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Crisis Group Congratulates Louise Arbour on her UN Appointment
Crisis Group Congratulates Louise Arbour on her UN Appointment
Instruments of Pain: Conflict and Famine
Instruments of Pain: Conflict and Famine
Media Release / Global

Crisis Group Congratulates Louise Arbour on her UN Appointment

The appointment of former Crisis Group President & CEO Louise Arbour as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration is welcome news, especially as strengthened conflict prevention efforts are essential to addressing the global refugee crisis. 

The International Crisis Group extends heartfelt congratulations to Louise Arbour, our former President & CEO, on her 9 March appointment as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration.

In addition to her illustrious career promoting international justice, Crisis Group recognises Ms. Arbour’s extraordinary contributions to global peace and security. As former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, she brings wide-ranging skills and expertise to her new role.

“With unresolved conflicts at the root of the global migration crisis, the UN has made an excellent choice in appointing Louise Arbour to this important new post”, said Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO of Crisis Group. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with Louise, and stand ready to offer recommendations for a more holistic response to the migration crisis by UN member states.”

As Crisis Group’s president from 2009 to 2014, during an era of great international volatility, Ms. Arbour ensured the organisation remained strong and effective through its timely analysis of deadly conflicts and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve them. Crisis Group’s Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts, established after Ms. Arbour’s departure in 2014, helps to ensure that the organisation is equipped to respond swiftly to early warnings signalling new or worsening conflict. 

Crisis Group welcomes the appointment of an expert on conflict prevention and resolution in this new role, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres acts on his important pledge that conflict “prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority”. We are certain that with Louise Arbour, the UN will strengthen its response to protect those fleeing conflict and to find new ways to address the root causes of involuntary mass displacement of people.

Former Crisis Group President & CEO Louise Arbour speaks about peace and security issues. Crisis Group
Men unload boxes of nutritional supplements from a helicopter prior to a humanitarian food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme in Thonyor, Leer county, South Sudan, on 25 February 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
Statement / Global

Instruments of Pain: Conflict and Famine

For the first time in three decades, four countries, driven by war, verge on famine. Over coming weeks, Crisis Group will publish special briefings on Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Each conflict requires tailored response; all need increased aid and efforts to end the violence.

The last time the UN declared a famine was in 2011, in Somalia. The last time it faced more than one major famine simultaneously was more than three decades ago. Today we are on the brink of four – in Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.

The spectre of famine is primarily the result of war, not natural disaster. According to the UN, more than twenty million people, millions of them children, are at risk of starvation. This is happening in man-made crises and under the Security Council’s watch. In some places, the denial of food and other aid is a weapon of war as much as its consequence. Combatants’ fighting tactics often make the problem worse.

Both sides of Yemen’s conflict, for example, fight with little to no regard for the local population. The Huthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces, on one hand, and their opponents in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, on the other, have repeatedly strangled the flow of aid and commodities to areas controlled by their rivals. The impending Saudi-led push to recapture the Red Sea coast, including the port of Hodeida – the main entry point for imports on which much of the country depends – and the battle that offensive will provoke risk creating another major chokehold on supplies.

Critical norms, including adherence to International Humanitarian Law, are fast eroding. For the first time in a generation, most indicators suggest the world is becoming more dangerous.

Elsewhere, too, the actions of governments and their opponents exact high humanitarian tolls. In north-east Nigeria, Boko Haram’s attacks on rural communities and the destruction wrought by fighting between its insurgents and the military caused the acute food crisis. The curtailing by Lake Chad basin states of economic activity, aimed at weakening the insurgency, has damaged communities’ livelihoods and increased their vulnerability.

Fighting in South Sudan often involves indiscriminate killing of civilians, sexual violence and pillage by state and non-state armed actors alike. Civilians in Southern Unity state must constantly flee armed groups, rendering them unable to farm or receive assistance and creating conditions for famine. Many resort to hiding in swamps; to seek food is to risk attack. 

The risk of famine is thus closely tied to the spike, over recent years, in war and its fallout, particularly mounting human suffering. Critical norms, including adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), are fast eroding. For the first time in a generation, most indicators suggest the world is becoming more dangerous.

The Nigerians, Somalis, South Sudanese and Yemenis over whom famine looms have already suffered intense, in some cases protracted conflict. The impact on those most affected is more than a passing tragedy. The displacement, destruction to livestock and local communities and the threat of a lost generation, without education or socio-economic prospects, hinder prospects for building sustainable peace.

Beginning today with publication of the special briefing Instruments of Pain (I): Conflict and Famine in Yemen, and continuing over the next few weeks with similar special briefings on South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, Crisis Group will describe these crises’ roots and the measures necessary to prevent their further deterioration. Each requires a unique response: challenges of access and funding vary, as do ways to quiet and eventually end the wars that have increased risks of famine. Each special briefing will offer detailed prescriptions.

Overall, though, governments of the states affected and their backers should:

  • show far greater respect for IHL, particularly by allowing in aid and protecting those delivering it. They must avoid tactics that contribute to the risk of famine, like the Hodeida offensive, the curtailing of Lake Chad basin trading or predation in Southern Unity state;
     
  • increase and sustain funds for relief efforts. Shortfalls are not the only financial challenge – in Yemen, for example, the central bank’s failure to pay public sector salaries has left many Yemenis unable to buy food that is available. But humanitarian efforts in all four crises are chronically underfunded; and
     
  • renew efforts to calm violence and bring those conflicts to a sustainable end. The spike in war over recent years, which has already caused more civilian casualties, mass displacement and terrorism, now threatens to starve millions. Without redoubled efforts to end those conflicts, 2017 promises to be not the low-water mark, but rather a way-station on the descent to something far worse.