Press Conference by Security Council President on Programme of Work for May

The Security Council’s programme for May features an open debate on the nexus between armed conflict and food insecurity, as well as a briefing on the risks and benefits of using technology in the maintenance of peace and security, its President for the month told a Headquarters press conference today.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States), recalling that the link between conflict and food security was discussed during her previous Council presidency in March 2021, said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will chair an open debate on 19 May, shining a light again on the issue. She added that the United States wishes to ensure that the growing food insecurity does not create new conflict and instability in fragile States.

On 23 May, the 15-member organ will hold a briefing on technology and security. “This is a new and important focus of the Council,” she said, noting that it is long past time for it to fully grapple with the impact of digital technology on the maintenance of international peace and security.

In addition to these two major events, the Council will continue to be seized of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, with a briefing scheduled on 5 May and potentially more to follow, she said.

On Syria, the Council will hold meetings on 20, 27 and 31 May, respectively on its humanitarian, chemical weapons and political files.

She also highlighted an annual debate on protection of civilians on 25 May, saying that the event is taking on heightened importance, given the attacks against civilians in Ukraine, as well as such incidents in Ethiopia, Yemen and Myanmar.

Across the monthly programme, her delegation seeks to ensure the women, peace and security agenda is fully integrated. The United States also aims to include civil society speakers in every meeting, if possible, and wishes to ensure that all briefers are protected from reprisals. Her delegation also seeks to ensure gender balance and diversity among invited briefers.

Adding comments in her national capacity, she said the issue of conflict and food security is “personal” as she has witnessed with her own eyes that famine and malnutrition are largely caused by war. This is even more urgent today due to the Russia Federation’s unconscionable invasion of Ukraine. On 18 May, on the eve of the Council open debate, the United States will convene a ministerial-level global food security call to action event at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The event will be attended by Foreign Ministers from many regions and will review urgent humanitarian needs and explore ways to build future resilience.

On the second signature event, she said peace and security has been completely transformed by digital technology for better or worse. These tools can be abused to spread disinformation, restrict access and deny human rights, but they also offer opportunities to do tremendous good. They can help identify emerging threats, protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and reconnect and reunite the displaced with their families. They can help prosecutors collect evidence to build cases for war crimes, connect refugees with host families and employment opportunities, and better prepare peacekeepers to deploy. The event will contribute to the Council’s understanding of the evolving landscape.

Concerning Syria, she said the dire humanitarian situation is a priority for the United States. She will travel to the region for an update on the life-saving aid flowing into Syria through the cross-border mechanism.

On 17 May, the United States will hold a memorial in the General Assembly Hall for former Secretary of States Madeleine Albright.

At the outset, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged in her national capacity that 3 May marks World Press Freedom Day, stressing that press freedom is “the cornerstone of every democracy”, counters disinformation and holds Governments in check.

Responding to questions, she said the Secretary-General will speak at the open debate on conflict and food security. There will be no outcome documents for the two signature events.

Asked about the Security Council’s inability to stop the war in Ukraine and what the United States can do, she said “we are successful” in isolating the Russian Federation in the 15-member organ, in unifying voices condemning that country in the General Assembly, in bringing Assembly resolutions forward on humanitarian assistance and in suspending the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council. In the Security Council, “they [the Russian Federation] are on the defensive”, she said, stressing that she intends to keep it that way.

On reproductive health and rights, the United States Administration’s stance is clear, she said, noting that her country restored its stance on this issue to align with allies at the United Nations and with global norms to ensure support for women’s health. The United States restored its funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She denied that there is a hangover effect on this issue from the previous administration.

Accused of using double standards on the situations in Ukraine and Palestine, she said that the United States takes a strong stance on Israel’s security — their right to defend the country from attacks by Hamas, but believes that Israel and Palestine equally deserve their rights.

Source: United Nations

Better prevention and targeting of root causes needed to combat food crises

The number of people facing acute food insecurity, requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support, continues to grow at an alarming rate, according to a joint UN report released on Wednesday.

“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

The annual report from the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) – an international alliance of the UN, European Union (EU), governmental and non-governmental agencies – shines a light on the urgency of tackling root causes rather than just responding to emergencies after the fact.

