International Laws Protecting Civilians in Armed Conflict Not Being Upheld, Secretary-General Warns Security Council, Urging Deadly Cycle Be Broken
The world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians in armed conflict, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned the Security Council today, urging greater respect for international humanitarian law through action and accountability, as speakers, during a day-long open debate, outlined priority action areas for ensuring civilians’ survival, security and dignity.
“We must never lose sight of the meaning and purpose of international humanitarian law. It is the difference between life and death, between restraint and anarchy, between losing ourselves in horror and retaining our humanity,” Secretary-General Guterres stressed, briefing the 15-nation organ on his report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (document S/2023/345). Since war is devastating lives around the world, he urged States to intensify their conflict prevention efforts, preserve peace and find political solutions to war.
Where war continues, all must comply with international humanitarian law, States must investigate alleged war crimes and prosecute perpetrators and the Council must urge countries to respect the rules of war, he said. As a whole, the international community must break the deadly cycle of armed conflict and hunger by addressing underlying causes, strengthening vulnerable countries’ economies, honouring commitments to support nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis and increasing contributions to humanitarian operations. “Civilians have suffered the deadly effects of armed conflict for too long,” he emphasized, asserting: “It is time we live up to our promise to protect them.”
Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), pointed out that development and peace become unachievable when conflicts are characterized by widespread destruction and international humanitarian law violations. In that regard, all parties engaged in urban warfare must prioritize civilian protection, avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas and ensure essential services. States and other actors must also reduce the risk of food insecurity and invest in practical solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change in conflict-affected regions.
Enabling neutral and impartial humanitarian access is critical, she continued. With misinformation and disinformation hindering humanitarian operations, fuelling dangerous divisions and undermining communities’ acceptance of humanitarian missions, all States must take the necessary measures to prevent and mitigate their harmful effects on the safety and rights of civilians. However, until international humanitarian law is upheld for all genders, there is no chance for enduring stability or security, she underscored.
Building on that, Aïchatou Mounkaïla, President of the Network of Women-led Organisations of the Lake Chad Basin, said that the humanitarian crisis in her region — be it climate or security-related — has a female face. Yet, the women's movement in development, peace, and humanitarian sectors remains poorly resourced and unlikely to be considered when planning solutions. “Women are the first victims and at the same time the first to provide solutions in all crisis situations,” she pointed out.
As such, the Council must encourage the donor community to devote more funds to gender-sensitive livelihood reconstruction and insist on the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls, she stressed, adding that “without [women], no sustainable peace is possible”. As well, the Council must take responsibility for the climate impacts in the Lake Chad Basin region by supporting climate change adaptation programmes.
During the day-long open debate, more than 80 Heads of State, ministers, Government officials and representatives underscored the importance of upholding international humanitarian law. Many welcomed the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas — adopted in Dublin in 2022 — and the recent extension of the Black Sea Initiative. Speakers also underlined the need to address the link between food insecurity and conflict, with some advocating for action from the Council as several underlined its nature as a development issue.
George Vella, President of Malta — stressing that civilians, humanitarian workers, helpers, volunteers, objects and indispensable services are not targets —said: “These distinctions are clear — never can it be said that we did not know.” In that regard, the Council must safeguard civilian protection, humanitarian access and support and take its accountability obligations seriously. “The world relies on the work and leadership of this Council to protect the most vulnerable form harm, suffering or worse,” he reminded.
In that vein, Chile’s delegate called on Member States to transpose relevant international law provisions on civilian protection into their national legislation and submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice — the only specialized court capable of prosecuting war crimes, attacks on infrastructure and the deliberate blocking of food supplies.
The representative of France however observed that the world is not lacking a legal arsenal but rather political will, especially as some States and armed groups continue to commit violations which exacerbate suffering and increase humanitarian needs.
Albania’s representative pointed out that the Council has already advanced a normative framework to protect civilians and humanitarian space. Yet there is little value in resolutions when a permanent Council member acts with impunity in broad daylight by using missiles and kamikaze drones to hit residential areas, flatten kindergartens and demolish power installations. “Mandates that exist only on paper […] erode trust in multilateralism,” he stated, especially when the most vulnerable “bear the brunt of terrible decisions taken by powerful men.”
Alain Berset, President of Switzerland and Council President for May and speaking in his national capacity, called for the better implementation of resolutions, especially on the link between conflict and food security. Resource scarcity in one area can spread across an entire region, as illustrated by the rise in food prices from the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine.
Countering that point, the Russian Federation’s representative said that Western countries’ unilateral sanctions have impacted food security, as evidenced by the dire humanitarian situation in Syria. The West uses hunger as a method of economic warfare as it arbitrarily cuts off opportunities for food trade. Even with the Black Sea Initiative, “Kyiv and its Western mentors block access to food and at the same time blame others for it,” he insisted.
The representative of Ecuador, condemning any practice which inflicts hunger as a tactic of war, underlined the obligation to ensure the proper functioning of food systems and markets. To alleviate food insecurity, trade restrictions must be avoided and strategic reserves must be released. “Every five seconds, at least one person dies as a result of acute hunger — that is, since I started my intervention, 100 people have died, and over 5,000 will have lost their lives before the end of today’s debate,” he pointed out.
Against that dire backdrop, Sierra Leone’s delegate urged the United Nations system to provide food assistance and address root causes within conflict-affected areas. Global food systems must change at the structural level to increase production and distribution, reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency and expand financing access, he emphasized.
The representative of India underlined the need for all to appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility concerning food grains, especially since open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate the inequity which would only discriminate against the Global South. Humanitarian assistance more broadly must not be linked with political issues, she underscored.
Ambrose Dery, Minister for the Interior of Ghana — emphasizing that vulnerable populations can no longer wait for a perfect outcome — voiced his support for the strengthening of prepositioned assets. Long-term development investment will be key for breaking the vicious circle of hunger and conflict. Therefore, international actions must focus on building resilience.
Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict of the United Kingdom, urged coherence and coordination between diplomatic, humanitarian, development and peace initiatives. “We have the means at our disposal to prevent and end conflicts today, to restore stability, to deliver accountability and justice and to give hope back to civilians, to give civilians their lives back,” he said, underlining the Organization’s moral imperative to do so.
The meeting began at 9:36 a.m., suspended at 12:35 p.m., resumed at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 8:15 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, spotlighting the terrible but far from unique picture in Sudan since the eruption of war, said his report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (document S/2023/345) shows that war is devastating lives around the world. Explosive weapons continue to wreak havoc, with civilians accounting for 94 per cent of their victims in populated areas; those forced from their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution have reached 100 million; and health facilities and schools have been devastated as their workers were injured, kidnapped and killed. Humanitarians also face regular threats as their work is hampered by violence, bureaucracy and politics — obstructed by overly-broad sanctions and counter-terrorism measures. In Afghanistan in particular, the ban by de facto authorities on women working in the humanitarian aid sector is having life-threatening consequences for women and girls.
“War means hunger,” he stressed, voicing his outrage that more than 117 million people faced acute hunger last year, primarily because of war and insecurity. Damage to critical infrastructure notably hampers food production, blocks distribution and deprives people of safe water, such as in Syria where there is 40 per cent less drinking water than at the start of that country’s conflict in 2011. Fighters destroy crops and steal livestock; explosives contaminate fertile land; markets cannot function; and prices rocket. When conflict combines with the climate crisis, harvests shrink and people go hungry, he pointed out, highlighting his recent visit to Somalia.
Actions over the past year to alleviate the impact of conflict on civilians included the Black Sea Initiative, the memorandum of understanding to promote Russian food and fertilizer, the political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas and the humanitarian carve-out through Council resolution 2664 (2022), he noted, calling on all States to turn the declaration into meaningful action and implement that resolution, including within their own counter-terrorism and sanctions measures. “These modest steps are welcome. But the terrible truth is that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians,” he said. The mandate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be respected by every Government, armed group and fighter. “We must never lose sight of the meaning and purpose of international humanitarian law. It is the difference between life and death, between restraint and anarchy, between losing ourselves in horror and retaining our humanity,” he explained.
As law overlooked is law undermined, there must be action and accountability to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected. To that end, States must intensify their efforts to prevent conflict, preserve peace and find political solutions to war, especially since peace is the best form of protection. For his part, he will issue a policy brief on a New Agenda for Peace — in preparation for the Summit of the Future in 2023 — which will offer a holistic approach addressing peace and security in a changing world for Members States to consider.
Where war continues, all countries must comply with international humanitarian law and the Council has a particular responsibility in that vein, he underlined. Governments should incorporate international humanitarian law into national laws, military rules and training. Humanitarians must be assured safe access, attacks against them must cease and their work must be facilitated, including by removing deadly bureaucratic barriers. “It is unconscionable that vital aid languishes in ports and warehouses while people die,” he stressed. Additionally, Governments with influence over warring parties should engage in political dialogue and train forces on protecting civilians; countries that export weapons should refuse to do business with any party that fails to comply with international humanitarian law; and the Council must urge States to respect the rules of war.
Countries, he continued, must investigate alleged war crimes, prosecute perpetrators and enhance other countries’ capacities to do so. The international community as a whole must do everything in its power to break the deadly cycle of armed conflict and hunger by addressing underlying causes through strengthening vulnerable countries’ economies, honouring commitments to support nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis and increasing contributions to humanitarian operations. “Civilians have suffered the deadly effects of armed conflict for too long,” he stressed, emphasizing: “It is time we live up to our promise to protect them.”
MIRJANA SPOLJARIC EGGER, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), underscored that the issue of protecting civilians lies at the core of the Committee’s mandate. Noting her visits to conflict-affected countries in Africa, Europe and elsewhere, she cited ICRC data, reporting that the number of non-international armed conflicts has more than tripled — from less than 30 to over 90 — over the past 20 years. Many of these are protracted conflicts — bringing ceaseless suffering that is compounded by climate shocks, food insecurity and economic hardship — and civilians are gravely unprotected, suffering from a relentless accumulation of attacks, threats, destruction and political stalemates. When conflicts are characterized by widespread destruction and violation of international humanitarian law, development and peace become unachievable ambitions, she stressed, calling on States to do more to ensure the protection of civilians.
