Minister Haavisto (Finland),
Minister Çavuşoğlu (Türkiye),
At the outset, allow me to express my appreciation to Finland and Türkiye for your steadfast leadership as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation, and for convening today’s Ministerial Breakfast.
The prevention of humanitarian crises is at the core of what the United Nations seeks to achieve through our practice of mediation and good offices.
A deteriorating global peace and security environment is affecting all aspects of our work. Several of the peace processes where the UN is involved face difficulties because of geopolitical divisions, the increased regionalization and fragmentation of conflicts, and climate-related and technological challenges.
We are increasingly seeing high levels of violence where we operate, and humanitarian needs that outpace our ability to respond. In short, our tools to manage the humanitarian consequences of conflict are being pushed to the limit.
It is in this context that the Secretary-General has proposed the development of the New Agenda for Peace, in his report “Our Common Agenda.” In order to help prevent or end humanitarian crises, it will place inclusion, prevention and reduction of violence at the centre of our work.
Our goal, of course, is to mediate ends to conflict once and for all. However, there are times when interim measures can help to alleviate human suffering. Let me provide two examples.
In Yemen, seven years of conflict have left some 19 million people food insecure. In UN mediation efforts have consistently sought to address the dire situation and help create space for comprehensive peace talks.
The local ceasefire in the 2018 Hudaydah Agreement was driven by a humanitarian imperative to avert famine in the country and the political objective to de-escalate the conflict. It aimed to facilitate free movement of civilians and goods and maintain the delivery of humanitarian aid through Yemen’s Red Sea ports - a "lifeline" for the country given the number of Yemenis relying on humanitarian assistance.
This Agreement continues to provide a framework for an overall reduction of violence. Unfortunately, a lack of funding threatens the operations of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), which inspects all commercial imports, including food, through these ports.
Most recently, the UN-brokered country-wide truce that took effect in April of this year has allowed for the longest pause in fighting since the war began and has delivered tangible humanitarian benefits to the Yemeni people, even if a comprehensive peace agreement is not in place.
Civilian casualties have declined significantly, fuel imports through Hudaydah have eased fuel shortages, and we have seen the first international commercial flights out of Sana’a in years.
The UN is urgently calling for funding to allow UNVIM to continue operations while working with the parties to extend and expand the truce agreement and resume an inclusive and comprehensive political process.
Also, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed in Istanbul in July, is a landmark achievement. Thanks to the deal, more than three million metric tons of grain and other food are now on their way to markets around the world, including a recent humanitarian grain shipment to Yemen.
Some two months since it took effect, it is worth highlighting some observations about the grain initiative:
First, discrete engagement around realistic and pragmatic initiatives to solve issues of global concern can open the space for conflict parties to reach agreements.
The Initiative came about in response to clear global concerns, which the Secretary-General highlighted early in the crisis, namely food insecurity, energy concerns and financial instability.
The likely severe humanitarian consequences of these trends provided an acceptable framework for the parties to work together constructively.
Secondly, the Initiative has borne out that the UN’s impartiality and technical expertise can support Member States in reaching agreements.
Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian, and UN delegations worked with dedication and professionalism. Under the leadership of the Secretary-General, the UN acted as a trusted intermediary and mobilized ceasefire, humanitarian, maritime and operational expertise from across the system.
Thirdly, the Initiative confirmed that effective partnerships are crucial.
Here, I would like to pay tribute to Türkiye for collaborating with the United Nations to make this initiative a reality, and for its work to mobilize the crucial political support of relevant actors and the broader UN membership, including those constituencies that stand to benefit the most in humanitarian terms.
In the absence, for now, of prospects for a political process to end the war, the Initiative, and the work behind it, is evidence of what can be achieved through dialogue and compromise even in the most difficult circumstances.
In Ukraine and Yemen, our hope is that these interim agreements will generate the trust necessary for further compromise and a peaceful settlement.
I know that members of the Group of Friends are ready to continue to harness the power of mediation at all levels to come to the aid of people caught in violent conflict. My Department looks forward to continuing its close engagement with you.