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December 7, 2023

FAO Council 174
Item 5: The Situation in Gaza related to food security and related matters under the mandate of FAO
As Delivered Remarks by CDA Rodney Hunter
December 6, 2023

Thank you Chair.

The United States condemns Hamas’ devastating and brutal terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and recognizes that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate interests to live in dignity and to self-determination.  We support Israel taking necessary action to defend its country and protect its people from Hamas terrorists, consistent with the rule of law and war.

We note, also, that as we stand with the people and government of Israel, we also stand with Palestinian civilians.

We remain deeply concerned with the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the deteriorating situation in the West Bank, which continues to take the lives of civilians and increase the need for humanitarian aid and emergency agricultural assistance.

We acknowledge the already challenging situation regarding food security in Gaza and the West Bank prior to the conflict and the critical importance of the agriculture sector for livelihoods and economic growth.

For this reason, we note with concern FAO’s assessment that “the long-term implications for agriculture, agriculture-based livelihoods, and access to healthy diets will be far greater than in previous conflicts.”  And, that the conflict could further erode the “economic viability and long-term sustainability of various sectors, including agriculture, and exacerbate the already critical food insecurity levels.”

Fighting Hamas does not mean fighting the Palestinian people.  The humanitarian situation is urgent, and we continue to focus on addressing the humanitarian needs of the civilian population of Gaza, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas or other terrorist groups, and continue to emphasize the importance of pauses in the fighting to permit civilians to depart areas of active hostilities, to increase access to food, water, medicine, and shelter, and to enable hostage releases.

The United States is the leading single-country humanitarian donor to the Palestinian people, having contributed more than 1.1 billion dollars since 2021.  We acknowledge the dire need for both consistent humanitarian aid and emergency agricultural assistance, through increased humanitarian access and additional support for agricultural interventions, including inputs such as fodder, fertilizer, and veterinary medicine.

As Secretary of State Blinken has said, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and make sure humanitarian assistance reaches them.  Far too many Palestinians have been killed, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to civilians and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.

As we continue to support efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and the West Bank, we appreciate FAO’s update and efforts to inform the Council of its assessment of the medium- and long-term impacts of the conflict on food security.

We appreciate how FAO is taking the initiative to support the humanitarian response, including through its participation in the Food Security Cluster and $20 million plan for agricultural aid under the updated Humanitarian Flash Appeal.

The United States is FAO’s biggest supporter, because we see the impact of its work day-in and day-out.  We are proud of FAO’s ongoing efforts to prepare, when conditions permit, to lend technical assistance to help address the conflict’s devastating consequences for agricultural infrastructure, soil, land, and livestock.  We look forward to FAO sharing its completed Rapid Damage Assessment, when ready.

In this regard and to this end, we stand ready to continue working with FAO, our fellow members, and all partners now and in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Let me close with the words of our Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.  Last week, she said, “as has been the case since day one of this crisis, the United States will continue to use all its influence to encourage them reunification of hostages with their loved ones and the further expansion of aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza who have suffered tremendous loses.  We will continue pressing for the protection of civilians as Israel pursues its legitimate military objectives.  And we will not give up on a future where Hamas does not control Gaza, which is untenable for Israel’s and the region’s security and the well-being of the Palestinian people.”

Thank you.

FAO Council 174 – Item 5: The Situation in Gaza related to food security
And related matters under the mandate of FAO – As delivered remarks by CDA Rodney Hunter