June 20, 2024

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield Spotlights Urgent Issues at UN Security Council

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, reads a statement ahead on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ahead of Security Council consultations on Non-proliferation/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. With her are the Permanent Representatives of Albania, Brazil, France, Ireland, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, brought attention to critical concerns surrounding the protection of civilians in armed conflict during her address at the UN Security Council’s high-level open debate. Her remarks, delivered on May 23, 2023, in New York, emphasized the need for immediate action to address conflict-induced food security, escalating civilian casualties, and limited humanitarian access.

In her speech, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield expressed gratitude to Switzerland for prioritizing the issue of conflict-induced food security and commended Secretary-General Guterres for his presence and informative report. She acknowledged the presence of individuals such as President Spoljaric, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Aichatou Mounkaila, President of the Network of Women-led Organizations of the Lake Chad Basin, along with the heads of state and ministers in attendance.

Drawing from the annual protection of civilians report, the ambassador shed light on the distressing situation faced by civilians worldwide. She revealed a troubling 53 percent increase in civilian deaths across 12 armed conflicts in 2022 compared to the previous year. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield underscored the alarming projections for 2023 due to ongoing crises in Ukraine and Sudan. Notably, Ukraine witnessed nearly 8,000 recorded civilian deaths, which she attributed to Russia’s unwarranted aggression. She strongly condemned President Putin for the senseless violence inflicted on innocent lives.

The ambassador highlighted the grave consequences of the conflict on vulnerable populations, particularly the millions who have been thrust into food insecurity. She underscored Russia’s utilization of food as a weapon of war in Ukraine, emphasizing the devastating impact on global food supply chains. The disruption caused by the conflict has led to millions of people, especially in Africa and the Middle East, facing increased food insecurity due to the obstruction of Ukrainian grain exports.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the significance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which played a crucial role in facilitating the safe export of over 15 million tons of food in 2022. The initiative provided essential support for humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, and other affected regions. She emphasized the need to ensure the uninterrupted flow of this life-saving aid to those in dire need, with a particular focus on marginalized groups such as women, girls, older adults, and disabled individuals who are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. The ambassador acknowledged the Secretary-General’s efforts to maintain this critical channel.

The ambassador turned the spotlight to the escalating displacement crisis, revealing that over 100 million people have been forcibly displaced due to conflict, violence, persecution, and human rights violations. She highlighted the alarming situations in Burkina Faso, Somalia, Burma, and Ukraine, where displacement crises have reached alarming levels. Furthermore, she drew attention to the potential displacement of an additional one million people in Sudan as a result of ongoing fighting.

Addressing the situation in Sudan, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield welcomed the recent announcement of a short-term ceasefire and humanitarian arrangements between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States. She called upon both parties to honor their commitments and ensure unhindered humanitarian access. The ambassador expressed deep concern over the senseless killings of humanitarian workers in Sudan, stressing the urgency of their protection.

Highlighting the importance of Resolution 2417, adopted unanimously by the Security Council five years ago, the ambassador emphasized the need for regular reporting cycles through OCHA’s White Notes. She underscored the importance of timely and comprehensive information to address conflict-induced hunger effectively, depoliticize the issue, and facilitate prompt action.

Thomas-Greenfield stressed the crucial role of the international community in protecting civilians affected by armed conflicts, and urged regional actors to play a more significant role in peace-building efforts and emphasized the need to hold accountable those who violate international humanitarian law. The ambassador called for unity and a shared commitment to alleviate suffering and build a more peaceful and just future for all.

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