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As the conflict in Ukraine has entered its seventh month, the human toll continues to rise and the civilian population is paying an extremely painful price for the brutal Russian aggression. The war has already claimed nearly 13,000 civilian lives according to the UN, and probably many more in reality. The situation in the territories temporarily under illegal Russian control is alarming, including the kidnapping or forced disappearance of Ukrainian elected officials, journalists, civil society activists and ordinary citizens. Belgium is particularly concerned about the number of child victims of the conflict and the impact of the widespread destruction of schools on education.
The protection and promotion of human rights, rule of law and international humanitarian law (IHL) and the fight against impunity are among Belgium's foreign policy priorities. Belgium pays particular attention to the fight against the use of sexual violence and to the protection of children in armed conflicts.
In the context of the war in Ukraine, Belgium is therefore committed to defending these priorities in a concrete way by supporting initiatives lead by several of Belgium's international partner organizations:
Human Rights Monitoring Mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (500,000 euros)
Established in 2014 during the Russian offensive in Eastern Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, this mission now monitors the impact of Russian aggression on human rights throughout the country and documents human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law. It supports the Human Rights Council's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) in the context of Russia's aggression against Ukraine are held accountable and therefore to end impunity.
OSCE Human Rights Monitoring Mission (300,000 euros)
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights conducts human rights monitoring activities in Ukraine and neighboring regions, including documentation of IHL and human rights violations, and support for Ukrainian human rights defenders.
UNICEF's Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Grave Violations against Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (500,000 euros)
Belgium provides regular financial support to this mechanism established by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that investigates and reports on six types of grave violations of children's rights in situations of armed conflict.
Together with other countries, Belgium insisted on the need to include the war in Ukraine among the "situations of concern", which allows for a follow-up by the office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. Indeed, information provided by various UN sources indicates a very rapid deterioration of the condition of children in the country.
UN Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Trust Fund (500,000 euros)
This fund finances the UN team of experts on the rule of law and issues related to sexual violence in conflict to assist national authorities in the prosecution of crimes involving sexual violence. The deployment of this expertise complements the Human Rights Monitoring Mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
UN Women's Peace and Humanitarian Trust Fund for Ukraine and Moldova (500,000 euros)
This Fund provides support to local NGOs and women's grassroots organizations relevant to conflict and crisis situations.
In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, this support has several objectives: to address the humanitarian and protection needs of displaced women and girls (including socio-economic reconstruction), to prevent violence against women and girls, to ensure that survivors of violence have access to essential services, and to ensure the participation of women in decision-making processes.
European Endowment for Democracy Emergency Assistance Program for Ukraine (300,000 euros)
The European Endowment for Democracy Fund (EED) established by the EU and its Member States provides technical and financial assistance to promote democracy and human rights in the European neighborhood through grants to civil society organizations, pro-democracy movements, civic and political activists, and independent journalists and media working for a democratic and pluralistic political system.
Since the outbreak of the war, a significant portion of the EED's emergency assistance has been allocated to independent media in Ukraine, which play a crucial role in documenting war crimes and collecting testimonies of victims.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib: "In view of the accounts of abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law that we are receiving from Bucha, Mariupol, Kramatorsk and many other places in Ukraine, Belgium wishes to express a strong and very clear message concerning the abuses and crimes committed in the context of this war of aggression: these must be solidly documented in order to guarantee that their perpetrators do not go unpunished. This is why Belgium supports the various mechanisms deployed since the beginning of the conflict. This must also serve to influence the course of the conflict and limit the perpetration of these crimes as well as the impact of the war on the civilian population.
I am also deeply shocked by the cases of sexual and gender-based violence, the majority of which were committed in areas controlled by the Russian armed forces. These include rape, gang rape, torture, forced nudity in public and threats of sexual violence. Sexual violence is used in this conflict as a weapon of war against civilians. This terrible violence, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, violates the human rights on which our society is based."
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