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Thank you, Madam President. I would like to join others in congratulating you and your team for assuming the presidency and wishing you a productive month.

I would also like to thank the Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for their helpful briefings.

We also thank President Zelenskyy for his address to this Council.

We have once again heard in this Council deeply sobering and concerning reports from the ground, including from Martin Griffiths and Rosemary DiCarlo. And with every meeting, the Council is reminded of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground in Ukraine: one quarter of the country’s population have fled their homes and the rising death toll and the destruction of critical civilian infrastructure are a grim reflection of the tragic human cost of war.

The images coming out of Bucha and other towns and cities are shocking. The alleged crimes they entail are of the utmost gravity.

First and foremost, as others have said, we must establish what has happened here with the cooperation of all parties. It is imperative that we do not get caught up in a war of narratives, in addition to the conflict that is ongoing. Indeed, we need to allow for the existing mechanisms to investigate facts on the ground impartially so that justice for all victims can be served. And we acknowledge the Secretary-General’s call for that independent investigation as well as last week’s appointment of the members of the Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

As we enter the sixth week of conflict, we believe that an immediate cessation of hostilities throughout Ukraine is imperative to move towards a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine. We take note of efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and we see the ongoing negotiations—several rounds of negotiations—between Russia and Ukraine as a very positive development. We remain hopeful that these efforts at the negotiating table can urgently translate into de-escalation on the ground and we urge others to support these efforts.

We also welcome the readout from Mr. Griffiths on his meetings with senior Russian officials as well as his upcoming meetings with Ukrainian officials. Establishing a viable humanitarian ceasefire could be a stepping stone for broader negotiations and, eventually, a sustainable peace.

However, until a cessation of hostilities is achieved, the priority must be to work towards protecting and alleviating the suffering of civilians.  In addition to the points we made during the last Council meeting on Ukraine on 29 March, I want to focus here on four additional points for the Council’s consideration.

First, as others have done, we all need to continue to reaffirm the need for all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the protection of civilians and the respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality that are paramount in conflict. 

Second, the difficulties in providing relief and humanitarian access need be addressed immediately and can be addressed quickly. It is critical to find either local or broad-based agreements for security guarantees to allow for the safe provision of humanitarian assistance and for civilians to voluntarily evacuate safely. These are initial confidence building measures that can be developed down the line and should also be encouraged, including the proposals left by Mr. Griffiths with the government in Moscow.

Third, as the ICRC has noted, false narratives and disinformation have the potential to cause real harm for humanitarian organizations on the ground. The use of digital technologies that amplify the spread of harmful information–including misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech–is a true challenge in conflict zones. These phenomena are not new, but technology has greatly increased the scale and speed at which harmful information reaches target audiences online. This is particularly concerning in crisis settings where information can influence the dynamics and behavior on the ground and can put communities and humanitarian responders at risk.

Fourth, at a time of conflict, protecting civilians of course must be our top priority. However, we should not forget the impact that war has on a nation’s cultural heritage and identity. We are concerned by UNESCO’s recent reports on the dozens of cultural sites that have been damaged in Ukraine since the conflict began. We know from our experience in the Middle East that protection of cultural sites is critical to rebuilding peace. In moments of violence and turmoil, cultural sites are essential cornerstones for collective memory and a foundation for future reconciliation. We therefore call on all parties to refrain from the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and to think about what comes next after the war concludes for the people living there and how they go about building peace.

Before I end, allow me to take a moment to reflect on what others have commented on, including the Secretary-General, and that is the devastating impact of the conflict on food security worldwide. We are alarmed by these figures shared by the Secretary-General just now on how the war is affecting some of the most vulnerable communities around the world. 1.2 billion people in 47 developing countries are at risk due to rising food prices.

Food shortages are aggravating situations already on this Council’s agenda, and these shortages are felt in other settings where high prices of basic commodities can lead to further unrest and instability, not just in this part of the world, but around the globe. We look forward to seeing the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance address these issues and offer it our full support.

And let us not forget that the effects of this war are hitting communities that are still reeling from the global Covid 19 pandemic. These vulnerabilities are further exacerbated by reduced domestic food production due to the rising costs and scarcity of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The knock-on effects, including global conflicts, will be grave and the Council must stay focused on all of them.

Unless we do something to end this conflict now, it will continue to drive suffering and instability worldwide in the coming months and years. The world simply cannot afford this. The Security Council should do its part to stop this conflict and to help parties come together and reach a peaceful solution.

Thank you.