For the international community to deal effectively with situations of great humanitarian need, the security of humanitarian personnel must be improved, the Security Council was told as it held its second day-long exchange on ways to improve the protection for humanitarian assistance for refugees and others in conflict situations.
Most speakers in today's debate deplored the recent increase in attacks on humanitarian workers, and stressed the importance of compliance with international law and the renunciation of methods for reaching political goals through attacking and kidnapping humanitarian personnel.
A number of speakers noted the need for humanitarian organizations to hold to humanitarian principles and laws, through the strict observance of impartiality and of local customs, practices and religions. Otherwise, one speaker warned, assistance would be an effective means of whipping up the conflict, instead of stabilizing the situation.
A common theme of the debate was the idea that mandates of peacekeeping operations authorized by the Council should contain provisions for the safety of refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as humanitarian aid workers. Speakers also called for efforts to curb the flow of arms into conflict areas, means of enhancing the effectiveness of arms embargoes, and increasing the exchange of information between the United Nations and humanitarian organizations. They stressed the need for close coordination in the field between the political and security elements and humanitarian elements of an operation.
The representative of France said the Council must give the humanitarian dimensions of crises more attention. The Council had instruments that would help ensure humanitarian assistance, but it must put those instruments into effect.
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998 The representative of Brazil said that humanitarian objectives would not be achieved without political strategies to stabilize situations and end hostilities. Many developing countries were paying for the economic, social and political costs of regional humanitarian crises with their scarce resources. There was a misperception that developing countries were only recipients of assistance when, in fact, those countries often were donating what little they had.
The international community, and in particular, the Council, must take a firm stand on violations of the fundamental right to assistance, the representative of Portugal said. When faced with repeated violations, the Council's appeals for compliance must be reinforced by a clear indication that there would be "no business as usual" for perpetrators.
Providing clear, realistic and appropriate mandates to United Nations troops in support of humanitarian operations was not a "soft option" the representative of the United Kingdom said. Rather, a force must be properly equipped to respond to potential threats, and it must receive suitably robust rules of engagement. All too often, he said, the Council had asked the military to do the impossible, while failing to provide it with the resources it needed.
The African continent held the unenviable record of having the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons, said the representative of Kenya. Today, all the taboos concerning conflict had been violated and whole societies were being mobilized for war. Children, as young as nine, were being recruited and trained to fight. Civilian populations -- including women and children -- were being specifically targeted by combatants. Both State and non-State actors should comply with existing international legal instruments designed to assist and protect civilian populations, he said.
The representative of Indonesia said the United Nations should play a greater role in the coordination of humanitarian assistance. Its activities should be based on the guiding principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. A prerequisite for effective humanitarian action was respect for those principles. Failure to uphold them would jeopardize human lives, including those of humanitarian workers. To remain effective and preserve independence and neutrality, humanitarian actions should be kept distinct from that of political or military activities.
Also making statements were the representatives of the United States; China; Russian Federation; Slovenia; Gambia; Costa Rica; Japan; Gabon; Bahrain; Sweden; Republic of Korea; Austria, on behalf of the European Union and Associated States; Argentina; Canada; Pakistan and Norway.
The representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also spoke.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette introduced the report of the Secretary-General.
The meeting was called to order at 10:48 a.m., suspended at 1:07 p.m., reconvened at 3:44 p.m. and adjourned at 4:55 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to consider means of improving the protection of humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations. In that connection it had before it a report of the Secretary- General (document S/1998/883).
Following a May 1997 meeting when the Council met to begin debate on the issue, the Council met again on 19 June 1997 and issued a presidential statement (document S/PRST/1997/34) summarizing the conclusions and recommendations of the preceding debate and encouraging the Secretary-General to study the matter further. The present report was prepared in response to that request and focuses on the compliance of State and non-State actors with the provisions of relevant international law; access of vulnerable populations in conflict situations to international protection and assistance; the safety and security of personnel of the United Nations and humanitarian organizations; and the role of the Council in humanitarian operations.
The Secretary-General states that while compliance with the rules of international law in conflict situations has long been a problem, the situation had dramatically worsened in recent years due to the changing pattern of conflicts. In situations of internal conflicts, for example, it is often difficult to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Also, many conflict situations have become particularly violent and complex due to involvement of irregular militia, foreign mercenaries, child soldiers and others with little knowledge of, or respect for, international law.
Regarding access of vulnerable populations to international protection and assistance, and assurance that humanitarian organizations have safe and unimpeded access to these groups, the Secretary-General says it is the primary responsibility of States to assure both. Where States deny humanitarian access, the international community should ensure that victims receive the assistance and protection they need, while showing full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the States concerned.
The report outlines the various forms international efforts to obtain humanitarian access have taken, including the most common method: negotiations conducted by humanitarian organizations with the parties to the conflict. In other situations, the international community and regional organizations have used political and military action to gain humanitarian access. The Council has created "safety zones" and "safe areas", but that option can only be effective when the political will of the Council manifests credible deterrent pressures to protect the area and supply lines. Humanitarian organizations, however, have been concerned with the use of the military to support humanitarian activities, as that can compromise humanitarian workers and sometimes leads to increased violence against humanitarian personnel.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
The report draws attention to the fact that 153 United Nations international and local staff have lost their lives in the line of duty since January 1992, 35 of whom were engaged in humanitarian operations. The insecurity faced by humanitarian personnel results from a desire by State or non-State actors in conflict situations to disrupt humanitarian operations which they consider as undermining their own political, strategic or military goals. Insecurity can also result from parties' desires to remove actual or potential witnesses to human rights abuses and other violations of international law by creating an environment in which it is not safe for them to operate; or due to a general mistrust and suspicion regarding the motives and intentions of humanitarian organizations.
The Secretary-General recommends that Member States reaffirm, strengthen and comply with existing norms, principles and provisions of international law, the dissemination of which is an important step in encouraging compliance. Information, training and advocacy activities of humanitarian organizations should be strengthened and efforts aimed at ensuring compliance should be supported by the Council.
Further, says the Secretary-General, the culture of impunity should end, with States having the primary responsibility for ensuring that those who violate humanitarian norms are prosecuted. In addition to the setting up of international tribunals and the recent establishment of the International Criminal Court, the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court should be expanded and strengthened. Moreover, combatants should be held financially liable to their victims in cases where civilians are made the deliberate target of aggression. International legal machinery should be developed to facilitate efforts to find, attach and seize the assets of transgressing parties and their leaders.
In a addition, the Secretary-General says, the Council may wish to consider developing options to maintain law and order and to create a secure environment for civilians endangered by conflict and for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in conflict situations. Options should include modest efforts to boost local and national capacity, including community-based protection. Greater international involvement could be needed when security problems escalate. That involvement could encompass a range of actors: national and international, civilian and police, as well as military.
Armed combatants among refugees and displaced populations are a source of insecurity and should be separated from the civilians, the Secretary- General continues. The Council is expected to ensure that the host State receives the necessary support and that appropriate measures are taken, in a timely manner, to separate armed elements from refugees and other civilians.
Emphasizing that more vigorous efforts need to be made to monitor and regulate the trade in arms to areas of actual or potential conflict, the Secretary-General states that the Council may wish to consider imposing an
Security Council - 4 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
arms embargo in situations where civilians are targeted by the parties to the conflict or where the parties are known to be involved in gross violations of human rights. The Council may also wish to consider establishing a more effective mechanism for the implementation of arms embargoes. Member States are urged to take the necessary steps, including domestic legislation, to penalize those engaged in arms illicit trade. Greater attention should also be paid to the role of private arms traders, including the role the United Nations might play in compiling, tracking and publicizing such information. This issue should be addressed by the Council as a matter of urgency.
Member States should be encouraged to ratify the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Secretary-General asserts. Efforts should be made to extend the application of the Convention so that it adequately covers all humanitarian personnel.
United Nations and other humanitarian personnel should be adequately trained on security procedures prior to deployment, the Secretary-General adds. Although a security training package for humanitarian personnel working in conflict situations has been developed, none of the organizations concerned have made the funds available to undertake this training. The report draws attention to a Trust Fund for Security and encourages Member States to contribute to efforts to ensure the security of United Nations staff.
The Secretary-General also recommends that in situations where the Council decides to deploy United Nations troops or other external security forces in support of humanitarian operations, it is of critical importance that they be given clear, realistic and appropriate mandates, that they be deployed in a timely manner, and that they be adequately resourced and supported. A clear mandate is important in order to delineate the respective responsibilities of the military and humanitarian actors, and to ensure effective and timely action.
It is also vital to ensure that mechanisms exist for effective coordination between political and military components of a United Nations operation. That would, on the one hand, ensure that the distinct nature of their respective tasks are fully understood and, on the other, that policies and strategies are properly coordinated. In this connection, work was under way to better define the relationship between special representatives of the Secretary-General and humanitarian coordinators, as well as those representing human rights efforts and other components of United Nations missions. The role of the special representatives of the Secretary-General has been enhanced to this end to include authority in the cases of multidimensional peacekeeping operations for all United Nations entities in the field.
Security Council - 5 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, introduced the report of the Secretary-General (document S/1998/883). She said that what was happening in today's war zones was beyond imagination. Terrorized and traumatized by armed violence, millions of civilians were forced to become refugees or internally displaced persons. Landmines were also widely used and represented a threat to civilians and humanitarian missions. The use of scorched-earth tactics was not new, but they had been used at an unprecedented level. Humanitarian action was not equipped to stop the slaughter and displacement of so many civilians. Thus, options for the protection of civilians in war zones must be considered.
The Security Council, in its role of addressing conflict and eliminating causes, was in a key position to consider the humanitarian situation of refugees and displaced persons, she continued. Conflicts with horrendous humanitarian consequences were increasing in number, duration and severity. The Secretary-General had put forward a number of recommendations for the Council's consideration and stood ready to assist with any action that would reduce the bulging statistics of human misery.
