Security Council Fails to Adopt Text Demanding Civilian Protection, Unhindered Humanitarian Access in Ukraine, as 13 Members Abstain
2 Vote in Favour, None against, with Delegates Denouncing Draft as Attempt by Moscow to Justify Aggression against Neighbour
The Security Council failed today to adopt a draft resolution that would have demanded civilian protection in Ukraine and called for unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, as several delegates rejected the text as an attempt by the Russian Federation to justify its aggression against its neighbour.
Tabled by the Russian Federation, the draft was defeated by a vote of 2 in favour (China, Russian Federation) to none against, with 13 abstentions. It was the Council’s third vote since 24 February (See Press Releases SC/14808 and SC/14809) and would have needed nine votes in favour with no veto to pass. Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria joined the Russian Federation in submitting the text.
By its terms, the Council would have demanded that civilians are fully protected, that all parties ensure respect for and protection of all medical and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in their medical duties; that they respect international law in connection with objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population; and allow safe and unhindered passage to destinations outside Ukraine, including for foreign nationals, without discrimination.
After the vote, the Russian Federation’s delegate said the action exposed all those for whom politicization of the humanitarian dossier is more important than delivering aid to vulnerable people. The absence of a resolution will only complicate the lives of humanitarians on the ground and allow Kyiv to ignore calls for a ceasefire, he argued. “Kyiv will continue to use civilians as human shields and to deploy heavy weaponry near hospitals and kindergartens,” he cautioned, adding that the Russian Federation will attempt to resolve humanitarian issues, as it has done in Donbass, “whose suffering you prefer to forget”.
However, several delegates denounced the draft as an attempt to hide a brutal campaign of aggression.
The representative of the United States described as “unconscionable” the Russian Federation’s attempt to submit a draft requesting that the international community resolve a humanitarian crisis that it alone created. “To state the obvious, Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions and the millions of lives and dreams the war has shattered,” she emphasized, in explanation of her delegation’s abstention. She denounced the Russian Federation’s attempt to make the Council complicit in its “flimsy fabrications”, pointing out that the draft makes no mention of its role as the sole cause of the crisis.
France’s representative agreed, declaring: “This manoeuvre is not fooling anyone.” Recalling that his country and Mexico negotiated a humanitarian draft in good faith, he said they then decided to take it to the General Assembly, given the Russian Federation’s obstruction.
Mexico’s delegate added that, after that was announced on 14 March, “strangely enough”, the Russian Federation decided to present an alternative text. He explained that his delegation abstained today because the draft attempts to change the meaning of certain paragraphs negotiated by the delegations of Mexico and France. It also lacks references to Article 2.4 of the Charter of the United Nations — on the prohibition or threat of use of force on a State’s territorial integrity or political independence — and to an unequivocal cessation of hostilities.
China’s delegate explained that his delegation’s support for the draft was based on its call for the international community to attach high importance to the humanitarian situation, and for the parties to coordinate on protecting civilians. He urged the parties to focus on the humanitarian issue, transcend political differences and do their best to seek consensus.
At the meeting’s outset, the Council observed a moment of silence in memory of Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States, who died today.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Albania, Ghana, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Brazil, Gabon and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 5:07 p.m. and ended at 6:01 p.m.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) welcomed the initiative of Mexico and France in submitting a humanitarian resolution on the situation in Ukraine, a hope dashed by colleagues from the United Kingdom and the United States, who described it as unnecessary. The Council instead began a policy of mutual recrimination and accusations, he said, adding that Western countries alleged, in an unsubstantiated manner, that the Council cannot adopt a humanitarian draft on Ukraine as submitted by the Russian Federation. Categorically rejecting such a premise, he noted that his delegation is submitting a draft on the basis of the France-Mexico text, which is not politicized, and in that way, is analogous to other humanitarian drafts, he emphasized. Rather than continuing to capitalize on the issue, Council members should adopt a text that will provide an important framework work for humanitarian efforts, he said.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said the Russian Federation is using the Council to provide cover for its brutal actions. It is “unconscionable” that it would have the audacity to submit a draft resolution requesting that the international community resolve a humanitarian crisis that it alone created, she emphasized. Explaining that the United States will abstain from voting, she said: “To state the obvious, Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions and the millions of lives and dreams the war has shattered.” She reiterated: “Russia is the aggressor, the attacker, the invader, the sole party in Ukraine engaged in a campaign of brutality against the people of Ukraine.”
