Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on Peace and Security in Africa
Statement06 July 2021
Thank you Mr. President, and thank you to Rosemary and Ramesh for your insightful yet deeply troubling briefings today.
Ethiopia is a longstanding and important partner for Ireland. For this reason, the deteriorating crisis in the Tigray region, and its severe humanitarian consequences, is of genuine and deep concern for us. It is a situation which we have consistently raised and sought to have this Council address, since we joined the Council in January.
The Council’s voice matters on this issue. Today, finally, we meet publicly and all Council members have an opportunity to send a clear message to the parties on the ground: this conflict must end. Humanitarian needs must be urgently addressed.
We called for today’s meeting because it is clear that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Tigray. It is clear the threat of famine looms and that hundreds of thousands of people could already be starving. It is clear that without further immediate and scaled-up action, many more will die. We all have a responsibility to act immediately to save lives. Indeed, our action is overdue.
The prospect of large-scale famine in Ethiopia today is real. The evidence we have heard today is indisputable. And the consequences of inaction are chilling and all too predictable.
As the spectre of large-scale famine again looms for the people of Ethiopia, the international community is ready to mobilise the necessary response. However, the political steps needed to facilitate that response lie with those who are party to this conflict. Leadership to forge a path towards a political solution is needed.
The declaration by the Ethiopian Government of a unilateral ceasefire is a welcome step. However, any ceasefire must include actions that serve to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, not create further obstacles to the humanitarian response. Reports that humanitarian access continues to be cut off, including through the destruction of key routes for humanitarian supplies, are deeply worrying and, frankly, shocking. We urge all parties to the conflict to cease hostilities, to protect civilians and to allow for immediate, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to all parts of Tigray. We call on the Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate their commitment to the ceasefire, the ceasefire they declared, by immediately facilitating humanitarian access – the next few days are absolutely critical in this regard as the humanitarian response restarts. We also call on the government to establish a functioning civil-military coordination mechanism, to immediately restore essential services and to reopen airspace for humanitarian deliveries. Tigrayan forces must also refrain from any actions that encourage conflict or restrict humanitarian access.
Beyond the food security crisis, we are deeply concerned about the wider humanitarian and human rights situation. Reports last week of the airstrike on the village market of Togoga in northern Tigray, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians, many of them children, are alarming. We call on the Ethiopian authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the incident. Last week’s brutal murder of three MSF staff underlines the dangers faced by humanitarians. Humanitarian workers must never be targets. Such outrageous attacks must cease. I pay tribute to the efforts and courage of humanitarian workers in highly dangerous circumstances. We condemn reports that international NGOs and UN vehicles and their equipment have been destroyed or appropriated in violation of International Humanitarian Law. Humanitarian actors’ rights under International Humanitarian Law need to be respected in accordance with the obligations of all parties to the conflict.
We remain horrified by the conflict-related sexual violence and atrocities described by SRSG Patten. It is clear that systematic abuses are being perpetrated by armed actors in the conflict. This Council has demanded that these and other violations end immediately. We strongly support the work of High Commissioner Bachelet and her office and attach great importance to the joint investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Accountability must be ensured for all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to counter impunity, prevent future violations, and provide justice for victims and survivors.
I began today by saying we have an opportunity to send a clear message to the parties on the ground. Three months ago Ireland said the same thing behind closed doors and has repeated it since. Today, I believe that the message should be threefold:
First, this Council should urge all parties to the conflict to cease hostilities, to protect civilians, and to allow for immediate and safe humanitarian access to all parts of Tigray. We also urge the Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate their commitment to the ceasefire by facilitating unimpeded humanitarian access immediately.
Second, all parties to the conflict must fully respect international humanitarian law and human rights law. Sexual violence and atrocities against civilians and humanitarian workers must end. Humanitarians must be allowed to do their job without interference.
Finally, and crucially, we need all Ethiopian stakeholders to commit to a process of national dialogue that promotes reconciliation and the unity of Ethiopia. Ireland stands ready to support in any way we can. We look forward to seeing today’s announcement in this regard, followed through on and delivered quickly and in full.
This is a critical moment for Ethiopia. The world is watching. We urge all parties to recognise and meet their responsibilities, forging a way forward for all Ethiopians. This Council must too step up and play its part.