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UN Chief: Leaders Must Stop Conflicts that Drive Aid Crises

  • Associated Press

FILE - A convoy of trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies are seen heading to the besieged town of Madaya, 24 kilometers southwest of Damascus, Syria, for a U.N.-aid distribution, Jan. 14, 2016.

Over 80 percent of humanitarian funding requested by the United Nations is going toward life-saving needs in a growing number of global conflicts, and urgent action is needed to shift away from perpetual crisis management, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

Ahead of the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May, the U.N. chief called for “far greater global leadership” to prevent and end conflicts that are overwhelming aid organizations and driving millions of people from their homes.

According to Ban's report, 120 million people currently need humanitarian aid at a cost of $19.5 billion, an all-time high. The gap between funds needed and donated widened “to a staggering 47 percent - $9.3 billion - in 2015,” it said.

The U.N. chief said the world has a shared responsibility to close the gap, which ought to be possible in a $78 trillion global economy. He quoted an estimate from the Institute for Economics and Peace that the economic and financial cost of conflict and violence in 2014 was $14.3 trillion.

Not only are conflicts today more complex, Ban said, but the human cost is more devastating.

“The brutality of today's armed conflicts and the utter lack of respect for the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law ... threaten to unravel 150 years of achievements, and to regress to an era of war without limits,” Ban warned.

He stressed that the answer lies not in humanitarian assistance and deployment of peacekeepers but in getting world leaders “to take far greater ownership of political solutions to existing conflicts and to preventing new ones.”

Ban also called for a global campaign to demand greater compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Without referring directly to besieged communities in Syria, where the U.N. estimates that nearly a half-million people are affected, he stressed that “denying humanitarian access to besieged areas in order to achieve military gains is deplorable and against the law.”

The U.N. chief also urged leaders at the upcoming Istanbul summit to commit to reduce the 38 million people currently internally displaced within their home countries by at least 50 percent.