Joint humanitarian statement on the protection of civilians in Ukraine

Joint humanitarian statement on the protection of civilians in Ukraine by Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, European Union, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America

May 24, 2022

Today marks three months since the start of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine on 24th February.

In this time, thousands have lost their lives and attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure continue to escalate. The human suffering inflicted by this war is despicable and the massive impact will be felt by communities and families for years to come. 

Civilians, including vulnerable groups, have been blocked from evacuating and routes being used by those trying to escape have been targeted. The world has been shocked by the immense suffering and atrocities caused by units of the Russian Armed Forces in places such as Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol. Forced relocations into temporarily Russian-held territory and Russia are alarming. The attack on Kramatorsk train station was one of many appalling examples of the risks and trauma populations continue to endure as they attempt to seek safety. 

Over 25% of the population of Ukraine have fled from their homes in three months. 4.5 million Ukrainian children are displaced. The speed and scale of displacement that has occurred in this crisis is unprecedented. 

Humanitarian responders, particularly those in Ukrainian national NGOs and local organisations, are demonstrating enormous bravery in their efforts to deliver essentials like medical services, shelter, water and food to populations in need in all areas of the country. Humanitarians must be able to work safely, have access to all populations in need and be protected from harm in doing their jobs. 

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) must be respected, ensuring the protection of civilians from harm and allowance of rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. Respect must be given to the status of healthcare workers, humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure. 

It is imperative to minimise human suffering by ensuring safe and consistent access to humanitarian assistance no matter where those in need are located. Civilians and civilian objects must be distinguished from military objectives when carrying out operations by ensuring respect for the humanitarian notification system and facilitating safe civilian evacuations. The necessary conditions must be created for people fleeing the war to do so safely and to allow individual choice of where to relocate. The safety and security of humanitarians must be ensured while they are working to reach all populations in need. 

The only way to protect civilians and minimise the suffering of the Ukrainian people is for Russia to end this unjust and vicious war.