Madam Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Swiss federal government, I would like to welcome you to the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. I extend a special welcome to my co-hosts today: UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde, and Per Olsson.
In ordinary times, we would gather in Geneva, where we promote peace and human dignity in armed conflict. However, these are certainly no ordinary times – Covid-19 has turned our lives upside down. What has not changed, however, is our humanitarian commitment. Even though the global pandemic prevents us from meeting in person, I call on you to bring the same commitment to this virtual conference. Let us embrace the spirit of humanitarian Geneva in digital format!
This global pandemic affects us all. However, it is people that are already suffering the most that are hit particularly hard. Like the people of Yemen. It is for them that we are gathered here today. Covid-19 is not only a global health crisis: it also acts as a magnifying glass. The people of Yemen have suffered for years from armed conflict, food insecurity, infectious diseases, the effects of climate change and high inflation. Covid-19 has made the terrible living conditions of these people even worse.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. 80 percent of the population relies on humanitarian aid every single day. Sixteen million people – almost twice the population of Switzerland – are affected by food insecurity. As shocking as these figures are, they are not just bare numbers. Behind those numbers are mothers and fathers who wake up every morning not knowing how they are going to feed their children.
The brutality of the crisis and the pressing nature of the needs mean that we have to act now. So far, only a fraction of the humanitarian response plan for 2021 has been funded. It is our responsibility to fund this plan now and effectively.
This year, Switzerland will provide fourteen million Swiss francs for humanitarian aid in Yemen. This is part of a long-term commitment. A commitment that totals seventy-one million Swiss francs over the past five years.
However, humanitarian aid can only be effective if it reaches the people in need – if those who provide humanitarian aid have access to those who suffer most. Switzerland therefore calls on all parties to ensure rapid, unimpeded and sustainable humanitarian access throughout the country. In addition, we must respect international humanitarian law: civilians as well as civilian and medical infrastructure must be protected at all costs.
Dear colleagues, we are here today because we want to relieve the humanitarian suffering in Yemen. Nevertheless, we must also address the root causes of this crisis. If we want to provide long-term stability, we need a comprehensive political solution. I therefore call on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and resume peace talks. At the same time, Switzerland fully supports the peace process led by the UN. As one of the host states for UN peace talks on Yemen, we are ready to continue offering our good offices in the future. The responsibility to put an end to this humanitarian crisis lies first and foremost with the parties involved. However, after more than six years and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the international community must reflect on its own approach. We need to develop strategies to provide long-term prospects for the Yemeni people. This requires a strong link between humanitarian, development, human rights and peace approaches.
Most of all, we need people who provide help on the ground. People like the humanitarian workers in Yemen. People who help to alleviate suffering under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. I would therefore like to thank them – national and international NGOs, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and, last but not least, the UN. I greatly appreciate your dedication and I am deeply impressed by your work.
In closing, I appeal to all of us to support this commitment by taking the opportunity of today's conference to mobilise the necessary financial resources and ensure their swift distribution. Let us give hope and above all bring future prospects to the millions of women, men and children in Yemen. Thank you.