Briefing by Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to the United Nations’ Security Council Meeting “Threats to International Peace and Security”

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June 14, 2024

Mr. President,

Distinguished members of the Security Council,


Ladies and gentlemen,

The Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, launched in violation of the UN Charter and international law, continues to inflict a terrible toll on the people of Ukraine. The escalation of hostilities and intensified Russian military offensive in Kharkiv and in other parts of the country have resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties and massive destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure, severely disrupting energy supplies, affecting vital services, and impacting access to health and education. The use of armed uncrewed aerial vehicles and missiles continues to cause civilian deaths and injuries as well as damage to civilian infrastructure.

There have also been reports of an increasing number of strikes using missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles inside the Russian Federation, also resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Just like any other weapons or weapons systems, armed uncrewed aerial vehicles and missiles must not be used in a manner inconsistent with international humanitarian law.

The continued and intensified attacks affecting civilians and civilian infrastructure are deeply concerning. All parties to any armed conflict have an obligation to protect civilians in armed conflict and to ensure compliance with applicable international law, particularly international humanitarian law.Deliberate and direct attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and indiscriminate attacks, including disproportionate attacks, are prohibited under international humanitarian law and they must cease immediately.

I urge all concerned to act responsibly and refrain from any actions that could endanger civilians, wherever they may be, and that would further escalate tensions and the risk of spillover. This includes avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as such use is highly likely to have a devastating impact on civilians and civilian objects, and ultimately taking combat out of urban areas altogether.

Mr. President,

The provision of military assistance and transfers of arms and ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces have continued. Information from governments regarding their transfers is accessible through open sources. These transfers have reportedly included heavy conventional weapons such as battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, combat aircraft, helicopters, large-calibre artillery systems, missile systems and uncrewed combat aerial vehicles, as well as remotely operated munitions, small arms and light weapons and their ammunition.

There have also been reports of States transferring, or planning to transfer, weapons such as uncrewed aerial vehicles, ballistic missiles and ammunition to the Russian armed forces and that these weapons have been used in Ukraine.

I reiterate that any transfer of weapons and ammunition must take place consistently with the applicable international legal framework, including of course, relevant Security Council resolutions.

Reports related to the use of cluster munitions and widespread contamination with mines and explosive remnants of war in Ukraine are worrying. Mines and explosive ordnance directly threaten people caught up in armed conflicts around the world including in Ukraine. Even after the fighting ends, these deadly devices can contaminate communities for decades to come, posing a daily and deadly danger to women, men and children and hampering reconstruction efforts.

The universal participation in and the full implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of AntiPersonnel Mines and on their Destruction, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons must therefore remain a priority.

Mr. President,

Emanating from the transfer of weapons and ammunition into any armed conflict is the inherent risk of diversion of the equipment to unauthorized end users which raises serious concerns about the potential escalation of violence.

Addressing the risk of diversion of weapons and ammunition is essential for preventing further instability and insecurity in Ukraine, the region and beyond.

This requires supply chain transparency and cooperation and information exchange between importing, transit, and exporting States. Concrete counterdiversion measures include enhancement of marking, record-keeping and tracing practices, comprehensive pre-transfer diversion risk assessments, enduser certificates including non-transfer clauses, post-shipment verifications and diversion monitoring and analysis. Effective physical security and stockpile management of arms and ammunition, as well as customs and border control measures are also key.

The Arms Trade Treaty, the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (the Firearms Protocol), the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and its International Tracing Instrument and the Global Framework for Through-life Conventional Ammunition Management are some of the arms control instruments established by States to prevent the diversion of conventional arms and regulate the international arms trade.

Mr. President,

Since 24 February 2022, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified that the ongoing war in Ukraine has killed 11,126 civilians and injured 21,863. The actual figures are likely to be considerably higher. It is deeply concerning that the number of civilian casualties in May documented by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was the highest since June 2023. Such human suffering cannot continue.

Mr. President,

Distinguished members of the Security Council, States must avoid taking any actions that could lead to further escalation and possible miscalculation. As I have repeatedly stated we need a just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the UN Charter, international law, and relevant General Assembly resolutions.

I thank you very much for your attention.

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