The report focuses on countries and territories where the severity of the food crisis is outstripping local resources and capacities.

It reveals that some 193 million people in 53 countries or territories experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels (IPC/CH Phase 3-5) in 2021, representing an increase of nearly 40 million people compared with 2020’s already record numbers.

Of those, 570,000 people in Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, were classified in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity, “catastrophe” phase 5, and required urgent action to avert widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death.

When looking at the same 39 countries or territories featured in all editions of the report, the number of people facing Phase 3 levels or above, nearly doubled between 2016 and 2021, rising unabatedly each year since 2018.

“The results of this year’s Global Report further demonstrate the need to collectively address acute food insecurity at the global level across humanitarian, development and peace context,” said QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Root causes

From conflict to environmental and climate crises, and economic to health crises with poverty and inequality as undelaying causes, these worrying trends are the result of multiple drivers feeding into one another.

Weather extremes have crippled over 23 million people in eight countries/territories, an increase from 15.7 million in 15 countries/territories.

And economic shocks have affected over 30 million people in 21 countries/territories, down from over 40 million people in 17 countries/territories in 2020 – mainly due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conflict main driver

However, conflict remains the main driver of food insecurity, having pushed 139 million in 24 countries/territories into acute food insecurity – up from around 99 million in 23 countries/territories in in 2020.

“Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and surging food and fuel costs have created a perfect storm,” said Mr. Beasley.

“Millions of people in dozens of countries are being driven to the edge of starvation,” he added appealing for “urgently need emergency funding to pull them back from the brink and turn this global crisis around before it’s too late”.

Ukraine repercussions

While the analysis predates Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the report finds that the war has already exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems, with serious consequences for global food and nutrition security.

Countries already coping with high levels of acute hunger are particularly vulnerable to the risks created by the war in Eastern Europe, notably due to their high dependency on imports of food and agricultural inputs and vulnerability to global food price shocks, notes the report.

“The tragic link between conflict and food insecurity is once again evident and alarming,” said Mr. QU.

“While the international community has courageously stepped up to the calls for urgent famine prevention and mitigation action, resource mobilization to efficiently tackle the root causes of food crises due to, among others, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, global hotspots and the war in Ukraine, still struggles to match the growing needs”.

A paradigm shift

The report’s findings demonstrate the need for a greater prioritization of smallholder agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response.

Furthermore, it advocates for promoting structural changes to current external financing, to reduce humanitarian assistance over time through longer-term development investments, which can help tackle the root causes of hunger.

In parallel, humanitarian assistance must be provided more efficiently and sustainably.

“The situation calls out for at-scale action to move towards integrated approaches to prevention, anticipation, and better targeting to sustainably address the root causes of food crises, including structural rural poverty, marginalization, population growth and fragile food systems,” said the Global Network founding members, in a joint statement with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank.

Source: United Nations

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to US Vows to Improve Diplomatic Relations between Two Countries

Addis Ababa-Ambassador Sileshi Bekele, who has been appointed as Special Envoy and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ethiopia to the United States, said he will work to further enhance diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The ambassador made the remarks while meeting with diplomats and staff of the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC.

During the occasion, Ambassador Sileshi said the main focus of the mission will be to make every maximum effort to further enhance the long-standing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He also explained that cooperation should be strengthened through diaspora participation, people to people relations, technology transfer, trade and investment as well as image building, construction, tourism and other sectors.

The mission members, for their part, said they will work harder than ever to balance the century-old diplomatic relations between the US and Ethiopia, according to the information obtained from the embassy.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency

EU Keen to Support National Dialogue in Ethiopia: EU Ambassador

The European Union(EU) is keen to support Ethiopia’s national dialogue, the European Union Delegation Head Ambassador Roland Kobia said.

Addressing various issues on the relations between EU and Ethiopia today, the ambassador

said EU “supports the national dialogue in principle, and we would be ready to support (the process) if there is an appetite for the national dialogue to be supported in any means.”

Respecting Ethiopia’s sovereignty, “we are ready to help if this is possible,” he added.

The ambassador noted that the idea of dialogue is a good initiative, and expressed his hope that it will work swiftly and fully and bring results.

According to him, not only the EU and its member states, but also other parties will be willing to support the national dialogue process.

Ambassador Kobia recalled that national dialogues have been held in many countries, including in South Africa and Rwanda.

It is therefore an African instrument, not EU instrument, he stated, adding that this is an African way to settle problems.

Ethiopia has the potential to solve its problems instead of being caught in a cycle of violence, which is not the interest of Ethiopians, he underscored.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency

Elders Optimist that Nat’l Dialogue Would Help Resolve Contentious Issues

The national dialogue in Ethiopia would enable to resolve years-long contentious national problems in the country, according to elders who spoke to ENA.

Taye Berso, a Sidama elder said the ongoing process of national dialogue is crucial to Ethiopia as it consolidates the unity and integrity of the country.

He noted that the dialogue would help to resolve the disputes which have not been solved for many years.

“I am positive about the ongoing process of the national dialogue since it solves national problems that have not been solved through peaceful dialogue.”

According to him, the dialogue would further pave way for development by reconciling contested domestic issues once and for all.

“The national dialogue helps to reach consensus among Ethiopians on contentious issues rather than squabbling over issues that have no relevance for this generation. Hence, I believe the dialogue is crucial to collect inputs that would help us in the journey to development,” he elaborated.

Elders of all the nations and nationalities will play their part for the realization of an inclusive, successful and fruitful national dialogue, Taye said, stressing that elders have crucial role in the process and need to be collaborative in working with the National Dialogue Commission.

Negewo Waqeyo, an Oromo elder, said the dialogue will help Ethiopians to uproot divisive attitudes being spread by some elements.

“We all Ethiopians are glad to hear the launching of the process of national dialogue. All nations, nationalities and peoples should stand in unison for prevalence of freedom, peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia. For this, we need the ongoing national dialogue that has to be a foundation for lasting peace.”

The National Dialogue Commission has so far finalized the preliminary preparation phase for the holding of the much anticipated national dialogue since its establishment over two months ago.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency

Needs at all-time high even before the war in Ukraine, food crises report says

The number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support continues to grow at an alarming rate, according to a new study.

Launched today, the Global Report on Food Crises, confirms it is more urgent than ever to tackle the root causes of food crises rather than just responding after they occur.

Acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods at immediate risk and differs from chronic hunger (when a person is unable to consume enough food over an extended period to maintain a normal, active lifestyle).

Published by the Global Network Against Food Crises – an alliance of UN agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP), the European Union (EU), governmental and non-governmental bodies – the report lays bare the scale of the challenge at hand.

Around 193 million people in 53 countries or territories experienced acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels in 2021, according to the global standard for measuring food insecurity – the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

This represents a dramatic increase of nearly 25 percent – 38 million people – compared with the already record numbers of 2020.

Among these, 570 000 people across Ethiopia, South Sudan, southern Madagascar and Yemen were classified in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity – at IPC5 or ‘catastrophe/famine’ – and required urgent action to avert widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death.

When looking at the same 39 countries or territories featured in all editions of the report, the number of people facing crisis or worse (IPC 3 or above) nearly doubled between 2016 and 2021, with unabated rises each year since 2018. These worrying trends are the result of multiple drivers feeding into one another, ranging from conflict to environmental and climate to economic and health crises with poverty and inequality as underlying causes.

Conflict remains the main driver of food insecurity, the report confirms. While its analysis does not include the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine, it shows that the war has already exposed the interconnected nature and fragility of global food systems, with serious consequences for global food and nutrition security.

Countries already coping with high levels of acute hunger are particularly vulnerable to the risks created by the situation in Eastern Europe, notably due to their high dependency on imports of food and agricultural inputs and vulnerability to global food price shocks, it notes.

The report demonstrates the need for a greater prioritization of small-holder agriculture as a frontline humanitarian response, to overcome access constraints and as a solution for reverting negative long-term trends. Promoting structural changes to the way external financing is distributed, so that humanitarian assistance can be reduced over time through longer-term development investments, can tackle the root causes of hunger, it states.

