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At the outset, let me thank Ambassador Barbara Woodward and the delegation of the United Kingdom for their able stewardship of the Security Council in April. I wish the United States success and offer our full support for its presidency this month. I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his briefing and updates on his visit to Russia and Ukraine, as well as for his exercise of his good offices in this conflict. We fully support his continued effort and engagement. Thanks also to Under-Secretary-General Griffiths and High Commissioner Bachelet and Ms. Luzan for their briefings.
As the Secretary-General noted last week, civilians always pay the highest price in war. As the conflict moves into its third month, its repercussions have far exceeded many worst-case projections made at the start of hostilities in February.
UNHCR now believes that more than 8 million Ukrainians could end up fleeing the country, double the initial estimates. At the same time, UNDP forecasts that the war will soon erase nearly two decades of progress in the development of Ukraine. And we have not yet fully absorbed how the impact of this war is reverberating globally, though there are clearly already repercussions being felt through rising commodity prices and supply disruptions as well as disruptions to the global financial system on which we are all dependent for shared stability and development.
We remain deeply concerned by reports of rising civilian casualties and the ongoing destruction of civilian infrastructure. It is imperative to underline once again that all parties must abide by their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This necessarily includes respect for the fundamental international humanitarian law principles of necessity, proportionality, and distinction.
The Council has built a framework to strengthen the protection of civilians and civilian objects, including its unanimous adoption of resolution 2573 just over a year ago. Attacks on civilian infrastructure can undermine the provision of essential services to the civilian population and have horrifying knock-on effects.
We appreciate the efforts of international actors to provide tools and mechanisms to operationalize this framework, and we call on the parties to engage in the design of urgently needed solutions, including for safe and voluntary passage. We are encouraged by the recent progress regarding safe passage from Mariupol through coordinated action by the UN, the authorities of both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and the International Committee of the Red Cross and we are hopeful it can be built upon. However, we have underscored before that initiatives like corridors do not alter the obligations of the parties to uphold international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General’s proposal of a contact group is a welcome starting point to implement additional measures supporting IHL implementation and we hope to hear more details about the proposal in the near future.
As the conflict continues, we join others in emphasizing the critical importance of increased humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to the neighboring countries hosting refugees. As part of our ongoing support, the UAE most recently dispatched a plane on 28 April, carrying 30 additional tons of food supplies supporting refugees from Ukraine in Moldova, and we are committed to continue working with international partners on relief efforts. We emphasize too the need to systematically take into account needs based on gender, age, and disability in providing humanitarian assistance, not least as it also supports longer-term recovery efforts.
Finally, we reiterate that the protection of civilians can only be assured with a cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic solution to this conflict. We call on both sides to remain committed, despite the difficulties, to direct dialogue and for the international community and this Council to create the conditions to urgently halt the war and ultimately bring about a lasting peace in Europe and stability to our international order. The alternative, increasing polarization and the resulting ruptures in our global cooperation, are in no country’s interest today or in the future. We must step back from this brink.