Agreements facilitating the export of food and fertilizer from two of the world’s top exporters of these commodities must continue, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as members considered the international ramifications of the year-long war in Ukraine on the eve of the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s expiry.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalling his February briefing on the humanitarian impact of the war on Ukraine’s people – where two out of every five require humanitarian assistance – said that, today, he would focus on the war’s reverberations around the world. Praising the June 2022 signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – and the parallel memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations on the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports – he described these as critical to the broader fight against global food insecurity.
Stressing that the United Nations is doing everything possible to make sure the Initiative can continue and is sparing no effort to facilitate the memorandum’s full implementation, he said that – while meaningful progress has been made – impediments remain. Citing the unstable global economy, rising poverty and societies that remain off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, he stressed that “it is vital for global food security that both of these agreements continue”.
In the ensuing debate, Council members spotlighted the war’s impact on global food and energy security, with many also calling for unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in Ukraine and stressing that civilians must not be targeted during military operations. Some also said that military solutions and unilateral sanctions will not end the conflict, instead calling for dialogue and noting that diplomatic engagement led to the signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. On that point, many Council members underlined the Initiative’s critical importance in ameliorating the international effects of the war in Ukraine.
The representative of Ecuador, urging that the Initiative’s renewal be automatic, said that the same has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. Food security is a fundamental concern throughout Latin America and the Caribbean – even if the war is not directly affecting these countries – and the Initiative has spared many from hunger and helped to stabilize global food prices, he pointed out.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates also underscored the importance of the Initiative, which cushioned the impact of the post-pandemic crisis on global markets. Pointing out that the war in Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum, she urged Council members to support the Initiative’s renewal and called for the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding.
The Russian Federation’s representative, however, stated that the Initiative’s impact on global food prices has been questionable. While Moscow does not object to extending the Initiative until 18 May, he stressed that, if Western Governments are genuinely interested in continuing the export of food from Ukraine, they have two months to exempt his country’s entire agricultural sector from sanctions.
“Sanctions are not the issue,” underscored the representative of the United States, noting that her country has gone to extraordinary lengths to communicate clear humanitarian carve-outs for all such measures. The Initiative will remain crucial so long as Moscow continues to blockade Ukraine’s ports, she added, stressing that “the world needs this grain, it must flow freely”.
Gabon’s representative, meanwhile, underscored that access to water, energy and other essential public services must never be subject to blackmail. Pointing out that the war is dragging on with disastrous international consequences, she stressed that the Council’s meetings on the topic should focus on the search for solutions in support of the Ukrainian people.
The representative of Ukraine, in that vein, stressed that every day of the war multiplies the suffering of Ukrainians, urging Member States to contribute to the implementation of the General Assembly’s 23 February resolution. Noting that his country has fulfilled its obligations under the Initiative to alleviate the global food crisis, he called for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative for at least 120 days after its expiry on 18 March.
At the outset of the meeting, the representative of the United States requested a procedural vote regarding the participation of one of today’s proposed briefers. By a recorded vote of 8 against (Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) to 4 in favour (Brazil, China, Ghana, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Gabon, Mozambique, United Arab Emirates), the Council rejected the proposal to extend an invitation to that briefer under Rule 39.
Also speaking were representatives of France, Switzerland, Japan, Albania, Brazil, China, Ghana, Malta, United Kingdom, Mozambique, Denmark (also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and Lithuania (also for Estonia and Latvia), as well as a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.
The meeting began at 3:55 p.m. and ended at 6:52 p.m.
