The statement was delivered by the Permanent Representative of Sweden Ambassador Anna Karin Eneström on behalf of the Nordic Countries
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and my own country, Sweden.
Let me start by thanking the briefers for their clear and concise remarks. I also want to pay tribute to the staff of your respective organisations and all other humanitarian workers on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. We are immensely grateful for their efforts, which sadly are essential for the safety and dignity of so many Ukrainians. UNHCR and IOM are doing impressive work to assist refugees and IDPs and we encourage you to continue to scale up your work.
As we have heard from you, and as evidenced by so many testimonies from those who have fled, the efforts of humanitarian actors are dwarfed by the unspeakable horrors caused by the unprovoked, unjustified and illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine. The decision to launch this war places a heavy responsibility on those who made it.
We welcome the efforts of humanitarian actors to assist and protect as many people in need as possible, as well as the hospitality and generosity of those countries who are hosting refugees from Ukraine, where Ukraine’s immediate neighbours – Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia – deserve particular recognition. The Nordic countries are proud to be part of a donor community that has mustered an impressive response to the initial humanitarian appeal of 1.1 billion dollars.
Going forward, let me highlight a few elements that we see as particularly important to further improve the efficiency of humanitarian work:
First, safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access must be ensured. Not least to the areas hardest hit by the conflict and particularly places which risk being encircled. Access to places like Mariupol and Kharkiv is still granted on a case-by-case basis and requires complicated negotiations, while the humanitarian needs are on a scale that requires sustained access. The main cause for the lack of access are attacks by the Russian Federation on areas where civilians are located, which compromises the safety and security of humanitarian actors on the ground. We call on both parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations to allow and facilitate access to the east and to other hard-to-reach areas, recalling again the particular responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the invading forces. We welcome in this regard the efforts by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, to negotiate a humanitarian ceasefire, during his recent visit to Moscow and Ukraine and we support the call of the Secretary-General for a humanitarian pause.
Second, in line with the humanitarian principles, protection and assistance must take into account the needs of everyone living in a situation of vulnerability. We see how women who have chosen to stay are at heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence. We also see how the elderly and people with disabilities are unable to leave. These aspects must be fully integrated in the humanitarian response.
Third, international humanitarian law must be respected. Civilians must never be a target. And civilian infrastructure must be protected. Sexual violence can never tolerated. This brings me back to the issue of responsibility. No amount of denial and disinformation will prevent accountability for serious international crimes including war crimes.
We are now almost eight weeks into Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine. During that time, we have witnessed horrific atrocities that have ended, ruined and disrupted the lives of millions. But we have also seen the international community coming together in solidarity with Ukraine. And, most importantly, we have been deeply impressed by the incredible resilience of the Ukrainian people.
In conclusion, we recall the two resolutions from the Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, as well as the order by the International Court of Justice issued on 16 March this year. All of them include a clear call on Russia to stop this war. But let us be candid: no UN resolutions or court orders are necessary in this regard. It is obvious to everyone what the right course of action is. This aggression should never have been launched in the first place and it must end now. It is never too late to make the right choice.