A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said that for the international community to deal effectively with situations of great humanitarian need, including situations that might pose a threat to international peace and security, the security of humanitarian personnel must be improved. Members should begin, as a matter of priority, to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at enhancing the safety and protection of humanitarian workers. As part of that effort, they should explore asking the Secretary-General to appoint a high-level personality to investigate and report on cases of violence against humanitarian workers, such as those identified in the Secretary-General's report, with a view to identifying those responsible for the attacks, where possible.
Members should also explore encouraging strengthened enforcement of existing criminal and humanitarian law prohibiting such attacks, through vigorous and effective action by national authorities, he said. The development of concrete incentives to encourage States and non-State actors not to engage in or to tolerate such attacks should also be examined.
He said that examining the value and feasibility of a possible protocol to the Convention on the Safety and Security of United Nations and Associated Personnel aimed at increasing the protection of humanitarian workers should be considered by members. Means to ensure that relief workers receive adequate training in personnel security should also be investigated.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the attacks against humanitarian assistance personnel had been going on unabated. The Council must push for the adoption
Security Council - 6 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
of measures to protect humanitarian workers. The key to the resolution of the problem lay in compliance with international law and the renunciation of methods for reaching political goals through attacking and kidnapping humanitarian personnel.
At the same time, humanitarian assistance personnel should strictly abide by humanitarian laws and pay attention to local customs, practices and religious beliefs, he said. He supported the strengthening of exchange of information between the various humanitarian agencies. When establishing future peacekeeping operations, the Council should consider including the protection of humanitarian assistance as part of the mandate.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said peacekeeping and humanitarian operations were carried out in a parallel manner, with humanitarian aspects often becoming a key function of the peacekeeping operation. Although the Council was increasingly asked to support and protect humanitarian assistance efforts, the work of the Council and humanitarian organizations could not be regarded as identical. The humanitarian agencies had their own mandates and tasks independent of the Council, though often interrelated. Impartiality was vital when applying humanitarian assistance. Otherwise, instead of being an effective means of stabilizing the situation, assistance would be an effective means of whipping up the conflict. There must be broader consultations and cooperation between the Council and humanitarian agencies.
No one could exclude the possible use of military force, but the functions and prerogatives of the Council could not be interfered with, he said. Specific parameters and limits for the use of forces must be carefully worked through. A comprehensive assessment was required before the establishment of safe areas. Curbing the flow of arms into conflict areas was a main factor in solving humanitarian issues. Effort should be focused on making arms embargoes effective. To improve the situations, a comprehensive approach was needed. The Russian Federation was participating in, and would implement, such an approach.
CELSO L.N. AMORIM (Brazil) said that while his country agreed with the importance of improving assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations, it should be remembered that a strict interpretation of international humanitarian law did not favour the use of force for the attainment of humanitarian objectives. The extraordinary success of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) where others had failed could be explained by its strict adherence to that philosophy.
He said that governments which concluded that the scale of abuses and violations warranted enforcement action should bear in mind that resorting to action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter could negatively affect the provision of humanitarian assistance. Until recently, those who favoured the use of force to deal with mass abuses of human rights or rampant
Security Council - 7 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
violations of humanitarian law behaved as though they had assumed the moral high ground. Today, it was necessary to reassess situations and recognize with greater caution that the resort to force on humanitarian grounds entailed many risks and should only be considered in cases where it clearly stood a chance of contributing to long-lasting peace.
The international community must not shun its collective responsibility to respond to the humanitarian needs of refugees and other inadvertent victims of conflict, he said. However, the lessons of the 1990s warned against the establishment of an "automatic co-relation" between collective responsibility and collective security in the humanitarian field. In attempting to establish a few clear-cut categories for describing humanitarian options, the Secretary-General's report makes it clear that humanitarian access could be satisfactorily assured through negotiations, without the Council's involvement. Even serious security problems might be successfully tackled with the consent of the parties.
He said that in extreme cases where there was both a serious security situation and lack of consent by one or more of the parties to the presence of external security forces, coercive options might have to be considered. Under those circumstances, it was essential to bear in mind that humanitarian objectives would not be achieved unless they were combined with an effective political strategy for the cessation of hostilities and stabilization. Many developing countries were paying with their scarce resources for the economic, social and political costs of regional humanitarian crises. A balanced approach to the humanitarian agenda required correcting the misperception that developing countries were only recipients of assistance, when, in fact, those countries often were donating what little they had.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said that no doubts could remain on the legitimate and crucial role of the Council in the humanitarian field. As either a cause or a consequence of conflicts, humanitarian crises were a component of international peace and security. Given the dimension and complexity of such crises, the Council's approach should be coordinated with all the relevant United Nations bodies in a collective effort that engaged the entire system, as well as other international and regional humanitarian organizations.
He said that the mandates of the peacekeeping operations authorized by the Council should contain, from the outset, the necessary provisions for the safety of refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as for the humanitarian aid workers. As the Council was paying increasing attention to the question of unimpeded and safe access of humanitarian assistance to refugees and other civilians in need, it required timely and accurate information, including the appropriate procedures. The international community and, in particular, the Council, must take a firm stand on violations of the fundamental right to assistance. In the face of such violations, the Council's repeated appeal for
Security Council - 8 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
compliance must be reinforced by a clear indication that there would be "no business as usual" with perpetrators, who risked the imposition of sanctions.
