THE SECRETARY-GENERAL - REMARKS TO THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL ON UKRAINE
24 February 2023
New York, 24 February 2023
Mr. President, Excellencies,
The purposes and principles embedded in the United Nations Charter are not a matter of convenience.
They are not merely words on paper.
They are at the core of who we are.
They reflect the driving mission of our United Nations.
And they exist precisely to address any grievance – whatever it may be.
One year ago, I sat in this Council and urged:
“In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation, but with an impact we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy.”
I said then that we must give peace a chance.
But peace has had no chance.
War has ruled the day.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.
It has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement.
Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible suffering.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented dozens of cases of conflict-related sexual violence against men, women and girls.
Serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law against prisoners of war – and hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians – were also documented.
Life is a living hell for the people of Ukraine.
An estimated 17.6 million people — nearly 40 per cent of the population of Ukraine — require humanitarian assistance and protection.
The crisis has erased 30 per cent of pre-war jobs.
The World Food Programme estimates that nearly 40 per cent of Ukrainians are unable to afford or access enough food.
The war has sparked a displacement crisis not seen in Europe in decades.
More than 8 million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across Europe, in addition to an estimated 5.4 million people who have been internally displaced.
More than half of all Ukrainian children have been forced from their homes – with unaccompanied and separated children facing grave risks of violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Vital infrastructure is under fire – water, energy and heating systems have been destroyed in the depths of a freezing winter.
The World Health Organization has verified over 700 attacks on health care facilities.
More than 3,000 schools and colleges have been damaged or destroyed. Millions of students have had their education severely disrupted.
Less measurable — but no less important — is the devastating impact of months of displacement and bombardment on the mental health of Ukrainians.
Nearly 10 million people, including 7.8 million children, are at risk of acute post-traumatic stress disorder.
And make no mistake, the Russian Federation is also suffering the deadly consequences.
We need peace — peace in line with the UN Charter and international law.
As we work for peace, we will continue calling for action on many fronts.
Protection of civilians must remain the top priority. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop.
The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas – in towns, cities and villages – must end.
Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for life-saving assistance must be ensured.
We must also invest in Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction.
At the request of the Ukrainian Government and on behalf of the UN system, the United Nations Development Programme is co-leading an assessment of damage to energy infrastructure, jointly with the World Bank.
Since the start of the war, the International Atomic Energy Agency has supported Ukraine to ensure the safety and security of its 15 operating reactors at four nuclear plants, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
We continue to urge all parties to swiftly agree and implement a nuclear safety and security protection zone at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to avoid a serious accident with potentially disastrous consequences.
Veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the context of the conflict have spiked nuclear risks to levels not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.
These threats are unacceptable.
Progress continues to be made under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement brokered with the parties by the United Nations and the government of Türkiye.
More than 20 million metric tons of foodstuffs have now been safely reconnected to global supply chains on more than 700 ships, helping to bring down prices around the world.
I want to underscore the importance of all parties remaining engaged in this initiative, and reiterate our call for it to be extended beyond March 2023.
The United Nations is firmly committed to working to remove remaining obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports, including ammonia.
These exports are essential to our broader efforts to bring down prices and ease food insecurity around the globe.
Both efforts demonstrate that international cooperation is essential, valuable and possible -- even in the midst of conflict.
Over the past year, this Council has held more than forty debates on Ukraine.
The guns are talking now, but in the end we all know that the path of diplomacy and accountability is the road to a just and sustainable peace.
Peace in line with the UN Charter and international law, and yesterday’s resolution of the General Assembly.
We must prevent further escalation.
We must all encourage every meaningful effort to end the bloodshed and, at long last, give peace a chance.