“My call to all of you today is urgent,” she said, underlining the need to protect civilians and critical infrastructure in urban areas. Across her recent visits, she saw how the shock of losing one’s home is compounded by the interruption or prolonged absence of essential services, such as water, electricity, health care and education. She therefore urged all parties engaged in urban warfare to, among other things, prioritize the protection of civilians in urban settings; avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas; and ensure that the protection of essential services keeps hospitals, water and power running. She also called on States and other actors to ensure respect for international humanitarian law to reduce the risk of food insecurity and famine and to invest in practical solutions and adaptation measures to mitigate the effects of climate change in conflict-affected regions.
Enabling neutral and impartial humanitarian access to civilians in need is also critical, she went on to say, particularly those in besieged communities, overcrowded detention facilities and in areas fully or partially controlled by armed groups. Further, in today’s operating environment, misinformation and disinformation hinder humanitarian operations, fuel dangerous divisions and undermine communities’ acceptance of humanitarian missions. She therefore urged all States to take the necessary measures to prevent and mitigate the effects of harmful information on the safety, dignity and rights of civilians and to preserve the space for neutral, impartial humanitarian action that is free of political instrumentalization. Also underscoring that “the protection of civilians means the protection of all”, she said that there is no chance for enduring stability or security until international humanitarian law is upheld for all genders. Adding that compliance with the law protects civilians, she called on all States to uphold the Geneva Conventions — including through their influence over others.
AÏCHATOU MOUNKAÏLA, President of the Network of Women-led Organisations of the Lake Chad Basin, said that, since 2015, Diffa and the entire Lake Chad Basin region has been facing a humanitarian crisis triggered by attacks from Boko Haram and other armed groups. In just two years — from 2020 to 2022 — an additional 7 million people have been identified as needing humanitarian assistance and protection, bringing the total number of people in need of urgent assistance in the seven countries of the Lake Chad Basin and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) to nearly 34 million. In addition to armed conflicts that undermine people's livelihoods, the climate crisis is escalating, she stressed, adding that in 2022, heavy rains and flooding had a huge impact on human lives, property and farmland in the Lake Chad Basin, affecting 5.5 million people, killing nearly 1,000 and putting 1 million hectares under water, 70 per cent of which was agricultural land. “This production loss could have fed 5 million people,” she added. “In the Lake Chad Basin, the humanitarian crisis, whether climate or security-related, has a female face,” she said, spotlighting that 80 per cent of people living in poverty are women and children. Fighting between armed groups and various law enforcement agencies has left thousands of schools and hundreds of health facilities closed, and opportunities for dignified employment increasingly scarce.
Painting this bleak picture, she said “women struggle day and night to give hope to their families”, they sacrifice so that their children do not go to bed hungry. “Every day, these women demonstrate exceptional courage and resilience,” she continued, noting that others — like herself — have mobilized to try to break these vicious cycles. However, the women's movement, both in development, peace, and humanitarian sectors, remains poorly resourced and unlikely to be considered when planning solutions. “Women are the first victims and at the same time the first to provide solutions in all crisis situations,” she asserted.
Against this backdrop, she called on the Council to encourage the donor community to devote more funds to gender-sensitive livelihood reconstruction, such as sustainable agriculture where women play a central role, reviving economic opportunities and allowing women survivors of violence to rebuild their own lives and communities. Also, she urged the Council to insist on the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls in humanitarian responses and peacebuilding. “Without [women], no sustainable peace is possible,” she said, noting that the mediation of women and girls in the Lake Chad Basin has greatly contributed to the stabilization of the region. Turning to climate change, she said the Council must take responsibility for the extent of the climate impacts in the Lake Chad Basin region, including through support for climate change adaptation programmes in the agricultural sector where more than 80 per cent of women are involved. She further highlighted the need for a robust and intersectional gender analysis with data specifying sex, age and disability.
ALAIN BERSET, President of Switzerland and Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, saying that respect for international humanitarian law is a long-standing priority for his country and one of its priorities in the Council. As the depositary State of the Geneva Conventions and home to the headquarters of the International Committee for the Red Cross, the Government feels particularly bound by this humanitarian imperative. International humanitarian law imposes clear and unambiguous obligations on all parties to a conflict and on all the States parties to the Geneva Conventions. Conflicts are the main drivers of hunger and generate or exacerbate food insecurity in the short, medium and long-terms — both directly and indirectly. More and more people are facing acute food insecurity and the number increased to 258 million last year. “That’s 30 times the population of New York City. Thirty times,” he said, adding that two thirds of these people live in conflict zones.
Resource scarcity in one area can spread across an entire region, he continued, spotlighting the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine as an example of a conflict driving up food prices around the world. Welcoming the recent extension of the Black Sea Initiative, he also called attention to Council resolutions, such as resolution 2417 (2018), that have recognized the link between conflict and food insecurity. The Council must do a better job of implementing these resolutions, including ensuring all parties to a conflict stop unlawful attacks and misusing resources that are essential to civilians’ survival. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure full, prompt, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all persons in need, as required by international humanitarian law. As highlighted by the Secretary-General, the protection of civilians is a matter of the utmost urgency. “Respect for international humanitarian law and human rights is crucial,” he stressed.
FILIPE JACINTO NYUSI, President of Mozambique, said that at a meeting Monday with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva he reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to secure and respect human rights and uphold international humanitarian law. Recalling his country’s struggle for independence and the war of aggression — waged by Rhodesia and South Africa — that claimed more than 1 million lives and caused about 5 million refugees, he said that food security for the victims of violence has been ensured by engaging people in production under challenging conditions. Since 2017, terrorist groups have carried out armed attacks in the Cabo Delgado province causing over 2,000 civilian casualties. In addition to forcing displacement, terrorist groups settle in areas of high agricultural and finishing produce, depriving populations of access to resources and undermining food security. For this reason, the Government and its Defence and Security Forces have focused on socially reintegrating terrorists, who flee from their ranks. An estimated 300,000 people — out of 800,000 — have returned to their places of origin due to the improved security situation.
In February, Swiss President Berset visited Mozambique, including the Military Command Headquarters in Mueda District, where he witnessed first-hand the country’s efforts to protect civilians and spoke with internally displaced people, he said. A multi-sectoral commission, comprising the Government and United Nations agencies, carries out open, concerted debate on protection of civilians. Mozambique’s Defence and Security Forces, along with Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have prioritized protection of and socialization with civilians through joint participation in productive, reconstructive and other activities. They have established a multidimensional approach to protecting civilians, involving socioeconomic programmes, humanitarian aid and training of the Defence and Security Forces. This has led to the creation of over 50 resettlement centres for the internally displaced in Cabo Delgado. To mitigate food insecurity and revive agriculture, the Government began a programme to reconstruct destroyed and vandalized infrastructure. On this point, he appealed for international support to the civilian population in Cabo Delgado, while urging States to channel all resources to counter man-made wars, pandemics and hunger.
GEORGE VELLA, President of Malta, spotlighting several crises and complex humanitarian emergencies, stressed that the Council must safeguard civilian protection, humanitarian access and support. Arbitrary, discriminatory, and bureaucratic impediments that hinder the rapid delivery of vital aid are unacceptable, especially since there can be no meaningful humanitarian responses without timely humanitarian access. In that regard, the Council has a collective monitoring responsibility to ensure that civilians do not inadvertently pay the price for the actions of the sanctioned. It must also ensure that fundamental respect for human rights and human dignity remains throughout times of unspeakable, irrational horror. Civilians are not a target, nor are humanitarian workers, helpers, volunteers, objects and indispensable services, he reiterated, emphasizing: “These distinctions are clear — never can it be said that we did not know.”
The Council, he continued, must take seriously its obligations on ensuring accountability for those who have violated international law. White Notes, as detailed in Council resolution 2417 (2018), must be issued swiftly for action to stop conflict-induced hunger before it becomes too late. The Organization can work closer with warring parties to ensure the adequate deconfliction of infrastructure as an additional layer of protection, he suggested. However, this must not be treated as a substitute for parties’ adherence and due diligence to their own international law obligations. The international community must scale up emergency food assistance, protect agricultural production in emergencies, increase humanitarian response funding and avoid the continuous arrival of arms and ammunition in conflict zones. “The pain, cries and lament of so many men, women and children must be heard and heeded,” he urged, stressing: “The world relies on the work and leadership of this Council to protect the most vulnerable form harm, suffering or worse.”
MAURO LUIZ IECKER VIEIRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, aligning himself with the statement to be delivered by the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, said that conflicts — especially protracted ones — contribute to long-term food insecurity. They also erode social and economic networks; reduce resilience; disrupt markets, supply chains and infrastructure; and lead to diminished production and yields. Underscoring the importance of political solutions, he pointed out that — even when peace is a distant prospect — practical measures to ensure access to food supplies and the delivery of humanitarian assistance are essential to save lives. The truce in and subsequent facilitation of exports to Yemen and the opening of new humanitarian corridors in Syria are powerful examples of how political solutions can yield significant benefits for affected populations.
He noted, however, that in-kind food assistance to countries with functioning markets can distort prices and displace local producers, urging that cash transfers empower people to address their essential needs and help local producers thrive. Further, he said that, while conflict is a primary driver of acute food insecurity, “it is not the only one”, as inflation, trade bottlenecks and other macroeconomic challenges affect access to food supplies — particularly in developing countries. He added that unilateral coercive measures, market-distorting subsidies and other forms of protectionism hamper such countries’ ability to build resilient agrifood systems and participate fully in international markets.
MARIAM AL MHEIRI, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, said that, in 2022, more than a quarter of a billion people faced acute hunger in 58 countries and territories, many of which were in armed conflict. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change and escalating prices of food and fuel have compounded the urgent needs of civilians. To address food insecurity, it is essential to rise to the existential challenge of climate change. Science indicates that with “a business-as-usual” approach, natural disasters will occur more frequently and with greater intensity. They risk affecting not just crops but also the infrastructure essential to food systems, in addition to their dire impact on human life. In conflict situations, the capacity of fragile States to recover from such shocks is far lower. At the twenty-eighthUnited Nations Climate Change Conference — to be hosted in the United Arab Emirates later this year — the impact of climate change on the ability of nations to recover from disasters will be high on the agenda.
Moreover, she emphasized that sanctions cannot be allowed to inadvertently exacerbate food insecurity in situations of armed conflict, citing resolution 2664 (2022) as a landmark moment in establishing a carveout from United Nations sanctions to preserve the provision of humanitarian assistance and basic human needs. Similarly, she encouraged States to ensure that national sanctions do not negatively affect the essential needs of vulnerable civilians. Calling for increased support of national humanitarian organizations and their women staff, she stressed that the safety of aid workers and civilians’ access to humanitarian aid must be guaranteed by parties to the conflict. She described the current situation in Sudan as the most recent example of these challenges, as fighting in urban areas has prevented international aid actors from reaching civilians, and most aid is now provided by national actors. As well, she expressed her support for the vital work done by Afghan women aid workers.
AMBROSE DERY, Minister for the Interior of Ghana, noted the important contribution resolution 2417 (2018) has made in establishing the interlinkages between conflict and hunger and the need for global respect of the norms relating to a population’s right to food. The Council’s most important task is breaking those destructive links, even amid ongoing conflict, and ensuring that food systems promote peace and the supply of safe and nutritious food to civilians. Outlining some priority areas for global action, he said the international community must urgently respond at scale to the acute food insecurity and nutrition needs of the millions of vulnerable people in conflict situations around the world, especially in Africa, which is the hardest hit. The vulnerable populations in places such as Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Haiti can no longer wait until there is a perfect outcome among all the parties to their conflicts, he stressed.
He supported the strengthening of prepositioned assets, including global humanitarian hubs such as the International Humanitarian City in Dubai and regional humanitarian hubs like the one in Accra, so they can interconnect food stocks quickly and effectively with humanitarian needs. Recognizing that long-term development investment is key to breaking the vicious circle of hunger and conflict, he said international actions must focus on building resilience in economies and food systems. In Africa, he said this means support for initiatives such as the African Common Position for Sustainable Food Systems; the further implementation of the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and its results framework; and regional food security facilities such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Food Security Reserve.
TARIQ AHMAD, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations, and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict of the United Kingdom, stressing that he will never accept gender-based violence as an inevitable consequence of war, urged Moscow to end its occupation and enable life-saving Ukrainian exports to continue into the future. The international community, he said, must do more to improve compliance with international humanitarian law, collective show that non-compliance is a red line and hold parties to account. For its part, London reports voluntarily on its own compliance with humanitarian law and is encouraged to see others doing the same. However, to tackle conflict-induced hunger, there must be a greater focus on the relevant aspects of international humanitarian law. Beyond his country’s development of a legal handbook to that end, the world must make better use of its early warning systems with much quicker reporting under Council resolution 2417 (2018) and prompt Council action. Moreover, the international community must ensure coherence and coordination between its diplomatic, humanitarian, development and peace initiatives, especially since there can be no delivery of sustainable peace without sustainable livelihoods and the hope for a brighter future. Yet well-intentioned words must be followed by swift action. “Together as we the United Nations, we have the tools — we have the means at our disposal to prevent and end conflicts today, to restore stability, to deliver accountability and justice and to give hope back to civilians, to give civilians their lives back,” he said, underlining its moral imperative to do so.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said 17,000 civilian deaths have been recorded across 12 armed conflicts in 2022 — a 53 per cent increase compared to 2021. Recognizing that millions of people have been pushed into food insecurity globally, she said “Russia has used food as a weapon of war in Ukraine.” In 2022 the Black Sea Grain Initiative facilitated export of more than 50 million tons of food, including wheat for humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. Further, she reported that more than 100 million people have been forcibly displaced, adding that Burkina Faso, Somalia, Myanmar and Ukraine face one of the fastest-growing displacement crises. Pointing to irregular reporting, she underscored the importance of receiving the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) White Notes twice a year, while also calling for a regular reporting cycle. Moreover, hunger in conflict must be at the top of the Council agenda, she said, recalling that the United States remains the World Food Programme (WFP)’s largest donor. Yet no amount of aid will meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable if it fails to reach them, she emphasized.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), aligning himself with the statement to be delivered by the Group of Friends on Action on Conflict and Hunger which his country co-chairs, stressed the obligation of all to ensure the proper functioning of food systems and markets. He also condemned any practice inflicting hunger as a tactic of war as well as any blockade or aggression against those providing humanitarian assistance. Advocating for greater efforts on Haiti, he pointed out that environmental devastation and climate change have eroded its ability to produce food. With half of its population — 4.9 million people — facing acute food insecurity and a majority lacking access to essential services, there will be unprecedented repercussions if the Council does not send a specialized support force, he warned. He went on to highlight the role of small-scale food producers as the backbone of food systems, calling for the avoidance of trade restrictions and the release of strategic reserves to alleviate food insecurity. “Every five seconds, at least one person dies as a result of acute hunger — that is, since I started my intervention, 100 people have died, and over 5,000 will have lost their lives before the end of today’s debate,” he pointed out, urging all to strengthen the Council’s actions on overcoming challenges.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said that the persistence and breadth of attacks against civilians runs “parallel to the multiplicity of contemporary war”, which is both asymmetrical and urban in nature. Civilians are often trapped between the violence meted out by armed groups and the response of national armies, and therefore are the primary victims of conflicts swelling across the world — particularly in Africa. He noted that, in the Sahel, “terrorists have two strategies, as cruel as they are shameful” — starving civilians and attacking schools, with the explicit objective of creating food shortages to force the population into submission. In the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children — when not forcibly recruited into armed groups — are killed and mutilated, schools and hospitals are destroyed, and millions are displaced. Against that backdrop, he called on the international community to address the root causes of the conflicts disrupting food systems and markets around the world. Further, combatants must modify their choice of weapons and tactics, States must ensure protection for medical personnel and humanitarian assistance must never be politicized. Confidence-building through dialogue is an effective way to reverse the tendency to mistrust humanitarians, he added.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said protracted or new conflicts are grim reminders of a pervasive lack of meaningful progress to protect civilians in armed conflict. The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disability and minorities — “bear the brunt of terrible decisions taken by powerful men”, in total disregard for life, rights, laws and human dignity, he said, citing ongoing conflicts and instability in Ukraine, Sudan, the Sahel, Yemen, Myanmar and Haiti that continue to claim innocent lives and threaten the well-being of millions of people. The Council has considerably advanced the normative framework to protect civilians and humanitarian space through important resolutions and mandates. However, there is little value in resolutions when a permanent Council member is using missiles and kamikaze drones to hit residential areas, destroy schools, flatten kindergartens, and demolish power installations, acting with impunity in broad daylight. “Mandates that exist only on paper […] erode trust in multilateralism,” he emphasized, spotlighting in this regard resolution 2601 (2021) that aims to protect education in armed conflict. Nonetheless, “schools are systematically destroyed in conflicts and those who do so know very well what they are doing”. Similarly, in Ukraine, over 800 attacks on hospitals, health workers and other medical infrastructure have been reported since the beginning of the invasion. Wars are always violent and harmful, but destruction of resources can inflict terrible harm: plundering food supplies and deliberately destroying farms and livestock can have continued disastrous consequences on millions of people. In this context, he commended the global efforts in combating food insecurity through the Black Sea Initiative.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed concern over international humanitarian law violations, stressing: “the death of even one civilian in conflict is intolerable.” Civilian deaths, which had been decreasing until 2021, increased by 50 per cent in 2022, he noted. Recognizing the link between food insecurity and armed conflicts, he said it triggers human security concerns and results in malnutrition of children. In this context, Japan has been providing assistance through humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen, having also contributed $8 million to the WFP for emergency food assistance in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pointing to the negative ramifications of the war in Ukraine, he welcomed the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and commended the mediation efforts of the United Nations and Türkiye. Reiterating his commitment to the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, he said Japan supports school meal programmes through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WFP. Such programmes in conflict-affected settings help to fight food insecurity and ensure that children attend school.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the unilateral sanctions by Western countries play an important role in the international food security situation. There is no justification for the use of starvation as a method of warfare, he said, recalling the blockade of Leningrad carried out by the German-fascist and Finnish troops that resulted in the starvation of more than 600,000 people. In modern armed conflicts, terrorist and extremist groups that wage war without rules pose a particular threat, including in the Sahara-Sahel region and areas of Afghanistan. Further, the dire humanitarian situation in Syria is largely a result of the illegal unilateral sanctions applied by the United States and European Union. Hunger is also a method of economic warfare that the West is waging around the world as it arbitrarily cuts off opportunities for food trade. One of the most striking examples is the situation around the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The least developed countries receive less than 3 per cent of all supplies. During the 10 months of its operation, only 600,000 tons of food were exported from the ports of Ukraine on 21 ships, out of a total volume of more than 30 million tons, a meagre 2 per cent. “Kyiv and its Western mentors block access to food and at the same time blame others for it,” he said. Despite the dirty “games” with agreements, the Russian Federation will continue to contribute to ensuring international food security, primarily of developing countries, by overcoming artificial barriers.
ZHANG JUN (China), emphasizing “food comes first in sustaining life”, called on States to protect civilians and insure humanitarian assistance. He underlined the importance of peaceful dispute resolutions, while urging traditional donors to provide more emergency food and financing. However, assistance should not be used for political gains, he stressed, urging against additional conditions and selectivity. Humanitarian requirements of all recipient countries should be treated equally. Noting that food has been highly financialized and monetized, he urged States to consider developing countries’ interests and avoid artificial distortions and abnormal fluctuations of food prices. Further, he rejected the weaponization of inter-economic development and unilateral sanctions, noting that it affects international stability. Many developing countries possess rich agricultural resources and have a potential to feed themselves, he noted, while pointing out that, as victims of colonialism, they lack conditions to achieve food security. To this end, he called for a more equitable economic order to support developing countries’ agricultural transformation. Major food companies should also reduce their monopoly power, he added.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) pointed out that some States and armed groups commit blatant violations as part of their strategy, which not only exacerbate suffering but also greatly increase humanitarian needs. Those committed by Moscow in Ukraine are a tragic illustration of such, as are those committed by the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic and Mali, he said. Also voicing his concern over the attacks and restrictions on humanitarian personnel as is the case in Afghanistan and Yemen, he called for the cessation of such intolerable practices. What the world is lacking is not a legal arsenal but rather the political will to implement them. To that end, violations must not go unpunished and perpetrators must be brought to justice. While the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure is the responsibility of belligerents, the international community nevertheless has a collective responsibility to ensure that there is protection. Since protection is also inseparable from peacekeeping, operations must continue to take measures to anticipate, neutralize and mitigate threats facing civilians. For its part, the Council must ensure that mandates are appropriate and upheld, account for all threats against civilians and fight impunity.
