Remarks by the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Dennis Francis, at the General Assembly Plenary Meeting on the Situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine

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February 23, 2024

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow, 24 February, marks the second solemn anniversary of the launch of the Russian Federation’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine – plunging its sovereign neighbour and innocent civilians into terror and suffering.

The world bore witness as that fateful day marked the onset of a series of protracted, illegal, and flagrant violations of our UN Charter and of international law.

As you – the representatives of UN Member States – gather here today, you can neither be blind to the ongoing destruction and devastation, or ignore the plight of the people of Ukraine.

This is especially so, because this year also coincides with the tenth anniversary of the 2014 attempted illegal annexation of Crimea and other Ukrainian territories by the Russian Federation.


Over the past two years, millions of innocent civilians have been uprooted from their homes – and forced to flee in search of safety and shelter.

Schools and hospitals – constituting key elements of civilian infrastructure protected from attack under international law, as symbols of hope and healing –today lie in utter and calculated ruin.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has verified disturbing increases in noncombatant casualties, with the number of civilian deaths and injuries in January of this year hiking 37% higher than in November 2023.

And, in the midst of all of this, we must not overlook the peculiar situation of Ukrainian children – thousands of whom were torn from their families and forcibly deported to Russia, thus stripped of the warmth and safety of their homes and loved ones.

These innocent children, unlawfully abducted, must be repatriated to Ukraine and reunited with their families at once.

But we must also be mindful that the impact of this war extends far beyond the borders of Ukraine.

The environment, “the silent victim of conflict”, is threatened by the chemical effluent released from damaged facilities and from the increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the ongoing fighting.

Further, the militarization of the nuclear sites runs the real risk of a nuclear accident – an outcome that would undoubtedly spell a disaster of epic proportions.

And, ultimately, the war has affected every Member State gathered in this hall – whether in the form of soaring food prices or in the context of energy insecurity.

Without doubt this needless war has been a significant catalyst in reshaping world geopolitics and geoeconomics – not only inflicting direct harm on the countries involved, but also impeding the developmental progress of numerous others, especially developing countries.

It is actively undermining the very foundations of our UN Charter – threatening the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity we all committed to hold dear and to defend.

It has bred and accentuated distrust, instability, and unpredictability on a global scale.

It has disrupted the delicate balance of international relations – at a time when unity, solidarity and cooperation are absolutely crucial to multilateral problem-solving.


We simultaneously grappling with the existential threat of climate change and strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we cannot afford to let aggression and conflict derail our progress.

We must never forget: war stands in direct opposition to the goals we have all committed to pursue.

Consequently, the responsibility falls upon each and every one of us to uphold and defend the principles enshrined in the UN Charter – our Charter – and, in doing so, to ensure the primacy of and respect for the rule of law.

That includes heeding the orders of International Courts, particularly those rendered by the International Court of Justice in March of last year, calling for the Russian Federation to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine.

While the Security Council may be paralyzed by division, let us draw strength from the collective voice of the General Assembly – which has pronounced itself condemning the aggression and demanding the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces from the territory of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.

Beyond condemnations, we, the United Nations, must actively work towards a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in line with the Charter of this organization.

The resolution adopted by the General Assembly a year ago provides a roadmap to achieve this goal.

I note with appreciation the international consultations that have occurred in Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Malta and most recently in Davos, Switzerland.

These consultations build upon the General Assembly’s resolutions and represent crucial steps towards finding a permanent solution to this crisis.

We must support all efforts that could open the possibility of a process aimed at resolving this conflict through diplomacy and dialogue – always ensuring that such processes align with the foundational principles of the UN Charter, International Law, and General Assembly resolutions.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers,

As we reflect on the two years of anguish and hardship, let us emerge from this place with a resounding message of solidarity and unwavering support to the resilient people of Ukraine.

They have endured unimaginable suffering, with dignity, courage, and resilience – and continue to marshal the strong determination to defend their homeland.

As the United Nations and this General Assembly, we must stand with them in their quest for justice and peace – and, as your President, I join you in this clarion call.

Let us redouble our efforts to end wars and usher in a future of hope, promise and prosperity for the people in Ukraine and Russia, alike – and indeed elsewhere, without exception.

Let us use this meeting to reaffirm our commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and to the rule of law.

Together, we can build a world where not only does peace prevail, but moreover, justice reigns supreme.

I thank you.

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