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Joint Nordic Statement at General Assembly Debate on use of the Veto

Delivered by H.E. Martin Bille Hermann, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the UN

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I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and my own country, Denmark.

Dear colleagues. We find ourselves in this hall once again deliberating on an incomprehensible situation: A permanent member of the Security Council has abused their veto power to block humanitarian aid from crossing into northern Syria. The cross-border mechanism should never have been subject to a veto and its use is a blatant disregard for the suffering of the affected people.

Mr. President

Although we regret the need to convene another debate about the use of a veto in the Security Council, we welcome this opportunity for the General Assembly to discuss the use of veto by Russia on 11 July.

We underline the significance of resolution 76/262. The adoption of the veto-initiative is an important step in making the Council more transparent and accountable, and has paved the way for our debate today.

We would like to thank the Security Council for sending the Special Report, and would like to see it being formally adopted in a transparent way as well as reflected in the Council’s Annual Report to the General Assembly.

We – as signatories to the Charter of the UN – have entrusted the Security Council with the primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security and to discharge its duties in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations. The misuse of the veto to prevent the Council from discharging its duties is a matter of great concern – and in this case, it has forced the Council to inaction on a matter of life and death.

This meeting is another opportunity to convey the urgent need for increased restraint in the use of the veto and for more transparency and accountability when the veto power is used. This debate provides a much-needed occasion for Russia to explain itself and for other member states to express their opinion on this matter.

We would like to express our strongest possible support for the penholders, Brazil and Switzerland.

The Secretary-General and humanitarian organizations operating on the ground have consistently stressed that humanitarian imperatives called for a predictable 12-month extension of the mandate to allow for adequate planning and implementation. The final draft resolution put forward by Brazil and Switzerland suggested a 9 month extension, and reflected a fair and careful compromise. It was in no way ideal, but would have secured humanitarian relief through the harsh winter months.

At a time when Russia stood isolated in the Council with its veto, we are also grateful - once again - for the role played by the elected members. The E10’s collective voice of conscience and the invaluable effort by the penholders, sends a strong and important message of unity when it comes to humanitarian work in the Council.

Mr. President.

The war in Syria has caused appalling amounts of human suffering, and earlier this year the people of Syria were hit by yet another catastrophe. An earthquake sent humanitarian needs soaring to the great detriment of people in the most vulnerable situation.

This adds woes to an already dire situation.

At a moment when relief is needed more than ever, it is appalling to observe a permanent member obstruct Council action, that would provide critical humanitarian relief to people with immense needs.

On 13 July the Government of Syria announced in a letter that they have opened the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

The United Nation has expressed the need to clarify this letter. We stress the importance of the United Nation’s independence, impartiality, and neutrality. Furthermore, the UN has to be able to communicate with all relevant state and non-state parties, as operationally necessary, to carry out safe and unimpeded humanitarian operations.

We call on all parties including Syria to find a solution that would allow for sustained, predictable and unconditional humanitarian assistance in line with international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles, including through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

We also call on the Security Council to undertake every effort to find a solution that would enable cross-border assistance to continue without conditions and in line with the humanitarian principles.

Mr. President,

In light of yet another veto in the Council, we are once again reminded of why reform of the Security Council is necessary. We encourage all Member States to support the French-Mexican initiative and the ACT Code of Conduct.

The Council does its work on behalf of all UN Members, its decisions affect us all. It therefore marks an important progress that resolution 76/262 holds it accountable.

In light of latest developments, we would encourage the wider UN membership to be ready to take decisive action in the General Assembly. Action that would allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected people in line with international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.

We hope that the General Assembly today sends a clear signal that life-saving humanitarian assistance must not be politicized. And it should never be made subject to a veto. The legitimacy of this very organization depends on it and most importantly, countless human lives depend on it.

Thank you.


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