VAHE GEVORGYAN, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, emphasized that the deliberate targeting of civilian populations, the disruption of supplies of essential goods, the denial of humanitarian access and the use of starvation as a method of warfare constitute war crimes and threaten the lives and well-being of civilians living in conflict zones. Underscoring the importance of full, unconditional implementation of the Geneva Conventions, he said that the Council plays a key role in ensuring States’ adherence to their obligations under international humanitarian law. He then detailed the blockade imposed on Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan since 12 December 2022 in violation of such law, stressing that Azerbaijan is hindering efforts by the ICRC and the Russian Federation’s peacekeeping forces to address the immediate needs of the conflict-affected population, transfer patients for urgent treatment and deliver essential goods to remote settlements. Nagorno-Karabakh and its people have been “out of UN radar for quite a long time”, he added, expressing hope that the Council will remain seized of this matter and, in line with its mandate, ensure such people’s dignity, physical security and fundamental human rights.
JOHANNA SUMUVUORI, State Secretary to the Foreign Minister of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, stressed that armed conflict continues to be the main driver of humanitarian needs and food insecurity globally. Noting the “devastating” consequences of Moscow’s war of aggression on global food security, she said that unimpeded humanitarian access is a prerequisite to effective humanitarian action. For the aid to reach those most in need, ceasefires and security guarantees for humanitarian organizations are essential. Addressing food insecurity and protecting essential services is especially important in protracted conflicts, where the needs are ever-increasing and aggravated by climate change. Highlighting women’s essential role in food security, she said that they often face enormous challenges due to limited access to resources, information and education. Consequently, women are more likely to experience poverty and income inequality, which can lead to higher rates of food insecurity. Against this backdrop, she stressed the importance of prevention and elimination of gender-based and sexual violence, also noting that women should play a role in the design and delivery of humanitarian aid. On the impact of modern warfare on water sources — by destroying essential infrastructure and by causing pollution and environmental degradation — she said that water is indispensable for the survival of the civilian population. Accordingly, she called on Governments to provide access to water, particularly in areas already marginalized and prone to conflict.
PETER MACDOUGALL, Assistant Deputy Minister for Global Affairs of Canada, said many States follow their international humanitarian law obligations in order to protect the vulnerable from hostilities. Yet others pay lip service to international humanitarian law as a cover for vengeful tactics aimed at destroying their enemy’s civilian life. Historic cities, such as Mariupol, Aleppo and Sana’a, were once thriving metropolitan centres, and today, large parts of these cities are reduced to uninhabitable mountains of concrete, steel and dust. Certain parties’ tactics have left millions of people food insecure, well beyond the borders of the hostilities. His country’s approach is to work with the parties to an armed conflict to bolster their mechanisms for compliance with international humanitarian laws. For example, in 2018, it drafted a commitment for the Group of 7 foreign ministers to take practical measures to promote effective implementation of international humanitarian law by State and non-State partners. Canada has used these measures in its relations with parties to armed conflicts in Iraq and Ukraine, he said, urging Member States to ensure humanitarian law is systematically integrated into the operations of parties to an armed conflict and protect the most vulnerable.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said is it not the first time that Ukraine has had to withstand Moscow’s food weaponization. This year, the country commemorates the ninetieth anniversary of the Great Famine, caused by Stalin’s regime, he noted, adding that these painful memories are now among the main sources for Ukrainian resistance to the “modern day invaders”. Starvation remains an essential element in the aggressor’s toolbox to undermine the defensive capacities of the attacked State and suppress civilians in the occupied territories. Moscow has resorted to blocking humanitarian corridors to besieged and occupied territories, depriving the civilians from accessing food and water. Starvation has also been used as torture against detainees in the occupied territories and prisoners of war, he pointed out, noting that the aggressor tried to convert global food-related concerns into resentment against the victim of aggression and discredit its rights to self-defence. “Only by holding the perpetrators accountable, we will be able to prevent armed conflicts in the future and civilians from further suffering,” he stressed.
JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea) warned that conflict remains the primary driver of hunger, with more than 100 million people experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity in 19 countries and territories. It is particularly worrying that whereas the scope of conflict-induced food insecurity in the past was usually regional, Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine has created a long-lasting food crisis with global implications. Further, hostilities have destroyed farmland in Mali and Somalia and aggravated water scarcity in the Horn of Africa. He stressed that safe and unimpeded humanitarian access is crucial to address the needs of food shortages in conflict-affected regions. To this end, the United Nations peacekeeping missions need to be more proactive in strengthening coordination with humanitarian actors on the ground. Also, he called on the Council to introduce a monitoring and reporting mechanism that already exists in the context of children and armed conflict. “It is time to translate all the commitments for the protection of civilians into meaningful action,” he asserted.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), noting that collective and common solutions through dialogue and diplomacy are the need of the hour, spotlighted her country’s efforts as Chair of the Group of 20 to address current food and energy security challenges and humanitarian needs. Since quick humanitarian access is critical, the international community must avoid linking humanitarian assistance with political issues. It must also provide capacity-building support to countries facing threats from armed conflict, terrorism, extreme weather, food price volatility and economic shocks on the design, implementation and monitoring of food security-related programmes and policies. Moreover, all must adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility, especially when it comes to food grains. In that regard, open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate the inequity which would only discriminate against the Global South. India will never be found wanting in extending a help hand to those who may be in distress, she said, pledging that her Government will continue to “walk the talk” when it comes to assisting its partners in need.
TAREQ M. A. M. ALBANAI (Kuwait), speaking for the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, called on all parties to armed conflicts to spare civilian objects for food production, distribution and transportation. Armed conflicts also contribute to the environmental degradation that affects food and water delivery, he added, pointing out that such conflicts are being fought in urban areas. In this regard, he spotlighted the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, adopted in Dublin in 2022. He also pointed out that forced displacement exacerbates food and nutrition insecurity, underlining the importance of protecting civilian infrastructure. Expressing concern about the increase of missing people, he said efforts to identify the missing and the dead should be an integral part of the international community’s response. Highlighting the use of new technologies in humanitarian operations, he stressed that misinformation and disinformation endanger the security of humanitarian and United Nations mission staff as well as of those they are supposed to serve. “It has to be vigorously combated by advocating for international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles,” he stated.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines) said that respect for international humanitarian and human rights law is crucial to preventing hunger and further suffering in conflict situations. International humanitarian law also provides the legal framework for mitigating the impacts of armed conflict, as it applies to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. However, he pointed out that, while such law applies to both States and armed non-State actors, national experience demonstrates that the latter is more likely to violate the law due to a lack of understanding or incentives to comply. Additionally, accountability mechanisms that exist in States are often absent in non-State actors. Turning to peacekeeping operations, he stressed that expectations regarding protection tasks must be succinct and clear, connected to political strategies in the field and focused on prevention. Adding that protecting civilians in situations of armed conflict is a priority for his country, he noted that his country aims to enhance its active participation in this area with a projected increase of Filipino peacekeepers on the ground.
MACIEJ POPOWSKI, Director-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations of the European Commission, voiced his deep concern over the number and scale of armed conflicts across the globe. Among others, the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the crisis in Sudan have dramatically impacted the lives of millions, even in countries not directly affected by violence. To ensure the food security in times of conflict, civilian infrastructure must be protected, he stressed, voicing the European Union’s concern over the humanitarian consequences from armed conflicts involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. For its part, the bloc will continue to advocate for compliance with international humanitarian law, accountability for violations and the systematic implementation of Council resolution 2417 (2018). It will also continue its funding in response to the global food crisis, he pledged. However, as the needs and funding gap stretches even further, other donors — including the private sector and international financial institutions — must provide increased contributions.
There must be more complementarity between humanitarian, development and peace actions to protect essential resources, address root causes and prevent the onset of humanitarian crises, he underscored. Within today’s complex operating environment, humanitarians must be able to stay and deliver in a principled and efficient way. Persons in vulnerable situations in particular require attention, especially since children remain disproportionately affected by armed conflict. There has been an alarming increase not only in conflict-related sexual violence against children but also in attacks against schools which — when combined with the disastrous ramifications of the economic crisis — pose a serious threat to the right to education. Conflicts, he further pointed out, also exacerbate gender-based violence and interrupt access to sexual and reproductive health services. As such, the international community must remain committed to providing principled humanitarian assistance to those most in need and ensure that the voices of all affected populations are heard.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said that while armed conflicts are the primary cause of food insecurity, other factors are at play, including the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons that impacts civilian infrastructure, contaminates agricultural land, destroys crops, and seriously hampers food distribution. In this regard, he said the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas is invaluable in strengthening national practices for the protection of civilians. Additionally, he stressed the need to reinforce the protection of the environment to prevent and mitigate the impact of conflicts on food production and distribution. Breaking the perverse cycle between conflict and food insecurity is vital to protect the civilian population from the harmful effects of war and punish those responsible for using hunger as a weapon of war. In this context, he welcomed the recent renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which will help stabilize food prices and protect the most vulnerable populations.
