This is an onsite, slightly edited republication of the complete G|O Briefing newsletter
Today in The Geneva Observer, we bring you a lengthy exchange with Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, and a follow-up on last week’s story on Haiti.
Ambassador Gatilov is one of the Russian Federation’s most seasoned diplomats, with a reputation for having Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s and President Putin’s ears. In a conference room at the Russian Mission this morning, he spent about an hour and a half stating Moscow’s often-stated position on the war and answering a broad range of questions from a group of UN correspondents. The event was organized by the UN correspondent’s association (ACANU). We thought you’d be interested in reading the Russian diplomat in his own words. There is nothing “newsworthy,” no headline maker in what the diplomat said. Rather, seven months, three weeks, and six days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the most interesting aspect of this exchange is how Moscow’s position remains unchanged, including its refusal to admit that Russia violated the UN Charter by invading Ukraine.
Gennady Gatilov spoke in English. His remarks have been edited for length and clarity. They are presented here in the order they were made, in his opening statement, and during the Q&A. As usual, it’s all below. And as always, thank you for reading us and for sharing The G|O Briefing far and wide!
AN EXCHANGE WITH GENNADY GATILOV, RUSSIA'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UN IN GENEVA
ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL’S LAST SESSION
“No united front against Russia or China.”
“The 51st session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) recently concluded. Its results can be summed up as bleak and predictable. It was a very politicized discussion almost on all issues on the agenda before the HRC. The so-called collective West has long forsaken its core concerns for human rights, instead using the Council as a playground to host the blame game against its political opponents, this time Russia and China.
“As for the so-called country-specific initiatives considered during the 51st session of the HRC, they proved that there is no united front against Moscow and Beijing. Why? Because the draft decision to debate the situation in Xinjiang, with only 17 members of the Council voting in favor, failed. But the resolution to create a Special Rapporteur on human rights in Russia was supported by all. 17 members voted in favor, with 17 members voting against it. The resolution on Russia is an explicitly biased and one-sided document. Its Western patrons never approached our delegation to discuss this initiative, showing neither transparency nor diplomatic ethics or politeness. All these factors clearly show the real intentions (of the Western camp), which are to settle political scores with the Russian Federation, to punish and to pressure Russia for pursuing independent foreign and domestic policies.”
KAS annotated map of the votes can be found here. The G|O Briefing on the vote on China is here.
ON THE BLACK SEA GRAIN DEAL
“To say that the Black Sea Grain Deal saved the world from starvation is nothing but hypocrisy.”
Brokered in July by the UN, with the active participation of the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) allowed for the resumption of grain exports by Ukraine, preventing severe food shortages in Africa and other poor countries. A memorandum between Moscow and the UN provided Russia with assurances for the export of its own grain and fertilizers. (The G|O)
“Let me give you some details about the Black Sea Grain Deal. As of October 14, 334 ships carrying over 7.5 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs left Ukraine. But let’s look at the statistics: 52.5% of the cargo was delivered to rich developed countries, 22 % to countries that are economically above average and not considered poor. So only 23% of the grain and other foodstuffs have been delivered to poor countries, and only 2.5% to the poorest countries like Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia. Therefore, the West can see that saying that the Black Sea Grain Deal has saved the world from starvation is nothing but hypocrisy.
“May I remind you that the grain yield started as a twofold operation? One is the expert on Ukrainian grain, and the other is the memorandum signed between the Russian Federation and the United Nations on a Russian expert of grain and fertilizers. If you look at the whole picture, the Ukrainian part of the deal is functioning, even if we are unhappy that most of the grain supplies go to developed countries.
“But when we talk about the memorandum between Russia and the UN, we have to say it is still very much lagging behind. We have emphasized our concerns about the implementation of the Russian part of the deal. Because we are still experiencing troubles with essential logistics. Our ships cannot dock in European ports because of sanctions. The prices of insurance have risen, and there are many other issues that prevent the export of Russian grains and fertilizers.
