If Europe is something different from other regions of the world, it is in its values and, in particular, in its solidarity; internal, but above all external. The policy of international cooperation, development and humanitarian aid (or partnership) is, if not the most important, then one of the main signs of European identity. But mostly it is humanitarian aid. It is also important that the European Union, together with its member states, is the main source of humanitarian assistance in the donor world, which accounts for about 36% of global humanitarian assistance. What is clear is that humanitarian assistance is a key element of the EU’s external action and a sign of its ability to spread its values around the world.
Principles equality and solidarity they are the cornerstone of our legal framework, contained in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Title IV of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Based on these values, we have ensured that international cooperation and humanitarian assistance make us the largest cooperators in the world beyond our borders; not only because of the economic sums, but also because of the sum of the efforts of its member states and the exhaustive work of its cooperation agencies.
On May 9, the eyes and hearts of European citizens are riveted to the millions of Ukrainians forced to leave their homes. On the part of the EU, we made an unprecedented mobilization of funds in record time for Ukraine. Immediate commitments and initial disbursements from the EU, Member States and other donors have enabled the expansion of humanitarian aid to neighboring countries and even within Ukraine itself, sending more than 22,000 tons of aid..
No one can escape the fact that at the moment Ukraine is just another hell on this planet. Respect for international humanitarian law and access to humanitarian assistance within the country are urgent and unconditional issues. Without forgetting, of course, the clear and unanimous disagreement of the EU countries with the established blockade and the denial of humanitarian access to the Russian army to the occupied territory, and its cruelty in committing war crimes, for which it will eventually answer. It is then that we see how the humanitarian principles of neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality are violated or simply ignored by those who wage war without really weighing the consequences.
According to the United Nations OCHA, only 53.8% of funds allocated globally were disbursed in 2021, while this percentage drops to 8.1% in 2022. To this structural gap in humanitarian funding, we must add the reorientation or suspension of existing funding for other humanitarian crises by donors, which is becoming increasingly clear and worrisome.
That’s why we can’t ignore other equally worrisome crises, many of which have even been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine: in Afghanistan, girls no longer go to school and 9 million people have nothing to eat; in Myanmar, the military, led by Min Aung Hlaing, has banned humanitarian aid from reaching conflict-affected regions; in Ethiopia, the conflict in Tigray and severe drought are devastating Africa’s second most populous country with more than 4.2 million internally displaced people; In Syria, 6.2 million people have become internally displaced after 11 years of war. Venezuela, Lebanon, Sahara, Nigeria, Somalia or the Central African Republic… these are just some of the most acute and forgotten crises. More than 270 million people in 63 countries will need protection and humanitarian assistance in 2022, up from 235 million a year ago (one of the highest numbers in decades, for TRUE), according to European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic. After Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the numbers continue to grow, and as a result, we stand at the mark of 300 million people.
There is no doubt that humanitarian assistance is facing unprecedented challenges exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, renewed state conflicts, climate impacts, global population growth, governance inefficiency and environmental degradation.
We must understand that the gap between humanitarian needs and available resources on a global scale is widening too quickly. For this reason, it is necessary to fulfill the commitments made at the donor conference by advocating that financial support in response to the invasion of Ukraine be additional and not residual, directing the response of the EU and Member States to maintain levels of ODA (Official Development Assistance) funding, and support for other humanitarian crises.
Despite this year’s contribution level of $17.2 million, or 46% of needs, the gap between needs and funding is $20.5 billion, the largest in history. Lack of funding undermined the response capacity of humanitarian agencies during the year, especially as a number of emergencies need to scale up, such as in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, and as the impact of the health crisis continued to affect vulnerable communities.
United Nations projections already indicate $22 billion in additional funding needed through August. In the three months that we have been fighting in Ukraine, we have barely reached $1.6 billion.
We do not know if we will not arrive in time for a global response to these crises, which could lead to even greater consequences. The numbers are not encouraging, and although hope is said to be the last to be lost, far too many people have already lost everything. Europe must above all be a union of values.
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