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India, Sweden raise concern over violations of international humanitarian law at UNGA

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United Nations, Dec 15 :  Voicing concern over repeated violations of international humanitarian law, India and Sweden have said that parties to armed conflicts, including non-state actors, who perpetrate human rights abuses with impunity should be brought to justice.

India and Sweden, in the joint statement delivered on Friday during a General Assembly meeting on ‘Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance’, said they are deeply concerned that humanitarian emergencies, primarily driven by natural disasters and armed conflicts, reached a new high last year, as more than 131.7 million people needed humanitarian assistance.

India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal, delivering the joint statement on behalf of India and Sweden, said the humanitarian funding requirement in 2019 is nearly 22 billion dollars.

As millions of people are forcibly displaced worldwide, Lal said issues of concern also include those relating to access for and protection of humanitarian workers, especially in the situations of armed conflict.

“Repeated violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law remain one of the most persistent challenges. The parties to armed conflicts, including the non-state actors continue to flout the international humanitarian law and perpetrate egregious abuses of human rights with impunity,” he said, adding that women and children remain the most vulnerable and need special measures for their protection.

“We must strengthen framework for international cooperation to bring perpetrators to justice,” Lal said. He underscored that all humanitarian actors need to strictly adhere to the policy of zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse and ensure that the victims are afforded adequate protection.

The General Assembly Friday adopted four resolutions on coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief aid, as Member States echoed concerns that global crises and attacks on humanitarian personnel continue to increase at a time when millions of people are forcibly displaced globally.

Lal added that the increasing number of forcibly displaced people due to humanitarian emergencies remains an area of concern. The ‘Global Compact on Refugees’ and ‘Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ which are both soon to be formally adopted, as well as 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provide frameworks for enhanced international cooperation to mitigate displacement and reduce human suffering resulting from such displacement, he said.

Lal noted that while the UN agencies and other partners have been responding to several complex emergencies in a commendable manner, attempting to address different forms of humanitarian emergencies through a coherent and comprehensive approach remains a significant challenge.

“Greater coordination and complementarity in action among various humanitarian actors, need to be achieved to undertake effective responses which are context-based, also enabling greater participation of local actors,” he said.

India and Sweden also called for adopting a “victim-centred approach” to humanitarian response with respect for human dignity and provide flexibility to making choices on the goods and services they need most.

“Humanitarian action must focus on addressing more immediate and acute challenges while contributing to collective outcomes,” he said.

Lal pointed out that persisting gap in humanitarian funding, for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to which both India and Sweden are long-standing donors, remains an area of concern.

India and Sweden called upon Member States to consider increasing their contribution to UN humanitarian assistance system, including CERF and the country based pooled funds.

Sweden is one of the single largest donors of core funding to UN humanitarian agencies and provides significant support to the world’s major humanitarian crises.

India also continues to assist its friends and partners in relief efforts, particularly when facing situations of natural disasters such as Tsunami, earthquakes or cyclones. In the last four years, India has rescued 90,000 people including from 50 other countries caught in natural disasters or strife.

Lal told the General Assembly that India provided emergency aid of 200,000 dollars as well as two million dollars for rehabilitation projects to CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

India has also increased its annual financial contribution to the core budget of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from one million dollars in 2016 to five million dollars in 2018.

“The essence of humanitarian response is to save their lives, to alleviate their suffering and to maintain their dignity in the face of situations of natural disasters and violence. We call on all states to respect and honour International Humanitarian Law and the humanitarian principles,” he said.

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