General Assembly: Eleventh Emergency Special Session (Ukraine)- 9th Plenary Meeting

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24-Mar-2022 03:25:16
General Assembly adopts text recognizing scale of humanitarian woes arising from Russian Federation’s Ukraine offensive as unseen in many decades.

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Delegates Decline to Take Action on South Africa’s Draft, While Deploring Lack of ‘Unanimous Consensus’ in Vote

Resuming its emergency special session today, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing that the Russian Federation’s military offensive inside Ukraine — and its humanitarian consequences — are on a scale that the international community has not seen in Europe in many decades.

The Assembly adopted draft resolution “L.2” by a recorded vote of 140 in favour to 5 against (Eritrea, Russian Federation, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus), with 38 abstentions — a clear signal of the international community’s demand that Moscow immediately halt its hostilities against Ukraine so that the corollary humanitarian impact can be addressed.

By the text, the Assembly demanded full protection for civilians, including humanitarian personnel, journalists and persons in vulnerable situations, women and children among them. It further demanded full respect for — and protection of — all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their equipment and means of transportation, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.

Moreover, the Assembly demanded full respect for and protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population and infrastructure critical to the delivery of essential services in armed conflict. It also demanded that all parties protect civilians fleeing armed conflict and violence, including foreign nationals, notably students, without discrimination. The Assembly further demanded voluntary, safe and unhindered passage, as well as safe, unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian personnel, their means of transportation, supplies and equipment, to those in need within Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

By other terms, the Assembly welcomed and urged continued efforts by the Secretary-General, Member States, the United Nations system and the international community to deliver humanitarian assistance as well as protection for refugees. It also urged the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means, in accordance with international law.

The Assembly declined to put a competing text to the vote. Tabled by South Africa’s delegation, draft resolution “L.3” contained no mention of the Russian Federation, instead referring to the humanitarian situation as “emanating out of” the conflict.

The two texts continued to generate sharp debate, as they did during the session on Wednesday (see Press Release GA/12410). South Africa’s representative said the adoption of a resolution on the humanitarian crisis should be the priority, while expressing her suspicion that political divisions will ensure that geopolitical objectives are paramount.

Delegates taking the floor both before and after the vote decried the humanitarian disaster resulting from the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine.

Canada’s delegate declared: “This is not a natural disaster,” emphasizing “a humanitarian crisis of this type is not a spontaneous event. It is the direct result of a deliberate decision by one country, the Russian Federation, to invade another, Ukraine.” He went on to note that the aggressor nation has directed its military forces against cities, leaving residents no choice but to flee.

Austria’s representative took issue with calls by some delegations for an even-handed and unbiased approach using “neutral” language. Pointing out that his country knows about neutrality, he emphasized that it does not mean violations of international law should be viewed through such a lens. How can such balance possibly be found in the midst of civilians suffering from “acts that constitute war crimes”, he asked.

Several delegates highlighted emerging problems as the humanitarian crisis continues to spiral.

Egypt’s representative, shining a spotlight on the incipient food insecurity resulting from the conflict, said the prices of food and energy have risen, and asked for that to be addressed in order to ensure that food-importing nations can continue to do so.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, meanwhile, underscored the need for the protection of civilians trying to escape the conflict, advocating for the fair and equal treatment of all, including those of African descent.

Several delegates expressed concern that the General Assembly could not reach a unanimous consensus on the resolution.

Brazil’s representative expressed regret that the 193-member Assembly could not speak with one voice. He also lamented that the adopted resolution did not take into account the humanitarian impact of economic sanctions.

China’s representative expressed his preference for the draft that was not adopted, given its focus on humanitarian issues, noting that the adopted text exceeded its purview. He emphasized the need to give precedence to urging all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to reach a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible.

The Russian Federation’s representative said his delegation voted against the “pseudo-humanitarian resolution” tabled by Western States and Ukraine. He said the adopted resolution will create no legal obligations, emphasizing that political considerations won the day.

Also speaking were representatives of San Marino, Cambodia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, India, Tunisia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Rwanda, Malaysia, Algeria, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Eritrea, Thailand, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Lesotho, France (for the European Union), Denmark (for the Nordic-Baltic States) and Israel.

The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also delivered a statement, as did the Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

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