Standing Committee of the Executive Committee of
the High Commissioner's Programme (83rd meeting)
8-10 March 2022
Statement by Iceland
H.E. Harald Aspelund, Permanent Representative of Iceland
Thank you, Madame Chair.
Iceland is gravely concerned about the plight of the Ukrainian people and condemns Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine in the strongest possible terms.
Civilians are suffering, lives and livelihoods lost and we are looking at consequences that will not only be horrific for Ukraine, but also tragic for the world as whole.
The outflow of refugees from Ukraine is nearing 2 million, with the majority being women and children. Neighboring countries have kept their borders open and shown tremendous hospitality, albeit under immense pressure.
And let us not forget about those who remain internally displaced or bunkered down with nowhere to go due to the intensity of aerial and ground attacks on civilian infrastructure – homes, schools, and health facilities.
This is a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and must stop. Adherence to international human rights law and international humanitarian law is not optional.
Unhindered humanitarian access, including freedom of movement, must be guaranteed. Civilians, humanitarian and medical workers can never be a target. Every precaution must be taken to ensure and guarantee their safety, including their safe passage.
The refugee crisis Europe is facing is the largest since the Second World War. It is absolutely essential that we all demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine, and its neighboring countries, and welcome Ukrainians to our lands.
Iceland is committed to do so and is already receiving asylum seekers from Ukraine.
These actions are in addition to our resettlement programme and efforts following the Taliban take-over in Afghanistan last year.
On the funding side, we remain committed to providing unearmarked multi-year contributions, but in addition we have also allocated three hundred million Icelandic krona to humanitarian actors working in and around Ukraine, including to UNHCR. Emphasis has been on flexibility of funding to allow our humanitarian partners to programme and reprogramme as necessary.
The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine comes on top of an extremely dire global humanitarian outlook. Already, humanitarian needs were at record high and so was the number of people displaced from their homes – be it in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia or elsewhere.
It is in times like these that enhanced solidarity, unity, and human compassion is what is most needed – let us work together towards that end.
I thank you.