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At a high-level discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict at the UN Security Council

Mr Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, thank you for the comprehensive and insightful briefings.

Mine starts with a confession. I feel helpless. And also, responsible that I am not able to do more to put things right.

Sitting on the safe side of the conflict line in Ukraine, talking to some of the 1,4 million who have fled the war in Ukraine, Europe, in the 21st century. But some 3,5 million have been left behind, in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

Or visiting a shelter of the UN Migration Organization, trying to comprehend the suffering of the minors gathered there, some bearing the wounds life should have never inflicted on these young ones. I feel inadequate. All the things I brought them feel inadequate, too.

All of us, the leaders, collectively feel so inadequate. When I look into these young eyes, full of acceptance of their fate, I cannot fully comprehend. Time stands still, at a point in their timeline, where the past is suffering and the future is insecure.

Estonia has put the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, at the centre of our work here, in the Security Council. The Secretary General’s annual report indicates that the normative framework for the protection of civilians is not really working in real life.

We are, indeed, inadequate in implementing what we have agreed already.  The pandemic adds a new layer of risks, which we must be able to mitigate.

Estonia supports the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire during the COVID pandemic. The Security Council must really do something about it, making sure at least state actors heed the call.

I’m particularly concerned about the most vulnerable – women, children and adolescents.

In Africa, midwives are presented with daily fears of becoming infected with various diseases, not just COVID-19, while attending to mothers.

Patricia Mwenyeheri, a midwife in Malawi, only has access to one hand washing basin in her maternity ward. Is this adequate? Two weeks ago, a four-year-old girl was raped in Mogadishu. Is this gruesome sexual-violence acceptable?

Tomorrow, a virtual Every Woman Every Child high-level roundtable will discuss what can we do specifically in these trying times, when the only positive is that the health threats people constantly face in less developed parts of the world, ravaged by conflict, are more palpable for all of us, because of COVID.

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