Speech of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the UN General Assembly

24.02.2024 - Speech

“I am afraid the world will forget about us … because everyone is so focused on Russia’s war and the violence in the Middle East.”

That’s what a woman in Gorom, in South Sudan, told me.

This woman had fled the violence in Sudan – with only a small bag of belongings, carrying her child on her hip.

Her words have not left me since.

And I know that they ring true for countless men, women and children around the world who go to bed hungry, who suffer violence.

As I stand here, I say to you straight out:

We have not forgotten about you.

The fact that Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has been raging for two years does not mean that we don’t see your suffering.

A schoolgirl deported form the eastern territories of Ukraine, torn away from her parents, is a child who suffers.

A toddler in Gaza who has lost his parents is a child who suffers.

A boy in Sudan who is hungry is a child who suffers.

Every life matters in equal measure.

Humanity is indivisible.

The worst thing we could do is to play off one person’s pain against another’s. We would only play into the hands of those who seek to divide us to push their ruthless agenda in the world.

That’s why it is nothing but cynical when at the G20 meeting in Rio, just two days ago, the Russian Foreign Minister openly asked why the world is so preoccupied with Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov, we are preoccupied with your war because your war is causing death, pain and destruction.

Not just in Ukraine. Not just in Bucha and Irpin. And in the eastern territories of Ukraine.

But around the world.

Russia has bombed ports in Ukraine, on purpose, to prevent Ukrainian grain from being exported to the world – using food as a weapon.

And this could stop tomorrow if the Russian President were to end this war now.

If we care about a world in which every life matters in equal measure, it is up to each and every one of us to stand up against Russia’s war.

The United Nations was founded for that exact purpose – to make sure “a life is a life”.

That humanity is indivisible.

President Putin has proved again and again that, to him, human lives count for nothing – neither abroad nor at home, where he now doesn’t even shy away from arresting Russian children for laying down flowers to mourn the death of Alexei Navalny.

As I explained to the woman in South Sudan: we did not chose to be so preoccupied with Russia’s war of aggression. It is the Russian President’s ruthless actions that are forcing us.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t see the suffering in Sudan, that we don’t see the suffering in the Middle East.

Like many of you, the devastating humanitarian situation in Gaza is keeping us awake at night.

17,000 children left without a mother or father.

Hundreds of thousands desperate for food and water. This suffering needs to end now.

We need Hamas to release all the men, women and children it took hostage in its ruthless attack on Israel on Oct 7th.

We need a humanitarian pause to work towards a sustainable ceasefire. To find a path towards a life in dignity, peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. In two states.

I know that this conflict has stirred up intense emotions in many of our countries. That’s why it is so important to not give in to those who try to play off one person’s pain against another’s.

Political leadership means standing up to polarisation.

Protecting our societies from the poison of dehumanisation.

That is the message to send today, here at the General Assembly.

We stand with Ukraine, as long as it takes.

Because we stand against a world of ruthlessness.

We stand for a world in which a life is a life – whether it be Palestinian, Israeli, Sudanese or Ukrainian.


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