United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has lamented that there seems to be no easy road ahead to the recovery from COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on Thursday at the Year 2021 Humanitarian Action Conference in Abuja, Mohammed said: “After an extremely difficult year, we are now working towards a recovery from the pandemic to put countries back on the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. But we do not have an easy road ahead.”
Mohammed, whose speech was read by the Country Director Nigeria, Chemonics International, Dr. Mike Egboh, said: “Many parts of the world where we work are still dealing with the impact of the pandemic.
“This year has brought its own challenges, with deepening crises in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, and famine looming in many parts of the world.”
She lamented that in times of such crises, marginalised women and girls bear the consequences the most, noting that: “Women and girls with disabilities, older women, widows and single-headed households, indigenous women and girls, and adolescent girls are further marginalised.”
She said this brings to the fore extreme suffering, such as hunger, existing gender inequality, and risks of heightened gender-based violence.
Mohammed said: “For example, during the pandemic, Somalia experienced a resurgence of female genital mutilation. In the Sahel, the pandemic coupled with conflict, drought and severe climate events caused spikes in early marriage, intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
“The pandemic also laid bare the profound inequities that plague indigenous people, especially women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
She noted that the pandemic has taught us important lessons; better social protection, universal health care, vaccine equity, effective governance and strong institutions would have saved lives.
She said this calls for six important actions, which include: “First, we must ensure women’s experiences and priorities remain central to humanitarian action. We must listen to and be guided by affected communities, especially by marginalised women and girls.
“Second, we must ensure women are engaged in humanitarian decision-making. We must bring women’s organisations and leaders to the table.
“Third, we must fund women’s and local organizations so they can truly empower and support communities in crisis. In many countries, women’s groups are actively engaged in implementing the humanitarian, development and peace nexus, making these efforts more sustainable and equitable in the long term.
“So, the fourth action is to better connect development and humanitarian work towards achieving the ambition of the SDGs. We are already doing that within the UN.
“Many countries, such as in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, are strengthening collaboration by working towards collective outcomes that are specific to the context. The UN Joint Steering Committee is actively supporting this work.
“For example, in Burkina Faso, the collective outcomes of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, or the UNSDCF, cover access to basic social services, food and nutrition, protection and security. Other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have included a specific collective outcome on gender-based violence.
“As you might know, the framework reflects each country’s priorities and plans in pursuing the SDGs.
“The fifth action is for countries dealing with increasing numbers of crises and a climate emergency to take ownership of the pathways to the SDGs.
“For example, Niger has developed its own concept. Its tripartite Technical Committee on the NEXUS Emergency Development has significantly improved coordination capacities at the decentralized level and the promotion of flexible and multi-year funding mechanisms, and strengthened the coordination of emergency development funding.
“The programmes for collective outcomes cover multi-year time frames that require extensive funding commitments from donors. Niger’s plans have been affected by insufficient funding, which has led to a persistent lack of social services.
“So, the sixth call for action is to work with Governments to mobilize and align a wide range of financing sources — public and private, domestic and international – to help those Governments build back better.”
Mohammed said: “This is our decade of ambitious action to deliver the SDGs. Our collective action to empower marginalized people, including women and girls in humanitarian response and in peace efforts, will go a long way in doing that.”
In her opening speech, the Executive Director of the InnerCity Mission organiser of the Humanitarian Action conference, Omoh Alabi said: “The Humanitarian Action conference was launched in 2020, and this annual event falls in line with the commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of poverty is aimed at mobilising critical actors in the development space, national and international, government, private, International NGOs, Civil Society groups, faith based organisations as well as beneficiaries of the humanitarian programmes and intervention to take concrete sustainable actions to end poverty in all its forms.”
She said: “For this second edition, to do justice to the theme of the conference, we have for you an extraordinary agenda, featuring a Keynote address, panel discussion, a product feature, an exhibition of products, programmes and interventions from our dear colleagues and more.
“Our objectives for this year are, to discuss issues, challenges and lessons learnt on humanitarian aid and poverty eradication especially among women and children, hence the careful selection of speakers of diverse background and rich areas of expertise. This conference would encourage us to eliminate corporate silos as well provide a safe space to foster and promote peer to peer collaboration amongst Humanitarian actors.”
She explained that ultimately the crux of the gathering was to ensure that adequate humanitarian aid gets to those who need them most.