Likewise, strengthening a coordinated approach to ensure that humanitarian, development, and peacekeeping activities are delivered in a holistic and coordinated manner, and ensuring and avoid further fuelling conflict as an unintended consequence will also contribute to resilience building and recovery.

In a joint statement, the EU, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and WFP, together with USAID and the World Bank said: “The situation calls out for at-scale action to move towards integrated approaches to prevention, anticipation, and better targeting to sustainably address the root causes of food crises, including structural rural poverty, marginalization, population growth and fragile food systems.”

The NUMBERS from WFP

2022 – a year of unprecedented needs

In 81 countries where WFP works, acute hunger is expected to rise by 47 million people if the conflict in Ukraine continues unabated – this is a staggering 17 percent jump, with the steepest rises in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the start of the year, there were already 276 million people facing acute hunger in 81 countries served by WFP. This is a record high and an increase of 126 million people compared to before the pandemic.

According to WFP, at least 44 million people in 38 countries are teetering on the edge of famine and overall global needs for humanitarian assistance keep increasing and are today higher than ever. This number has risen from 27 million in 2019.

Around 730,000 people face famine-like conditions (IPC Phase 5). Some 400,000 of these people are in parts of Ethiopia affected by the Tigray crisis – the highest number recorded since the 2011 famine in Somalia – while the remaining people are in Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia.

Source: World Food Programme

Journalists in Ethiopia Say Press Freedom is at ‘Crossroads’

WELDIYA, ETHIOPIA — When Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office four years ago, Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based group that promotes press freedom, raised Ethiopia’s ranking in its international press freedom index by 40 places.

It was a giant leap forward after decades of media repression by the state. But since the war between federal government forces and rebels in the Tigray region began in late 2020, Ethiopia has dropped in the rankings.

To mark World Press Freedom Day 2022, VOA spoke to Ethiopian journalists about how free they feel to carry out their work.

Elias Meseret, who worked with the Associated Press, told VOA that press freedom in Ethiopia is at a crossroads.

“Overall, I can say that lack of professionalism and also extreme views have become the hallmarks of the state of the media in Ethiopia, at this point in time,” Elias said. “For this to change, I think the government has a responsibility to let media professionals do their job freely. This means without any harassment and intimidation.”

Assegid Mulugeta, a radio presenter for the government-owned broadcaster, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, or EBC, thinks press freedom has improved in recent years. In 2018, the prime minister released all journalists from prison, However, that progress has since been reversed according to Ethiopian journalists, who documented that 46 journalists were detained in the country in 2021, making Ethiopia one of the worst jailers of journalists in Africa.

The state-backed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a statement Tuesday expressing concern for journalist Gobeze Sisay, whose whereabouts are unknown since plainclothes officers arrested him on Sunday.

Another journalist, Amir Aman Kiyaro, and his colleague Thomas Engida were arrested in November and released in March. But they still may face years in prison if convicted of violating the country’s wartime state of emergency law and anti-terrorism law.

Still, radio presenter Assegid said he sees improvement.

Under the pre-2018 government where the Tigray People’s Liberation Front political party dominated, he said, there were “lots of stifling systems, there was lots of censorship, there was beating of journalists, there was lots of pressures and censorship against journalists and now we are seeing the booming of YouTube and online media … this is a good thing to hear.”

Sisay Sahlu, editor at The Reporter, a private newspaper based in Addis Ababa, said independent media often get stonewalled by the government.

“My experience and the experience of my friends from public media is totally different,” he said. “As a private newspaper employee, it’s tough to get information for me.”

Sisay said that for a simple story, he might call 10 officials, who all may be unwilling to answer his questions.

“When you call them, they don’t give us any clue,” he said. “We write a letter to them, they are not talking. Finally, when we publish [the story], they are coming to our office. Sometimes they are on the phone and start a verbal fight. Either they are giving us information or not.”

A government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

In the latest World Press Freedom Index, Ethiopia is ranked 114th, down 13 places from its ranking in 2021.

Source: Voice of America