Noting that the Russian Federation is asking the Council to pass a resolution that does not acknowledge its own culpability, she pointed out that the world has seen images of millions of women and children fleeing for their lives; of bloodied pregnant women being carried out of the rubble; of the shelling of kindergartens, orphanages and humanitarian corridors; and attacks hitting apartment buildings, gas and water pipelines and a nuclear power plant. There are also images of people being shot while waiting in bread lines, journalists being killed in crossfire, and shelling by President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces that killed a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv, she said, adding that, if the Council believes Moscow’s disinformation, “these are all movie sets, with actors”.
Recalling that the United States warned for a third time on 22 March that the Russian Federation could use chemical or biological weapons, she said: “Mark my words, Russia will continue to be held accountable for what it is doing to the people in Ukraine.” It is attempting to make the Council complicit in its flimsy fabrications by putting forward a resolution that makes no mention of its role as the sole cause of this crisis, she noted, affirming: “We will play no part in that.”
She went on to accuse the Russian Federation of blocking the Council from carrying out its mandate, stressing that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine, as do the majority of United Nations Member States. The Russian Federation’s efforts to deny the truth will continue to fail, she predicted. Quoting Madeleine K. Albright, her country’s former Secretary of State who died today, she said: “Take it from someone who fled the Iron Curtain. I know what happens when you give the Russians the green light.” That is what the Council will do today if it passes this resolution, she warned.
The Council then failed to adopt the draft resolution by a vote of 2 in favour (China, Russian Federation) to none against, with 13 abstentions.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the text just rejected was a manoeuvre to justify the aggression against Ukraine. “They are taking Russia and the Russian economy into a war they didn’t search for,” he said, adding that Moscow now seeks to instrumentalize the Council in that effort. Should the Russian Federation really want to help Ukraine’s people, it only need end its war, he pointed out, emphasizing: “This manoeuvre is not fooling anyone.” He affirmed that the Council will not allow itself to be used in that way. He went on to explain that, while the delegations of France and Mexico negotiated a humanitarian draft in good faith, they decided to bring it before the General Assembly — and not to call a vote in the Council — in light of the Russian Federation’s obstruction.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), noting that with more than 100,000 people in the city of Mariupol are now living under a “medieval siege”, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is not in doubt as its people endure a “living hell”. Meanwhile, skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices worldwide threaten to spiral into a global hunger crisis, he said. Against that backdrop, the United Kingdom will not vote for any resolution that does not recognize the Russian Federation as the sole cause of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe “and therefore, the key to ending it”, she emphasized. The draft tabled by Moscow’s delegation today called on all parties to uphold international law, ignoring the Russian Federation’s responsibility for violating it, she pointed out, adding that it also ignores the fact that it is that country bombing homes, schools and other civilian facilities. The General Assembly will soon vote on a text that makes clear that the only way to end the crisis is for Moscow to end its war, she asserted, stressing that “our first allegiance is to the human race”.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the war has been unjustified, unprovoked and illegal from the first and is becoming deadlier every day, adding that, Mariupol, which is being pummelled block by block, is the true face that the Russian Federation is presenting to the world. Emphasizing that the international community is aware of the genuine cause of the devastating humanitarian crisis, he said the Russian Federation does not need to call for a ceasefire or protection of civilians when its actions are the root cause. “We did not fall for such a trap,” or for the mockery just demonstrated by the voting result, he added. Calling upon the Russian Federation to “withdraw its troops, pack and go home”, he described that State as the sole and unique cause of the humanitarian crisis, asserting that, due to its obsession, cannot share responsibility with the victim Ukraine or anyone else. He stated that the text, with its misleading title is a mountain of hypocrisy, spineless and useless, which is why his delegation did not vote for it, he stressed.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) expressed concern over the humanitarian situation following the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, and Ghana remains committed to any genuine effort to address the suffering of its people. His delegation abstained because the draft resolution does not speak to the settled position of the international community on the cause of this humanitarian catastrophe, nor to a requirement for an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities, the essential building blocks for a credible framework for humanitarian effort that is neutral, impartial and independent. While consensus on how to tackle the war in Ukraine has unfortunately eluded the Council, the United Nations is more than the work within the Council. He therefore hailed the bravery of the men and women in Ukraine, he noted, hailing the efforts of the Organization’s other entities in bringing hope to the many victims of the war, providing safe passage for civilians, and delivering food and medicine to those in critical need in cities under siege. He urged the parties to return to diplomacy and dialogue, prioritizing the safety of Ukraine’s people.