Statement at the UNSC Briefing on Ukraine
Statement06 June 2022
Thank you, President, I would like to welcome the President of the European Council, Charles Michel to the Chamber today, and as always, to welcome our colleague, the Ambassador of Ukraine. Sincere thanks to our briefers this morning, SRSG Pramila Patten, and in particular Natalia Karbowska and Sherrie Rollins Westin, for your deeply sobering account of the suffering and destruction caused by Russia’s senseless and illegal war in Ukraine, which has now surpassed 100 days.
Every day since then, we have been watching the fallout of this abhorrent war. Civilians attacked and killed. Schools and hospitals targeted. Mass displacement and family separation. And the subject that brings us together today, conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. Let me be clear, this is no special military operation. This is an illegal war, causing intentional damage and suffering.
President, over 15 million people have now fled their homes, the vast majority, as we know, are women and children. This speed and scale of displacement is unheard of in modern times.
When the Russian Federation further invaded Ukraine in late February, the alarm about human trafficking was raised immediately. We know that conflict and displacement exacerbates human trafficking. We know it provides fertile ground for those who trade in human beings and organized criminal networks looking to take advantage of those most vulnerable in our societies, as was sadly and very graphically highlighted this morning by SRSG Pramila Patten.
Civil society, national authorities and the UN agencies on the ground mobilised quickly to respond, to raise awareness, and to provide information to refugees and training to service providers and border police. I want to express our sincere gratitude today for their work. It has without doubt prevented harm.
But more needs to be done to ensure prevention efforts are robust.
As the war rages on, the vulnerability of those fleeing has only increased. Members of marginalised groups, like unaccompanied children and those with disabilities, face particular risks.
The groundswell of volunteers who have mobilised to support those fleeing represents humanity at its best. It speaks to the foundation upon which human rights, and indeed this United Nations, was built; that all people are born with inherent dignity.
Yet we must ensure rigorous vetting and registration procedures are in place to prevent exploitation and protect against trafficking.
As highlighted by UN Special Rapporteur Siobhán Mullally and others, expanded international protection measures and safe migration routes are also essential in reducing risks of trafficking. In welcoming more than 33,000 Ukrainians to Ireland, under the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, we have sought to mitigate such risks.
President, we also know that conflict and displacement exacerbates sexual and gender-based violence. This Council has heard of the horrifying reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers against women and girls, against men and boys. Rape is not an inevitable by-product of war, it is an act which may constitute a war crime, and which leaves victims and their communities with life-long effects and trauma. As SRSG Patten said earlier, even one case of such abuse is one case too many .
This Council has condemned conflict-related sexual violence, and recognized that it can constitute a war crime. But now the international community must do more and ensure that such crimes do not go unpunished.
As Special Representative Pramila Patten stated while in Kyiv, international law will not be an empty promise. It cannot be. The efforts underway to gather evidence and to investigate these crimes, including through the UN framework for cooperation, will help bring those responsible to account. We fully support SRSG Patten in her work in the context of the framework agreement, with the government of Ukraine, and we echo the calls she made this morning for cooperation from the Russian Federation. There will be justice for victims and survivors.
President, reports of an increase in domestic violence in Ukraine is also of deep concern. Survivors of gender-based violence now face a double crisis, as services are not fully able to provide protection and respond to their needs.
In addition to justice, all survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and of trafficking deserve protection and assistance. Comprehensive survivor-centred services must be provided at every stage – within Ukraine, on the borders, in transit countries and by host countries. This means taking into account the particular needs of groups and individuals in vulnerable situations. Sexual and reproductive health services and psycho-social supports must be prioritised.
Let me conclude, President, by speaking directly to the Russian Federation. Have no doubt, this war will end. They all do. For light always overcomes darkness. If you have any compassion for the millions of victims, respect for international law, and can still show humanity, please stop this war now. Stop the senseless suffering. It is never too late to do the right thing.