States which were responsible for the safety of refugees and all other civilians were also primarily responsible for bringing to justice the perpetrators of such violations, he said. The international community should raise its common voice against the culture of impunity and should more consistently commit itself to supporting efforts to prosecute the perpetrators. In that regard, Portugal welcomed the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in particular, the provision that defined attacks against humanitarian personnel as war crimes. The Court should become a major instrument in rolling back that culture of impunity and deterring the perpetration of such violations.
He said that the Council must draw lessons from recent experiences, such as that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It should be innovative in its elaboration of a mechanism to facilitate or protect humanitarian relief and assistance. Perhaps the Council could consider the deployment of military units to protect humanitarian personnel. The Secretary-General's report provided a good set of recommendations; it was now up to the Council to keep that issue high on its agenda and to address it in all its implications whenever dealing with a particular conflict. Humanitarian activities were a component of a comprehensive and coordinated approach, and the Council could not avoid its responsibilities in that field.
DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said there were many reasons why the question of protection of humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations should be a standing item on the Security Council's agenda. Humanitarian emergency situations were the most tragic symptom of the underlying threats to international peace and security, and should be addressed as a matter of priority. Humanitarian action must not, however, be used as a substitute for political or -- where needed -- military action. The main purpose of humanitarian action was to save lives and alleviate suffering. It could not be expected to solve the root causes of conflicts and could also not relieve the Council of its responsibility to address political and security issues. The Council had to respond to an emergency situation in a timely, adequate and unified manner, using the range of options at its disposal, and defining clear mandates and objectives. In that way, the Council could help create the necessary conditions for effective humanitarian aid.
He said violations of international humanitarian law could not go unpunished. Prevention of impunity was primarily a responsibility of the States and their national criminal justice systems. However, it was also a legitimate concern of the international community. Slovenia welcomed the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a ground- breaking step forward in providing justice for victims, limiting impunity and deterring the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Security Council - 9 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
He stressed the importance of ensuring humanitarian access to refugees and others in conflict situations. His delegation shared the Secretary-General's view that serious consideration should be given to developing a range of options to maintain law and order, and to creating a secure environment for civilians endangered by conflict and for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
He said that, in many situations, the solution to the conflicts lay in the achievement of a ceasefire and political dialogue and negotiations. On the other hand, when parties to a conflict deliberately obstructed humanitarian assistance to civilians, military enforcement action might be the only effective response. Slovenia strongly condemned acts of violence against humanitarian workers and welcomed a provision of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which made attacks against United Nations and humanitarian personnel into war crimes under the Court's jurisdiction. The Secretary-General's report contained valuable recommendations that should be thoroughly and promptly considered by the Council, he added.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said he fully associated himself with the forthcoming statement by the representative of Austria which would be made on behalf of the European Union. It was not enough to say that the culture of impunity was unacceptable; an agenda for action was needed. Since the Council last addressed the issue more than a year ago, there had been attacks on the provision of humanitarian assistance in far too many conflicts.
Welcoming the focused and action-oriented report of the Secretary-General, he said the international community should take seriously its responsibilities under international law. The Statute of the International Criminal Court in that regard should help to end the culture of impunity and make the world a safer place for all, including for humanitarian personnel. Particularly welcome was the Statute's explicit reference to aid workers in the list of war crimes that fell within the Court's jurisdiction. Moreover, the United Kingdom would urge all States to ratify the 1994 United Nations Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel without further delay.
Host countries should fulfil their obligations towards humanitarian personnel, he said. While the Secretary-General noted that solidarity and burden-sharing were important in encouraging States to respect humanitarian principles and obligations, they were not prerequisites. Host countries should make every effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violations. Humanitarian personnel showed great courage in their work, leaving little room for the Council's complacency. The Council, for its part, should make every effort to ensure that they were given adequate protection.
The Secretary-General's report rightly emphasized the importance of providing clear, realistic and appropriate mandates to United Nations troops in support of humanitarian operations, he said. Providing such support was not a "soft option". Rather, a force must be properly equipped to respond to
Security Council - 10 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
potential threats, and it must receive suitably robust rules of engagement. All too often, the Council had asked the military to do the impossible, while failing to provide it with the resources it needed.
NJUGUNA M. MAHUGU (Kenya) said the African continent held the unenviable record of having the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The situation was aggravated by changing patterns of conflict. Today, all the taboos concerning conflict had been violated as the world witnessed whole societies being mobilized for war, children as young as nine were being recruited and trained to fight, and civilian populations -- including women and children -- were being specifically targeted by combatants.