The representative of Liechtenstein said food insecurity remains a major factor across many of the crises on the Council’s agenda. Sudan faces a severe humanitarian catastrophe, on top of the 15 million people which were already food insecure before the conflict’s outbreak, and Yemenis continue to face unprecedented levels of hunger, a long feature of the conflict. Aggression against Ukraine, including attacks against civilians and civilian objects, has had devastating humanitarian consequences, resulting in 6 million people struggling to access safe drinking water and an alarming increase in food insecurity worldwide. Ensuring compliance with relevant provisions of international humanitarian law must remain a priority for the international community and her delegation will advocate for a comprehensive, impartial and sustainably funded system of international justice. Spotlighting the Swiss delegation’s leadership for an amendment to the Rome Statute that would include the war crime of the intentional starvation of civilians in non-international armed conflicts, she encouraged all States to join its ratification.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), speaking for the Group of Friends of Action on Conflict and Hunger, said the Council must rely on timely information about the driving factors of hunger, including through White Notes produced by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the regular reports of WFP and FAO. “When this information is brought to the Council’s attention, the Council has a duty to take appropriate action,” he said. In addition to welcoming the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he called for steps to ensure accountability for attacks against civilian targets. On the occasion of Protection of Civilians Week, the international community must recommit to ensuring accountability. “Ultimately, humanitarian action cannot be the answer,” he said, adding that ending conflict-induced hunger requires ending conflict. “For this, we need political will. And we encourage all actors to find pathways to peace that can end the suffering caused by conflict across the world,” he said.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said the protection of civilians means there is an obligation to protect the objects indispensable to their survival, including food, water and sanitation systems. Destroying those systems disrupts basic human needs and essential services. To reverse this, Ireland led negotiations on a declaration to address the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which was adopted in 2022. The upcoming Oslo Conference will provide a critical opportunity to move this objective forward. The international community’s responsibility is clear: to urgently break the perverse cycle of conflict-induced food insecurity. “Resolution 2417  gives us the tools. What we need now is the collective political will to use them,” he said.
JOCHEN HANS-JOACHIM ALMOSLECHNER (Austria), aligning himself with the Group of Friends for the Protection of Civilians and the European Union, stressed that the Council must condemn violations and ensure accountability. Further, ICRC should continue its invaluable efforts to disseminate international humanitarian law and work for compliance. While Council resolution 2573 (2021) was a further step in thinking holistically about civilian protection, its implementation is unfortunately lagging behind, he pointed out, spotlighting in particular the direct and reverberating effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Similarly, all States must endorse and faithfully implement the Political Declaration on that issue so as to prevent harm and protect essential services. There is also a need to better protect civilians from conflict-induced hunger by encouraging the Secretary-General to make increased use of Council resolution 2417 (2018). More so, the international community can no longer pretend that the Council is not the forum to discuss climate change, he stated, stressing: “We owe it to the civilians which this Council should protect.”
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), speaking for the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, noted the pervasive erosion of respect for civilian lives. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is a war crime, he stressed, pointing to the weaponization of access to clean water and food in multiple conflicts. To this end, he called on all parties to armed conflict to facilitate access to humanitarian assistance, while lifting bureaucratic impediments to humanitarian operations and protecting humanitarian actors. The international community must support States where civilians face conflict-induced hunger and commit resources towards fulfilling their population’s needs. Moreover, it should anticipate and prevent needs from increasing and reduce global fragility. “Providing for the basic needs of people affected by crises should be a shared responsibility for all,” he stressed, noting that resource scarcity and threats to humanitarian operations can cause atrocities. As such, atrocity prevention efforts must be responsive to demographic considerations, he said, adding that gender-based discrimination and oppression of women and girls contribute to such crimes. In this context, he urged States to ensure the affected populations’ involvement in the development, implementation and monitoring of civilian protection strategies and activities.
AHMED MOHAMED EZZAT AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), noting that 2022 was the deadliest year for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2005, called on the international community to protect the Palestinian people. He also spotlighted the link between food insecurity and conflict around the world, particularly in countries suffering multiple challenges. Such States require increased international support to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger), particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and other international crises. In addition, he underlined the need to address the root causes of food insecurity and to support developing States — especially those that rely on imports to promote food security and sustainable agriculture. Citing estimates that 2.5 billion people in northern Africa will suffer from food scarcity and that by 2030 more than 700 million will be displaced as a result of such scarcity, he underscored the need to promote effective transborder water cooperation in the region.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) spotlighted the nexus between hunger and conflict, observing that 70 per cent of the 250 million people who go to bed hungry every day are in areas of armed conflict, the majority of whom are children. The Council’s agenda, to the contrary, keeps adding new conflict situations to old and entrenched issues, as hunger continues to grow, impacting people in the Global South. To ensure peace in his region, he underscored the need for a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions. “Deprivation and hunger are being imposed on the Kashmiri people by the suppression imposed by a 900,000-occupation army,” he said, adding that some members of the Group of 20 allowed themselves to be used in India’s attempt to portray a “false sense of normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir. He cited the recent words of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, who warned against the attempt to “normalize military occupation, which should be decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug”.
CLAVER GATETE (Rwanda) said that attempts at resolutions and interventions by the Council, States and parties to conflict delay humanitarian aid and leave civilians displaced, hungry, or purposely starved. Therefore, more effort must be put into effectively providing protection and in making way for humanitarian aid. He called for a more systematic implementation of existing frameworks and instruments for the protection of civilians, and for the Council to commit to an honest appraisal of current mechanisms, as well as the promotion of dialogue and sharing of best practices among States. Further, the survival and dignity of civilians should be ensured by maintaining the neutrality of humanitarian aid, and through the use of early warning systems and resilience building measures. States, the United Nations System, ICRC and others must strengthen partnerships and increase coordination to tackle food insecurity and the protection of essential services, he said, noting that civil society organizations can provide real-time insights into local needs, while regional organizations can use their influence to promote peaceful conflict resolution.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) stressed the importance of investing in resilient infrastructure to ensure the well-being and safety of civilians. Noting that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine is an example of weaponizing food production, he cited Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda: “From the very beginning of the invasion, Russia has been deliberately and cynically destroying new crops and farming equipment.” Although he welcomed prolongation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he pointed out that only ending the aggression and unblocking all Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea will ensure grain exports and restore balance in the global food market. In this context, the demining of the contaminated areas, including agriculture lands in various regions of Ukraine, poses a big challenge. Reiterating his commitment to supporting Middle Eastern countries affected by the war in Syria, he recalled that Poland has recently financially supported WFP in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Syria, Kenya, Lebanon and Yemen. It also contributed $1 million in 2022 to ease Africa’s food security crisis.
AMAR BENDJAMA (Algeria) sounded the alarm over the rise of acute food insecurity around the world, stressing the need to address their root causes, in particular underdevelopment. Humanitarian assistance is crucial in the context of humanitarian emergencies, he said, condemning any act of obstructing or targeting aid workers. Accordingly, he emphasized that the implementation of resolutions 2417 (2018) and 2573 (2021) is key in preserving the safety and security of the United Nations and humanitarian personnel in armed conflict situations. Highlighting the importance of accountability, he said all perpetrators should be brought to justice and a zero-tolerance policy must be enforced. Also, coordination with national authorities is crucial in addressing food insecurity. He highlighted the role of cooperation with regional and subregional organizations in achieving significant progress towards ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) stressed that terrorism, occupation, illegal unilateral acts and the presence of illegal foreign forces “continue to wreak havoc” on civilians and their infrastructure in the Middle East. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli regime continues its oppressive, expansionist and apartheid practices, systematically violating Palestinians’ human rights. Meanwhile, persistent unilateral actions imposed on Syria by the United States and the European Union — along with the plundering of natural resources by illegal foreign forces — have negatively impacted the humanitarian situation in that country. Further, the Israeli regime continues its aggression and terrorist attacks against Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with impunity. Turning to Afghanistan, she said that humanitarian aid must remain impartial and unconditional to ensure that the Afghan people receive the assistance they require. Adding that effective humanitarian operations rely on international cooperation, proper and timely financing and access to resources, she stressed that these elements are impeded by unilateral coercive measures.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Türkiye) said the international community should take urgent steps to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict and food security. As a leading country in humanitarian efforts, Türkiye continues its part to alleviate the human suffering caused by this cycle. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been a landmark achievement to ease pressure on food insecurity for millions of people and reduce global food prices. Her delegation will continue to support the Secretary-General’s efforts and closely work with parties to fully implement the deal. The devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria last February have further deteriorated the humanitarian situation in Syria. The uninterrupted delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria is more critical than ever and her Government will work closely with all parties to extend the Council’s authorization in July. The need for protection of Palestinian civilians remains an imperative task in front of the United Nations. “It is a disgrace that even the symptoms of this longest-standing conflict on the UN’s agenda cannot be eliminated, let alone addressing its root causes,” she added.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) said there is little reason to celebrate since the unanimous adoption of Council resolution 2417 (2018) five years ago. A just and effective multilateral system requires the Council to condemn violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws and hold perpetrators accountable through international criminal justice mechanisms and, politically, through the Council and the General Assembly. Initiated by Germany and France in 2019, the Call for Action to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and principled humanitarian action has become a strong reference document for Council efforts to promote universal adherence to international humanitarian law. To date, it has been signed by 52 States and remains open for more signatures. The international community must become better at implementing existing instruments to protect civilians and provide essential services, he said, adding that the Office of the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), peacekeeping mission, and non-governmental organizations should continuously monitor and report incidents.
DAVID ABESADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, recalled that according to FAO, between 702 and 828 million people may have faced hunger in 2021 and 30 per cent of the global population lacked access to food. He noted that the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols are part of Georgia’s legislation, while the country’s inter-agency Commission on International Humanitarian Law — a standing governmental body — coordinates the work of relevant entities. Moreover, educational and training programmes provided to Georgia’s military personnel incorporate courses on protection of civilians in armed conflict. However, despite the Government’s determination to protect the population following the Russian Federation’s military aggression of 2008, Georgia has been prevented from extending protection to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. Recalling that 19 May marks the seventh anniversary of Giga Otkhozoria’s murder “by the Russia’s occupation regime” in Abkhazia, he added: “As we speak, Georgian citizens remain in lengthy illegal detention in both occupied regions.”
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), underlining the international community’s duty to ensure a lifeline for civilians, spotlighted several conflict situations to demonstrate the connection between war, food insecurity and critical civilian infrastructure. His Government is appalled by OHCHR’s recent reports regarding the possible execution of more than 500 civilians by Malian troops and foreign military personnel. There are numerous reports of the Wagner Group’s involvement and crimes against civilians in that country and others which correspond with its inhumane conduct in Syria and Ukraine, he added, stressing that all such crimes must be thoroughly investigated and its perpetrators held accountable. The international community must pay special attention to vulnerable groups, he advocated. In Ukraine and elsewhere, forcibly displaced women and girls continuously face an increased risk of gender-based and sexual violence; reports of forced deportations and transfers of unaccompanied children by Moscow amounts to war crimes; and many persons with disabilities have been unable to access food, medical services and humanitarian assistance. His Government is also deeply concerned about the rapidly shrinking space for female humanitarian workers and strongly condemns the increasing attacks on humanitarian workers and assets.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) said that from his country’s experience, the immediate results of a conflict tend to be measured by the number of direct victims of violence. However, it’s the damage of basic infrastructure that has long-term consequences. During its Security Council presidency in 2021, Viet Nam promoted the unanimous adoption of resolution 2573 (2021), he recalled, outlining that problems lie in the failure to adhere to the rules governing the conduct of the parties engaged in armed conflicts. Civilians’ safety must not be held hostage by any such party, he stressed, adding that food, water, supply resources and related facilities must not be used as tools to gain military advantages. Noting that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility for safeguarding civilian optics under their authority, he called on the General Assembly to strengthen international humanitarian law system. “The best way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts,” he stressed.