Speaking at the meeting’s outset, LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) requested a procedural vote on the participation of one of today’s proposed briefers, Daria Morozova, voicing regret that such a measure was needed. Expressing her delegation’s strong support for the participation of civil society representatives in the Security Council’s work, she said the majority of its members have raised significant concerns over the proposed briefer’s participation, and noted that one member put forward that Ms. Morozova brief the 15-member organ in her capacity as an “ombudsperson of the Donetsk region”. Recalling that the General Assembly overwhelming adopted resolution ESS/11/4 – specifically calling on all States and international organizations to not recognize any alteration of the status of the Donetsk region, and to refrain from any dealings that might be interpreted as recognizing an altered status – she said it is therefore not appropriate for the Council to invite someone who purports to be a representative of Donetsk to brief it. Such a move is an attempt by the Russian Federation to implicitly extend recognition to that territory, she stressed, calling on all Council members vote against Ms. Morozova’s participation.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), insisting on the participation of Ms. Morozova as a briefer, said that his delegation proposed to invite her guided by a single consideration – to provide the Council with the opportunity to receive first-hand information about the situation in the Donbas, which is inextricably linked to the situation in Ukraine. Residents of the Donbas have been shelled by Ukrainian forces since 2014 with no reaction from the international community, he said, stressing that Western States are sidestepping this issue as part of their policy to whitewash Kyiv’s crimes. Noting that the proposed briefer is a native of the Donbas and has engaged in humanitarian activities there since 2014, he said that her experience and expertise is unique. He added that “our briefer meets the criteria set out in Rule 39”, urging that she be heard in her personal capacity as a humanitarian activist.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), condemning the Russian Federation’s deplorable attempt to misuse the Council for narrow interests, said that, with this invitation, that country is “rubbing salt into the wound” of its aggression by inviting a representative of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. Reaffirming commitment to the participation of civil society briefers in the work of the Council, he stressed that the Russian Federation’s attitude is a deviation from this. The briefer proposed by that country is not competent to the purpose at hand as stipulated in Rule 39 of the Council’s provisional Rules of Procedure, he said, requesting other members of the organ to vote against this proposal.
By a recorded vote of 8 against (Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) and 4 in favour (Brazil, China, Ghana, Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (Gabon, Mozambique, United Arab Emirates), the Council then rejected the proposal to extend an invitation to Ms. Morozova, under Rule 39.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), speaking after the vote, underlined the hypocrisy and double standards of Council members’ decision against extending an invitation to a representative of the Donbas who has been suffering for 10 years as a result of Kyiv’s war. This merely confirms that those members do not view the residents of the Donbas as people and have no concern whatsoever about their suffering, he asserted, adding that: “Our Western colleagues are afraid that, if the voices of truth paved the way, all of their efforts to whitewash their subordinates in Kyiv will collapse.” The Russian Federation has never gone down to this level and will take what happened today as an opportunity to think about how it should consider requests on Rule 39 moving forward. He then pointed out that invitations have been extended to representatives of unrecognized territories – such as Kosovo, in clear violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) – before voicing his regret that the organ’s work has fallen hostage to the unscrupulous conduct of Western delegations who are openly seeking to advance their parochial interests.
Mr. HOXHA (Albania) rejected the comparison of two realities that have “absolutely nothing in common”: the prefabricated so-called Donetsk Republic – the territory of Ukraine illegally annexed by the Russian Federation – and Kosovo. The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion stating that the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence did not violate international law – as opposed to territories annexed by force that exist only in Russian Federation dreams. Also, Kosovo and Serbia are negotiating to find mutually agreed solutions with dialogue, not with bombs, he asserted.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, addressing the emotional statement of his Albanian counterpart about the presence of Serbia during meetings under resolution 1244 (1999), asked whether he views Kosovo as a territory recognized by the United Nations.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalled that, in his last briefing to the Council about Ukraine in February, he highlighted the humanitarian impact of the full-scale war a year since it began and the death, destruction and hardship it continues to inflict on the Ukrainian people. At that time, he cited various statistics about the war’s impact and shared that two out of every five people in Ukraine require humanitarian assistance. “I shared facts about the casualties it caused, the families it left bereaved, homeless and destitute,” he said.
