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UN humanitarian chief steps down amid global crises

The United Nations’ senior humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, announced his resignation at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, effective at the end of June. 

Griffiths has been the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator since 2021, and he voiced concerns about increasing global humanitarian needs and the diminishing effectiveness of international diplomacy.

“I leave this job with a sense of work unfulfilled because the world is a worse place now than when I joined up in 2021,” Griffiths said. 

His tenure has seen a rise in global conflicts and a corresponding spike in humanitarian demands, with current figures showing about 300 million people in need of aid.

Griffiths highlighted the severe funding shortfall facing humanitarian operations. “We need approximately $49 billion to assist some 188 million people this year, but have received just $8 billion. The funding gap is unprecedented,” he noted.

The official remarked on the limited attention to long-term crises in Syria, Yemen, and Haiti, while recent crises in Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine have dominated headlines. 

He recalled his early days in office when the crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia, was a major focus, a region that still faces severe humanitarian challenges.

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Griffiths also shared his disappointment over the situation in Afghanistan, where initial positive engagements with the Taliban in 2021 did not lead to the anticipated outcomes. 

He criticized the ongoing Taliban restrictions against women and girls, underscoring a continuous international effort to support the Afghan people.

The coordinator emphasized the increasing importance of “humanitarian diplomacy,” which has become critical as traditional political diplomacy fades. 

He took pride in initiatives like the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which facilitated grain exports from Ukraine during the Russian invasion, although the agreement ended in 2023 after Russia’s withdrawal.

Discussing Sudan, Griffiths voiced grave concerns about the ongoing conflict and the potential famine affecting millions. 

“The absence of efforts to resolve such conflicts through dialogue is concerning,” he said, pointing out a departure from the UN’s foundational commitment to peaceful dispute resolution.

“We are not resolving conflicts. We are not using dialogue where we had committed ourselves to using dialogue. And the founders of the UN back in 1945, in those words of the Charter – saving subsequent generations from the scourge of war – we’re failing them right, left and center,” he said. 

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