AMARA SHEIKH MOHAMMED SOWA (Sierra Leone) said that the Organization can fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict by ensuring that all parties respect international humanitarian law; providing humanitarian assistance to affected civilians; and holding perpetrators accountable. Even though civilian protection is a complex and challenging issue, the Organization must nevertheless ensure that civilians do not become victims of armed conflict. Years of progress in the battle against hunger and poverty are being rapidly reversed amid the current global food crisis, he observed, sounding the alarm on the particularly worrying situation in Africa. The issue of food insecurity is also a major concern in conflict-affected areas since the disruption of agricultural production and distribution notably leads to food shortages and malnutrition, he added. In that regard, he urged the United Nations system to provide food assistance and work to address food insecurity’s root causes within such areas. Global food systems must change at the structural level to increase production and distribution, reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency and expand financing access, he emphasized.
HARI PRABOWO (Indonesia) cited the latest Secretary-General’s report on the protection of civilians, which pointed to armed conflict being among the most significant drivers of food insecurity. Such conditions, when unresolved, can lead to a vicious circle, worsening food insecurity and violence. The Council can promote and enforce norms for all relevant parties in conflicts to ensure food security, preventing situations where access to basic necessities is obstructed, such as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, also calling for a comprehensive approach to tackle food insecurity and conflicts. Underscoring the need to prevent the cascading impact of conflicts on global food security, he commended the Secretary-General’s and others’ efforts in ensuring the resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on trade facilitation, which contribute to stabilizing the global market.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking for the Global Alliance for the Missing, noted that the Secretary-General’s report highlights the vast number of people who went missing in 2022 due to armed conflict, which “continues the worrying trend of previous years and decades”. She welcomed the report’s recommendations to establish legal, policy and institutional frameworks to account for protected persons, effectively search for and identify missing persons and properly manage the dead. Many States know the challenges involved in providing answers to families of the missing, which requires political will, access to information, resources and expertise. Pointing out that the fate of missing persons and their families is all too often ignored — with potential long-term consequences for sustainable peace — she called for greater efforts to implement resolution 2474 (2019). These can include addressing the link between missing persons and peace processes and creating national mechanisms to determine such persons’ fate and whereabouts, she added.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) underscored the need to minimize the impact of conflict on civilians, with a strong focus on food security as well as through essential services that contribute to food security and human security. Citing data on the rise of food insecurity, he pointed out that conflict is a significant driver in many affected countries, and in some countries, the main driver. According to the Secretary-General’s recent report, conflict and insecurity were the most significant drivers of food security for some 117 million people in 19 countries. Against this backdrop, he called on all concerned parties to fulfil their humanitarian and legal obligations to protect civilians in conflict situations and to ensure their food supply, highlighting the spillover effects of conflicts on worldwide food security, due to the current global supply chain, among other factors. Finally, he underscored the need to promote sustainable development and ensure food security in intergovernmental processes at the United Nations, including by enhancing the Organization’s convening power for the peaceful resolution of disputes.
GABRIELA GONZÁLEZ (Uruguay), associating herself with the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians, said that numerous food crises in recent decades have highlighted the shortcomings of the international community in managing food security in conflict situations. Voicing concern over the rising number of people living in conditions of food insecurity worldwide, she said that chronic food insecurity can be a key factor in exacerbating violent conflicts, creating a vicious cycle of violence and hunger. Destruction and degradation of agricultural land brought by war are causing large-scale displacement, as is currently the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ukraine, South Sudan and Haiti. Against this backdrop, she highlighted the importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. She also underlined that inequality in food systems disproportionately affects women and girls, making them more vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition, which is exacerbated by climate change.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), associating himself with the European Union, said that, to ensure the rights of civilians in conflict, it is necessary to allow unimpeded humanitarian access, including to humanitarian actors who operate in Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen or Afghanistan. Underlining that international humanitarian law prohibits weaponizing food and starvation as a method of war, he also commended the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. In the last year, Romania has facilitated the transit of over 16 million tons of grains from Ukraine, which is half of the transit of grains via the Initiative. “The more routes remain open for the grains to become available for those in need, the more we move away from the brink of a food crisis or malnutrition,” he said, sounding alarm over the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recent reports on the sky-rocketing levels of acute malnutrition among 2.3 million girls and boys in Afghanistan. Protection of civilians in conflicts is intimately related to climate and security, he said, spotlighting examples of how extreme weather events further exacerbate the plight of civilians.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg) said the international community must strengthen its efforts to protect civilians and respect for international humanitarian law must become a political priority. Giving civilians sustainable access to quality basic services is an important facet of Luxembourg’s humanitarian work. Innovation is necessary in order to help humanitarian workers operate in increasingly difficult environments. That is why Luxembourg worked with WFP this year to launch the Humanitarian Innovation Accelerator. The facility aims to find new solutions to give civilians access to services, he said. Noting that the Council strongly condemns the use of hunger as a method of war, which can constitute a war crime, he said the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine shows the links between hunger, conflict and essential civilian infrastructure. The conflict exacerbates food insecurity in Ukraine and around the world, he said, supporting the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union, said his country hosted an international conference on the legal challenges of humanitarian crisis and the protection of critical infrastructure and the environment during armed conflicts. Negative impacts of the critical infrastructure destruction, soil contamination, water pollution and disrupted sanitation systems cause severe, lasting consequences. Water resources and installations should be of particular consideration in conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts, he added, noting that the contamination of unexploded ordinance and land mines challenges food production. To this end, along with its partner organization — ITF Enhancing Human Security — Slovenia will continue addressing the scourge of anti-personnel mines in 30 countries worldwide. Encouraging the Council to discuss the peace and security effects of climate change, he said that peacekeeping and peacebuilding interventions should be climate sensitive. Reporting that Slovenia has increased its financial support for food security sixfold in 2022, he added: “Preventing civil suffering is not an optional choice. It is our collective responsibility.”
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile) said that compliance with the protection-of-civilians mandate is a humanitarian imperative and a fundamental tenet of peacekeeping — and, therefore, of the United Nations system. Member States must transpose international law provisions concerning the protection of civilians into national legislation to ensure they are upheld during armed conflict. Turning to occasions in which the Council or the General Assembly establishes monitoring mechanisms, she said that an international register of damages will make it possible to ensure comprehensive follow-up to conflicts. She also called on more countries to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, as the specialized court can prosecute war crimes, attacks on infrastructure and essential services and the deliberate blocking of food supplies. Adding that climate change acts alongside socioeconomic and political factors to exacerbate the risk of violence erupting due to food insecurity, economic crises or migration, she called on the Council to work with regional organizations and civil society to achieve long-term solutions to food insecurity caused by conflict.
EVANGELOS SEKERIS (Greece), associating with the European Union, said that conflicts remain the major causes of hunger, affecting global markets and supply chains, with the war in Ukraine further exacerbating the food, fuel and fertilizer crises. Crises are made worse when conflict is combined with climate change. He underscored that attention should be given to demining operations so that arable lands are safe for agricultural activities. Also, emphasis should be placed on the protection of the most vulnerable, he said, noting the indispensable role of female humanitarian workers in providing essential services to women and girls. While digital technologies and artificial intelligence can play a constructive role, the international community should remain vigilant so that this tool is not used to the detriment of civilians by spreading misinformation or through cyberattacks which can threaten vital civilian infrastructure. Further, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to delivering to the regions severely affected by conflict-induced hunger, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said the Secretary-General's report indicates that in 2022 more than 250 million people suffered extreme hunger in 58 countries and territories, many of which were in armed conflict areas. Conflict and insecurity were the most important factors behind the high levels of food insecurity that impacted about 117 million people in 19 countries and territories, she observed. Armed conflict creates food insecurity by destroying farms, roads and ports, crippling the economy and disrupting humanitarian access. Yet more than 20 years after the first Council resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, civilians remain the vast majority of victims of conflict. The problem lies not in the current regulatory framework, but in the translation and implementation of standards in practice, she said. To translate the advances of the past 20 years into demonstrable results, she urged the Council and international community to advocate for a more robust implementation of the existing normative framework.
ANA PAULA ZACARIAS (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict and the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, reported that civilian deaths have increased by 53 per cent since 2021, half of which resulted from the Russian Federation’s war of aggression. While encouraging those present to ensure coordination between the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, among other United Nations bodies, she called for addressing conflicts’ root causes and climate change. “We have to combine short-term action with long-term solutions to be effective,” she stressed, pointing out that sanctions regimes must provide for humanitarian exemptions. The right to education and health in armed conflict must be respected through the protection of schools and health infrastructure, while investing in mental health support, she observed. “Civilians are not faceless masses. They are communities torn apart by conflict,” she emphasized, calling on States to work with the civilian population at the local level.
MURIELLE MARCHAND (Belgium), associating herself with the European Union, the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict and the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, welcomed the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. While also commending the adoption of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, she urged Member States to adhere to it. States should strengthen accountability mechanisms both at the domestic and international level, she noted, recalling that when national jurisdictions fail to act, the Council has the tools to trigger international investigations and accountability mechanisms. In this regard, she welcomed the amendment to the Rome Statute to include starving civilians as a method of warfare — also in non-international armed conflicts — as a war crime.
