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Protecting Civilians affected by Conflict Induced Hunger, 17 September 2020

Mr President,

Thank you for convening this briefing to address conflict induced hunger.

I would also like to thank the Under Secretary-General of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Mark Lowcock; the Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation, Mr QU Dongyu; and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Mr David Beasley, for their insightful briefing and bringing these realities to our attention.

South Africa is deeply concerned about the increasing number of people suffering from malnutrition and food insecurity globally, including on the African continent and the Middle East. Hunger is on the rise, and millions of people are at risk. Hunger is both a cause and effect of war and conflict and remains a worrying threat to international peace and security. In this regard, this Council has a clear responsibility to act when it is linked to threats to international peace and security.

Armed conflict has a devastating impact on livelihoods. It disrupts food systems, causes mass displacements of people and triggers food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already existing food and nutrition insecurity and has driven vulnerable communities deeper into hunger and poverty. As a result of the pandemic, countries that are heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance, including basic food aid, are now facing a triple burden.

Civilians are the primary victims of these vicious cycles of food insecurity and armed conflict, particularly, women, children, the aged and disabled persons. In this regard, we wish to emphasise the plight of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants who are subjected to difficult living conditions during conflict situations and are fully reliant on humanitarian assistance.

Mr President,

Civilians and essential infrastructure, aid convoys and humanitarian workers remain targets during conflict situations.  We therefore underscore the importance of ensuring swift, unimpeded and impartial delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to all those who require it, in line with the provisions of international humanitarian law and the need to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers.

In this regard, South Africa wishes to appreciate and commend the efforts of the UN, its personnel, implementing partners and agencies for their sterling efforts to provide the necessary aid and assistance, in particularly in situations of conflict.

Mr President,

There is a need to do more to reduce and prevent conflict induced hunger. Please allow me to highlight the following elements for consideration of the Security Council:

Firstly, prevention and early-warning systems should be used more effectively to prevent cases of hunger. This can be done by integrating indicators on alarming food insecurity levels and the restriction of humanitarian access to populations into peacekeeping operations and country reports submitted to the Security Council.

Secondly, all parties to conflict should ensure their full compliance to international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Those responsible for violations of such international law, including by preventing the provision of food assistance or undermining the means of producing food during conflict, should be held accountable.

Thirdly, humanitarian assistance provided in conflict areas should be gender and age sensitive and remain responsive to the different needs of the population, thereby ensuring that these needs are integrated in humanitarian responses.

Fourthly, enhancing and providing adequate health services in conflict areas, such as to deal with infectious diseases, should be part of a strategy to eradicate hunger; and

Finally, economic sanctions imposed on countries in conflict, may inadvertently give rise to conflict-related hunger, as civilians may have less access to nutrition and medicine and are faced with higher prices for foodstuffs, due to the failing economy. In this regard, South Africa reiterates its support for the Secretary-General’s call to waive all economic measures imposed on countries in conflict, particularly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The imposition of unilateral coercive measures also has an impact on countries in conflict and we call on those countries that impose such measures to lift these sanctions.

Let me conclude, Mr President, by highlighting that in order to reverse conflict induced hunger, it is imperative that the international community stands firmly against the use of hunger as an unacceptable weapon of war and ensure that those who suffer from such tactics receive the humanitarian assistance they need.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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