MSF Withdraws From UN Humanitarian Meeting
Somini Sengupta, NYT, May 5 2016
UNITED NATIONS — The UN says it wants to rethink how humanitarian aid is delivered to the world’s spreading crises. But as of Thursday, only about 90 of the 193 countries recognized by the UN had agreed to attend the World Humanitarian Summit it is planning for this purpose. MSF announced it would veto the event, calling it a “fig leaf of good intentions” and saying that countries in conflict were ignoring “systemic violations” of international humanitarian law, but spox Stéphane Dujarric complacently dismisssed them as “disappointing.” He said the summit, scheduled to start on May 23 in Istanbul, was expected to address the issues that MSF regarded as priorities, including the obligation of warring parties to grant unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. Two days ago, the aid group’s international president, Joanne Liu, rebuked the UNSC for their direct and indirect involvement in military attacks on health workers and health care facilities. In a statement MSF said:
We had hoped that the meeting, for which we spent months preparing, would advance vital access and protection issues. But unfortunately it has failed to do so, instead focusing on its ambitions to ‘do aid differently’ and ‘end need,’ fine-sounding words which threaten to dissolve humanitarian assistance into wider development, peace-building and political agendas.
Ban Ki-moon and his fellow boxtops have increasingly voiced their own criticism of countries that flout international law. They have accused Syria’s government of blocking lifesaving medical relief and bombing hospitals. They have sought to draw attention to the meeting in recent days, saying it will attract 6,000 participants and host 110 side events. The goal is to inspire new commitments to preventing and responding to crises, some pissy under-Sec said at a news conference on Monday. He also said 45 heads of state and government would be among the delegations attending. He was repeatedly asked to name the countries, but declined. The debate over the conference’s usefulness is part of a broader discussion about the effectiveness of the UN in tackling the greatest global challenges, including the Ebola epidemic and the conflicts in Syria and South Sudan.