Displacement, Global Security and Civilians in Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine “continues to rage,” the UN political and peacebuilding chief updated the Security Council, saying on Wednesday that 5,718 people have been killed, including 372 children.
“These are only verified figures and the actual numbers are likely significantly higher,” explained Rosemary DiCarlo.
The war is also driving large-scale displacement, having left over 6.9 million people internally displaced to date.
“Most of the newly displaced are coming from eastern and southern Ukraine,” said the peace building head, adding that Ukrainian refugees recorded across Europe have surpassed seven million, up from 6.7 million “just two weeks ago”.
Ukrainian women, who constitute half of these refugees, face significantly increased security risks, including sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.
Amidst the international community’s incapacity to “stop this senseless war”, Ms. DiCarlo upheld the importance of recording its horrific consequences “as faithfully and accurately as possible”.
“It is our responsibility…to help prevent the war from escalating further and to deter other potential violent conflicts,” she underscored.
UN in action
Meanwhile, the UN continues to address the massive impact of the war on civilians.
The top political official noted that the UN Development Fund (UNDP) is assessing the war’s consequences on health, education access, livelihoods, food security, and overall levels of poverty and human development. Results are expected in December.
At the same time, the UN’s scaled-up humanitarian response now reaches 12.7 million people, and over 560 humanitarian organizations are now operating countrywide, all complementing the work of thousands of Ukrainian volunteers.
“The UN is actively seeking to ensure that protection and assistance are available in all areas of Ukraine,” she said, voicing concern over the lack of access to those living in areas not under Ukrainian control.
Turning to food and fertilizer shortages, Ms. DiCarlo expressed concern for countries already severely hit by climate change, drought or instability.
Thousands in Somalia are dying in a historic drought made worse by the effects of the war in Ukraine, Ms. DiCarlo told the ambassadors.
On a brighter note, the Black Sea Grain Initiative continues to enable food exports from Ukraine.
“Since 1 August, 100 ships have left Ukrainian ports carrying over 2,300,000 metric tons of grain across three continents, including 30 percent to low and lower-middle income countries,” said the political chief.
Although world food commodity prices remain elevated, this is helping to bring prices down, she said, citing Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.
Zaporizhzhia and Olenivka
Ms. DiCarlo drew attention to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, recalling that during yesterday’s briefings the Secretary-General and the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of the dangers of continued military activity in and around the plant.
“Demilitarization is the only answer to ensure the safety of this facility,” she emphasized.
In the coming days, a fact-finding mission is set to deploy to Olenivka to probe an incident on 29 July that led to the death of 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war and inured between 75 and 130 others.
The mission “must be able to conduct its work without any interference and have safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence,” said the peacebuilding chief.
Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, spoke via video conference about persistent allegations of forced displacement, deportation and so-called “filtration camps” run by Russia and affiliated local forces.
As people fleeing danger have often felt compelled to evacuate in any possible direction, irrespective of their preferences, she told the Council that a significant number of documented cases of civilians have been displaced to Russia.
While there, they may move about freely, but should they chose to return to Ukraine, they are not provided with the necessary support, thus barring their repatriation.
There have also been credible allegations of forced transfers of unaccompanied children to Russian occupied territory, or to the country itself.
“We are concerned that the Russian authorities have adopted a simplified procedure to grant Russian citizenship to children without parental care, and that these children would be eligible for adoption by Russian families,” said Ms. Kehris.
“Moreover, we are particularly concerned that the announced plans of the Russian authorities to allow the movement of children from Ukraine to families in the Russian Federation do not appear to include steps for family reunification or in other ways ensure respect for the principle of the best interests of the child”.
‘Wars of choice’
In closing, she reiterated that the war in Ukraine is not only “devastating that country but also endangering regional and global stability”.
Just last week the 10th Review Conference of the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was unable to produce “a substantive outcome after consensus was blocked because of issues related to the war,” she said, calling the failure “only the latest example” of how the conflict has affected international relations and cooperation.
“All wars are tragic, but none more than wars of choice”.
The UN humanitarian office, OHCHR, has verified that Russian armed forces and groups have subjected civilians to so-called “filtration” – a system of security checks and personal data collection, including individuals leaving hostilities and those residing in or moving through Russian-controlled territory.
“The practice has resulted, according to credible reports received by OHCHR, in numerous human rights violations, including of the rights to liberty, security of person and privacy,” said the senior UN official.
OHCHR has been unsuccessful in seeking access to those detained either after failing to pass or passing ‘filtration’ and they have been sent to a “centre for evacuees” in Donetsk region, close to the Russian border.
OHCHR is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine and the broader region, paying particular attention to human rights violations, including trafficking.
Ms. Kehris concluded with a call to Russia to “grant unimpeded and confidential access to our Office…to all places of detention under their control, notably…where people who underwent ‘filtration’ are being detained”.
[ Heading Image: © UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson A twelve-year-old girl stands in front of her school in Kharkiv, Ukraine. It was destroyed in an air strike and she will now study online.]