“The UN, hopefully, does the best it can to mitigate the situation and raise awareness among Western countries and private companies who fear being sanctioned. The dialogue continues. The duration of a great deal is four months, it will end in November. The deal's extension will depend on ensuring the full implementation of all previously reached agreements. There is no point in continuing an agreement if one part of it is dead on arrival.”
ON THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND
“The West and Ukraine will never win against Russia.”
“I am not representing the Russian Ministry of Defense, so I will refrain from broadly commenting on the developments on the ground. The goals of these special military operations are well known, and we are confident that these goals will be reached. We have been patient for eight long years. And as we repeatedly said, we can no longer tolerate the murders of Russian people in Ukraine.
“Let's look at the broader picture of this situation. What led to this situation was the pathological refusal of the United States to recognize the legitimate right of another state, in our case, the Russian Federation, to protect its legitimate security concerns and interests. This is the root cause of the current crisis.
“We clearly see an analogy with the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis. Back then, we were able to avert a nuclear catastrophe through mutual concessions. It seems that the current US administration did not learn from this very important lesson of the past. We all, at least Russia, would like to be engaged in political discussions to reach a political solution. But unfortunately, this is not where we are. Russia has always favored diplomatic negotiations. There were several rounds of talks in Istanbul between the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators. The Russian delegation, as a result of these negotiations in Istanbul, presented the Ukrainian side with written suggestions. But the Ukrainians refused to continue the negotiations. And for us, it was clear why. Why? Because the United States simply told Volodymyr Zelensky not to continue talking to the Russians.
“Washington still doesn’t accept the fact that Russia has legitimate security concerns. In an effort to inflict maximum damage to Russia through a proxy war, Washington has convinced the West and the Kyiv regime that somehow it can win against Russia. But this will never happen.”
ON ALLOWING THE ICRC TO VISIT UKRAINIAN PRISONERS OF WAR DETAINED IN RUSSIA
“In general, we value the role of the ICRC for its impartiality, for its balanced position. Over the summer, we allowed five or six visits of Ukrainian POWs detained in Russia by the ICRC. But there is a question of reciprocity. The Russian POWs should be mostly visited by ICRC in Ukraine. We know how Russian prisoners are treated or rather mistreated in Ukraine detention facilities, submitted to torture, pressure, physical and psychological. On the other side, the Ukrainian prisoners are treated quite well. And this is a big difference. We have more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners. And sometimes it's not possible to organize all visits. The issue is not the number of visits but the results of these visits. The ICRC has a policy of not disclosing the results of its visits. But we know from other sources that our Russian POWs are being mistreated, and this is unfortunate. We are talking with the ICRC. Its delegation regularly visits Moscow and has consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. So, we’re trying to solve the problem. And we’ll continue doing so in the future with the new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, whom I recently met.”
ON THE LIKELIHOOD OF RUSSIA DECLARING A UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE
“The Kyiv regime says negotiations could only start if Russia withdrew from the Donbas and Crimea. The Ukrainians are firing every day at civilians and at residential areas in the Donbas region. We are not doing this; we are firing at military installations and infrastructure. They are being armed by the West and by several countries. I think it’s senseless to talk about a cease-fire under these conditions; it is pointless to think about a political solution.”
ON RUSSIA REDUCING ITS DIPLOMATIC CONTINGENT IN GENEVA
Last Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow could reduce its diplomatic contingent in Western countries because of its country’s diplomatic isolation. (The G|O)
“We are not working here with the Swiss government but with the UN. Our staff is not being reduced. We are experiencing some difficulties in participating in the work of the UN as a result of political pressure. The US and others are trying to hamper our work in UN organizations, but this will not happen because we are members, and you can’t expel a member. We have a number of like-minded countries that support our position and share our vision of international issues, so we are here, and we will continue working. What Minister Lavrov also said was that the situation has changed and that there are other countries, in Asia, in Latin America, in Africa, where we have interests, economic and political interests. These countries want to develop their cooperation with us.”
