Strengthening the coordination of United Nations emergency humanitarian assistance – Report from the Secretary-General (A/79/78–E/2024/53) – World



The present report was prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/182, in which the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report annually to the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. The report was also submitted in response to Assembly Resolution 78/119 and Council Resolution 2023/16. The period covered by the report runs from January 1 to December 31, 2023.

The report provides an overview of measures taken to strengthen humanitarian coordination and response, information on humanitarian trends, challenges and recommendations, including in response to escalating humanitarian suffering due to conflict and the climate crisis.

2 Introduction

Overview of the most important trends

1. 2023 was a devastating year for people caught up in humanitarian crises, bringing the humanitarian system to the brink of collapse and underscoring the importance of effective humanitarian coordination. The world saw an escalation of armed conflict, with devastating consequences for civilians, from Sudan to the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, Yemen and beyond.

2. Violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) became increasingly blatant. Starvation and sexual violence were used as methods of war. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure increased, and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas harmed people and destroyed infrastructure. Hospitals, schools, water and sanitation, energy and agricultural infrastructure were affected. Deliberate destruction and deprivation caused forced displacement and exposed people to greater protection risks.
Humanitarian and medical staff were attacked, killed, threatened and harassed.

3. In 2023, approximately 399 disasters were recorded worldwide, killing 86,457 people, affecting 93 million people and causing $202.7 billion in economic damage. In 2023, deaths from disasters increased by 13 percentage points compared to 2022, partly due to devastating earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye; floods in Libya, Yemen and Somalia; and climate-related disasters in southern Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Central and South America. El Niño intensified weather conditions, such as droughts, floods and extreme heat. Many developing countries suffered repeated shocks that undermined their ability to recover, and were further hampered by persistent inflation, rising debt and shrinking fiscal space.

4. The climate crisis has exacerbated humanitarian needs, increased food insecurity and displacement, undermined resilience and exacerbated health and protection risks, straining humanitarian response capacities. 2023 broke records for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic Sea ice cover and glacier retreat.

5. Displacement reached historic levels, driven by conflict and climate-related disasters.
By mid-2023, 110 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide.3 The number of refugees rose to a record 36.4 million people.4 A record 71.1 million people were internally displaced – 62.5 million due to conflict and violence and 8 .7 million as a result of disasters. 5 Three-quarters of the world’s internally displaced people lived in just ten countries where disasters and conflicts often overlap.

6. Food insecurity rose to unprecedented levels. More than 280 million people in 59 countries and territories faced acute food insecurity (IPC 3 and above). Among them, 705,000 people faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity (IPC 5), with extreme food shortages, famine and depletion of self-reliance, and are at risk of famine. 36 million people faced food insecurity emergencies (IPC 4) and needed urgent action to save lives and livelihoods. In December, in Gaza alone, it was estimated that more than 90 percent of the population was experiencing acute food insecurity, including approximately 577,000 people facing catastrophic levels (IPC Phase 5). Experts warned that the risk of famine was increasing daily due to hostilities and restrictions on humanitarian access. In Sudan, immediate action was also needed to prevent widespread deaths, the total collapse of livelihoods and a catastrophic hunger crisis.

7. Women and children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, internally displaced persons, refugees, migrants and minorities were disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises. 2023 saw continued setbacks in women’s rights. The protection crisis for women and children worsened, with forced displacement, increased human trafficking, negative coping mechanisms (e.g. restricting access to school, especially for girls; child labour; child marriage; missed meals) and rising levels of gender-based violence (GBV). ), including sexual violence. Women and women’s organizations remained indispensable leaders and responders in humanitarian action.

8. One in five children worldwide lived in or fled conflict areas. Millions of children lost access to education for an extended period of time. The need for mental health and psychosocial support as an integral part of the humanitarian response increased.

9. The United Nations and humanitarian partners played a vital role in responding to these challenges. The funds received reached more than 150 million people through UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs). The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) system-wide scale-up mechanism was activated or already active for seven humanitarian crises worldwide, marking the highest number of simultaneous scale-up activations. The humanitarian system, through the IASC, continued to work collectively to adapt, innovate and strengthen the effectiveness of principles-based humanitarian assistance.

10. In 15 conflicts, 235 humanitarian workers were killed, 120 injured and 53 kidnapped. In Gaza alone, 144 United Nations staff were killed between October and December.
Barriers such as administrative delays and barriers to humanitarian access increased, exacerbating and prolonging suffering. Security conditions were also serious in Sudan, with 22 humanitarian workers killed in 2023.

11. With just over a third of the $56.7 billion needed for humanitarian appeals received, the funding gap has increased by 16 percentage points in 2023 compared to funding received in 2022. Despite the enormous generosity of donors and the tireless efforts of humanitarian organizations, the funding gap necessitated cuts in humanitarian programming.

12. The Global Humanitarian Overview 2024, published in early December 2023, outlined that the United Nations and partners need $46.4 billion to assist 180.5 million people in need of assistance in 72 countries and territories. The lower requirements for the 2024 call, compared to 2023, reflect the prioritization of the most serious and urgent needs in humanitarian programming.

13. 2023 has clearly demonstrated the urgency of: ensuring compliance with international law, including, as appropriate, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law; reinforcing the necessity of the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence for humanitarian action; ensure that humanitarian assistance and protection reach people in need wherever they are, without discrimination, interference, delay or neglect; and mobilizing international action to address the root causes of the current crises. As the international community celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions and prepares for the Summit of the Future, these actions have never been more necessary in the history of the United Nations.