Humanitarian Needs in Ukraine, Global Food Crisis Still Skyrocketing Six Months after Russian Federation’s Invasion, Secretary-General Warns Security Council

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council on Ukraine, in New York today:

Today marks a sad and tragic milestone — six months since the Russian Federation’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine.

During this devastating period, thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, including hundreds of children.  Countless others have lost their family members, friends and loved ones.  The world has seen grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed with little to no accountability.  Millions of Ukrainians have lost their homes and their worldly possessions, becoming internally displaced or refugees. 

With the onset of winter, humanitarian needs continue to rise rapidly with millions of people in need of assistance and protection.  As these needs skyrocket, it is imperative that humanitarian actors in Ukraine have safe and unhindered access to all people requiring assistance, no matter where they live.

The consequences of this senseless war are being felt far beyond Ukraine.  We are seeing new vulnerabilities emerge in a global environment already worn out by conflicts, inequality, pandemic-induced economic and health crises, and climate change — with a disproportionate impact on developing countries.

The acceleration of already high food, fertilizer and fuel prices has triggered a global crisis that could drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition, while threatening to raise the global humanitarian caseload to new highs and erase hard-won development gains.

Vulnerable communities are grappling with the largest cost-of-living crisis in a generation and high commodity and transportation costs are having major repercussions for existing humanitarian operations.

Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo will brief the Council on the impact of the armed conflict in Ukraine both inside and outside the country over the past six months.

As I mentioned on Monday, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update on my recent travel to Ukraine.  I would like to have been able to do the same yesterday based on my experience in discussions about Zaporizhzhia, but unfortunately I was out of New York with a [inaudible] planned that was impossible to change at such a short notice.

My visit was an important opportunity to follow up on the landmark deal that has brought a measure of hope, especially to developing countries and millions of vulnerable people bearing the brunt of the global food crisis, some of them on the edge of famine.

I can report to the Council that the Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed in Istanbul in July, is progressing well — with dozens of ships sailing in and out of Ukrainian ports, loaded so far with over 720,000 metric tons of grains and other food products.  This deal would not have been possible without the constructive approach of both Ukraine and the Russian Federation and the efforts of the Government of Türkiye.

During my visit to Lviv, I met with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Turkish President Erdoğan.  I thanked them for their continued engagement to support the implementation of the Initiative to ensure the safe passage of Ukrainian food products and fertilizers to those in need and to the world at large.

I was filled with emotion visiting the port of Odesa and the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul.  On my visit to Odesa, I went aboard a bulk carrier called the MV Kubrosli Y as it was being loaded with about 10,000 metric tons of wheat.  It was deeply moving to peer into the hold of this cargo ship and see wheat pouring in.  Even if in a limited way, the storied port of Odesa — which had been paralyzed for months — is slowly coming to life thanks to the Initiative.

In Istanbul, I saw the World Food Programme-chartered ship, the MV Brave Commander.  It was proudly flying the United Nations flag with its cargo destined for the Horn of Africa where millions of people are at risk of famine.

I then had the opportunity to walk up the long and narrow gangway of the SSI Invincible II heading to pick up Ukrainian grain in the port of Chornomorsk.  The vessel will carry one of the largest hauls of grain leaving Ukraine to date — more than 50,000 metric tons.

Just a few weeks ago, much of this would have been hard to imagine.  We are seeing a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved, in even the most devastating of contexts, when we put people first.  As I stressed in Odesa and Istanbul, what I saw was the more visible part of the solution.

The other part of this package deal is the unimpeded access to global markets of the Russian Federation food and fertilizers, which are not subject to sanctions.  It is critical that all Governments and the private sector cooperate to effectively bring them to market.  Together with the task team led by Rebeca Grynspan, I will continue my intense contacts for that purpose.

In 2022, there is enough food in the world — the problem is its uneven distribution.  But if we don’t stabilize the fertilizer market in 2022, there simply will not be enough food in 2023.  Many farmers around the world are already planning to reduce areas for cultivation for next season.

Getting much more food and fertilizers out of Ukraine and the Russian Federation at reasonable costs is vital to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers.  I once again commend the parties for their engagement in this process and urge them to continue to build on this progress.

I also renew the call I made in Odesa for a massive scaling up of support to the developing countries getting hammered by the global food crisis.  The shipment of grain and other foodstuffs is crucial, but it won’t mean much if countries cannot afford them.  Developed countries and international financial institutions must do more to ensure that developing countries can fully capitalize on the opportunities of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Despite progress on the humanitarian front, fighting in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, with new potential areas of dangerous escalation appearing.  Two places were ever-present in my mind — and in my discussions in Ukraine — Zaporizhzhia and Olenivka. 

I remain gravely concerned about the situation in and around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.  The warning lights are flashing.  Any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant are simply unacceptable.  Any further escalation of the situation could lead to self-destruction.  The security of the plant must be ensured, and the plant must be re-established as purely civilian infrastructure.

In close contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Secretariat has assessed that we have in Ukraine the logistics and security capacity to support any IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv, provided both the Russian Federation and Ukraine agree.  I welcome expressions of support for such a mission and urge that to happen as soon as possible.

I am deeply disturbed by the allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights related to the armed conflict.  International humanitarian law protects prisoners of war.  The International Committee of the Red Cross must have access to them wherever they are held.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine — and the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine — continue to monitor, document and report with a view to supporting the investigation of alleged violations.

Work is also ongoing to deploy the recently established Fact-Finding Mission to Olenivka to look into the incident on 29 July.  This mission must be able to freely conduct its work — to gather and analyse necessary information — and to find the facts.  It is imperative that the mission has safe, secure and unfettered access to all relevant places and persons and to all relevant evidence without any limitation, impediment or interference.

On this thirty-first anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, I wish to congratulate the Ukrainian people.  The people of Ukraine and beyond need peace and they need peace now.  Peace in line with the United Nations Charter.  Peace in line with international law.

For information media. Not an official record.