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), explaining his delegation’s abstention, said that his country and France had carried out transparent consultations on a humanitarian draft that would have allowed the Council to assume its responsibilities in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. There was a frank exchange of positions aimed at arriving at a balanced text that could garner the necessary support, but after the consultations, it became clear that conditions were not in place to achieve agreement, he noted. “Strangely enough,” he said, after the 14 March announcement that Mexico and France would take their initiative to the General Assembly, the Russian Federation decided to present an alternative for a vote the following day. While the Russian delegation postponed the vote, its text does not consider any of Mexico’s positions, nor those of others, he noted, recalling that the text was “put into blue” on 16 March, with changes made to only two words. While it would appear that the draft contains elements of the original one submitted by Mexico and France, it attempts to change the meaning of certain paragraphs, he said, noting that the balance sought — which served as the basis for the text sent to the General Assembly — was excluded. He went on to point out that the text does not refer to Article 2.4 of the Charter of the United Nations on the prohibition or threat of use of force on a State’s territorial integrity or political independence, nor does it refer to an unequivocal cessation of hostilities. A text so lacking does not respond to the reality on the ground nor to the pressing civilian needs, he stressed, further underscoring Mexico’s priority focus on humanitarian action, the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Ireland) said his delegation abstained in the vote for one clear and simple reason: “The text tabled by the Russian Federation does nothing to ease the humanitarian suffering of the Ukrainian people.” Indeed, it failed to call for the very thing that would end civilian deaths, that would stop the destruction of Ukrainian cities and that would facilitate safe and unhindered evacuation of civilians and humanitarian access — an immediate end to hostilities. Describing the draft instead as a “cynical abuse of the multilateral system” by the aggressor, he stressed that, if Moscow wishes to take action to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Ukrainian people, it should end the war now. Voicing regret that the Council has been prevented from acting by the Russian Federation, he added: “It is shameful that a permanent member of this Security Council has acted in this way.”
MONA JUUL (Norway) recalled that a party to a conflict cannot expect to be perceived as neutral. It should neither be the author of Council drafts nor participate in voting on the very same conflict to which it is a party. “No one can be in doubt of the Russian Federation’s status as a party,” she clarified. Yet, in meeting after meeting, it expects the Council to accept its accounts, reports and views, as if it is coming from a neutral place. For nearly a month, the Russian Federation has continued its reprehensible invasion of Ukraine. Civilians are being attacked, injured and killed — even as they try to flee to safety. “Homes, schools and hospitals are being bombed by Russia as we speak,” she affirmed. What is before the Council today is not a neutral, balanced humanitarian resolution. It is a distraction. The Russian Federation’s war is a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of international law and the very principles of the Charter of the United Nations. “If the Russian Federation cares about the protection of civilians in Ukraine, it can stop its senseless war,” she said. “They should do it now.”
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said increasing reports of civilian casualties, including children, refugees and displaced people, reveal the deteriorating situation, adding that the Council should be able to address it despite differing political views. A truly consequential resolution on humanitarian issues should promote real help on the ground, help facilitate agreements, strengthen adherence to international humanitarian law, and promote the safe passage of civilians and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, he affirmed. An end to hostilities is an integral part of any humanitarian effort and any Council resolution should be open to an inclusive discussion among its 15 members, with efforts to accommodate all views, he emphasized. While noting that today’s draft presents many important elements on the protection of civilians, he said it nonetheless lacks any reference to a cessation of hostilities — one reason why his delegation abstained. It also fails to recall the principles of proportionality, necessity and humanity, as well as the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize damage to civilians and civilian objects, he added. Brazil will address any meaningful, inclusive and transparent initiatives, he affirmed, urging the parties to negotiate in good faith towards ending hostilities.
