Madame President, distinguished briefers, dear colleagues,
Almost three years ago, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2417, which condemned the starving of civilians and unlawfully denying humanitarian access as a method of warfare. The resolution was conceived as a tool to break the vicious cycle of food insecurity, but it is we who must use this tool when required. Only that way can we put the resolution into practice and break the cycle of hunger.
Compliance with international humanitarian law is of the highest importance in reducing food insecurity and preventing famine. Intentional starvation of civilians is a war crime. We welcome the amendments to the Rome Statute to include it as such. We call on state parties to take steps that would allow the amendments to enter into force quickly.
Most of the food insecure people live in countries affected by armed conflicts. The intersecting drivers of food insecurity in conflict areas are complex: ranging from the conduct of hostilities and lack of humanitarian access to the broader drivers of risk, such as climate change and the pandemic.
While rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access is key during an acute food crisis, early action is of utmost importance. This is especially important for safeguarding child and maternal health.
There are numerous cases on our agenda where we have seen an unlawful denial of humanitarian access. Moreover – various parties to conflict have raided and looted humanitarian aid storage sites and destroyed infrastructure that is indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Resolution 2417 helps us deal with such problems by allowing us to impose restrictive measures. We must not shy away from using these provisions on which we unanimously agreed.
Dear colleagues, I would now like to highlight three critical cases.
First, South Sudan. We have seen how the humanitarian situation there worsens on a yearly basis. About 70% of the people need humanitarian assistance and if we do not act swiftly, we are edging closer to the sad example we see in Yemen. South Sudan’s food security is in the worst state it has been since independence. That is why today I have the honour of announcing Estonia’s contribution to the World Food Programme to mitigate the humanitarian situation there.
Second, Ethiopia. Estonia is concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Tigray. We take note of the government’s recent efforts to alleviate the situation. However, more needs to be done. Humanitarian community has made calls to increase the humanitarian assistance in order to avert famine-like conditions on the ground. To prevent the worst-case-scenario, saving aid needs to be delivered to the people in need across the region, including in rural areas. It is critical that the Ethiopian government will fulfill its commitment to provide unfettered humanitarian access. We also call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. Additionally, the growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses is extremely concerning. Independent investigations into reported human rights violations are an absolute must, and we acknowledge Ethiopia’s announcements to that end.
Third, Afghanistan. Forty years of war and the poverty coupled with a continuing drought means that 45% of the population is at risk of hunger this year. All signs show that the situation will further deteriorate. Nearly one in two children under five will face acute malnutrition. The stalled peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan officials and excessive levels of violence across the country not only keep people from securing their livelihoods, but also severely hamper the humanitarian aid from reaching those in need. In 2020, humanitarians faced 1 006 access constraints – more than double the incidents reported in 2019.
Finally, it is also up to us, the members of the Security Council, to respond to potential famine in the world. I call on all of us to put the UNSC resolution into practice and convene on this pressing issue more often. This would allow for a more regular reporting and would thus help us prevent or mitigate future famines.
I thank you, Madam President.