Madam President,

I thank Assistant Secretary-General, Mr Miroslav Jenča, and OCHA’s Director of Operations, Ms Edem Wosornu, for their briefings.

"The war in Ukraine should not be normalized." That is the call from Denise Brown, Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, after new attacks in the city of Kharkiv forced children to attend school in underground bunkers.

Going to school underground is anything but normal. Putting yourself in danger while getting groceries, seeing your house destroyed by missiles and fearing you might set off a mine while harvesting, is anything but normal. And yet, for more than two years, this has been the reality for people living in Ukraine.

While the war has been raging for 25 months, Switzerland reiterates that Russia must put an end to its military aggression against Ukraine. Some of the consequences for the civilian population are invisible – we have just heard it – such as war trauma and damage to the social fabric, but visible realities speak for themselves:

The humanitarian situation has further deteriorated since the beginning of the year. Switzerland condemns the increase of air strikes and waves of massive attacks in recent weeks. They continue to hit populated areas, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians, including children, and damaging homes, health facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure. We must not become accustomed to daily reports of new attacks and increasing numbers of civilian casualties. These attacks must stop immediately.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without electricity, water and gas due to attacks on essential infrastructure. With reference to last week's International Mine Action Day, I would like to emphasize the great importance Switzerland attaches to humanitarian demining in Ukraine. The vast majority of mine victims are civilians. The deadly legacy of mines and explosive remnants of war will remain dangerous for years, even decades, affecting future generations, including children who have not yet been born.

With over 14.6 million people in need in Ukraine, the importance of humanitarian initiatives, often led by women, cannot be overstated. However, humanitarian actors continue to face threats to their safety and lives, as evidenced once again by last weekend's incidents, when first responders suffered secondary strikes and a Médecins sans Frontières’ office was destroyed. We reiterate that humanitarian actors and medical personnel must not be attacked, and their mission must be respected and protected.

Madam President,

Even war has rules. What we are witnessing in Ukraine are violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. We reiterate our call on all parties to comply strictly with their obligations, in particular by taking concrete measures to spare and protect the civilian population and infrastructure. This includes respect for the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities.

Without a return to respect for international law, there is no humanity, and therefore no path towards normalcy. Switzerland remains determined to do everything in its power to contribute to a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. It is in this spirit that Switzerland will host the first High-Level Summit on Peace for Ukraine in June this year. 

I thank you.