In the recent past, the civilian character of refugee camps had changed. Now, camp populations included armed elements, militias, mercenaries and child soldiers, he added. In addition, a culture of impunity had developed as violators of human rights and humanitarian law continued to wreak havoc unpunished. In that regard, Kenya welcomed the recently established International Criminal Court as a means to ensure accountability. Both State and non-State actors should comply with existing international legal instruments designed to assist and protect civilian populations.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said the loss of United Nations personnel was disheartening. The Security Council and other concerned bodies and organs of the United Nations system should do everything possible, in accordance with their respective mandates, to bring to an end that problem. His delegation believed that the issue of compliance with international law should be addressed first. State and non-State actors in conflict situations must respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
He added that the creation of a secure environment for civilians endangered by conflict and for the delivery of humanitarian assistance was a matter that required urgent consideration. Many States, particularly in Africa, lack the capacity to do that. The options articulated in the Secretary-General's report currently before the Council were numerous. His delegation would wish to take special note of the need to build local capacity in that regard. An international mechanism to assist host States to deal with those issues would be in order.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said that conflict management and resolution by the Council must be based on a new concept which focused on the human being. It must also take new steps to prevent armed conflicts. Security and peace were not for States alone, but also pertained to the people living in those States. The true goal of international peace was to allow people to live in peace and happiness for the rest of their lives. The goal of international humanitarian law was the protection of civilians, and it was essential that all parties respect it. Those principles should be respected under all circumstances.
Security Council - 11 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
There should be an increase in international solidarity to respond to humanitarian needs, he said. His country was aware of the burden of receiving refugee populations, and more assistance should be given to countries accepting refugees. Mechanisms should also be in place for the protection of humanitarian personnel, and the hostage-taking of such personnel should be condemned. All parties should respect the neutrality of refugee and displaced persons camps. The world must also condemn all attacks on United Nations personnel, and the International Criminal Court should act to punish those who have perpetrated such attacks.
HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said the lack of dissemination of information on international standards regarding the protection of people caught in conflicts was a problem. The problem, in turn, led to a lack of respect for international humanitarian law on the part of combatants, including by the faction leaders. The dissemination of information on basic human rights and humanitarian principles could serve as a fundamental deterrent to the abuse of human rights and other violations in conflict situation. The Council should urge Member States to coordinate advocacy efforts. The Council might also request the Secretary-General to promote such cooperation through his Special Representative and envoys.
International instruments to protect humanitarian personnel were inadequate, he said. He proposed that the Council consider requesting the Secretary-General to conduct a thorough study of that problem. He called on all Member States to become party to the Convention on the Safety of the United Nations and Associated Personnel.
Matters also needed to be addressed on a practical level to enhance the security of refugees and humanitarian personnel, he said. How to minimize security risks to personnel should be considered a priority. Ensuring the neutrality and security of the refugee camps was also an essential task to be implemented with decisive action.
If United Nations peacekeepers were to be used to protect humanitarian operations, he said, the mandate of such an operation must be clearly defined and its terms of reference precise. The situation on the ground must be such that, under its mandate, the mission could realistically be expected to accomplish its tasks. Also, the operation must be equipped with the necessary human and material resources to accomplish the mission. While under way, the Council must closely monitor the situation so that the operation could adapt to the rapidly changing situation on the ground.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said civilian populations had become the major victims and targets of conflict. Massive displacements of people took place daily, while and humanitarian personnel were taken hostage and threatened on a regular basis. The Security Council must take the humanitarian dimensions of crises further into account. The Council did have instruments that would help
Security Council - 12 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
ensure humanitarian assistance, but it must put those instruments into effect. The case of Somalia had been an example of the importance of not separating security activities from social and humanitarian aspects when addressing a conflict.
There should be close coordination in the field between political and security elements and humanitarian elements, he said. In the conduct of their duties, humanitarian staff were often under threat of attack by combatants. The creation of the International Criminal Court had marked considerable progress in enforcing international law. There was a need for coordination of efforts to protect humanitarian staff and to think about practical means to protect humanitarian workers. States must recognize the need to protect such staff, and the United Nations should act to enhance that recognition.
DENIS DANGUE RÉWAKA (Gabon) said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention of 1949 had not been applied adequately to protect civilians in conflict zones. The international community could no longer stand by, while civilians were constantly targeted by armed groups and while they were exposed to repeated horrors. Many humanitarian workers had given their lives, and they should be recognized for helping peace and security around the world.
Such attacks on humanitarian personnel were unacceptable, and the world must work to put an end to them, he said. All efforts would be in vain if no concrete actions were taken to protect humanitarian staff and to bring greater understanding between such staff and the parties in the conflict. Often, parties in the conflict believed such staff represented one group or another, and that placed the staff in danger of attack. Efforts should be taken to convince all parties that humanitarian staff were truly neutral.
RASHID AL-DOSARI (Bahrain) said that the international community was aware of the need for the protection of those affected by conflict. Substantial efforts had been made to put in place legislation to protect such people. It was clear that humanitarian assistance often did not reach those for whom it was intended. Moreover, humanitarian personnel had even been attacked. That was a problem which had to be solved. He condemned attacks on international personnel as violations of international law. The Council must be kept regularly informed of the humanitarian situation in various conflicts and, thereby, be more able to take appropriate decisions.
