Delivered by H.E. Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN

Mr. President,

I would like to join others in thanking Ms. Patten, Ms. Karbowska, and Ms. Rollins Westin, for their very insightful briefings. I also welcome the participation of Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, as well as Ukraine in this meeting.

Before the latest crisis in Ukraine, the world was already in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. This has, in turn, been the cause of almost unfathomable levels of sexual violence and human trafficking. In 2016, the International Labour Organization estimated that 28.7 million women and girls around the world were in a condition of forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery, and trafficking. The Secretary General’s report on human trafficking in 2020 noted that 70% of all identified trafficking victims were women and girls, 77% of whom were trafficked for sexual exploitation. My region – the Middle East – has been at the epicenter of this crisis for more than a decade, with millions displaced and exploited.

The conflict in Ukraine is therefore making an already horrifying global crisis worse.

In just over a hundred days, almost 14 million people have been displaced; more than a quarter of Ukraine’s population. The majority of them are women and children. We have already seen disturbing reports of conflict-related sexual violence, and of women and children falling victim to organized criminal gangs operating human trafficking rings. As we have heard today, this conflict demands a serious, gender-centered, international response that prioritizes the needs and safety of women and children in times of conflict. We also note with concern and concur with our colleagues from Kenya and Gabon that all refugees must be treated equally and without racism.

Following the topic chosen for today’s discussion, I would like to focus on the following points:

First, we commend the Framework of Cooperation that SRSG Patten’s office signed with the government of Ukraine on the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.  Cooperation between the UN and relevant authorities in Ukraine and their human trafficking task force in areas including improved access for survivors of sexual violence to health and social services is critical. We support the SRSG’s plan to deploy an expert on trafficking to cooperate with authorities in Ukraine and in neighboring countries because we believe that it will help mitigate the horrific exploitation of women and children across the region. Initiatives like this are positive and necessary steps and can boost the capacity and efforts of neighboring countries to prevent exploitation and combat trafficking. We note Ms. Patten’s message that a regional compact is urgently required and that the UN Security Council should continue to lend its support on the humanitarian context of this conflict. The UAE supports both suggestions.

Second, we already know how essential, yet difficult, it is to collect sex-disaggregated data in conflict situations, including to better understand the impact of the conflict on human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence. Initiatives like the “Rapid Gender Analysis,” carried out by UN Women and CARE International, provide insight on the gender dynamics of the conflict in Ukraine and are the type of analysis that can guide a better and more tailored response to the needs of Ukrainian women and girls. They should continue to be well funded.

Third, the conflict continues to undermine food security globally, which disproportionately affects women and girls. When mostly men take part in conflict, it is women who are forced to put food on the table for their families by any means necessary. We know that food insecurity exacerbates vulnerabilities and can result in women facing violence and exploitation as they seek to support their families – especially in rural areas. Because of these knock-on effects, this Council must keep global food insecurity exacerbated by this conflict at the top of our agenda. To that end, the UAE commends the Secretary-General for his efforts to facilitate the shipment of grain from Ukrainian ports and encourages all ongoing efforts.

Mr. President,

There are many actions that can be taken to mitigate, prevent, and respond to conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking in Ukraine. But there is only one real way to stop it. That would be to end the conflict with a diplomatic solution in which women are full, equal, and meaningful participants, included in all mediation and dialogue efforts. We hope to see that happen and with urgency in accordance with international law and the UN Charter.

Thank you, Mr. President.