Delivered By: Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment

Honourable President, Your Excellencies, a wonderful good morning to everybody.

I thank our distinguished briefers for their insightful remarks today and thank the Swiss presidency for convening this important open debate.

The UAE welcomes the Secretary-General’s report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. It is a vital resource for understanding the trends across more than 100 armed conflicts that continue worldwide.

In 2022, more than a quarter of a billion people faced acute hunger in 58 countries and territories, many of which were in armed conflict.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change and escalating prices for food and fuel have compounded the urgent needs of civilians.

Basic services are essential to the survival, security, and dignity of civilians.

In Resolutions 2417 and 2573, the Security Council has made clear demands for parties to conflict to implement their obligations under international humanitarian law.  

Yet the briefers today have rightfully highlighted a matter that is regrettably all too familiar.

A key reason that civilians continue to suffer from conflict-induced food insecurity is the gap in implementation of clearly stated rules. This is why it is so important that we collectively recommit today to upholding international humanitarian law.

Today the UAE would like to emphasize three points.

First, to address food insecurity, we must rise to the existential challenge of our time, which is climate change.

As a risk multiplier, the adverse effects of climate change such as heavy floods and acute droughts are already exacerbating food insecurity.

Science tells us with a business-as-usual approach, natural disasters will occur more frequently and with greater intensity. They risk affecting not just crops, but also the infrastructure essential to food systems, in addition to their dire impact on human life.

In conflict situations, the capacity of fragile states to recover from such shocks is far lower. And the costs of failing to recognize and prepare for the risks associated with climate change is too great to bear.

At COP28, which will be hosted in the UAE later this year, both food and water systems, as well as how climate change impacts the ability of nations to recover from disasters, will be high on the agenda.

Second, whatever their motives, sanctions cannot be allowed to inadvertently exacerbate food insecurity in situations of armed conflict. That includes the flow of food and agricultural inputs or the maintenance of essential services.

Resolution 2664 was a landmark moment in establishing a carveout from UN sanctions to preserve the provision of humanitarian assistance and basic human needs.

We call on all Member States to fully implement the provisions of this Resolution, and encourage them to make similar efforts to ensure that national sanctions do not negatively affect the essential needs of vulnerable civilians. These include the operation, maintenance, and repair of essential civilian infrastructure such as water, electricity, and food facilities.

Third, national humanitarian organizations and their women staff must be further supported.

Humanitarian aid succeeds in its goal when deployed in a timely and targeted manner.

By their very nature, conflict zones are volatile environments where humanitarian work is challenging. The safety of aid workers and civilians’ access to humanitarian aid must be guaranteed by parties to the conflict. This is particularly true about women, who form a significant part of humanitarian organizations and also have a vital role to play in engaging with the community meaningfully.

The current situation in Sudan is the most recent example of these challenges. Fighting in urban areas has prevented international aid actors from reaching civilians, and most aid is now provided by national actors.

These organizations provide lifesaving medical assistance, emergency shelter, and are critical to the provision of essential services and reducing food insecurity.

It is critical to support national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, among others, who are embedded in the communities they support. If gender-responsive, the delivery of humanitarian aid reaches a wider audience and alleviates suffering. We call upon all actors to ensure that women can do their work without hinderance.

This is why last month we came together and underlined our demand for full, rapid, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian actors, both men and women, in Afghanistan. The UAE remains committed to supporting the vital work done by Afghan women aid workers.

Mr. President,

The international community must step up its response.

Our actions must include both supporting humanitarian efforts and protecting essential, life-sustaining services.

Only then will we meet our collective responsibility and see more effective action for the protection of civilians caught in the crossfire of conflict.

Thank you, Mr. President.