Kaljulaid: Pandemic can't be used as pretext to hinder humanitarian aid

President Kersti Kaljulaid addressing the UN Security Council remotely. May 27, 2020. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The restrictions on movement related to the coronavirus pandemic are understandable, but they must not be used to artificially obstruct the provision of humanitarian aid in conflict areas, President Kersti Kaljulaid said at a high-level discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday.

At the heart of Estonia's work in the UNSC is compliance with international law, and it is important that international law, including international humanitarian law, is not applied selectively, Kaljulaid explained according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release.

Under the pretext of the pandemic, the flow of the humanitarian aid is artificially obstructed and will not reach the most vulnerable. For example, 3.5 million people in occupied Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid and protection after six years of war.

"Estonia also calls for unimpeded humanitarian access in Syria," the Estonian president continued. "All arguments not to extend the cross-border mechanism in July don't correspond with the reality on the ground."

She also stated that the UNSC is not sufficiently implementing what has already been agreed upon to protect civilians in conflict areas, and the pandemic adds even more risks that must be able to mitigated.

According to the head of state, it is extremely unfortunate that the UNSC has still not been able to give joint approval to the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire, thus not using its voice that has a moral force.

In her speech, Kaljulaid also encouraged the use of new technologies that could improve the availability of humanitarian aid and called not to get bogged down in UNSC discussions over wording disputes, which do not contribute to the protection of civilians.

The high-level discussion took place within the framework of the Estonian presidency of the UNSC, with the briefings by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, and former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Click here to read the president's statement in full.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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