The humanitarian situation in Tigray Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

1.Conflict is a key cause of the current humanitarian crisis in Tigray. Continued fighting is hampering efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to those in need. (Paragraph 9)

2.We welcome the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary’s wholehearted acceptance that the situation in Tigray is an early test of the UK’s commitment to the principles and approach of the UK as a ‘force for good’ as set out in the Government’s Integrated Review. The Tigray crisis will be a test of the FCDO’s desire to combine ‘diplomacy and development’ and to establish an integrated approach to conflict and instability. Failing this early test could damage the credibility of the UK’s new strategy. (Paragraph 10)

3.We urge the UK Government to redouble its efforts to seek an end to the conflict, using all the diplomatic means at its disposal. It should work multilaterally through organisations such as the UN and the African Union, and bilaterally with its partners, the Ethiopian Government, neighbouring states, and representatives of the parties to the conflict, to foster peace through an inclusive political settlement. (Paragraph 11)

4.We are appalled by the distressing reports of human rights abuses, gender-based violence and sexual violence in Tigray. The horrors that have been inflicted on people and their suffering during this conflict are unimaginable, and we are particularly saddened that, once again, women and girls are being targeted. It is essential that the fighting ends as soon as possible. The services needed to support those who have suffered so terribly must be restored and expanded to meet present and future needs without further delay. It is crucial that these crimes are investigated and that those responsible face justice. We are particularly saddened by the targeting and killing of aid workers. (Paragraph 20)

5.We welcome the statement by the G7 group condemning the killing of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, indiscriminate shelling and forced displacement of civilian populations. We recommend that the UK Government uses its long-standing diplomatic and development relationship with Ethiopia to ensure the Ethiopian Government acts on its responsibility to protect its population from violence, and works to ensure the immediate protection of communities in the region from human rights abuses, including sexual violence. The UK Government must use all diplomatic means possible to remind the Government of Ethiopia that, under the principle of the responsibility to protect, it is responsible for protecting its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The UK Government should bear in mind its obligations to take appropriate action in line with the UN Genocide Convention should the Ethiopian Government fail to take the actions it needs to take to protect its people. (Paragraph 21)

6.In line with the recent G7 statement on the importance of an independent, transparent and impartial investigation into crimes reported in Tigray, the UK Government should work with the appropriate authorities to enable access for independent monitors to Tigray to ensure that evidence of the crimes that have been committed is secured and to bring those who are responsible to justice. The Government should continue to press for clarity on how the joint investigations by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will work. (Paragraph 22)

7.Drawing upon lessons learned from other atrocities, we recommend that FCDO arranges atrocity prevention training for staff at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa and neighbouring posts as a matter of urgency and designates a named atrocity prevention lead. Staff in these posts should have clear lines of communication to colleagues in Whitehall so they can quickly raise and respond to concerns about human rights abuses. Furthermore, the FCDO should embed an atrocity prevention strategy in its updated country strategy for Ethiopia and neighbouring states. (Paragraph 23)

Humanitarian needs

8.Without adequate access, any humanitarian response to the crisis in Tigray will be severely constrained. We recommend that the UK Government work with the Ethiopian Government and the relevant regional authorities to ensure humanitarian agencies have unimpeded access to communities in need in Tigray and neighbouring regions. These efforts should be undertaken in concert with diplomatic efforts to end the fighting and find a peaceful, inclusive political solution to the crisis. (Paragraph 41)

9.We commend the work of aid agencies in their provision of lifesaving assistance to communities in Tigray, despite the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which they are delivering this help. It is likely that the number of people whose basic needs are not met will grow as the conflict continues. In addition, as humanitarian agencies reach parts of Tigray that have so far been inaccessible, they will discover many more cases of unmet need, creating a widening gap between the level of need and the provision that has been made. (Paragraph 47)

10.We recommend that the FCDO monitors OCHA’s situation reports carefully to rapidly identify any areas where needs are unmet or are growing faster than expected so that it can respond rapidly and flexibly to provide the support needed. We also recommend that, as the situation on the ground becomes clearer, the FCDO assesses whether its current humanitarian contribution is adequate to ensure that the basic needs of communities are met. (Paragraph 48)

11.Food security is a crucial component of the emergency response and we are deeply concerned by reports that hunger is being used in the conflict to achieve political ends. With the FCDO having appointed a Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs, the UK is well-placed to lead international efforts in not only condemning these actions, but coordinating action against them. We recommend that, in accordance with UN resolution 2417 (2018), the UK Government should explore whether to use the mechanisms of the UN Security Council to press for penalties such as sanctions against actors found to be obstructing the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies and using starvation as a weapon of war. (Paragraph 49)

12.The provision and distribution of lifesaving humanitarian assistance, such as shelter, food and medicine, is a vital first stage in the response to the situation in Tigray. Following this, the restoration of basic services such as schools and hospitals will be key in both responding to current needs and starting the path towards post-conflict reconstruction. Health and social services are critical. Many of those who have suffered trauma and violence will need specialist support, and health services are essential if communities in Tigray are to cope with the ongoing pandemic and avoid the worst of its secondary impacts. Without access to education, children will grow up without the skills and knowledge needed to ensure the ongoing development of their communities. The restoration of services such as banking and markets will help to alleviate some of the pressure on the people in Tigray. After such severe and sustained disruption, local governance structures will require significant support if they are to restore these services for affected communities. (Paragraph 57)

13.We recommend that the FCDO applies its learnings from other crises and works with other donors to create a plan of action that is properly funded for the restoration of basic services to Tigray. In creating this plan, it should engage with local communities and work closely with regional authorities and other donors to identify a hierarchy of needs. It should also identify long-term development challenges likely to be created by this conflict (such as food security) and take proactive action to prevent future problems and to have contingency plans in place should these challenges arise. (Paragraph 58)

14.As the conflict continues, there is a risk the violence in Tigray could destabilise the broader region, spreading instability to already fragile neighbouring states such as Sudan. There is a significant risk that the conflict could become protracted or escalate, creating a devastating long-term impact for communities in Tigray and hindering broader regional development. Using existing expertise from the Stabilisation Unit, the FCDO should create a clear road map for inclusive post-conflict reconstruction in Tigray that proactively addresses development needs and embeds peacebuilding within the FCDO’s work in the region. (Paragraph 62)

15.A failure to adequately resource the response to this crisis increases the risk of a ripple effect of instability throughout the region. The failure to support the communities of Tigray, combined with the lack of an inclusive political settlement, compromises hard-won development gains in Ethiopia, and has the potential to jeopardise the broader development and stability gains funded through UK aid programmes throughout the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region. (Paragraph 68)

16.With Ethiopia currently the UK’s largest bilateral recipient of ODA, we are surprised that the UK Government has not allocated more financial assistance to the humanitarian response to the crisis in Tigray. (Paragraph 69)

17.To pre-empt and avoid further humanitarian crises, the UK Government should ensure its package of humanitarian assistance to the conflict in Tigray provides sufficient financial and technical resources to support communities in urgent need. We recommend that the FCDO builds a comprehensive picture of the sources of conflict and instability in East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region using the reports and analysis from Posts in the region to synthesise a broader picture, drawing on and applying the expertise of the new Conflict Prevention Hub. The Government should use this analysis to adjust the allocation of the UK’s resources in the region to help prevent conflicts from spreading and destabilising more of the region. (Paragraph 70)

Published: 30 April 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement