THE SECRETARY-GENERAL -- REMARKS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION ON UKRAINE
22 February 2023
New York, 22 February 2023
The one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands as a grim milestone – for the people of Ukraine and for the international community.
That invasion is an affront to our collective conscience.
It is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.
It is having dramatic humanitarian and human rights consequences.
And the impact is being felt far beyond Ukraine.
As I said from day one, Russia’s attack on Ukraine challenges the cornerstone principles and values of our multilateral system.
The UN Charter is unambiguous:
“All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
The General Assembly has addressed, in the clearest terms, the attempt by the Russian Federation to illegally annex four regions of Ukraine – Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk.
In doing so, the Assembly reaffirmed the longstanding principles of international law contained in its landmark Friendly Relations Declaration of 1970.
Namely, that “the territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force”, and that “no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal”.
The position of the United Nations is unequivocal:
We are committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.
The United Nations has stayed on the ground working with humanitarian partners.
Fully 40 per cent of Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Vital infrastructure has been targeted – water, energy and heating systems have been destroyed in the dead of winter.
UN agencies have also been cooperating with host countries that received more than 8 million Ukrainians – the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Last week, the UN launched a $5.6 billion humanitarian appeal for the people of Ukraine. I urge your full support.
I have visited Ukraine twice since the start of the war where I heard testimonies of severe violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
In this conflict as elsewhere, the United Nations is committed to ensuring justice and accountability.
Even amidst the brutality of war, we have worked in concerted and creative ways to forge solutions.
In Mariupol, the United Nations helped evacuate civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has shown the possibility of Ukraine and Russia to advance global food security – with the support of government of Türkiye and the United Nations.
Despite ongoing challenges, the initiative to ship grain and other food stuffs from Ukraine is making a difference.
We are working hard to remove all the remaining obstacles to the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of the United Nations and the Russian Federation to facilitate exports of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets.
This is also an important contribution to address global food insecurity.
We will continue to support these initiatives, for the benefit of millions of people across the world, especially in the Global South.
Notwithstanding deep mistrust, the parties to the conflict have also worked out regular exchanges of prisoners of war, facilitated by regional actors.
These efforts can and must continue, and expand as much as possible.
Over the past year, not only have we seen suffering and devastation grow, it is also becoming more evident just how much worse it could all still become.
The possible consequences of a spiraling conflict are a clear and present danger.
Every day, we are reminded of the grave threat that haunts us all when irresponsible military activity continues around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – the largest nuclear facility in Europe.
I commend the International Atomic Energy Agency for engaging the sides to ensure that the area remains safe.
The security and safety of all Ukrainian nuclear power plants must be guaranteed.
The war is also fanning regional instability and fueling global tensions and divisions, while diverting attention and resources from other crises and pressing global issues.
Meanwhile, we have heard implicit threats to use nuclear weapons.
The so-called tactical use of nuclear weapons is utterly unacceptable.
It is high time to step back from the brink.
Complacency will only deepen the crisis, while further eroding our shared principles proclaimed in the Charter.
War is not the solution. War is the problem.
People in Ukraine are suffering enormously.
Ukrainians, Russians and people far beyond need peace.
While prospects may look bleak today, we must all work knowing that genuine, lasting peace must be based on the UN Charter and international law.
The longer the fighting continues, the more difficult this work will be.
We don’t have a moment to lose.