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What was left and missing with the visit of the UN humanitarian chief

Griffiths on a visit to a Venezuelan hospital, comments on the case of a 13-year-old pregnant girl

On August 2, 2022, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, ended his three-day visit to Venezuela. The visit took place without offering a public agenda, which caused concerns of civil society organizations considering the worsening of the complex humanitarian emergency and the sustained lack of recognition of the Venezuelan State regarding its scale and severity over time.

In a press statement on August 2, Griffiths noted that “the economy is showing signs of recovery”, while adding that “significant humanitarian needs continue to exist” in the country. He also commented that “[they had agreed with the government ] to publish the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022-2023, which will help facilitate access to resources for the well-being of the Venezuelan people,” as well as “work together to address access conditions for humanitarian partners.”

Although the meetings with various actors offered good signs, the humanitarian response in the country continues to face structural problems. To analyze some of its pillars, we spoke with a representative of Civilis Human Rights, who identified four points for reflection.

First. The slight improvements in some indicators of economic activity are associated with the relaxation of the pandemic, without implying a genuine recovery of capacities in the country to guarantee the population effective access to essential goods and services, and the situation can be reversed considering the vulnerability associated with the high dependence on the economy of ports. The humanitarian emergency has not subsided to the scale and severity it had before the pandemic

Second. The humanitarian response is still framed in a context of access and security restrictions. The fact that it was agreed to publish the response plan for 2022-2023 may be an act in a vacuum, in the absence of a formal agreement that recognizes the humanitarian emergency, facilitates free humanitarian action and favors the configuration of a suitable space that promotes the assistance and protection of the affected population. Among the official restrictions, the veto on information from independent sources persists, including that which may be provided by UN agencies.

Third. The drop in funding for the humanitarian response is notorious and there is a risk that financial resources will be reduced given the false narrative that Venezuela is “in the process of entering a development phase”, without there being changes in the conditions that have maintained the emergency for seven years, which could lead to the abandonment of humanitarian efforts to sustain the most vulnerable population. The UN must ensure that the humanitarian response is maintained for as long as people require assistance and protection for their lives, security and subsistence needs.

Fourth. Venezuelan civil society organizations, as main allies, continue to be threatened by instruments such as Ruling 002-2021 and an international cooperation bill newly introduced on the legislative agenda. If this more restrictive regulatory framework of civic space is implemented, humanitarian assistance capacities in the country, which depend largely on the efforts made by local civil society, will decrease considerably and rapidly. It is essential to respond to these structural weaknesses so that humanitarian action in Venezuela can be deployed and be effective. Not only is it necessary for the State to recognize the existence of the humanitarian emergency in all its dimensions and severity, but it must also create an environment conducive to humanitarian action, guaranteeing financing, access to information and cooperation between the Resident Coordinator and the different United Nations agencies, as well as between them and the OHCHR, with other human rights bodies and, especially, with civil society organizations dedicated to humanitarian work at the local