Let me thank the briefers for your grave accounts of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
Norway condemns in the strongest terms Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. It has created a humanitarian disaster, one which is the responsibility of Russia, and Russia alone.
The civilian suffering must end. The Council’s joint expression of support last week to the Secretary-General’s effort to search for peaceful solutions, is a first step towards this end. We need to see a path towards peace.
The ongoing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine is having a particularly devastating and unacceptable impact on children, their families, and communities. The use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas is destroying homes, schools, and health centres, with children at an especially high risk for lethal and debilitating injuries: seven times higher than for adults.
We condemn the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, weapons that will continue to kill and injure long after the conflict ends. The most recent attacks by Russia on schools and the civilians seeking shelter there, demonstrates a blatant disrespect for international humanitarian law. These attacks are clearly in contradiction of Security Council resolution 2601 on the protection of education in conflict, unanimously adopted by this Council just months ago.
We call on all parties to protect and respect the civilian character of schools and educational facilities in accordance with international humanitarian law. Continuing education, even during armed conflict, is crucial, including for displaced children. Their right to education must be upheld.
All Ukrainian children are affected by this war. Many are displaced across borders or internally in Ukraine. We are particularly concerned about the high number of children that are separated from their families. Unaccompanied children are in a particularly vulnerable situation, and are at risk of human trafficking and sexual violence and abuse. Access to child protective services is key, including child-appropriate mental health and psychosocial support.
Norway is alarmed about the situation for the many civilians including children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities who remain trapped in the battle zone. All civilians – including those in care institutions – must have access to humanitarian assistance and safe passage for voluntary evacuation to safety.
We are appalled by the reports of involuntary evacuations, deportations, and so-called filtration camps. We are also deeply concerned about the increasing reports of conflict-related sexual violence, including against men and boys. It is of the utmost importance that all survivors are ensured sexual and reproductive health and rights. The atrocities committed during this war, must be investigated, and those responsible must be held accountable. We support the ongoing investigations.
We underline the importance of utilising expertise on child protection, children’s rights and gender. In ensuring documentation and accountability, it is also important that the right to freedom of expression, and free access to information, is being vigorously defended. Journalists must be protected.
I would like to conclude today by commending the humanitarian organisations who are working every day to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of this war. Especially local civil society organisations which are doing a tremendous job. But to truly end this humanitarian crisis, the war must stop. Russia chose to invade Ukraine in breach of the UN Charter and international law. Russia must also stop the war and withdraw its troops from Ukraine immediately.
I thank you.