In contrast, he said that in today’s briefing he will focus on the war’s reverberations around the world. The planet is already reeling from multiple shocks – hunger, conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and a cost-of-living crisis. The conflict in Ukraine has only added to those threats, with significant implications for global food insecurity. “As we all know, both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are leading suppliers of key food commodities,” he said, adding that the former is also a top exporter of fertilizer. The world relies on these supplies and the United Nations – especially the World Food Programme (WFP) – sources much of the wheat for its global humanitarian response from Ukraine.
He recalled that, in February 2022, when shipping operations were suspended from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, the ripple effects were immediate. By March of that year, following uninterrupted increases from the second half of 2020, global food prices had reached record highs. The price of fertilizer has also been impacted and remains over 200 times higher than in 2019, he said, noting that some small farmers in low-income countries have found themselves priced out of the market. “Reversing those trends was a matter of urgency for the international community,” he stressed.
Praising the June 2022 signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – and the parallel memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations on the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports – he described those moves as critical steps in the broader fight against global food insecurity, especially in developing countries. Markets have been calmed and global food prices have continued to fall. Under the Initiative, close to 25 million metric tons of foodstuffs have been safely exported from Ukraine since August 2022, and WFP has been able to transport more than half a million metric tons of wheat to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.
The Unite Nations is doing everything possible to make sure that the Black Sea Grain Initiative can continue, including engaging closely with all parties, he said. The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Rebeca Grynspan, and Secretary-General António Guterres are sparing no effort to facilitate the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding with the Russian Federation. While meaningful progress has been made, impediments remain, notably with regard to payment systems. “It is vital for global food security that both of these agreements continue and will be fully implemented,” he stressed, citing the unstable global economy, rising poverty and societies that remain off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In 2022, Member States made significant financial efforts to meet the growth in global humanitarian needs, as total humanitarian funding reached a historic high of $38.7 billion. However, it remains uncertain if that level of financing can be achieved in 2023, while it is simultaneously clear that even more support will be needed. Urging closer collaboration between the humanitarian and development communities and international financial institutions, he called for sustainable solutions to the world’s spiralling humanitarian needs, its debt crisis and the convergence of many other challenges on the horizon.
ANDRÉS EDFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said he voted against the proposal to include the representative from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” to sit in an institutional capacity before the Council and will not recognize her status. This vote does not pre-empt its position to include various briefers in various types of situations that sit before the Council. The renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative must be automatic. The Initiative has been a beacon of hope and possibility and relief for people around the world. Food security is a fundamental concern throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, even if the war is not directly affecting these countries. The food aid operations alleviate food insecurity and improve the humanitarian situation for all. The grain initiative has spared many people from hunger and helped stabilize prices, which has been confirmed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Three World Food Programme (WFP) vessels are scheduled to deliver wheat and the uncertainty about their delivery is not positive. Council resolution 2417 (2018) recalls the link between armed conflict and food insecurity and the need to protect civilians. His delegation insists on the need to respect food and water supply systems around the world. He is concerned about the war’s impact on agriculture and rural livelihoods in Ukraine.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), emphasizing that the aggression against Ukraine is being waged in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and treaties protecting civilians, pointed out that millions have been victims of abuses over the past year. The Russian Federation’s armed forces have killed and injured thousands, tortured and raped, forced millions from their homes, deported children and deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure. Noting today’s issuance of arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for that country’s President and its Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, he called on the Russian Federation to allow humanitarian actors access to civilian populations. Those responsible for abuses will be held accountable before the Court and Ukrainian courts, he insisted, stressing that Moscow bears the sole responsibility for the far-reaching negative repercussions of its aggression. By attacking agricultural infrastructure and restricting maritime exports, Moscow seeks to instrumentalize the vulnerabilities of countries. There must be no blackmail over the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and exports must continue unimpeded by sea to tackle food insecurity, he asserted. For its part, France will continue to rally alongside its European partners to ensure the implementation of solidarity lanes.