Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on Ethiopia
Statement06 October 2021
Thank you Mr. President. And thank you, Secretary General for your important and timely briefing today.
Ireland, joined with others in calling this meeting because we believe that the recent expulsion of UN leadership from Ethiopia should be addressed publicly by this Council.
This expulsion is particularly egregious in the context of the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia. It cannot be excused nor ignored.
Last Friday, Martin Griffiths told us that 5.2 million people require humanitarian assistance and 400,000 are living in famine-like conditions in Tigray. Eighty per cent of pregnant and lactating women are acutely malnourished. Perhaps most worryingly, child malnutrition rates are similar to those recorded at the onset of the Somalia famine in 2011.
Let’s be clear about what this means: Ethiopian children are starving. People are dying because they cannot access food, water and basic health care. This is not a situation caused by natural disaster. It is caused by those who continue to choose the path of war.
The ongoing effective blockade of Tigray—including systematic efforts to prevent medicines and medical supplies from reaching the region—is costing lives. As the conflict spills over into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, the humanitarian crisis is spreading.
In these circumstances, we need a fully operational, unimpeded and proportionate humanitarian response reaching all those in need of assistance and protection in northern Ethiopia, and across the country.
The decision of the Ethiopian Government to expel senior UN staff undermines its working relationship with the UN, when it needs it most. As outlined by the EU High Representative on Monday, it risks the further weakening of efforts to bring relief to millions of Ethiopians in need, at a moment when aid organisations already face serious impediments in carrying out their mandates. Unfounded allegations and consistent targeting of humanitarian workers put all humanitarian work in country at risk and are unacceptable.
Safeguarding the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence ensures that aid can arrive where and when it is needed the most. As others around this table have previously done, I call on all parties to the conflict to depoliticise humanitarian aid.
You made clear to us when we last met and in your recent letter that the conflict in Ethiopia is spiralling out of control. We were warned of this months ago. Ireland, a long-standing friend of Ethiopia, has been drawing attention to this and its inevitable consequences for the people of Ethiopia since we joined the Council.
We ended our last meeting with you, Secretary General, in agreement, that quiet diplomacy should be given a chance. Despite such efforts, we continue to receive reports of inflammatory and dehumanising language. As you said today Secretary General, any further escalation would only make the situation more tragic.
We also continue to receive reports of conflict-related sexual violence and atrocities, denial of access to humanitarian aid, and attacks on humanitarian workers, which may amount to war crimes. Those who commit such violations must be held accountable.
Before we see the tragedy worsen even further, before we see more young people needlessly lose their lives to this war, all sides must accept that there can be no military solution to the crisis.
Let me reiterate the three key asks of many of us here at this table.
First, we are asking all parties to the conflict to immediately ensure full, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access, required in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.
The blockade on Tigray must end now.
Basic services must be restored.
Food, medicines and fuel cannot be restricted to just a fraction of what is required.
Without, immediate and scaled-up action, the horror of mass mortality caused by political decisions, once again, will tragically overwhelm parts of Ethiopia.
Second, we all want to see an immediate cessation of hostilities between all parties to the conflict, and for them to come to the table to negotiate a lasting ceasefire. Eritrean forces also need to withdraw from Ethiopia.
And third, we need a political solution to the crisis in Tigray as well as an Ethiopian-led inclusive national dialogue that promotes the unity of Ethiopia.
The African Union has a crucial role to play in engaging with all sides, supporting mediation efforts and ultimately assisting Ethiopia in finding a solution to this crisis. Ireland looks forward to hearing an update from the AU High Representative Obasanjo, at the next available opportunity.
To conclude Mr President,
Ethiopia’s government has a historic opportunity, and indeed a new mandate, to turn the tide towards peace and to steer the country back onto the hopeful path of just a few years ago.
We are approaching the one-year anniversary of this conflict. It must end.
It is time for Ethiopia’s leaders to deliver the peace, unity and prosperity, which all Ethiopian people deserve.
The alternative is catastrophic, prolonged and expanding conflict that threatens to destroy Ethiopia’s ambition for a prosperous and peaceful future.
We simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity.