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Ten reports from UN General Assembly week worth noting

'Climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago.'

Greta Heba Aly/TNH
Journalists watch Greta Thunberg address the UN, 23 September 2019

The UN General Assembly’s high-level week of debate has ended, and so too the hectic pace of international initiatives and summitry. Here’s a selection of reports that came out before and during UNGA that are worth your reading time if you’re following the humanitarian agenda.


Obstruction, counter-terrorism regulation, and outright attacks are just some of the obstacles for humanitarian access highlighted by The Center for Strategic and International Studies in its 69-page report: “Denial, Delay, Diversion”. The study says the United States has a “unique responsibility” to defend humanitarian action as US humanitarian spending helps project a positive view of the country during a “period of increased great power competition”.


Another think tank, the Center for Global Development, called for people affected by crises to have a much bigger say in relief operations. It will be “uncomfortable” but it’s necessary to move beyond ineffectual rhetoric about “accountability” in the humanitarian system, authors Jeremy Konyndyk and Rose Worden say in the 27-page report – People-Driven Response: Power and Participation in Humanitarian Action. Aid recipients could be represented on the boards of aid agencies or in field-based forums, the report says, arguing that changes are overdue and will need donor muscle.


The International Rescue Committee says refugees are being left out of development planning and the monitoring of key UN benchmarks. Despite refugees facing special difficulties, the IRC found that very few countries were reporting on their progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Ethiopia and Lebanon, for example, poverty rates are much higher among refugees. And, the report says, only about half of Venezuelan children in Colombia are in school, compared to 91 percent of the local kids.

Climate impact

The Cost of Doing Nothing”, a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, estimates that about 50 million more people will need humanitarian assistance every year by 2030 if the world does nothing to mitigate climate change. Relief costs, although hard to estimate precisely, are set to swell as climate-related disasters worsen. “Climate-smart development” and risk mitigation efforts could go a long way to reduce the impact, the report says.


The first in a series of papers on building a feminist humanitarian system from NGO Women Deliver explores the role of women-focused civil society groups (CSOs). The 12-page report, “Advancing Gender-Transformative Localisation”, includes a recommendation that 25 percent of all humanitarian funding should go to support women-focused CSOs as part of moves to widen opportunities for those organisations in response and advocacy.


“There are often too few investment-grade opportunities” in situations of humanitarian need or state fragility, according to a new report from The World Economic Forum. The survey, Humanitarian Investing – Mobilising Capital to Overcome Fragility, produced with the advisory firm Boston Consulting Group, includes several examples of impact investment, including the ICRC’s Humanitarian Impact Bond and a range of insurance schemes. The WEF report also recommends a platform for like-minded investors and organisations to develop deals and opportunities.

Climate science

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a major Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, with new projections on ice melt, sea level rise, and ocean temperatures. Another UN report, United in Science, provides a synthesis of the latest climate science, while underling the point that “climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago”.

SDGs and poverty

The Overseas Development Institute, meanwhile, estimates that 430 million people will live in extreme poverty in 2030. A key goal of the SDGs will therefore be missed unless there are dramatic increases in donor aid and more tax collection in low-income states, according to ODI’s report, “Financing the end of extreme poverty”. A set of “scorecards” from an anti-poverty group, the ONE Campaign, says donors should not just pay more, but should also direct a bigger proportion of aid to the least-developed countries.

(TOP PHOTO: Journalists watch activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the UN General Assembly, 23 September 2019.)


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