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European Humanitarian Forum 2024 Day 1

European Humanitarian Forum 2024 Day 1


Written by Chiara Koop (EU Team)

Global Human Rights Defence 

Opening Remarks

Members of GHRD’s EU team were fortunate to attend and participate in the 2024 European Humanitarian Forum in Brussels from 18-19 March. The first day started with opening remarks by many representatives of EU member states and international organisations, starting with Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management who stated the severity of the high numbers of conflict currently occurring and the responsibility of the international community in providing humanitarian aid. Then, Caroline Gennez, the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and of Major Cities also commented on these issues, with a strong focus on the underfunding of aid and the need for smaller donor countries to also contribute financial aid. One of the more applauded commentaries was led by Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, who commented on the current issues of starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza and again mentioned the need to take action. Many other member states’ speakers followed with pledges of their aid budgets on behalf of their countries and statements on key humanitarian issues currently occurring.

The Rohingya, a Regional Forgotten Crisis

Next, members of the GHRD’s EU team joined the panel session regarding the Rohingya refugee crisis. Indigenous Rohingya women Noor Azizah and Hafsar Tameesuddin recounted their experiences fleeing persecution in Myanmar and the struggles they and other Rohingya people still face today such as discrimination and hate speech. Currently, the Rohingya people face a deteriorating situation in Bangladesh refugee camps, forcing them to flee via dangerous sea routes to other countries. Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, stated the solution to this problem is very difficult as the root of the issue lies in Myanmar disregarding its responsibility for the Rohinya people, and humanitarian aid alone cannot solve the issue. The panel aimed to renew attention to the genocide and mass displacement occuring and to explain how smaller goals need to be achieved while the large goal of reparation slowly develops.

Northwest Nigeria: Denying a Humanitarian Response in a Fragile Context

The third event attended by GHRD’s EU team members considered of a humanitarian talk regarding the current issue in North-West Nigeria. Currently, 5.5 million people face acute food insecurity and face constant threats due to over 5000 armed bandit groups causing interrelated conflicts. The people in these regions face threats of kidnapping as a source of terrorist financing, gender-based violence and recruitment of child soldiers due to being forced out of schooling. Ahmed Murtala Rufai and Abdulmalik Gajam, the Commissioner for Budget and Planning of the Zamfara state government, both explained the current issues faced in depth, while Camilla Corradin, the director of the Nigeria INGO Forum, stated how major humanitarian aid is needed as the issue is still a very neglected crisis. Additionally, the root of the crisis must be addressed to reduce vulnerability of people and lessen the susceptibility to radicalisation. Overall, the region and its conflict has not received enough international intention and consequently, not enough humanitarian aid, despite the dire situation.

Children in Crisis: Invisible and Forgotten Victims of Armed Conflicts and Humanitarian Emergencies

In the afternoon, GHRD’s members joined a panel discussion regarding the protection of children, including key speakers such as Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, OSRSG, Stella Ronner-Grubačić, the Deputy Managing Director for Values and Multilateral Relations and Ambassador for Gender and Diversity, EEAS, and Pim Kraan, the CEO, Save The Children. The main issue mentioned was that many children in crisis situations are particularly at risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and, for young women, child marriage. Three younger women were brought in to give testimonies of the challenges they have faced in the Dominican Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Chad. Key issues mentioned were the deprivation of the basic right to education and development for girls, the constant fear they live/had lived in and the general lack of resources such as food and water. The key to protecting children from conflict is to avoid conflict in the first place and to provide enough support, humanitarian aid needs to be focused on long term support. However, contexts are getting more complex and funding is at an all time low so providing adequate help is getting more difficult. 

The Hidden Cost of Conflict: Addressing Sexual Violence in the DRC.

The final event GHRD’s members attended was the plenary discussion regarding sexual abuse faced by women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some very influential speakers were present including Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere, the world renowned gynaecologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Caroline Gennez, the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and of Major Cities, and the activist Rebecca Kabuo. The discussion described the horrors women have to face, where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war and many must resort to survival sex to remain alive. Significant amounts of pregnancies are forced upon minors, with children traumatised after experiencing both rape and childbirth. Many families are forced to move to camps where women must make trips into the dangerous forests to gather water and firewood. Peace is urgently needed to allow these people to return to their homes and work on rebuilding their lives without fear. Key to overcoming trauma and giving back the people’s autonomy is to implement a survivor-centred approach and focus on social cohesion within the community. Currently it is important for attention to be brought back to the violence happening in the Congo as not only has it been somewhat forgotten by the majority, but has also been massively underfunded in the last years due to being outside the spotlight.


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