Remarks by President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dennis Francis, at the General Assembly Plenary Meeting on the Use of the Veto

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4 March 2024


Distinguished delegates,

From the inception of the United Nations in 1945, the General Assembly and the Security Council, both share a single overarching duty: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

The purpose of our meeting today underscores the vital importance of that joint responsibility – and of the urgency for the two bodies to strengthen their collective efforts – within their respective mandates under the United Nations Charter, to preserve and promote global peace and security.

In this context, I strongly urge Member States to engage in today’s debate with a proactive, solution-oriented posture – mindful of all Member States’ responsibility to exert every effort to avert further violence and to save lives.


While I welcome the introduction and utility of the “Veto Initiative” – most especially in relation to the accountability it seeks to foster – it is nevertheless deeply regrettable that compliant with the rules of procedure, this General Assembly must use it at all, in connection with the current deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

As you know, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic. Unconscionable! Shameful!

I am shocked and horrified at the reported killing and injury of hundreds of people during disbursement of food supplies, west of Gaza City last week.

This comes as the death toll in Israel and the Gaza Strip since October 7 has reached the 30,000 mark.

Thousands of children have been killed; they are scrounging for food and watching their childhoods evaporate into the horrors of war.

Moreover, recent published reports have indicated that a number of babies have died of malnutrition and starvation in Gaza.

Countless communities have been decimated.

Countless families have vanished, inter-generationally.

Countless mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, nieces, and nephews—all gone. As the French would say “disparu,”, disappeared!!

Their dreams extinguished, their potential lost forever, – and their futures obliterated.

Eighty-five percent of Gaza’s population – or 1.9 million people – are internally displaced.

Nearly 1.5 million of them now reside in Rafah – that is, more than six times the population prior to 7 October.

I repeat, six times.

I am deeply concerned about intensified Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, including in residential areas.

In the words of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, any ground operation – in such a densely populated area – would “leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door”.

I, therefore, urgently call for maximum restraint to prevail in order to save innocent civilian lives.

Israeli restrictions on the humanitarian access have drastically reduced the flow of lifesaving aid to a mere trickle.

UNRWA reports a significant 50% reduction in the number of trucks entering Gaza daily from January to February.

It is therefore essential that we rapidly and substantially increase the scale of humanitarian operations – and ensure unrestricted access to all civilians in need.


The will of the international community – as already expressed in the vote by the overwhelming majority of this General Assembly’s membership – is unambiguous, clear and resolute.

And I feel myself duty bound to reiterate that will here today – as it cannot continue to go unheeded.

First and foremost, an immediate humanitarian ceasefire must be implemented. The bombardment must stop, now.

Second, all parties must comply with their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, especially as it relates to the protection of civilians and civilian facilities.

Third, all hostages must be immediately and unconditionally released.

And finally, full and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance by those in need must be ensured.

Recalling that under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council acts on behalf of the entire UN membership, I call upon all members of the Council, especially the permanent members, to redouble their efforts to reach a consensus that would bring about a safe, just and immediate response, compliant with these demands.

All parties must do their utmost to meet these demands – and both preserve and save lives.


Distinguished delegates,

Let me close with a reminder that this week marks a grim milestone: 150 days of violence.

150 days of violence breeding violence, despair, destruction, and devastation, and the dehumanization of people.

Each day this painful reality continues to entrench the feeling of frustration and disillusionment – especially by those  caught in the crossfire, and who look to the United Nations as a guarantor of the good.

Each day that passes risks a deepening failure to meet our moral duties and obligations; and each life lost adds to the stain on our collective conscience.

With resolve and urgency, let us therefore work much harder to immediately end this conflict and to lay down the foundations for a future where Israel and the State of Palestine can co-exist peacefully — two States living side by side in harmony, united by a single shared vision for a brighter, more hopeful destiny.

As an outcome of the deliberations today – and as per previous practice – my Office will share a summary with the President of the Security Council and the entire UN membership.

I thank you.

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