General Assembly: Eleventh Emergency Special Session (Ukraine)- 7th Plenary Meeting

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23-Mar-2022 03:24:15
Speakers discuss two competing draft resolutions on humanitarian situation in Ukraine, as General Assembly resumes emergency special session.

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The General Assembly resumed its emergency special session today to discuss two competing draft resolutions on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine — one that implicates the Russian Federation’s military offensive in the unfolding humanitarian crisis and the other that makes no mention of Moscow’s aggression against its neighbour.

“Allowing for safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, including women, children, the elderly, the disabled and humanitarian personnel, is the need of the hour,” said Enrique Austria Manalo (Philippines), Vice-President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), as he reopened the special session.

According to United Nations data, of Ukraine’s population of 44 million, some 3.56 million people have fled the country and 6.5 million have been internally displaced since 24 February. This means 1 in 4 people have been uprooted, he said, warning that essential services such as water, electricity, heating and emergency health and social services are under severe strain. This is projected to expand humanitarian needs among millions of Ukrainians and other community members, he said, urging all parties to respect international law and international humanitarian law.

The eleventh emergency special session opened on 28 February and closed on 2 March after adopting a resolution by which the Assembly demanded that the Russian Federation immediately cease its unlawful use of force against its neighbour. That resolution was adopted by a vote of 141 in favour to 5 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Russian Federation and Syria) with 35 abstentions. (See Press Releases GA/12404, GA/12406 and GA/12407).

[Under Assembly resolution 377A(V), commonly known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution, the world body resolved that if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, it shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures. This includes, in a case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression, the use of armed force when necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.]

In today’s meeting, more than 60 delegations took the floor to exchange views on the two rival resolutions. The draft titled “humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine” (document A/ES-11/L.2) demands an immediate cessation of the hostilities by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, in particular of any attacks against civilians and civilian objects. The other, titled “Humanitarian situation emanating out of the conflict in Ukraine” (document A/ES-11/L.3), calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties in the conflict.

Ukraine’s representative, introducing “L.2”, described the plight of his country as already reaching the level of a humanitarian disaster. “L.2” is a result of collective and informed effort by two dozen States from all regions, including France and Mexico, who led consultations on the draft. Using an analogy of individuals becoming passive when they see street violence in the presence of a crowd, he cautioned against this “bystander apathy”. Appealing to delegates in the Assembly Hall, he said this world body should not be ruled by this street violence psychology, urging responsible Member States to support “L.2”.

His counterpart from South Africa, introducing “L.3”, emphasized the need for the United Nations to adopt a resolution by consensus on the humanitarian situation affecting the people of Ukraine. “L.3” is an attempt to present a text that specifically addresses that situation, devoid of other matters that would weaken the General Assembly’s unity on this issue. Stressing that the Assembly’s failure to garner consensus “would not bode well for humanitarian action and relief in Ukraine”, she said that while the political and strategic issues pertaining to the conflict should be discussed, it should not be done in the context of a resolution addressing the humanitarian situation.

Mexico’s delegate said his country and France introduced a humanitarian resolution in the Security Council, but after two weeks of open consultations carried out in good faith, it became clear that an agreement would not be reached there. With the genuine support of the Assembly’s members, who wanted to be part of a humanitarian response, the matter was brought to this organ. “L.2”, which has at least 88 co-sponsors so far, is the outcome of a collective effort focused on the humanitarian aspect of the conflict and includes diverse views from the Organization’s five regional groups. The spirit of the United Nations must be honoured, he said, adding that the Assembly’s humanitarian initiative is the least the Ukrainian people deserve.

The Russian Federation’s representative rejected “L.2” as it is full of anti-Russian elements and was submitted as a “political anti-Russian show”. “L.2” will only make the situation worse as it will embolden Ukraine’s regime, which has waged war on Donbas over the past eight years. The Russian Federation’s special military operation was launched only after efforts for peaceful resolutions of the conflict in Donbas were exhausted. “L.3” tabled by South Africa is close to what the Russian Federation submitted in the Council, he said, urging support for that text.

Similarly, Syria’s representative warned that some States are mixing questions regarding the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine with their hostile political position against the Russian Federation. Resuming this emergency special session to introduce a draft resolution without a vote in the Security Council demonstrates that these States are not genuinely interested in resolving the humanitarian issues in Ukraine. South Africa, on the other hand, was careful to present a draft resolution focused exclusively on the humanitarian situation, and he welcomed this constructive approach and called on all States to consider it objectively.

The Head of the European Union delegation, in its capacity as observer, said the Russian Federation has done nothing to implement the resolution adopted by the Assembly on 2 March and has intensified suffering instead. European Union member States have kept borders open for everyone fleeing the war, he said, stressing that an Assembly resolution must accurately reflect the situation and its causes and urge respect for the most basic humanitarian principles.

Poland’s delegate said that its border with Ukraine sees constant daily inflows of people who are severely traumatized. Of the more than 3.5 million people who have left Ukraine, 2.2 million have fled to Poland; most of them have found shelter and stayed in the country. “In the spirit of solidarity, Poland will continue to admit and provide shelter, food, health care and safety to every person in need, regardless of their nationality, race or religious creed,” she said, calling on every State to stand firmly behind “L.2”. Seventy-six years ago, the Assembly stood determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. “At the moment we are failing,” she said.

The United States, its representative said, has recently assessed that the Russian armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. “L.2” is a response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the Russian Federation. Abstention in the face of Moscow’s atrocities is unacceptable. The text calls for an end to this war, she said, appealing to “the one person with the ability to stop the violence, and that person is Vladimir Putin”.

Ecuador’s delegate recounted the story of Diego, a 20-year-old fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, who arrived in his country. Diego was among the 700 Ecuadorians evacuated from Ukraine on the country’s three humanitarian flights. He is a living witness that the Russian Federation’s “special military operation” is nothing other than a clear invasion of Ukraine in violation of the United Nations Charter.

Japan’s delegate said the international community has witnessed a permanent Security Council member violate its obligations to maintain international peace and security and continue to ignore the calls of the United Nations main organs, stressing that the Assembly must act by supporting “L.2”.

Albania’s representative said that while Ukrainians know what they are fighting for, “Russians do not know what they are dying for”, describing the conflict as “a war of one man”. History has seen many failures of strongmen attempting to rewrite history. The crisis is affecting the entire world, making the poor poorer and the vulnerable more vulnerable, he said, adding that Albania co-sponsored “L.2”.

Costa Rica’s delegate was among several speakers who underscored the broad humanitarian repercussions of the conflict, including famine and food insecurity, particularly for those countries that cannot afford interruptions of their food supply. She warned that places like Yemen and South Sudan are already on the brink of starvation and now face an even more devastating reality.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands (also for Belgium and Luxemburg), Lithuania (for the Nordic-Baltic countries), Turkey, Fiji (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Georgia, Bulgaria, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Chile, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Croatia, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Singapore, United Kingdom, France, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Paraguay, Slovakia, Greece, Gabon, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf), Marshall Islands, Hungary, Federated States of Micronesia, Uruguay, Colombia, Timor-Leste, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Viet Nam, Republic of Moldova, Argentina, Peru, Kiribati, Romania, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Andorra, Jamaica and Malta.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 24 March, to continue its work and take action on the two rival resolutions.

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