More coordinated emergency humanitarian action

Press release, 25.06.2021

Finding new ways to respond to challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. This was one of the key issues discussed at the humanitarian affairs segment (HAS) of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which was held in Geneva from 23 to 25 June 2021 and was chaired by Switzerland. A resolution to strengthen coordination of humanitarian aid was adopted, sending an important political signal.

The UN Economic and Social Council ECOSOC during its closing session at the HAS on 25 June 2021.
Strengthening humanitarian aid is the top priority of the Humanitarian Aid Segment, HAS, of the UN Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC. © SOS

In concrete terms, the HAS addressed issues of protection – in particular for healthcare  workers – and respect for international humanitarian law. It also examined the opportunities and risks associated with new technologies for humanitarian action, and the impact of climate change on crisis-affected populations. Representatives from the private sector and NGOs were involved in its work.

A resolution to strengthen coordination in all these areas was adopted unanimously. The HAS is a key platform for assessing the appropriateness of improvements aimed at making the UN's humanitarian aid more effective. It provides an opportunity to discuss both current and future challenges, and to exchange experiences and lessons learnt. The 2021 session of the HAS is chaired by Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl, permanent representative of Switzerland to the UN in New York.

The pandemic and humanitarian action

The pandemic has had a particularly profound impact on people already affected by crises. Humanitarian action has had to adapt quickly and radically change its working methods.

In the humanitarian context too, COVID-19 has highlighted the essential work of health personnel, as well as the crucial nature of access to care and protection of personnel and medical facilities. Meanwhile, access to vaccines and the fight against inequalities in this area remains a major challenge.

Opportunities and risks

In this rapidly changing humanitarian landscape, new technologies are creating various opportunities to make humanitarian action more rapid, accessible and effective. The HAS is committed to improving the sharing of expertise in order to make better use of innovative crisis management tools. This must however take into account the risks associated with data protection and the dangers of disinformation.

Climate change

Climate change acts as a risk multiplier, creating even greater inequalities. Increasingly severe tropical cyclones and floods, as well as recurrent droughts, are destroying livelihoods and triggering the displacement of entire population groups.

Humanitarian action needs to focus more on prevention, reducing the risk of displacement and promoting sustainable solutions. In particular, it must support the affected populations in their efforts to adapt to new conditions imposed by climate change.

Switzerland, in chairing the HAS's work this year, has committed itself to ensuring that discussions on improving humanitarian action take into account the key role played by women and local partners in crisis management.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs