Spotlighting Russian Federation-Ukraine War’s Impact on Global Food, Energy Stability, Delegates in Security Council Urge Renewing Grain Initiative
Agreements facilitating the export of food and fertilizer from two of the world’s top exporters of these commodities must continue, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as members considered the international ramifications of the year-long war in Ukraine on the eve of the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s expiry.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalling his February briefing on the humanitarian impact of the war on Ukraine’s people — where two out of every five require humanitarian assistance — said that, today, he would focus on the war’s reverberations around the world. Praising the June 2022 signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — and the parallel memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations on the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports — he described these as critical to the broader fight against global food insecurity.
Stressing that the United Nations is doing everything possible to make sure the Initiative can continue and is sparing no effort to facilitate the memorandum’s full implementation, he said that — while meaningful progress has been made — impediments remain. Citing the unstable global economy, rising poverty and societies that remain off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, he stressed that “it is vital for global food security that both of these agreements continue”.
In the ensuing debate, Council members spotlighted the war’s impact on global food and energy security, with many also calling for unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in Ukraine and stressing that civilians must not be targeted during military operations. Some also said that military solutions and unilateral sanctions will not end the conflict, instead calling for dialogue and noting that diplomatic engagement led to the signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. On that point, many Council members underlined the Initiative’s critical importance in ameliorating the international effects of the war in Ukraine.
The representative of Ecuador, urging that the Initiative’s renewal be automatic, said that the same has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. Food security is a fundamental concern throughout Latin America and the Caribbean — even if the war is not directly affecting these countries — and the Initiative has spared many from hunger and helped to stabilize global food prices, he pointed out.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates also underscored the importance of the Initiative, which cushioned the impact of the post-pandemic crisis on global markets. Pointing out that the war in Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum, she urged Council members to support the Initiative’s renewal and called for the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding.
The Russian Federation’s representative, however, stated that the Initiative’s impact on global food prices has been questionable. While Moscow does not object to extending the Initiative until 18 May, he stressed that, if Western Governments are genuinely interested in continuing the export of food from Ukraine, they have two months to exempt his country’s entire agricultural sector from sanctions.
“Sanctions are not the issue,” underscored the representative of the United States, noting that her country has gone to extraordinary lengths to communicate clear humanitarian carve-outs for all such measures. The Initiative will remain crucial so long as Moscow continues to blockade Ukraine’s ports, she added, stressing that “the world needs this grain, it must flow freely”.
Gabon’s representative, meanwhile, underscored that access to water, energy and other essential public services must never be subject to blackmail. Pointing out that the war is dragging on with disastrous international consequences, she stressed that the Council’s meetings on the topic should focus on the search for solutions in support of the Ukrainian people.
The representative of Ukraine, in that vein, stressed that every day of the war multiplies the suffering of Ukrainians, urging Member States to contribute to the implementation of the General Assembly’s 23 February resolution. Noting that his country has fulfilled its obligations under the Initiative to alleviate the global food crisis, he called for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative for at least 120 days after its expiry on 18 March.
At the outset of the meeting, the representative of the United States requested a procedural vote regarding the participation of one of today’s proposed briefers. By a recorded vote of 8 against (Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) to 4 in favour (Brazil, China, Ghana, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Gabon, Mozambique, United Arab Emirates), the Council rejected the proposal to extend an invitation to that briefer under Rule 39.
Also speaking were representatives of France, Switzerland, Japan, Albania, Brazil, China, Ghana, Malta, United Kingdom, Mozambique, Denmark (also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and Lithuania (also for Estonia and Latvia), as well as a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.
The meeting began at 3:55 p.m. and ended at 6:52 p.m.