ON THE STATE OF MULTILATERALISM
“It is very poor, of course. We favor multilateralism, but multilateralism means respecting the position of other countries and respecting the assessment of international problems made by other countries. The US and Western countries are trying to impose their vision, their unilateral vision of the international order. They are talking about rules, but they mean rules invented by some group of countries. This is not our position, this is not our understanding. We believe we have to continue to develop international relations on the basis of the UN Charter.
“Did Russia violate the UN Charter by invading Ukraine? No, it didn’t. We didn’t violate it because we defended the legitimate rights of the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine to live the way they want to live.”
HUMANITARIAN AID AT THE NEXUS BETWEEN DEVELOPMENT, RIGHTS, SECURITY, AND EMERGENCY RELIEF
By Jamil Chade
The latest crisis in Haiti has accelerated the debate inside the UN on its strategy on humanitarian aid.
For 2022, the UN has already warned that the need for humanitarian aid would skyrocket worldwide and would reach an all-time, as the pandemic, climate change, and conflict could push millions of people into poverty and famine.
But money is now recognized as not being the only element to deal with this crisis. For many of those involved in the construction of the annual appeal, the collapse of Haiti—a country that has received billions of dollars for over a decade—is the cautionary tale of an overall system that is overstretched, inadequately funded in terms of prevention, and limited in capacity to respond in a timely manner.
“Many inside the UN and partners today admit that the current system isn’t functioning as it was meant to,” a staff member in Geneva claimed.
In fact, some of the UN agencies and institutions are openly declaring the need for change. “The dilemmas presented by protracted crises are numerous and multi-faceted,” said OHCHR in an email to The G|O. “These require shifting to more inclusive and participatory processes and collaboration beyond humanitarian and development actors,” it says. “This includes exploring synergies with peace actors and collaboration with human rights actors.
Addressing institutional, structural, and cultural challenges on all sides is key,” the UN human rights body maintains. “Donors should support and promote the integrated rule of law, human rights, and good governance programming that have a positive effect on the protection of crisis-affected populations. [...] Protecting and promoting rights are essential in preventing conflict, and along with activities can help reduce aid dependency, and make people and countries more resilient to withstand shocks,” OHCHR concludes.
The European Parliament stated in a report in 2021 that one of the new objectives in the EU’s humanitarian strategies was to “ensure that humanitarian, development, peace and other policies all work together to better link urgent relief and longer-term solutions, aiming at reducing needs and tackling the root causes of conflicts and crises.”
For the UN, Haiti is an example of such a scenario, and it is “facing a multidimensional crisis, political, economic, social, all deeply impacting Haitians and deepening the already dire humanitarian needs of the population.”
The scarcity of funds to address growing humanitarian needs, particularly in contexts where requirements have persisted for decades, continues. In 2021, the ten most underfunded operations received less than 50% of the required funding to meet humanitarian needs. In Haiti, only one-third of the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded, around 33.6%.
Another element is the need to adopt a strategy that would allow a strengthening of local capacity. Funding local governments or non-state actors in affected countries is of vital importance. Back in 2015, Oxfam emphasized that during the period between 2007 and 2013, less than 2% of annual humanitarian assistance went directly to local actors. According to Oxfam, while total humanitarian aid averaged $17.8 billion a year, an average of just $313 million annually, or 1.8% of the total, went directly to recipient governments.
One actor is starting to make a shift. The European Union—one of the largest donors in the world—has channeled a further 25% of its cash transfer through partnerships with local agencies, thus reducing management costs by delegating more power to local partners in decision-making and aid implementation. In 2020, the EU introduced four new Programmatic Partnerships with NGOs and contributed to two Country-Based Pooled Funds for Sudan and South Africa.
The idea, both at the EU and in rethinking strategies at the UN, is to strengthen the nexus between urgent relief and development to respond more efficiently to complex humanitarian crises. Haiti is a living example of the pressing need to implement such a shift.