SOPHEA EAT (Cambodia) said that the increased number of people facing acute food insecurity “reflects severe shortcomings in our efforts to address peace and security issues”. She therefore called on all parties to conflict to take equal responsibility in facilitating safe humanitarian access to civilians in need. Further, Member States must prioritize preventing further escalation of existing conflicts by urging parties concerned to achieve common ground on addressing the root causes of such conflict. While noting this “is easier said than done”, she urged persistence in this area. She also urged efforts to avoid harming civilian infrastructure, essential services, food production and supply chains, underscoring that there is no lack of established, relevant laws — “the lack is in commitment to honour them”. She expressed hope that the Council will play a leading role, involving all relevant United Nations institutions and stakeholders, to save the Sustainable Development Goals from the negative impact of violent conflict.
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, the Group of Friends on Action on Conflict and Hunger and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, warned that humanitarian needs are at unprecedented levels and conflict is still the most important driver of these record-breaking needs, including in the countries now facing famine. The link between conflict and hunger is a matter of international security, she said, stressing the need to break this vicious cycle. Turning to resolution 2417 (2018), she pointed out that the use of starvation of civilians as a method of war is prohibited under international humanitarian law, including in non-international armed conflict. “Like gender-based violence, this can never be accepted, including in times of war,” she said, underlining the need to ensure accountability when these norms are not respected. She also called for more frequent reporting under resolution 2417 (2018).
REIN TAMMSAAR (Estonia) said that, according to estimates in the Secretary-General’s report, almost half of the reported civilian casualties in the world in 2022 were a direct result of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. He also noted that because of its many heinous crimes, the Russian Federation must be listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s upcoming annual report on children and armed conflict as a party committing grave violations against children. The aggression against Ukraine has also reduced Ukraine’s grain exports by at least one third. While welcoming the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he said Ukraine and the world need the Russian Federation to end its war. Only this would allow a return to normal global agricultural trade. Every Member State can play its part in supporting and protecting civilians affected by armed conflicts. Since February 2022, Estonia has opened its borders to more than 70,000 Ukrainian refugees, which makes up more than 5 per cent of its population. The Government is also issuing 35 residency permits per year to journalists in efforts to protect free journalism and support independent media.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), associating himself with the European Union, said that children are particularly affected by armed conflicts, in particular, the 5.7 million of children in Ukraine who have had their education disrupted, with 1.5 million facing mental issues. Highlighting Moscow’s large-scale abductions of children, he expressed support for the decision of the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against the Russian Federation’s President, Vladimir Putin, and the Children’s Rights Commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova. To this end, he underlined the importance of resisting Moscow’s attempts to instrumentalize the United Nations system to shift the blame for these crimes. Turning to food security, he welcomed the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, while calling on the Russian Federation to stop weaponizing food. In addition, he urged developing countries to engage in fertilizers’ production to enhance the stability of agricultural systems worldwide.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) underlined the need for the Council and other relevant United Nations bodies to set clear guidelines to ensure that the evacuation of United Nations personnel in response to the eruption of hostilities is not carried out in a manner that jeopardizes the protection and well-being of civilians. He also stressed that it is the duty of parties to conflict to respect the rules of international humanitarian law that apply to the protection of civilians, civilian objects and the environment. In this context, he spotlighted the applicability of the Martens Clause and the obligation to prohibit certain means and methods of warfare, including new technologies not specifically prohibited under relevant treaty rules. Further along these lines, he condemned Israel’s illegal policies and actions against the protected civilian population, essential civilian infrastructure and the environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which includes the unlawful exploitation of water resources. The Council has the authority and responsibility to act in situations where the protection of civilians and civilian objects is undermined, he stressed.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) voiced concern about the perpetual use of hunger and starvation as an instrument of war. Citing armed conflict as the main driver of hunger, he pointed to the rising levels of food insecurity, along with the targeted attacks on critical infrastructure. The deliberate actions of perpetrators to deny civilians access to humanitarian aid are a violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. In this regard, he commended the international humanitarian agencies that are working under extremely difficult conditions to ensure access to humanitarian assistance, noting that such efforts should always be in line with international humanitarian principles and respect national laws. He also deplored the continued disregard for the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols.
KRASSIMIRA TZONEVA BESHKOVA (Bulgaria) added her support to the call for compliance and respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the parties to international conflicts and all members of the international community. Parties to conflicts must ensure rapid and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need and ease the work of humanitarian actors. She noted that the primary responsibility to protect the population on their territories rests with the States. Further, it is also important that the Council urgently provide better and broader support for humanitarian action. Decisions made here, or the inability to arrive at a decision, could have enormous and devastating consequences around the globe. Efforts to ensure compliance and respect for international humanitarian law should go hand-in-hand with steps to strengthen accountability for all violations and ensure a survivor-centred and gender-sensitive approach.
LEONOR ZALABATA TORRES (Colombia) said there is no peace without development, nor development without peace. The Security Council must guarantee a multilateral approach for protecting civilians and provide care to people exposed to high levels of vulnerability. To this end, she reiterated her Government’s commitment to speed up the implementation of the comprehensive rural reform contained in her country’s 2016 Peace Agreement. In March 2023, Colombia invested more than $4.8 million to purchase 3.5 million hectares of fertile land to benefit 6,195 rural families. Making this kind of progress requires a renewed social contract, she stressed, while calling for increasing the agricultural productivity by using sustainable models. Spotlighting the support of the United Nations agencies for the country’s national efforts to build resilient agrifood systems, she recalled that in January Colombia and FAO signed a letter of intent on the pact for peace, food security and the human right for food to provide a framework for technical cooperation.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) underscored that parties to conflict must uphold international humanitarian law and avoid targeting civilians or infrastructure related to water, sanitation, food, energy, medical or educational services. Noting that Qatar’s foreign policy is underpinned by the principle of peacefully settling disputes, she welcomed all initiatives seeking to hold perpetrators of crimes against civilians to account. She also detailed her country’s support of the United Nations capacity to swiftly respond to the needs of civilians in conflict through its contributions to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Response Fund. Qatar also works directly to mitigate humanitarian crises, recently providing $43 million to help meet the needs of those suffering from famine — including that induced by conflict. Condemning Israel’s targeting of civilians in the Gaza Strip, she called on the international community to support the Palestinian cause and compel Israel to end its flagrant violations of international law.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) highlighted that 21.6 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance while 17 million face severe food shortages. However, the Houthi militias are using the besiegement of cities and the starvation of civilians as a method of war. Despite global humanitarian assistance, the Yemenis continue to face severe shortages of food due to obstacles to humanitarian aid posed by the Houthis who “took the large amount of this aid from the mouths of the poor”, he said. When the assistance to Yemen passes through these obstacles, the internally displaced had already moved due to escalations caused by the Houthis. Since Yemen depends on food imports and is sensitive to any shocks to supply chains, the food crisis in the country is further affected by international conflicts. In this regard, he welcomed the Black Sea Grain Initiative, noting the need to give priority to countries dealing with conflict to avoid famine and further catastrophe. He condemned the Houthis’ refusal to extend the humanitarian truce in a manner that would achieve a comprehensive ceasefire and launch a Yemeni-led political process to end the conflict. Accordingly, he underscored the need to pressure the Houthi militias to stop plundering the resources of the Yemeni people and commit to the truce as a humanitarian priority.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala), underlining that women continue to be among the most affected by food insecurity in conflict areas, reminded all States to adhere to standards of international humanitarian law during conflicts. She also condemned the use of explosives that cause damage to civilian infrastructure. The international community urgently needs to deal with the hunger crises in conflict areas, she stressed, adding that it is also very important to guarantee the protection of humanitarian staff on the ground in conflict areas. This work must be preventative and not reactive and address the root causes of the conflicts. She also backed efforts to promote the use of local goods and the transfer of technology to increase food supplies. The Council, as well, should support an early warning system that would give Governments and humanitarian agencies precise and verifiable information that will alert them to the possibility of a food crisis in the conflict area. Expressing support for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she called for peace and justice to combat poverty, hunger and climate change.
ANA JIMÉNEZ DE LA HOZ (Spain) said that the situation in Ukraine demonstrates how conflicts can have global humanitarian repercussions resulting from food insecurities. In this regard, she welcomed the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. She also called those present for compliance with resolution 2286 (2016), put forward by Spain in 2016. Recognizing women’s and girls’ exposure to sexual violence in conflict, she underscored the importance of prevention, while emphasizing the need to ensure women’s participation in decision-making and in humanitarian response. She further noted the increase of attacks against schools and teachers in 2022, while reiterating Spain’s support for the Safe Schools Declaration. In this regard, she urged all countries to join this Declaration. In addition, she outlined that Spain has approved its first humanitarian diplomacy strategy for 2023-2026, while noting that in June it will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
CARLA MARIA CARLSON (Dominican Republic), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Action on Conflict and Hunger and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, recalled that the Council adopted a presidential statement in 2020 under her country’s leadership that emphasized the need for early warnings. However, reality has shown that much remains to be done as – despite early warnings and alarms – the Council has been paralyzed at times, unable to take the action necessary to protect civilians. Hunger is still being used as a weapon “in plain sight”, she stressed, urging the international community to anticipate, prevent and respond better to the causes of food insecurity and starvation resulting from violence, conflict and humanitarian crises. She also underscored the need to increase political will to use the tools at the international community’s disposal with decisiveness when necessary. Also calling for political solutions to conflict and support for the economies of vulnerable countries, she observed: “If we do not act now, our inaction will affect all countries of the world.”
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), underscoring the need to address food insecurity and to protect essential services, highlighted that over 250 million people are suffering from acute hunger in many countries and territories. Additionally, conflicts continue to destroy essential civilian infrastructure, with millions deprived of drinking water and exposed to contamination and outbreak of deadly illness and serious risks of malnutrition. Civilians in armed conflict and those who have been forcibly displaced suffer first-hand the devastating impact of war and violence. In the context of conflict, civilian populations are being denied food and water while access to humanitarian assistance is being hampered, impacting humanitarian workers and goods. Further, she expressed concern over the devastating impact of climate change — such as droughts and intense rains — which has increased food security worldwide, especially in conflicts. Much more needs to be done to protect the population and combat hunger in conflict, she asserted.
