Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. And I thank the Polish Chairpersonship-in-Office for this invitation.
In line with Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, regional organizations like the OSCE are crucial partners in preventing and resolving conflict and sustaining peace.
Our shared commitment to preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacebuilding and the women and peace and security agenda informs the longstanding partnership between our organizations.
Today, the war in Ukraine vividly illustrates the need for strong European and international peace and security mechanisms. Indeed, the role of the OSCE to promote dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding has never been more important.
The brutal conflict in Ukraine is now the largest in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
Two weeks ago, I accompanied the Secretary-General on his visit to Moscow and Kyiv. The Secretary-General’s message to the leaders of the two countries was clear: Russia’s invasion is a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations. It must end.
That is also the view of the UN General Assembly, which has unequivocally reaffirmed the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
The Assembly has demanded that the Russian Federation immediately end its invasion and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces.
During his visit, the Secretary-General focused on ways the UN could expand support for the people of Ukraine, save lives, reduce suffering and help find the path of peace. In Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka, he saw first-hand the devastation and human cost of this senseless war.
As a result of his engagement, the United Nations, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and with support from Ukrainian and Russian authorities, successfully evacuated more than 600 civilians from Mariupol and surrounding areas, including from the Azovstal plant, over the last 10 days.
But civilians in Ukraine continue to pay an unbearable price for this war.
As of 11 May, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 7,326 civilian casualties in the country: 3,541 killed and 3,785 injured. The actual figures are certainly considerably higher.
Most of the civilian casualties have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area used in populated areas. According to information gathered by OHCHR, while such incidents can be attributed to both parties to the conflict, most of these casualties appear attributable to the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 6,029,705 refugees have fled Ukraine, while 8,029,000 have been internally displaced since 24 February. This amounts to nearly one third of the population (Total number of displaced people is 14,058,705 which is approximately 33.8% of the population of 41.4 million).
The United Nations and our humanitarian partners continue to expand relief operations and have now reached more than 5.4 million people across the country with assistance since the war started. More than 4.7 million people have received food aid, and nearly 1.5 million people have accessed critical health care.
Cash interventions – a priority in our response - have increased, covering 550,000 people since 24 February. More than 230,000 children have received support to continue their education, and 370,000 displaced people have received protection services, including assistance at border crossing points and psychological support.
In response to the UN’s humanitarian Flash Appeals, donors have made available $1 billion out of $2.25 billion requested through the end of August.
OHCHR has received credible reports alleging violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of these violations may amount to war crimes.
Further, OHCHR has documented mistreatment of prisoners of war by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.
There have been frequent attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools, residential buildings and hospitals. As of 7 May, the World Health Organization verified at least 75 persons killed in more than 190 attacks on Ukrainian health care since 24 February.
The United Nations supports efforts to investigate alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
The OSCE responded quickly to these allegations, establishing a mission of experts through the Moscow Mechanism.
The Human Rights Council established on 4 May the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. It is mandated to investigate, collect and verify evidence, and to identify, where possible, those individuals and entities responsible for violations.
And the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, based in Ukraine, has been actively recording and reporting on these allegations.
We are also heartened to see that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is undertaking efforts to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice.
Ensuring accountability for violations will be a long and arduous task. But it must be done.
Let me note that earlier this week, the Secretary-General visited Moldova on a mission of solidarity and gratitude. Moldova has opened its borders and homes to nearly half a million Ukrainian refugees.
Allow me to express the UN’s appreciation to the OSCE participating States who have welcomed all those fleeing the violence in Ukraine.
The prevailing military logic has so far squeezed out genuine diplomacy. But the stakes are too high – in terms of human life and regional and global security – to abandon the search for a peaceful resolution.
We appreciate the role of Turkey and other OSCE members for their support for dialogue.
The UN Security Council recently declared its unanimous backing for the Secretary-General's efforts in the search for a peaceful solution. The United Nations stands ready to support all diplomatic initiatives to help bring an end to the crisis.
The war in Ukraine has already had serious implications on the European security architecture. We are concerned by the potential impact on longstanding confidence-building measures, arms control treaties and other frameworks designed to sustain regional security.
Beyond Europe, the war has triggered global concern regarding a range of issues, from food and energy security to economic stability.
The food security crisis threatens to hit the most vulnerable countries the hardest. This dire prospect led the Secretary-General to establish the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance. The Group is mobilizing UN agencies, multilateral development banks and other international institutions to help countries face these challenges. We hope to count on your full support in this important work.
The United Nations has consistently supported the work of the OSCE in Ukraine, especially the Special Monitoring Mission and the Trilateral Contact Group. Similarly, we continue to back other OSCE-led mediation processes, such as the Minsk Group for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the 5+2 Transnistrian Settlement process, as well as the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia.
These frameworks for dialogue and understanding contributed to general stability. This is thanks to the commitments of all relevant participants.
But we have also seen in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh how protracted conflicts have the potential to relapse into open hostilities despite such mechanisms.
We have a collective interest in ensuring that these critical mechanisms continue functioning to avoid new vacuums in areas prone to tensions.
It is also why the United Nations is fully supportive of the important work of the OSCE field offices, from the Western Balkans to Central Asia, where our cooperation serves to advance the Sustainable Development Goals in ways that strengthen national cohesion and resilience.
The OSCE has historically played an instrumental role in promoting peace, stability and democracy in the region since its establishment. But, as we have seen, Europe is not immune to escalating tension and violence.
It is in our common interest to see an OSCE that is adequately equipped to continue meeting present and future challenges.
In that context, we take good note of the efforts by the Polish Chairpersonship-in-Office to initiate a Renewed European Security Dialogue.
We encourage all participating States to remain committed to the principles and frameworks of the OSCE as well as constructive dialogue on European security, in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.
The United Nations supports all efforts to restore mutual trust and respect among regional stakeholders, which is essential to preserving the continent from new conflict and the world from further instability.