Last week, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), reflecting the entirety of the UN membership, held an Emergency Special Session on a resolution condemning the aggressive Russian assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Zambia of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States commend Zambia for voting in support of the resolution, and for the intervention of its Representative to help persuade others to do so. Zambia’s vote demonstrates leadership arising from its unique role and history in this region and its long engagement in the United Nations and other international fora.
The adoption of the resolution reflects overwhelming support for the rules-based international order and for the tenets of the UN Charter, which form the basis for peaceful co-existence among States. It represents a rejection of attempts to change international borders by force, and a clear signal of support for democracies in the face of threats and violence by autocratic regimes, wherever they may be. To quote the UN Secretary General:
The UN Charter has been challenged in the past, but it has stood firm on the side of peace, security, development, justice, international law and human rights. The adoption of this resolution underlines the statements made by governments around the world, and echoes those made by the African Union, the European Union, the G7 governments, and many other organizations.
We acknowledge the bravery of the citizens of Ukraine in defending their country and the courage of Russian citizens who are protesting at home against President Putin’s war on Ukraine. Many governments have now established sanctions targeted at President Putin and the decision-makers who surround him. The breadth of international condemnation reflects the seriousness of this challenge to global peace and order: from the withdrawal of major investments by private sector firms to Russian athletes being banned from participating in international sporting competitions, and the suspension of many other marquee social and cultural events.
As diplomats, we know the importance of assisting our citizens abroad. We commend the Government of Zambia for its strong focus on ensuring the safety of the approximately 140 Zambians who were in Ukraine when the invasion began. They are mostly young people, aiming for a brighter future through their studies. Russia’s war of aggression has now ruined their immediate plans. We sincerely hope it has not eliminated their plans for a better life. We are proud of the diplomatic efforts by our governments to assist in their safe passage home.
We also acknowledge the range of responses in Zambian society to President Putin’s war against Ukraine: sympathy with the victims; sadness at the scale and nature of the violence; resolute solidarity with a fellow State under tremendous pressure from an outside aggressor. At the same time there is some ambivalence. In the context of the Global South, which has faced many violent conflicts and refugee flows, the calls for solidarity with the victims of the present crisis may also have given rise to a wish among some Zambians to remain focused on issues closer to home, and not on the struggles of nations far afield.
We acknowledge these sentiments. The challenges of building prosperity for Zambian citizens, and ensuring their economic security, health, and well-being deserve the full attention of the Zambian Government. However, Zambia’s role as an example of democracy and peace in the region, its security as a State, attraction as a place of investment, and ability to educate, care for, and foster the success of its citizens, depends deeply on the stability that the international rules-based order has provided for most of the last 70+ years. Dr. Kenneth Kaunda in 1973 laid out Zambia’s foreign policy principles:
“Our first question is not who has done it, but is this right, is this fair, is it just? If the answer is no, no matter who has done it we shall condemn him and the action he has taken.”
Speaking clearly in support of Ukraine, in support of the UN Charter, in support of the rules-based international order is both our duty and is a long-term investment to maintain a collective, peaceful future, both in Zambia and all over the world. It is a watershed moment in the history of international relations, and we congratulate the Government and people of Zambia for speaking up for their future, and indeed, all our Futures.