He said he supported the Secretary-General's recommendations for the improvement of the level of safety for those who provided humanitarian assistance. The international community must come together to find a solution to the problem. He paid tribute to the international and regional efforts made to provide protection for humanitarian workers. He also called attention to the role being played by non-governmental and other organizations. He reaffirmed the need to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance. States
Security Council - 13 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
must coordinate their work in that area. He eagerly awaited the adoption of a resolution in that matter.
HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said Sweden condemned all attacks against innocent civilians and personnel of United Nations and humanitarian organizations. His Government welcomed a provision of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which classified attacks against humanitarian personnel as war crimes. The Security Council had a major responsibility, together with the Secretary-General and the United Nations system at large, to address the issue of security and safety of humanitarian assistance. The objective must be to prevent humanitarian crises by providing early and viable solutions to their root causes. Regular briefings to the Council by key humanitarian actors were important to ensure a comprehensive approach to complex humanitarian emergencies. Last week's Security Council resolution on Kosovo was a good example of a strong political response to an increasingly acute humanitarian situation, he added.
Sweden welcomed the Secretary-General's efforts to build closer coordination between the various responsible United Nations entities, inter alia, through joint meetings with the Executive Committees for Humanitarian Affairs and Peace and Security, as well as the United Nations Development Group. The mutually supportive relations between the special representatives of the Secretary-General and the humanitarian coordinators should be further enhanced. There were also important lessons to be drawn from the United Nations guards in northern Iraq and from the more recent international monitoring presence in Bosnia and Kosovo.
There was need for further development of mechanisms to ensure humanitarian security without reliance on military deployment, he said. Important steps were also being taken by the humanitarian community itself to address those issues. Many of the recommendations of the Secretary-General's report related to those made in his Africa report. Clear links existed between the follow-up to the two reports, particularly on the issue of creation of an effective international mechanism for security in refugee camps. Concrete conclusions must be drawn on actions to be taken to ensure effective protection of humanitarian assistance and on the Council's responsibilities in that field, he said.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said the time had come for the international community to deal seriously with the challenges posed by threats to humanitarian assistance. It was for that reason that his Government, as the then-President of the Council, had taken the initiative to organize the first open debate in the Council on that issue in May 1997. He endorsed the recommendations in the Secretary-General's follow-up report. Ways must be found to implement its specific recommendations in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
Security Council - 14 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
Although humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations were distinct from each other, the Council's involvement was not indispensable for the protection of humanitarian assistance in conflicts, he said. Political inaction on the Council's part resulted in prolonged conflicts and civilian suffering. Humanitarian activities should be backed by political initiatives and by the Council's willingness to take the necessary security measures, including the deployment of peacekeeping forces. He invited the Council's attention to the need for separation of armed combatants from refugees and displaced populations. The Council should ensure that appropriate measures were taken in a timely manner to prevent armed elements from turning refugee camps into military bases. Militia should also be stopped from using refugees as human shields.
He said the Council should explore the imposition of an arms embargo in regions of rampant cross-border arms movements. It should also consider means to effectively implement such embargoes. Specific measures should be taken to hold violators of international humanitarian norms liable under international law. The relevant United Nations convention on protection of humanitarian personnel should be expanded to cover staff of non-governmental organizations. The Council should include in its discourse other United Nations organs and agencies, particularly the General Assembly. The Secretary-General's report should be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration.
ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, as well as European Free Trade Area countries of Iceland and Liechtenstein, said the Secretary-General's report should guide practical efforts to enhance protection for humanitarian assistance operations. Compliance with international humanitarian law was an indispensable prerequisite. A major problem in recent years, he said, had been the failure of States to bring to justice those responsible for violations. The adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which the European Union worked hard to achieve, was a significant step forward. The Court's jurisdiction over individuals would promote greater accountability of State and non-state actors. The European Union considered the Statute's early entry into force of paramount importance, and he urged countries that had not yet done so, to sign it.
He said States must become parties to and implement all other relevant instruments of international law. He also urged States to intensify their efforts to disseminate the respective rules to their armed forces and security forces, as well as to the civilian population. Armed and security forces must be trained in international humanitarian standards. National legislation should give effect to rules which safeguarded civilian and humanitarian workers, while holding perpetrators accountable. The European Union reiterated its position that serious consideration should be given to a gender perspective, as well as to the important dimension of children in armed
Security Council - 15 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
conflict. The Secretary-General's recommendation in his report on Africa regarding the holding of combatants financially liable to their victims under international law -- in cases where civilians were deliberate targets of aggression -- should be explored.
International humanitarian organizations should have safe and unimpeded access to refugees, displaced persons and vulnerable populations in conflict situations, he said. State sovereignty could not be used to deny humanitarian access. The European Union reiterated that it would welcome the establishment of an international mechanism to assist host governments, at their request, in maintaining the security and neutrality of refugee camps and settlements.
The European Union called for the full implementation of General Assembly resolution adopted last year on safety and security of humanitarian personnel, he said. The Union also urged the accession to the relevant legal instruments, in particular, for early ratification of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. Humanitarian organizations should put more emphasis than ever before on training, taking into account the importance of the principles of humanitarian law. They should also enhance their security arrangements.
