Speech: Denouncing the use of hunger as a tool of war

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Thank you, Madam President. The United Kingdom welcomes the adoption of the first UN Security Council resolution to recognise the clear link between armed conflict and hunger. We thank the Netherlands, Kuwait, Sweden and Cote d’Ivoire for their work.

Millions of civilians in situations of armed conflict continue to suffer alarming levels of hunger caused overwhelmingly by political and military action. Unanimously adopting this text today underlines the Council’s belief that starvation is not something the parties to conflict are powerless to prevent, and signals our shared determination to take action.

Today’s resolution calls upon parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and refrain from using starvation as a method of warfare. Relevant obligations relate to humanitarian access, protection of infrastructure critical to providing food to civilians and the need to refrain from attacking, destroying, removing, or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

Madam President, we know that conflict is, for instance, the main contributor to hunger in South Sudan. In February 2017, famine was declared in Unity State, where some 100,000 people faced starvation. The declaration led to an escalated humanitarian response in the affected areas, and the famine status was lifted in June 2017.

Sadly, this situation has since deteriorated. In January, one million people were already severely food insecure – a 40 percent increase compared with the same time last year. UN agencies say that the food security outlook in South Sudan has never been so dire as it is now. Nearly two-thirds of the population, more than seven million people, will need food aid to stave off starvation in the May-July “lean season” – the hiatus between the depletion of food stocks and the next harvest.

The lesson is clear. Humanitarian aid can only ever be a sticking plaster. The solutions are political. In the resolution, the Security Council calls on the Secretary-General to provide it with early warning about conflict-related famine and food-insecurity conditions. In this regard, we look forward to more regular reporting on conditions within the context of country-specific situations.

Today, the Security Council has been clear in denouncing the use of hunger as a tool of war and calling on all parties to conflict to recall their obligations to the most vulnerable. We look forward to working with the members of this Council on this vital issue.

Thank you.

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