NJAMBI KINYUNGU (Kenya), strongly condemning any act of targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure, said the Secretary General’s good offices must be respected by States who should use these offices more readily. A strong bridge between humanitarian aid, development and peacebuilding must be established and international financial institutions should strive to mitigate investment risks in fragile post-conflict regions, which typically struggle to secure traditional investment. The international community must prevent escalations towards major Power conflicts, which inevitably lead to proxy wars and expose civilians to harm. “We must collectively demand that major Powers, with their far-reaching economic, political and military influence, exhibit responsible statesmanship to establish a balanced and stable multipolar world,” she emphasized. These Powers can embrace their own long-term interest by upholding a robust multilateralism whose laws and agreements constrain the powerful, “rather than today’s tattered multilateralism that with every passing act of great Power impunity becomes a facade for a brutal Darwinian international system,” she said.
INDIRA GOHIWAR ARYAL (Nepal) said that civilian infrastructure and assets — health, water and electricity services — have been attacked purposefully. As a result, the rise in the prices of food, fuel and fertilizers, combined with the effects of climate change, has intensified civilians’ suffering in developing countries. Noting that compliance with applicable international laws is essential for mitigating conflict-induced food insecurity, she underscored the need for improving the identification of critical infrastructure and updating “no-strike” lists. “The State has the primary responsibility to protect its civilians,” she stressed, calling for strengthening Governments’ capacities. Emphasizing that preventive diplomacy should be upheld, she also underscored the need to address food insecurity by building inclusive food systems on national and global levels. As the second largest troop contributing country, Nepal has been protecting civilians in the most volatile parts of the world, she said, adding that this mandate should be equipped with adequate financial, human and technological resources.
JONATHAN MILLER (Israel) said that the protection of civilians is of utmost importance to his country, which has faced unrelenting security threats since its founding 75 years ago. “Nevertheless, our enemies do exactly the opposite,” he stressed, recalling that Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched more than 1,400 rockets at Israeli towns and citizens earlier in May. While Israel “goes above the letter of the law” to protect the lives of civilians, he said that those who seek his country’s destruction intentionally target Israeli civilians while using Palestinian and Lebanese civilians as human shields — hiding rockets among local populations and using private residences as situation rooms. Underscoring that Israel takes every effort to protect the lives of its own population as well as others, he spotlighted its use of defensive technology — such as the Iron Dome — to save countless lives. “While Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah and other terror proxies of the Iranian regime invest in murdering civilians, Israel invests in protecting them,” he added.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) stressed that armed conflicts cause an unacceptable number of casualties among civilians who suffer from food insecurity and the destruction of vital infrastructure. He sounded the alarm over the unprecedented food crisis, affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world. Highlighting the direct and indirect consequences of hostilities in armed conflict, he called on all parties to implement relevant Council resolutions on the protection of civilians. Further, he stressed the need to strengthen the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Vulnerable groups are most impacted by armed conflict, he said, underlining the importance of instruments aimed at protecting children and persons with disabilities. In this regard, he reiterated the critical importance of international humanitarian law and measures ensuring accountability for perpetrators.
AHMAD FAISAL MUHAMAD (Malaysia) said that conflict prevention, de-escalation and resolution must be achieved by peaceful means. Underscoring the importance of peacekeeping missions, he said that in some places, peacekeepers have enhanced food security in the local communities, including Malaysian peacekeepers — through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Quick Impact Project which helped local communities build agricultural infrastructure and distribute agricultural equipment and tools. Protection must be given to the vulnerable groups, including children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities, he stressed, reiterating a call on all parties in conflicts to adhere to international humanitarian law. “It was our promise through the Charter of this august body that we would save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” he pointed out, while expressing regret that conflicts continue raging in many parts of the world.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) said the country’s devastating war in 1971 has resulted in the country and its people truly understanding the consequences of conflict on civilians. Thus, the Government remains deeply committed to the protection of civilians during armed conflicts. During war, civilians suffer the worst and attacks on essential infrastructure lead to food insecurity and displacement in the countries of the conflict as well as the region. There is food insecurity and harm to water sources as the delivery of essential goods is prevented. The Council has a major role to play in protecting food security through its resolutions, such as resolution 2417 (2018). When conflicts create food insecurity, unimpeded access for humanitarian workers to civilians in these conflict areas is very important. Food aid must be delivered to all people. Also expressing concern about the impact of conflicts on the environment, he said that United Nations peacekeeping missions play a critical role in protecting civilians and infrastructure and delivering humanitarian aid. The Council must empower the missions so they can deliver on their mandates, he said, calling for a greater role for women in resolving conflicts.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), associating herself with the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict and the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, said that the movement of weapons must be controlled. Highlighting the adverse effects of the war in Ukraine on African countries, she said that the reduction — or even stoppage — of agricultural activities has led to terrible consequences. By 2100, Africa’s population will rise to 3.8 billion, she reported, while pointing to the loss of the continent’s resources due to an unfair trading system and corruption. Women and children are the most vulnerable in civilian conflicts, she said, also spotlighting that women fall victim to warlords, who use rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Noting that their suffering is also compounded by exclusion from key decision-making processes, she urged those present to redouble efforts to resolve gaps and structural barriers to female participation and leadership, including in providing humanitarian assistance.
GIANLUCA GRECO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians, said that the impacts on civilians caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and its indirect consequences on global food security illustrate the importance of international law. Respecting the law is paramount in preventing hunger during conflicts and safeguarding the lives of civilians, he said, adding that Italy — as a host country of the Rome-based United Nations food agencies — is committed to addressing food insecurity. In this regard, the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a “beacon of hope” for maintaining open food chains and stabilizing global food prices. He called on the Russian Federation to increase the number of inspections in Istanbul. He also recalled that Italy will be hosting the upcoming Food Systems Summit in Rome next July.
KHALID LAHSAINI (Morocco) pointed out that, in 30 years, Africa will have to feed two times its current population. However, it continues to import over $43 billion in net food annually, rendering it dependent on such imports. This impacts stability in the most vulnerable countries, as resource scarcity and rising food prices fuel social unrest. Underlining the need to mitigate the impact of armed conflict on food security by avoiding the destruction of crops, agricultural land and critical infrastructure, he called for coordinated international action to anticipate and reinforce weak points in conflict zones. For this, knowledge regarding the challenges faced by civilians is needed and, therefore, cooperation between local actors and international humanitarian organizations is paramount. Adding that Africa has a young population and is home to a market of over 1 billion, he underscored that the African Continental Free Trade Area can stimulate lower-cost exchange of food products between African countries, improve farmers’ income and promote agroindustry.
JEANNE MRAD (Lebanon) said that, at a time when crises are more frequent and complex, with far-reaching implications, defenceless civilians remain the first victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters. Recalling the history of her country, she said that the Lebanese people suffered from armed conflict and displacement. She underscored that civilians do not contribute to armed conflicts. Instead, they are on the receiving end, often being used as human shields or to punish Governments and regimes, including through the use of unilateral coercive measures that suffocate their livelihoods. Against this backdrop, she said that the international community must open ports and roads to deliver humanitarian assistance to all civilians under siege, without selectivity, and address the root causes of these conflicts.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that during nearly 30 years of aggression against Azerbaijan since the early 1990s, Armenia has committed multiple war crimes, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, massive ethnic cleansing, and extensive destruction and cultural erasure. The aggression also has caused long-term and severe damage to Azerbaijan’s environment, with widespread deforestation, land degradation, destroyed water infrastructure and polluted water resources. Responding to a statement made earlier today at this meeting by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, he said the allegations about the so-called “blockade” of the Lachin-Khankandi road, the disruption of electricity and natural gas by Azerbaijan in its Garabagh Economic Region and the “genocidal intent” of ethnic cleansing are patently false and provocative. Azerbaijan has never created impediments to residents’ freedom of movement on the road and or to supplies of food, medicine and other humanitarian purposes, as well as access by ICRC. The establishment of the border checkpoint is an undeniable sovereign right of Azerbaijan. The Council has repeatedly reaffirmed that Member States securing their borders is their sovereign prerogative.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that conflicts result in the destruction of civilian infrastructure and disruption of essential services, while also provoking flair-ups of food, fertilizer and fuel. Recognizing the correlation between the environment, natural resources and food and water security, he called for a coordinated approach to address the issue in all its dimensions. Commending the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he also welcomed the signing of the Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan while spotlighting the efforts of Saudi Arabia and the United States to this end. “The survival and dignity of civilians in times of conflict is of paramount importance,” he stressed, while underscoring the importance of preventative measures. Noting that the countries affected by conflict must receive support, he spotlighted the need for the peaceful dispute of settlements.
YOSEPH KASSAYE YOSEPH (Ethiopia), observing that “food insecurity and extreme poverty constitute both the cause and consequence of conflicts”, underlined the need to address poverty, lack of resilience and the extreme impacts of climate change. He stated that the reason that food insecurity continues to be the unfortunate experience of conflict situations in Africa and developing countries relates to the structural vulnerability of those economies. Therefore, accelerating economic growth and sustainable development, while addressing the challenges surrounding the agricultural sector, is critical. It is also important to support national programmes to improve food production, along with ensuring macroeconomic stability; facilitating debt relief, restructuring and cancellation; and addressing investment bottlenecks. Such measures ensure resilience, he stressed, also spotlighting the need for timely, adequate humanitarian assistance to those in need. He underscored, however, that such assistance must never be politicized or used to leverage influence over States.
The representative of India, taking the floor a second time, said it was unfortunate that Pakistan has chosen to misuse the Council for false and malicious propaganda as a distraction from the debate’s theme. The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India, he stressed, emphasizing that no amount of rhetoric can deny such. The desire for peace, security and progress in the Indian subcontinent is not only real but also widely shared. It can be realized when cross-border terrorism ceases, Governments come clean with the international community and their own people, minorities are not persecuted and such realities are recognized before meetings such as today.
The representative of Pakistan, also taking the floor a second time, pointed out that India continues to perpetuate a factually incorrect position. Among other things, that country has imprisoned the entire Kashmiri leadership, illegally detained Kashmiri youth, executed young boys, violently put down protests and burned down entire neighbourhoods and villages. Although India has also deployed close to 900,000 security forces to Jammu and Kashmir, making it the most militarized zone in the world, such measures only strengthen the resolve and resilience of the Kashmiri people, she stressed. She pledged her Government’s commitment to continue to expose India’s brutality and asked the United Nations to demand that New Delhi end its State terrorism and abide by its obligations.