Delivered By: H.E. Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Thank you Mr. President, and I would also like to thank our briefers USG DiCarlo and ASG Brands Kehris for their sobering updates and I take note of the briefing of Ms. Drik.
Like many households in New York and around the world, many of us have been consumed this week with preparing for the start of the school year. This should be a joyful and exciting time for families, and particularly for school children, which makes it very difficult to imagine it amidst the conflict we are discussing today or any other ongoing conflict around the world on this Security Council’s agenda. The images of Ukrainian children back in their classrooms have been profoundly moving for the resilience they show – as the war has not spared some 2,300 educational institutions and destroyed 300, according to UN reports.
The war in Ukraine has, like all wars, disproportionately affected women and children. At this particular time of the year we recall UNICEF’s estimates that over two million children have fled their country, and many others have been internally displaced. Some might be able to attend virtual classes in Ukraine, but most will be in need of schools or daycare facilities in their new homes. At the same time, even those lucky enough to have a school to go to are grappling with social anxieties of integration and trauma.
The briefing of Ms. Kehris on the protection of children is something the Ukrainian and Russian authorities should look into and rectify with urgency. It is an area where communication between the two parties is much needed and expected by the international community.
If ever there was a clear-cut illustration of the need for a gender-responsive humanitarian approach, this is it. The Security Council should insist on tailor-made solutions by donors and humanitarian actors that specifically address the needs of Ukraine’s women and children.
In the face of these difficult challenges, we commend UNHCR as well as other UN agencies and humanitarian partners for their swift response to the needs of displaced people as well as to the host countries. As the conflict goes on, their generous protection and service-delivery for those seeking refuge, including in education, becomes ever more vital. At the same time, we underline once again that such protection must be provided without prejudice or discrimination.
Those fleeing war are at their most vulnerable. In these conditions, it is key that they retain dignity and agency. Those seeking safety must be allowed safe and voluntary passage and, when circumstances allow, any return home should likewise be voluntary, safe, dignified, and durable. We reiterate that all parties must scrupulously abide by their obligations under international law, including those aspects of international humanitarian law addressing displacement.
Since the start of the conflict, guaranteeing the safety of those fleeing has proven to be a particular challenge. With recent fighting intensifying in the areas surrounding Kherson, Kharkiv, and Dnipro, routes to safety must be secured and humanitarian actors supporting evacuations must be protected. Meanwhile, reports of the destruction of water, electricity, and gas infrastructure are once again leaving people in particularly vulnerable situations without access to life-sustaining services with the ongoing approach of winter. We reiterate our call for the protection of civilians and for all civilian objects, including those indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, not to be targeted.
As this conflict stretches on, the need to find a way to stem the suffering and stop the violence only deepens. We must redouble our efforts to support mitigation of the impacts of the conflict and gear us towards further confidence-building measures. There is no other pathway forward. Over the last month we have welcomed the resumption of agricultural exports from Ukraine as a result of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but it is key that grain continues to reach those most in need, not just those able to pay. At the same time, we hope to see swift progress in getting Russian fertilizer out to the global markets as well. This is crucial for next year’s harvest and to avoid the further deterioration of the current food crisis. Doing so will not only contribute to addressing the real needs of millions around the world, it may also create momentum for other tangible agreements to address the conflict.
We continue to gather here and listen to the mounting costs of the war, and like all wars, the human costs will only worsen with every day that passes. But what is needed now are ideas and the political will to make them a reality. We saw this six weeks ago in a small way in Istanbul and we must see it again. A cessation of hostilities would be the right starting point. Thank you, Mr. President.