Speaking at the meeting’s outset, LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) requested a procedural vote on the participation of one of today’s proposed briefers, Daria Morozova, voicing regret that such a measure was needed. Expressing her delegation’s strong support for the participation of civil society representatives in the Security Council’s work, she said the majority of its members have raised significant concerns over the proposed briefer’s participation, and noted that one member put forward that Ms. Morozova brief the 15-member organ in her capacity as an “ombudsperson of the Donetsk region”. Recalling that the General Assembly overwhelming adopted resolution ESS/11/4 — specifically calling on all States and international organizations to not recognize any alteration of the status of the Donetsk region, and to refrain from any dealings that might be interpreted as recognizing an altered status — she said it is therefore not appropriate for the Council to invite someone who purports to be a representative of Donetsk to brief it. Such a move is an attempt by the Russian Federation to implicitly extend recognition to that territory, she stressed, calling on all Council members vote against Ms. Morozova’s participation.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), insisting on the participation of Ms. Morozova as a briefer, said that his delegation proposed to invite her guided by a single consideration — to provide the Council with the opportunity to receive first-hand information about the situation in the Donbas, which is inextricably linked to the situation in Ukraine. Residents of the Donbas have been shelled by Ukrainian forces since 2014 with no reaction from the international community, he said, stressing that Western States are sidestepping this issue as part of their policy to whitewash Kyiv’s crimes. Noting that the proposed briefer is a native of the Donbas and has engaged in humanitarian activities there since 2014, he said that her experience and expertise is unique. He added that “our briefer meets the criteria set out in Rule 39”, urging that she be heard in her personal capacity as a humanitarian activist.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), condemning the Russian Federation’s deplorable attempt to misuse the Council for narrow interests, said that, with this invitation, that country is “rubbing salt into the wound” of its aggression by inviting a representative of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. Reaffirming commitment to the participation of civil society briefers in the work of the Council, he stressed that the Russian Federation’s attitude is a deviation from this. The briefer proposed by that country is not competent to the purpose at hand as stipulated in Rule 39 of the Council’s provisional Rules of Procedure, he said, requesting other members of the organ to vote against this proposal.
By a recorded vote of 8 against (Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) and 4 in favour (Brazil, China, Ghana, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Gabon, Mozambique, United Arab Emirates), the Council then rejected the proposal to extend an invitation to Ms. Morozova, under Rule 39.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), speaking after the vote, underlined the hypocrisy and double standards of Council members’ decision against extending an invitation to a representative of the Donbas who has been suffering for 10 years as a result of Kyiv’s war. This merely confirms that those members do not view the residents of the Donbas as people and have no concern whatsoever about their suffering, he asserted, adding that: “Our Western colleagues are afraid that, if the voices of truth paved the way, all of their efforts to whitewash their subordinates in Kyiv will collapse.” The Russian Federation has never gone down to this level and will take what happened today as an opportunity to think about how it should consider requests on Rule 39 moving forward. He then pointed out that invitations have been extended to representatives of unrecognized territories — such as Kosovo, in clear violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) — before voicing his regret that the organ’s work has fallen hostage to the unscrupulous conduct of Western delegations who are openly seeking to advance their parochial interests.
Mr. HOXHA (Albania) rejected the comparison of two realities that have “absolutely nothing in common”: the prefabricated so-called Donetsk Republic — the territory of Ukraine illegally annexed by the Russian Federation — and Kosovo. The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion stating that the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence did not violate international law — as opposed to territories annexed by force that exist only in Russian Federation dreams. Also, Kosovo and Serbia are negotiating to find mutually agreed solutions with dialogue, not with bombs, he asserted.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, addressing the emotional statement of his Albanian counterpart about the presence of Serbia during meetings under resolution 1244 (1999), asked whether he views Kosovo as a territory recognized by the United Nations.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalled that, in his last briefing to the Council about Ukraine in February, he highlighted the humanitarian impact of the full-scale war a year since it began and the death, destruction and hardship it continues to inflict on the Ukrainian people. At that time, he cited various statistics about the war’s impact and shared that two out of every five people in Ukraine require humanitarian assistance. “I shared facts about the casualties it caused, the families it left bereaved, homeless and destitute,” he said.
In contrast, he said that in today’s briefing he will focus on the war’s reverberations around the world. The planet is already reeling from multiple shocks — hunger, conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and a cost-of-living crisis. The conflict in Ukraine has only added to those threats, with significant implications for global food insecurity. “As we all know, both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are leading suppliers of key food commodities,” he said, adding that the former is also a top exporter of fertilizer. The world relies on these supplies and the United Nations — especially the World Food Programme (WFP) — sources much of the wheat for its global humanitarian response from Ukraine.
He recalled that, in February 2022, when shipping operations were suspended from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, the ripple effects were immediate. By March of that year, following uninterrupted increases from the second half of 2020, global food prices had reached record highs. The price of fertilizer has also been impacted and remains over 200 times higher than in 2019, he said, noting that some small farmers in low-income countries have found themselves priced out of the market. “Reversing those trends was a matter of urgency for the international community,” he stressed.
Praising the June 2022 signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — and the parallel memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations on the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports — he described those moves as critical steps in the broader fight against global food insecurity, especially in developing countries. Markets have been calmed and global food prices have continued to fall. Under the Initiative, close to 25 million metric tons of foodstuffs have been safely exported from Ukraine since August 2022, and WFP has been able to transport more than half a million metric tons of wheat to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.
The Unite Nations is doing everything possible to make sure that the Black Sea Grain Initiative can continue, including engaging closely with all parties, he said. The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rebeca Grynspan, and Secretary-General António Guterres are sparing no effort to facilitate the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding with the Russian Federation. While meaningful progress has been made, impediments remain, notably with regard to payment systems. “It is vital for global food security that both of these agreements continue and will be fully implemented,” he stressed, citing the unstable global economy, rising poverty and societies that remain off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In 2022, Member States made significant financial efforts to meet the growth in global humanitarian needs, as total humanitarian funding reached a historic high of $38.7 billion. However, it remains uncertain if that level of financing can be achieved in 2023, while it is simultaneously clear that even more support will be needed. Urging closer collaboration between the humanitarian and development communities and international financial institutions, he called for sustainable solutions to the world’s spiralling humanitarian needs, its debt crisis and the convergence of many other challenges on the horizon.
ANDRÉS EDFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said he voted against the proposal to include the representative from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” to sit in an institutional capacity before the Council and will not recognize her status. This vote does not pre-empt its position to include various briefers in various types of situations that sit before the Council. The renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative must be automatic. The Initiative has been a beacon of hope and possibility and relief for people around the world. Food security is a fundamental concern throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, even if the war is not directly affecting these countries. The food aid operations alleviate food insecurity and improve the humanitarian situation for all. The grain initiative has spared many people from hunger and helped stabilize prices, which has been confirmed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Three World Food Programme (WFP) vessels are scheduled to deliver wheat and the uncertainty about their delivery is not positive. Council resolution 2417 (2018) recalls the link between armed conflict and food insecurity and the need to protect civilians. His delegation insists on the need to respect food and water supply systems around the world. He is concerned about the war’s impact on agriculture and rural livelihoods in Ukraine.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), emphasizing that the aggression against Ukraine is being waged in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and treaties protecting civilians, pointed out that millions have been victims of abuses over the past year. The Russian Federation’s armed forces have killed and injured thousands, tortured and raped, forced millions from their homes, deported children and deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure. Noting today’s issuance of arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for that country’s President and its Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, he called on the Russian Federation to allow humanitarian actors access to civilian populations. Those responsible for abuses will be held accountable before the Court and Ukrainian courts, he insisted, stressing that Moscow bears the sole responsibility for the far-reaching negative repercussions of its aggression. By attacking agricultural infrastructure and restricting maritime exports, Moscow seeks to instrumentalize the vulnerabilities of countries. There must be no blackmail over the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and exports must continue unimpeded by sea to tackle food insecurity, he asserted. For its part, France will continue to rally alongside its European partners to ensure the implementation of solidarity lanes.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the war in Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum. Underscoring the importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and recalling its upcoming expiration date, she said it cushioned the impact of the post-pandemic crisis on global markets. The Initiative has indirectly prevented around 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty, she noted, adding that 24 million tons of grain and over 1,600 secure vessel voyages have been made, with 55 per cent of food exports going to developing countries. She, thus, encouraged Council members to support the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and called for the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding. Noting that energy blackouts across Ukraine and financial constraints of its farmers negatively impact food production, she reported that Ukraine’s grain exports dropped by 40 per cent in 2022. Underlining the importance of protecting children in the armed conflict, she said the United Arab Emirates will deliver a $100 million assistance package. A pursuit of a military victory is a barrier to securing peace, she stressed, welcoming China’s efforts, amongst others, to bring the two sides together for mediation.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said the humanitarian consequences of the war are being felt around the world, and food and energy insecurity has increased. International humanitarian law must be fully respected and humanitarian workers must be given unhindered access to the nearly 18 million people in need in Ukraine, including those in the areas occupied by the Russian Federation. Further, the Black Sea Grain Initiative is critical to global food security, resulting in the export of 24 million tons of grain and more than 1,600 secure ship voyages across the Black Sea. The FAO Food Price Index has been declining for the past 10 months, after reaching record levels in March 2022. She called on all parties to redouble their efforts to find a lasting solution to alleviate the consequences of the war, adding that a long-term perspective that allows for greater predictability is essential to plan and the implement the Initiative. Switzerland welcomes the Secretary-General’s efforts and stands ready to provide its support, particularly in its role as host State [to talks on the renewal], she said. “Until the Ukrainian population can enjoy such peace, we will emphasize as often as necessary: civilian people and objects are not a target,” she declared.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan), expressing her regret that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has persisted, pointed out that Moscow’s aggression has damaged the global food supply and worsened the humanitarian situation. Against the backdrop of precarious global food supplies, the Black Sea Grain Initiative — which has enabled exports of 24 million metric tons of grain, with 55 per cent going to developing countries — has become more critical than ever before. The initiative has notably decreased the cost of food worldwide and provided vital assistance to those who have been significantly affected by this war. Voicing her strong support for its automatic extension for the same period and its further expansion, she urged involved parties to collaborate in that regard. It is vital to restore Ukraine’s agricultural production capacity, not only for economic stability, but also to boost global food supply, she continued. For its part, Japan has committed $200 million to global food security last June; provided $50 million in food-related aid to countries in need; and gave sunflower and corn seeds to 400 smallholder in Kharkiv last week. “The suffering in Ukraine and its ramifications for global food security must come to an end,” she stressed.
Mr. HOXHA (Albania), describing the war in Ukraine as a “turning point in human history”, said it has also been a wake-up call, reminding countries that peace should never be taken for granted. The hard and painful reality is that more than 20,000 civilians have been killed or injured to date, 14 million people have been uprooted from their homes and millions are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Russian Federation authorities have committed a wide range of crimes as part of their invasion, including war crimes. “These facts show the depth of depravity of the aggression,” he stressed, adding that the war also poses the fundamental question: “What kind of world do we want to live in?” The post-Second World War international order made it possible to see more than 80 years without a war such as the one now happening in Ukraine. Referring to the decision today by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin, he said that move is a first step in accountability, meaning that the man responsible for the war and all its terrible consequences is now officially wanted by the agents of international justice. “What happens in Ukraine today will concern all of us tomorrow,” he said, adding that responding to it is therefore an “urgent call for a world in peril”.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the Council’s discussions on the humanitarian aspects of the Ukraine crisis have been consistently carried out according to the same template. Western countries highlight the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, while disregarding the fact that, if the “Kyiv regime” complied with the norms of international humanitarian law — namely, the non-placement of heavy weaponry and anti-aircraft systems in residential areas — then civilians would not be caught in the crossfire. On that point, he underscored that his country’s army conducts exclusively high-precision strikes targeting energy and transportation infrastructure to degrade Ukraine’s military capacity. He went on to state that Ms. Morozova planned to provide a retrospective of the devastating internal conflict in Ukraine — and subsequent humanitarian crisis — provoked by the coup in February 2014, and then detailed a history of aggression by the Kyiv regime against those living in the Donbas since that year. Such acts received no reaction from the West despite numerous violations of international law, he stressed, adding that the Kyiv regime demonstrated “contempt for the most basic principles of humanity”. Against that backdrop, he said that his country launched its special military operation to save the lives of those living in the Donbas.
Turning to the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative, he recalled that, on 22 July 2022, two interlinked agreements were signed in Türkiye. The first was designed to provide food to starving people throughout the world via the export of food and fertilizer through three Black Sea ports, while the second — which Western States avoid mentioning in Council products — was signed between the Russian Federation and the United Nations to facilitate Russian Federation food products reaching global markets. Stating that the Initiative’s impact on global food prices has been questionable and that the poorest countries have only received approximately 3 per cent of the grain exported under that agreement, he said that the main beneficiaries of increased food prices and destabilized supply chains are leading Western agricultural corporations. Further, the failure to exempt Russian agricultural operations from Western sanctions is not affecting the Russian Federation’s economy — but, rather, those of the developing world — and he stressed, therefore, that Western concerns for such countries “are mere words”. For its part, Moscow does not object to extending the Initiative until 18 May, but he underscored that, if Brussels, Washington, D.C., and London are genuinely interested in continuing the export of food from Ukraine through the maritime humanitarian corridor, such Governments have two months to exempt the entire Russian Federation agricultural sector from sanctions. He added that the International Criminal Court is a puppet in the hands of the collective West, stressing that any warrant issued by that body is “null and void”.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), reiterating that all parties must respect international law and human rights, said the protection of civilians is non-negotiable. Reminding both parties of Council resolution 2417 (2018), which stresses the importance of sparing civilian objects and critical infrastructure, as well as ensuring the proper functioning of food systems and markets, he urged all Member States to pursue realistic and pragmatics ways towards peace. Insisting on military solutions and unilateral sanctions will not lead to an end to the conflict. When there is engagement, positive results are possible, he said, citing the Black Sea Grain Initiative as an example of this. The continuation of this war affects countries in the neighbourhood, as well as far away, he said, reiterating support for a negotiated solution that considers ways to prevent renewed violence in the future. It is essential to understand the security concerns of the parties concerned and respond to them in a pragmatic manner, he said, expressing his country’s willingness to engage in diplomatic efforts towards a just and sustainable peace.
GENG SHUANG (China), voicing his deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the elusive prospect for peace, stressed that conflict and war benefit no one. All relevant parties must put people at the centre, step up actions and do their utmost to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of the conflict while de-escalating the situation and ceasing hostilities as quickly as possible. Basic norms of international humanitarian law must be observed, and parties must avoid actions that endanger the safety and security of nuclear facilities, he added, announcing a contribution of €200,000 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He called on the international community to scale up relief for all affected people, speed up the repair and restoration of civilian infrastructure, and provide targeted assistance to meet the special needs of vulnerable peoples. Parties must ensure rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access; support the Organization’s efforts; and manage spillovers of the conflict. Relevant countries should also stop abusing unilateral sanctions to eliminate the disruption caused on trade. Diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution must be advanced no matter how complex the situation, he underscored. He then voiced his regret over the procedural vote, emphasizing that the Council should make such decisions by consensus and urging consistency with past practice.
FELIX OSEI BOATENG (Ghana), noting that his country voted in favour of admitting Ms. Morozova to provide the Council with her personal views on the humanitarian situation in the Donbas region, recalled that she is a resident of that region and by extension a citizen of Ukraine. He, thus, affirmed that her personal views should be admitted by the Council. Pointing to the rising casualties and further destruction in Ukraine, he said “while the destroyed infrastructure can be rebuilt, the destruction in the minds and hearts of the people, hidden from our eyes, is perhaps worse than we have imagined”. Supporting the need for investigations and comprehensive accountability, he reiterated his appeal for ensuring compliance with international law. Turning to missile attacks near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, he urged the parties to undertake the steps outlined by the by IAEA, including immediate demilitarization of all nuclear facilities. Expressing support for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he said further efforts are necessary in relation to the export of the Russian Federation’s ammonia and agricultural products.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) called on the Russian Federation to cease attacks using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. Condemning the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and the unlawful transfers and forced deportation of more than 6,000 children out of Ukraine, she expressed support for the International Criminal Court’s efforts to ensure accountability. Further, she welcomed the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine and voiced support for the establishment of a register of damages to record evidence of war. Expressing concern that people in need of humanitarian assistance are unable or prevented from receiving it, she appealed for the facilitation of humanitarian access and operations throughout the country. She also highlighted the importance of extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative, pointing to its crucial role in ensuring stability of international prices and the flow of grain worldwide. Reiterating a call for granting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unimpeded and repeated access to all Ukrainian prisoners of war, she urged the Russian Federation to cease hostilities and withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said Bakhmut has been subject to near constant shelling, with civilian infrastructure, such as schools, water, and energy and health facilities suffering significant damage. Few buildings remain standing and the humanitarian consequences of the Russian Federation’s brutal assault are extreme. He called for unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to the people of Ukraine, including in Bakhmut. The Russian Federation must stop denying access and must cease its attacks on critical infrastructure and residential areas and Ukrainians must be allowed to seek safety wherever they choose. The impact of the Russian Federation’s actions is still being felt around the world with increased commodity prices and 345 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity. Expressing strong support for United Nations efforts, in partnership with Türkiye, to bring Ukrainian grain to world markets, he emphasized that the Black Sea Grain Initiative is vital; the world needs Ukrainian grain. He called on the Russian Federation to respect the terms of the deal and the latest 120-day extension. The United Kingdom is fully committed to holding the Russian Federation to account for its illegal actions in Ukraine, he said, adding that the International Criminal Court’s announcement today is an important step towards that end.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, as long as Moscow continues to blockade Ukraine’s ports, the Black Sea Grain Initiative will remain crucial. “It must continue reliably and sustainably,” she said, adding that the initiative must work at a pace that meets global demands. Delays by Moscow have already had consequences, such as increasing shipping costs. Right now, only three ports are free to operate, while global food prices remain at historic highs. “The world needs this grain, it must flow freely,” she stressed. Noting that, during his recent visit to Ethiopia, the Secretary-General saw bags of grain delivered from Ukraine, she declared: “This is the critical assistance that is at stake.” The United States has gone to extraordinary lengths to communicate clear humanitarian carve-outs for all of its sanctions, she stressed, adding that “sanctions are not the issue”. Her country has provided nearly $2 billion to those in need in Ukraine and the region, and some $15.5 billion directly to Ukraine through World Bank mechanisms. All countries must do their part without sacrificing funding to other humanitarian crises around the world, she said, also urging States to call out the Russian Federation’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said the cost of the war in terms of human and material losses increases every day, rendering prospects for Ukraine’s reconstruction ever dimmer. Meanwhile, civilians and civilian infrastructure continue to be targets of large-scale shelling. Access to water, energy and other essential public services must never be subject to blackmail, she stressed, and even in times of war, human rights must be preserved. Emphasizing that the Council’s meetings on the topic should focus on the search for solutions in support of the Ukrainian people, she pointed out that the war is dragging on with disastrous international consequences. Some countries have seen waves of protests in response to rising costs of living, shrinking purchasing power and inflation, she said, echoing calls for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. All efforts designed to lift obstacles to its effective implementation must be pursued. Describing that initiative as a ray of hope — to which other future solutions might be able to cling — she repudiated the use of all weapons of mass destruction and actions aimed at spreading fear among civilian populations, while calling for candid and direct dialogue among the parties.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, said his own country’s experience shows that there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems; only political negotiated solutions can solve humanitarian problems. The conflict is constraining the ability of the humanitarian community to muster an appropriate and rapid response to other challenges throughout the globe, be it an earthquake in Türkiye, or a cyclone affecting countries like Mozambique, Malawi and Madagascar. It is high time for the Council to redouble its efforts towards concrete and pragmatic steps to end the conflict, while incrementing the humanitarian assistance. Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he urged all involved parties to set aside their differences and allow the extension, and possibly the indefinite roll-out of that life-saving arrangement, which is essential for countries, such as his own, already dealing with acute and eminent threats to food security. The unity of the Council on this issue is essential, he stressed.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), commending the Council for upholding multiple General Assembly resolutions on his country’s territorial integrity “by not allowing the Russian citizen so-called Ombudsperson” to address the 15-member organ, highlighted the United Nations humanitarian response which provides a lifeline for millions of Ukrainians affected by the Russian Federation’s war of aggression. Also noting the Secretary-General’s visit to Kyiv on 8 March, he said that the Russian Federation responded to this visit with missile shelling. Noting that it was the fifteenth massive missile strike since October 2022, he said such actions have failed to put Ukraine on its knees. Recalling the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, released on 16 March, he said it catalogues a shocking record of crimes that might seem unbelievable in the twenty-first century, including rapes committed at gunpoint and torture. Highlighting the issue of forced transfers and deportations of children, he said his country spares no effort to ensure the rights of all those children and uses every possible means for their safe return. Welcoming the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court against Mr. Putin and Ms. Lvova-Belova, he said the process of ensuring justice will end with such war criminals in the docks.