ZHANG JUN (China) said the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation and its spill-over effects have triggered widespread concern in the international community. It is heart-wrenching to witness rising casualties and serious shortfalls in humanitarian relief, he added, urging the Council to fulfil its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and play its due role in the humanitarian situation. China has put forward a six‑point initiative and provided several consignments of supplies to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Ukraine, he noted. Recalling the Council’s repeated consultations on the drafts proposed by France and Mexico, as well as the Russian Federation over the past few weeks, he called on all parties to focus on the humanitarian issue, transcend political differences and do their best to seek consensus. Expressing regret that the Council could not reach the broadest possible agreement in the end, he explained that his delegation’s vote in favour of the draft resolution was based on its call for the international community to attach high importance to the humanitarian situation, and for the parties to coordinate on protecting civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups. China has always insisted that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected, and their legitimate security concerns taken seriously, he emphasized, asserting that the key right now is for the parties to demonstrate political will, with the international community creating space for peace. He went on to stress that a long-term solution lies in abandoning the “cold war mentality” and refraining from “bloc confrontations”.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), emphasizing his country’s belief in the values underpinning the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols, said they constitute the framework for humanitarian aspects that must not be combined with political posturing. Gabon abstained because humanitarian issues are dividing humanity and being instrumentalized for other purposes, he explained, underlining that they should instead be part of the social compact.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), thanking the draft resolution’s co-sponsors, said the vote exposed all those for whom politicization of the humanitarian dossier is more important than delivering aid to vulnerable people. Asking why the United States delegation chose to abstain, he said the true motivations were understood. Mexico’s delegate, meanwhile, made it seem as if the Russian Federation unexpectedly put the draft to the vote, he noted, clarifying that his delegation supported the Mexico-France draft, except for its politicized passages.
The Russian Federation’s draft contained a call for the establishment of ceasefire and humanitarian pauses for the purpose of safe, unhindered evacuation of civilians, he said, adding that those expressing a desire to do so could leave without discrimination on any grounds. It also contained a call not to attack critical infrastructure or place heavy military equipment in densely populated areas, and for ensuring the protection of medical personnel, humane treatment for detainees and the protection of civilians. Yet, the Council refused to support the text for political reasons, he asserted. Instead, it heard that the Russian Federation is preparing to use chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine. “This is an unimaginable accusation,” he emphasized. “Believe us, we have other means of warfare. We have no use for chemical or biological weapons,” he said, adding that his country destroyed them long ago.
He went on to state that the absence of a resolution only complicates the lives of humanitarians on the ground and allows Kyiv to ignore calls for a ceasefire. “Kyiv will continue to use civilians as human shields and to deploy heavy weaponry near hospitals and kindergartens,” he said, adding that the Russian Federation will attempt to resolve humanitarian issues, as it has done in Donbass, “whose suffering you prefer to forget”. He cautioned against politicizing humanitarian issues, expressing regret that the Council could not adopt a text that would have resolved those challenges, saying the Russian Federation and all those genuinely interested will do their utmost to alleviate the plight of civilians.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, welcoming the coordination among the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United Nations that recently led to the delivery of the first humanitarian convoy reaching Sumy, in eastern Ukraine. Nevertheless, there is also a crucial role for the Council to respond tangibly to the crisis, she noted. In that light, the delegation of the United Arab Emirates carefully studied the text presented by the Russian Federation, and supports some of its elements, she said, explaining that, ultimately, it abstained from voting because it would have liked to see a call for a nationwide cessation of hostilities. The continued fighting prevents the delivery of humanitarian aid, she added. Building on the dialogue that led to delivery of the Sumy convoy, agreement on other technical steps — such as civilian evacuation — is also needed. “The Council needs to rise to the occasion by adopting a dedicated compromise product that includes elements that we can all agree on,” she said, emphasizing that, whereas agreement was not possible today, the Council cannot abrogate its responsibility to help those needing help in Ukraine.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), taking the floor a second time in response to the Russian Federation’s delegate, who asked why the United States failed to veto the draft, said such an action was not necessary. The text was not worthy of exercising that power, she added, declaring: “We don’t need this farcical resolution to provide humanitarian assistance.” She went on to note that the United States has so far provided upwards of $600 million to the people of Ukraine and will continue to do so.
Mr. RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said he was taking the floor again as the Russian Federation’s representative had made a direct reference to his delegation, reiterating that his country remains open to frank dialogue towards solutions to the crisis, and on the best way for the Council to provide support and humanitarian assistance to those who need it most.