Statement by Ambassador Sven Jürgenson at the UN Security Council briefing on the Protection of the Humanitarian Space

Thank you, Mr. President.

I highly appreciate the interventions by Deputy Secretary General Ms. Mohammed, Mr. Mardini and Mrs. Grosjean.

The humanitarian needs globally are at an all-time-high and we are required to improve our efforts in helping the most vulnerable. The expectations are constantly rising, whereas our capability to provide help, especially during the pandemic, is not following suit. Humanitarian workers and their activities are increasingly under attack by various parties to the conflicts, hence largely lowering the probability of delivering assistance and protection to the most vulnerable.

A vivid example of how danger surrounds humanitarian workers is Syria. Despite deconfliction mechanism, attacks against medical facilities have continued. Al-Atareb surgical hospital has been almost under constant fire since 2014. Protection of medical- and humanitarian workers; and maintaining full and unimpeded humanitarian access remains our priority. We welcome last week’s renewal of the cross-border humanitarian aid mandate for another twelve months.

In addition to bureaucratic and administrative impediments, various actors have also restricted the movement of aid workers using COVID-19 as a pretext, to consolidate their grip on power. They worry less about the consequences of harming or impeding humanitarian workers, creating an increasing cycle of impunity.

Estonia deplores impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law that is prevalent in many conflict situations today. We have an obligation to hold accountable such people who are violating accepted norms, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. States need to investigate all war crimes, including crimes affecting humanitarian workers and the delivery of humanitarian aid. The perpetrators must face justice. It is unacceptable that in some cases, the perpetrators are “rewarded” with positions in the government or more broadly in the public sector. We must be very careful with the signal that such “promotions” send.

If a state is unwilling or unable to carry out the necessary effective investigations, other international mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, must step in. We highlight the important role of the Security Council in referring cases of serious crimes to the ICC. Estonia commends the work of the ICC and other international investigative bodies for their work in helping bring about accountability.

Mr. President,

To achieve accountability, we must be proactive in educating our armed forces in international humanitarian law. This should be seen as a valuable tool in assuring adherence to and distribution of the standing rules. Therefore, all efforts in sustainably providing basic international humanitarian law training to the armed forces prior to their deployments should persistently be encouraged and supported.

Last, but not least – the Security Council has previously unanimously agreed on resolutions such as 2286 and 2417, among others. We must implement these resolutions. The humanitarian actors need to be empowered and we must stand behind them. Resolution 2417 gives us a possibility to consider sanctions measures, where appropriate and in line with existing practice. These targeted measures are necessary to hold individuals or entities accountable for obstructing the delivery or distribution of humanitarian assistance.

I thank you, Mr. President.