The tactics of “siege and scorched earth” employed by the Russian Federation, he added, have resulted in the destruction of 59,000 residential buildings, 436 hospitals and over 2,000 educational institutions. One third of the population of Ukraine has been displaced and 17.6 million Ukrainians remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Further, “the Russian war of aggression has turned Ukraine into one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world”, he pointed out. Even under these extraordinary circumstances, his country has fulfilled its obligations for the grain export initiative to alleviate the food crisis in the world. Since 1 August 2022, 814 vessels have exported 24.4 million tons of Ukrainian food to Asia, Europe and Africa. This volume could have been significantly higher but for the Russian Federation’s policy of delaying the inspection of vessels, he said, stressing that the Black Sea Grain Initiative should be renewed after its expiry on 18 March for at least 120 days. Every day of the war multiplies the sufferings of Ukrainian people, he said, urging Member States to contribute to the implementation of the Assembly resolution of 23 February. Until the Russian Federation gives up its aggressive course, Ukraine will continue to defend itself, he emphasized.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that, for over a year now, the Russian Federation has been struggling to find any justification whatsoever for its war of aggression against Ukraine. While the world is suffering from soaring food prices, the war continues to hamper efforts to export Ukrainian grains. “This must end,” he underscored, adding that it is crucial that the Black Sea Grain Initiative is renewed to provide the continuity and predictability needed by operators and to avoid discontinuation in shipments of grain to developing countries. He also highlighted the Union’s “solidarity lanes”, which have allowed for the export of more than 29 million tons of Ukraine’s agricultural goods. WFP-chartered vessels have transported over 481,000 metric tons of wheat through various Black Sea ports, including to Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Kenya, he said.
On 16 March, he added, the Organization’s Independent Commission of Inquiry set up by the Human Rights Council concluded that the Russian Federation has committed numerous violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in addition to a wide range of war crimes. Also noting the General Assembly’s adoption of the resolution on a registry of damage, he expressed concern about the Russian Federation’s offensive against Bakhmut. This military operation is led by the infamous Wagner Group, known for its abuses and serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Stressing that the Russian Federation must enable safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access into the temporarily occupied territories through the front lines, he noted that the head of IAEA issued a warning about safety and security at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Expressing support for the peace formula of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he reaffirmed commitment to work actively with Kyiv on the 10-point peace plan.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, voiced concern over the consequences of the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion for the people of Ukraine and the humanitarian situation globally. His bloc is determined to be at the forefront of mitigating the disruptive, global consequences of the war, he said, noting their continued efforts to assist where the needs are greatest, including in Africa, where existing food insecurity has been made worse by the decline in exports from Ukraine. Describing the Black Sea Grain Initiative as imperative to mitigating food insecurity, especially in developing countries, he urged the Russian Federation to be part of a solution to ensure a 120-day roll-over of the Initiative, in line with the Istanbul agreement. Drawing attention to the latest report of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, he said the findings, including sexual violence, torture, forced deportation of children from Ukraine and their illegal adoption in the Russian Federation, are in violation of international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime. He further sounded alarm over reports of sexual and gender-based violence in Ukraine perpetrated by Russian military personnel.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia, said that the humanitarian toll of the war continues to mount with nearly 18 million people needing aid, nearly 6 million people internally displaced and 8 million people having sought refuge in Europe and other countries. The war has also severely impacted children through the massive destruction of schools, displacement and the deportation of thousands of children from the newly occupied Ukrainian territories. Released on 15 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine” recognizes that “that Russian authorities have committed unlawful transfers and deportations of civilians and of other protected persons within Ukraine or to the Russian Federation, respectively. This amounts to a war crime”. It plainly violates the Genocide Convention. He welcomed the arrest warrants issued today by the International Criminal Court for Mr. Putin and Ms. Lvova-Belova and said the Russian Federation must return children it removed to their parents and guardians, provide registration lists; and let independent observers access facilities in that country and within its controlled or occupied areas of Ukraine. Turning to food supplies, he voiced support for the Grain from Ukraine and Black Sea Grain Initiatives, as well as the European “solidarity lanes” that help reduce the global cost of food and provide food supplies. The Russian Federation must allow the unrestricted movement of grain from Ukraine’s ports and extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative beyond 18 March. Providing support for Ukraine is at the heart of the Baltic States’ foreign policy, and together with Poland, they make up the top four donors of bilateral aid to Ukraine as a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP). There must be full accountability for the perpetrators. Today’s arrest warrants represent a powerful first step in this direction. An international special tribunal should be created to prosecute the crime of aggression.