Remarks by the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Dennis Francis, at the 10th Emergency Special Session (resumed)

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12 December 2023


Distinguished Delegates,

This past week, it was with a very heavy heart that I read the letter addressed to me by UNRWA Commissioner General Phillippe Lazzarini.

That letter – on which many of your Missions were also copied – highlighted the devastating deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

As Commissioner General Lazzarini himself predicted in his letter, the situation has since deteriorated further.

Right now, what we are seeing is an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems, and profound disrespect for both international law and international humanitarian law.

As I said before, even war has rules – and it is imperative that we prevent any deviation from these principles, and values, the validity of which resides in their universal application.

Tens of thousands have been killed, almost 70%[1] of them women and children.

Even more have been forcibly displaced by the incessant violence, with nowhere – I repeat, nowhere – safe to go.

And the targeting of hospitals, schools, and UN provided shelters – now so overcrowded that they have ceased to function as safe havens – continues unabated.

All the while the blockade on humanitarian assistance has made the delivery of urgently needed lifesaving aid near impossible.


Clearly, what we are witnessing is the unprecedented collapse of an already-crumbling humanitarian system, in real time.

It is incumbent upon us – as the United Nations – to bring to an immediate end to the suffering of innocent civilians, the mounting death toll of those who are not – I repeat, are not – combatants in this war, and to this untenable humanitarian catastrophe.

Thanks to several countries’ relentless efforts, a temporary humanitarian truce enabled the release of hostages, the freeing of detainees and the delivery of some aid.

However, since the 1st of December, we are witnessing the resumption of violence with a kind of ferocity that one asks: what more next?

Civilians should never undergo the level of suffering we are currently witnessing.

And again, I ask: How many more thousands of lives must be lost before we do something?

No more time is left. The carnage must stop.

For as long as this violence persists, a political solution to this conflict will continue to be undermined.

The longer it takes the higher the risk that a negotiated two-State solution will increasingly become out of reach.

So, the fact of the matter is, quite simply: the violence must stop. It must.

I, therefore, once again, add my voice to the demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

We have one singular priority – only one. To save lives.


Casting our gaze towards the future, we must assess the situation with honesty in our hearts, truth in our words, and a commitment to peace as our utmost ambition.

A ceasefire is the only realistic first step towards de-escalating tensions.

How can we possibly listen to each other over the deafening thundering of bombs?

On 26 October, you gathered in this Chamber – with the membership resoundingly and unequivocally calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

On 7 December once more, a veto was cast in the Security Council.

Once again, this Emergency Special Session has been resumed.

We certainly cannot continue in this way without even the possibility, let alone the prospect, of a meaningful solution.

As President of the General Assembly, I am committed to supporting any and all efforts to put an end to the bloodshed and the psychological torture of the people in Gaza.

I used my recent attendance at the Doha Forum and every other platform I can, to encourage cooperation among States – with the same, singular goal in mind: to make peace, for all.

In the name of humanity, I ask you all once again, stop this violence, now.

I thank you

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