Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC debate “Advancing public-private humanitarian partnership”

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September 14, 2023


We thank WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain, as well as Mr. Jared Cohen and Mr. Michael Miebach for their briefings.

We share the view that providing humanitarian assistance to populations in need remains one of the most important components of the activities of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Given the annual increase in the world’s humanitarian needs, it is reasonable to raise the question of mobilizing additional support, i.a. financial, for the implementation of relevant UN projects and programs. As previously mentioned, according to the latest OCHA data, over 360 million people in the world are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in one form or another. To fulfill all country-specific humanitarian plans this year, the UN requires $55.2 billion, of which only 29% ($15.8 billion) has been received so far. For comparison, the shortfall in donor funds is now almost twice the amount that the UN humanitarian wing requested not so long ago – in 2016 ($20 billion).

Remarkably, Ukraine still ranks first in terms of attracting donor attention. This year alone, the United Nations has already received $1.83 billion for humanitarian aid to Ukraine. This is $300 million more than what is requested to support the long-suffering population of Syria. That is $1 billion more than the aid to the ordinary people of Afghanistan, who have experienced firsthand “experimental democratization” by the United States and NATO. Many of these people, as we know, are desperate and have to sell their body organs, and some families have to sell children for money to be able to feed the rest of the family. Some of our colleagues prefer not to talk about that.

I would particularly like to emphasize the situation in African states, where former colonial powers knowingly limited independent economic and agricultural development for decades. Add to this neo-colonial tools that they use now and that exacerbate the dependent status of the said countries.

There is an ill-boding trend towards an increase in global humanitarian needs. Against this backdrop, Western donors have no choice but to look for ways to shift the financial responsibility for the consequences of the crises they have unleashed across the globe to others and ensure that they can continue to sponsor coups and wars for the benefit of their industrial holdings and arms-making companies, “without being distracted by the co-existent noise”. We have repeatedly drawn the Council’s attention to this issue. We also continue scrutinizing the so-called anticipatory action that is promoted by our colleagues, as well as its relation to efforts in the area of development, which, depending on the recipient country donors may or may not allow to implement in conjunction with humanitarian aid projects.


Nevertheless, we believe it is justified to involve business in the format of public-private partnerships in humanitarian activities both internationally and on a bilateral basis. The private sector accounts for only $115.7 million of humanitarian receipts. This is clearly insufficient. It is, however, not just the figures. Working together with the private sector often contributes to more effective humanitarian action, strengthens the resource base of humanitarian operations and thereby helps to save more lives, which is the key objective of the international community.

This being said, it is imperative that commercial enterprises should be able to take part in international humanitarian operations only if there is consent of the recipient government and strict adherence to the principles of neutrality, humanity, impartiality and independence when providing such assistance. Besides, when it comes to public-private partnerships, it is essential to make sure that there are no economically or politically motivated interests and conditions with regard to recipient countries.


In that context, we welcome healthy competition in the market of humanitarian services providers within the framework of United Nations procurement activities. We stand for this work being organized on a non-discriminatory basis. The procedures for the participation of economic operators in international tenders should be transparent, understandable and free from the influence of third parties. Responsibility for this also lies with the UN Secretariat. We are also mindful that the UN-EU agreement on a relevant program for cooperation in the area of humanitarian aid stemmed from the condition that operators subject to EU sanctions (I am referring to the FAFA agreement) cannot act as suppliers. The Secretary-General clarified at the time that he would only be guided by the sanctions adopted by the Security Council. It is rather noteworthy how this demand (not related to the UN) of the European Union as a donor and the Secretary-General’s fair response play out in practice.

We cannot but draw again the Council’s attention to the following. Illegal unilateral restrictive measures imposed by the countries of the collective West and the so-called overcompliance by the corporate sector continue to have a negative impact on the entire system of international humanitarian activities, including the promising PPPs. “Humanitarian exemptions” from sanctions packages that are advertised by the West do not work in practice. HRC Special Procedures have provided fact-based convincing confirmation of that. As it follows from the UN conclusions, even if economic operators deliver aid to those in need, they must be able to prove post factum that the deliveries were of a humanitarian nature, otherwise they may be prosecuted up to criminal proceedings. Under these conditions, it is easier for businesses to minimize risks and “steer clear” of such operations. As a result, it is primarily the population of states in need that suffers. The people of Syria, who suffered a devastating earthquake, know this firsthand. They also know who deprived them of their bread and condemned them to poverty by occupying and plundering Syrian wheat from the fertile lands across the Euphrates.


We noticed that the concept note for this open debate cites only the Black Sea Initiative as a successful example of PPP. This confirms in the best possible way our point that the BSI was of a commercial rather than humanitarian nature. This is obviously a “partnership” of Western governments and Western corporations, who have earned twice on grain exports this year. First, on exports of Ukrainian products (that are owned by largest Western corporations), and on the sale (at higher prices) of already processed goods by European countries who claim to play only a “transit” role.

The lion’s share of these exports is fodder grain and corn that come at quite commercial prices. At the same time, preferential supplies to the poorest countries, including via WFP, amounted to only 1 million tonnes of grain (0.2% of world turnover). Let me ask a rhetorical question: what’s so humanitarian about them?

Thank you.

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