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UNESCO: Nordic Statement at Seventh Special Session of the Executive Board

15 March 2022 – Impact and consequences of the current situation in Ukraine in all aspects of UNESCO’s mandate
Statement by the Permanent Delegate of Iceland, Ambassador Unnur Orradóttir-Ramette

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and my own country Iceland. We fully align ourselves with the statement by the Delegation of the European Union.

Madame Chairperson,
19 days ago, we woke up to the tragic news that the leadership of the Russian Federation had started a military attack on Ukraine.

Let me be clear that we condemn Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, with the involvement of Belarusian authorities. The action of the Russian leadership goes against the UNESCO Constitution and is a flagrant violation of international law, including the UN Charter. Accountability must be ensured for crimes committed.

 The Nordic countries are co-sponsors of the DR presented today on “The current situation in Ukraine in all aspects of UNESCO’s mandate”. We express our full solidarity and support to the people of Ukraine and reiterate our firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Excellencies,
The historic vote that took place on 2 March in the Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly in New York shows that the global community wants a world built on the vision of peace and prosperity enshrined in the UN Charter. This was repeated with the resolution of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 4 March.

Let us show that we have the same urge for peace here at UNESCO today.

Today’s special session is an important step to address issues within UNESCO’s mandate in the UN system. We are deeply concerned about the immediate and long-term effects of this war on access to education, protection of cultural heritage, science, the work of independent media and free flow of ideas and information.

We are witnessing violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law before our eyes every day that passes. Respect for international law is not optional. Civilians and civilian objects such as schools and universities, historic monuments, and cultural property must be protected.

The unanimous UN security council resolution 2601 from 2021 calls on member states to “ensure the protection of schools”. This is in line with the Safe School Declaration of 2015, focusing on preventing attacks in order to ensure safe access to education. This war has already resulted in school closures across Ukraine and educational buildings being destroyed and damaged.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict provides protection of cultural property during armed conflict. UN Security Council Resolution 2347 condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage. Today’s war threatens Ukraine’s cultural heritage and diversity across the country, and we already have confirmed incidents of important cultural monuments and sites being damaged.
Since the 24th of February we have seen communication infrastructure in Ukraine being targeted by the Russian forces and media representatives being subject to physical attacks that prevent them from doing their work.

At the same time, with the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression within the Russian Federation, the Russian people are being deprived of trustworthy information on the war through free, independent, and pluralistic media.

Civilians are suffering and lives are being lost every day. This war will turn back the clock and stop the advance of tolerance, understanding and peace.

Ladies and gentlemen,
We call on the protection of women and girls and other persons in vulnerable situations in Ukraine and emphasise the importance of women’s participation in decision making processes.

We demand the immediate cessation of any attack on civilians, an immediate end of the unjustified aggression to guarantee the protection of civilians and of Ukrainian heritage from further damage and harm, and the full protection of journalists, media workers and human rights defenders. We also call for the absolute respect of the security and integrity of artists, cultural workers, scientists, scientific professionals, teaching professionals and students in Ukraine.

The Government of the Russian Federation is waging a war against Ukraine in contravention of UNESCO’s fundamental principles of peace. The longer this war continues, the more devastating will the effects be on education, science, culture, and communication. We call on Russia to stop this senseless war immediately.

Dear colleagues,
The Nordic countries stand united in their support for Ukraine.

UNESCO and its member states need to make a strong stance for de-escalation of the current situation. We expect UNESCO to monitor the situation in Ukraine in the fields of its mandate to support accountability for violations, in accordance with international law. We welcome the high number of co-sponsors for the DR and call on colleagues here today to show support for Ukraine.

I thank you.

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