Statement at the UNSC Open Debate on Conflict and Food Security
Statement19 May 2022
Thank you Mr. President, Ireland deeply appreciates your leadership in ensuring conflict and hunger is situated at the heart of the work of this Council.
Our discussion today could not be more timely. Conflict induced hunger is present in an increasing number of the country situations on the Security Council agenda. It demands our urgent attention and action.
Executive Director Beasley, Chief Executive Menker, and Director General Dongyu could not have been clearer. Hunger is on the rise. Conflict is the cause.
The statistics and the outlook are grim and difficult to hear. But for this Council to act, to trigger necessary and urgent action, they must be heard by us, in this Chamber.
Ireland speaks to both conflict and food security from our own lived experiences - shaping our understanding and sharpening our conviction to act. It is unconscionable, that in our world of plenty, millions are on the brink of starvation. 193 million people globally are at crisis levels of food insecurity or worse.
We cannot avoid the difficult reality: conflict is now the biggest driver of hunger. And, by failing to prevent or resolve the conflicts on our agenda, this Council has a responsibility to bear.
We have a duty - as members of this Council - to look beyond short term political or strategic interests to the men, women, and children who are living the reality of the often dry reports on our agenda. More and more of them are dying from avoidable, man-made, conflict induced hunger. They are doing so on our watch.
Today’s discussion is an opportunity to ask how we can meet our responsibility. How to turn our words to action. Let us rise to that opportunity.
Mr. President, I wish to share three points.
The first is an obvious one, but it cannot be stated enough. Conflict is perpetuating immense humanitarian need and driving global food insecurity. Conflict displaces people, destroys livelihoods, disrupts trade and food supply, damages infrastructure and impinges access to vital resources.
In Somalia, famine is a terrifying imminent risk. Conflict in northern Ethiopia, and a defacto humanitarian blockade, has resulted in 80% of Tigray’s population in food insecurity. Hundreds of thousands face starvation. Yet, this Council has struggled to find the courage to address this crisis. There are emergency food insecurity levels across many conflict affected countries including Mali, Haiti, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
The illegal, unjustified invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has caused immeasurable suffering in Ukraine. However, the consequences on hunger in our interconnected world is being felt far beyond Ukraine’s sovereign borders. Now, this senseless act of aggression has now forced millions more into acute hunger this year. The potential impact on security and stability across multiple countries is deeply worrying.
Our response, too often, Mr. President, is to address the symptoms, not the disease. We provide necessary humanitarian assistance to those trapped in conflicts, but lack the will or commitment to end them.
Unless we take real steps to end the conflicts on our agenda, our actions do little more than cruelly sustain millions on the edge of survival.
But these conflicts are not unsolvable. War is not inevitable. Ireland knows that from its own experience. However, we need to use all our tools to turn those waging war from the path of violence, to embrace dialogue and diplomacy and take the path of peace. It is a path that we can walk with them.
Mr. President, my second point is that we have the tools to address conflict related hunger, but we are failing to use them.
In spite of unanimous commitment by this Council to counter conflict driven hunger, the promise of Resolution 2417 is not being realised. We continue to see flagrant violations of international humanitarian law, including starvation brazenly used as a method of warfare. Humanitarian access repeatedly impeded. Vulnerable populations denied life-saving humanitarian protection and assistance. And accountability for such grievous actions are absent.
The war in Ukraine has upended global food supply chains. It has tightened the screw on already food insecure countries such as Yemen. As Executive Director Beasley told this Council previously, the impact of this war is that it is forcing humanitarian agencies to make unconscionable choices - to take food from the mouths of the hungry to feed the starving.
The events of the last months have only reinforced the urgency of Resolution 2417’s call to action. We must match our will to act to the severity of the food insecurity situation deepening on our watch.
Mr. President, my third point is a call to do things differently.
The millions upon millions suffering the consequences of conflict induced food insecurity and this Council’s inability to address this crisis shames us all. Reaching emergency and catastrophic levels of food insecurity does not happen overnight.
Just how many red flags and alarm bells are needed? What level of suffering will finally spark a response from this Council?
Delivering on early action, as foreseen in Resolution 2417, can prevent food insecurity and famine, especially to safeguard maternal and child health. Our efforts should support interventions to prevent child malnourishment rather than waiting until they are on the edge of starvation. Giving future generations a chance.
Early warning systems, including data analysis provides the international community with the means to anticipate food insecurity crises. This can save lives, protects livelihoods, and allows food systems to survive. All the more vital in conflict situations.
Mr. President, in closing, time is running out.
Our collective and comprehensive action is needed to reverse the frightening trend of conflict induced food insecurity. It is needed now.
We need to ensure all parties to armed conflicts must comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, including in relation to humanitarian access.
Those who fail to do so must be held accountable and the Council must assume its responsibility to ensure accountability. This is what we actually committed to when we unanimously adopted Resolution 2417. We must recognise our failings and the slow pace of progress. This is why Ireland has worked as informal focal point on conflict and hunger since joining the Council. To bring forward the provisions of this resolution and to try and make them work. Now more than ever we need to summon the political will and honour our commitments.
More importantly, we must have the courage to act to end conflicts, and to break the cycle of conflict induced food insecurity. This is our responsibility, this is our duty. The cost of further political inaction will be devastating. An avoidable and unnecessary human cost. So let us act together and let is act now.
Thank you Mr. President.