He said he wished to stress the European Union view that appropriate and realistic mandates must be given to any operations authorized by the Security Council to provide for the safety of refugees, displaced persons and other civilians, as well as for the security of United Nations personnel and those of other humanitarian organizations.
The meeting was suspended at 1:07 p.m., to be resumed at 3:30 p.m.
Security Council - 16 - Press Release SC/6580 3932nd Meeting (AM) 29 September 1998
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said since September 1997, more than 30 humanitarian personnel had died. Humanitarian work had, in some cases provoked actions by parties to a conflict and had further put humanitarian staff in danger. In addition, civilians were increasingly targets of aggression. The Security Council must be geared toward punishing those who violated humanitarian laws pertaining to refugees and displaced persons.
The establishment of the International Criminal Court represented a great stride forward in the development of humanitarian law, he said. It was vital to sentence and bring to trial those responsible for violations of humanitarian law and the Court was now the most appropriate instrument to deal with such situations. The plight of refugees and displaced persons was relevant to the work of the United Nations. Argentina hoped the Council would continue to consider such issues in the future.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said it was fitting for the Council to continue to focus attention on assisting those suffering from the ravages of war. Humanitarian assistance, however, was designed to do no more than respond to those victims, and as such, it was no substitute for political action. Yet, effective humanitarian action depended on corresponding action from political entities, in particular from the Council, to bring diplomatic, and where necessary, military pressure to bear both to protect civilians and to resolve conflicts.
Canada had learned a number of lessons from integrated military-civilian peace support operations, he said. Among them was the need for a thorough understanding of the capability and roles of the political, military, humanitarian and human rights partners who were responding to a complex emergency. Further, an intervention force must have clear and realistic military objectives and the means with which to achieve them. Efforts to disarm belligerent parties and to separate refugees from combatants were dangerous and bound to fail unless the intervention force was properly structured and equipped for such a mission.
The faster the United Nations could respond to a crisis, the greater the likelihood that the dramatic and disruptive consequences of such crises, could be contained or avoided, he said. The need for an improved rapid deployment capacity in the United Nations was manifest, and action should be taken to establish it as soon as possible. It was also essential to integrate the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations and humanitarian agencies at the consultative and planning stages for complex emergencies. Moreover, the roles played by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other human rights agencies should be expanded and integrated.
He said that all States must comply with their international legal obligations to create a secure environment for civilians in conflict and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he said. The creation of an International Criminal Court was a major step towards eliminating a culture
Security Council - 17 - Press Release SC/6580 Resumed 3932nd Meeting (AM & PM) 29 September 1998
of impunity and improving the protection of conflict victims. Also, the groundbreaking efforts of Graca Machel and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, merited special and ongoing support. Canada applauded the Council's increased attention to the problem of child combatants and their demobilization.
The routine physical danger encountered by humanitarian workers demanded immediate attention and vigorous action, he said. Attacks on personnel working to assist those in desperate need had increased dramatically. In an ominous development, civilian deaths now exceeded those of the military, among United Nations workers. While the responsibility for their safety lay first and foremost with the parties to the conflict, no effort should be spared to ensure that those responsible for the attacks on humanitarian personnel be brought swiftly to justice. While the illegality of such acts had never been doubted, their further clarification as a war crime was welcome.
AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said that his country shared the Secretary- General's view that there was a perennial problem of effective compliance by Member States with the relevant norms, principles and provisions of international law in conflict situations. Those codes were particularly violated in situations of internal conflicts where whole societies were mobilized for war, including armed groups, militia, foreign mercenaries, child soldiers and criminals. In that connection, Pakistan welcomed the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction over war crimes.
In fulfilling its moral obligations under international law, Pakistan continued to host nearly 1.5 million Afghan refugees, he said. Despite the adverse impact of such a large number of refugees on its political, social and economic systems, Pakistan would continue to provide them with shelter. Unfortunately, the assistance provided by the international community for those refugees had continued to decrease to the point where it seemed to have totally abandoned the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
He drew attention to the establishment, in recent years, of safe corridors or safety zones, which had been created by a number of humanitarian operations to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Although those efforts had generally been welcomed by the international community, double standards in enforcing humanitarian access in different parts of the world were the subject of criticism by both Member States and humanitarian agencies. Pakistan favoured uniform humanitarian treatment for all.
The loss of life of international and local staff members in the line of duty, a matter of grave concern to Pakistan, should be addressed on a priority basis, he said. Among the reasons for such occurrences, the Secretary-General had cited "a general mistrust and suspicion" regarding the motives and intentions of humanitarian organizations. Such negative impressions needed to be studied in greater detail in order to devise effective measures to curtail
Security Council - 18 - Press Release SC/6580 Resumed 3932nd Meeting (AM & PM) 29 September 1998
them. While the General Assembly had primary responsibility for providing policy guidance for the Organization's humanitarian operations, the Council must also continue to play its part in the complex dynamics of conflicts around the world. However, care should be taken to avoid discrimination and minimize selectivity.
