Estonian president: Pandemic cannot be used as pretext to hinder humanitarian aid access

  • 2020-05-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The restrictions on movement related to the pandemic are understandable, but they must not be used to artificially obstruct the provision of humanitarian aid in conflict areas, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said at a high-level discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict at the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

At the heart of Estonia's work in the Security Council is compliance with international law, and it is important that international law including international humanitarian law is not applied selectively, the Estonian head of state said. Under the pretext of the pandemic the flow of the humanitarian aid is artificially obstructed and will not reach the most vulnerable. For example, 3.5 million people in occupied eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid and protection after six years of war.

"Estonia also calls for unimpeded humanitarian access in Syria. All arguments not to extend the cross-border mechanism in July do not correspond with the reality on the ground," Kaljulaid added.

The president also stated that the Security Council is not sufficiently implementing what has already been agreed to protect civilians in conflict areas, and the pandemic adds even more risks that we must be able to mitigate. According to the head of state, it is extremely unfortunate that the Security Council has still not been able to give joint approval to the call of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire, thus not using its voice that has a moral force.

In her speech, Kaljulaid also encouraged the use of new technologies that could improve the availability of humanitarian aid and called not to get bogged down in the discussions of the Security Council over wording disputes, which do not contribute to the protection of civilians.

The high-level discussion took place within the framework of the Estonian presidency with the briefings by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, and former president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.