HAZAIRIN POHAN (Indonesia) said the United Nations should play a greater role in coordinating humanitarian assistance. Its activities should be based on the guiding principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. A prerequisite for effective humanitarian action was respect for those principles. Failure to uphold them would jeopardize human lives, including those of humanitarian workers. Many of the issues in the Council's agenda had a humanitarian dimension. To remain effective and preserve independence and neutrality, humanitarian actions should be kept distinct from that of political and military activities.
It was essential to make a distinction between humanitarian action and United Nations peacekeeping and peace enforcement, he said. In situations where decisions would be taken by the Council to deploy humanitarian operations, the Council should consider measures for protecting workers and ensuring the impartiality of humanitarian agencies. National laws should be taken into account. It was essential to recognize the sacrosanct principles of independence and territorial integrity.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the necessity of ensuring consistency between humanitarian action and broader United Nations peace and development activities should be stressed. Providing targeted and efficient assistance to people in distress was an important objective of Norway's humanitarian policy. Furnishing protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons often meant operating in areas of conflict. Humanitarian assistance should therefore always be part of a broader international effort aimed at seeking political solutions and peaceful settlements of conflicts.
He said that in order to improve the humanitarian situation of civilians in war zones, it was important that those responsible for violations of international law be brought to justice. The International Criminal Court should fulfil its potential by ensuring better accountability of States, non- state actors and individuals. Also, firm measures must be taken against parties that deliberately attacked civilian staff members of the United Nations and personnel of humanitarian organizations.
STEPHEN LEWIS, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said children engaged in hostilities as soldiers were deprived of every single right granted under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Only when the international community agreed that the minimum age for soldiers should be 18, would the world be able to say that it had put the protection of the lives and futures of children ahead of other considerations. When the international community equivocated over the age of
Security Council - 19 - Press Release SC/6580 Resumed 3932nd Meeting (AM & PM) 29 September 1998
recruitment, it sent a sadly ambiguous message to military predators who haunted conflict zones looking for children to abduct, seduce or conscript.
In the past four years, 14 UNICEF staff members had died in conflict situations, he said, adding that in the past two years, 25 others had been seriously injured. UNICEF was currently pioneering the development of an incident tracking system that would be made available to Member States, and it had distributed security awareness training programmes to over 200 duty stations. Respect for international human rights and humanitarian law was at the crux of the current debate. Whether dealing with refugee populations or the internally displaced, or dealing with peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, everything hinged on the sanctity and observance of international human rights and humanitarian law.
SYLVIE JUNOD, representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said organized crime and banditry played a role in today's conflict situations. Bandits and armed groups coveted the often considerable and highly visible material deployed by humanitarian organizations. They also knew that most of the time, those items were not protected and likely no action would be taken if items were stolen. Humanitarian organizations were simply considered easy targets. The abduction of expatriates for money was a new and growing dimension of banditry. That danger further increased when the media reported how much the abductors had received in ransom. Making civilians the main target of armed hostilities was an integral part of political and military strategies of today.
Humanitarian action must be adapted and organizations must work together, she said. The ICRC was committed to working more through local contacts and networks, and to seeking a more balanced relationship between humanitarian organizations and the media. She called for faithful implementation of the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, as well as refugee law and the various human rights instruments.
A fundamental condition for any humanitarian operation involving humanitarian assistance or protection was the consent of the warring parties, she said. Such action should never be imposed, but it should be transparent and impartial. Discussion and persuasion should be used to negotiate access for humanitarian action, in accordance with the basic principles of neutrality and impartiality. Humanitarian action must not become the main instrument of foreign policy. Any international military presence, such as a peacekeeping force, should have a clear and appropriate mandate. Combating impunity was the key factor in the prevention of future violations, she added.
KOFI ADOMANI, Director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) New York Liaison Office, said he supported recommendations to promote accession to international legal instruments, dissemination and advocacy of humanitarian principles and mechanisms to ensure compliance with international law. As a corollary to compliance, the importance of
Security Council - 20 - Press Release SC/6580 Resumed 3932nd Meeting (AM & PM) 29 September 1998
burden-sharing and solidarity should also be stressed. That subject would be at the centre of the debate at this year's UNHCR Executive Committee meeting beginning on Monday.
Regarding the issue of humanitarian access, he said predictable mechanisms should be developed to ensure security and access for humanitarian workers. Efforts should be made to ensure that refugee camps were located at a reasonable distance from international borders, that armed combatants were separated from refugees and other civilians, and that trade in arms to conflict areas was adequately monitored and regulated.
Existing instruments of international law did not effectively cover the security needs of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel, he said. The UNHCR welcomed the provisions of the Statute of the International Criminal Court whereby attacks against both United Nations and other humanitarian personnel now constituted "war crimes" and that they fell within the jurisdiction of the Court. He expressed the hope that Vincent Cochetel, who was abducted 243 days ago, would be released soon.
The Council should be kept informed of the humanitarian aspects of conflict situations to allow for consideration of the overall picture, he said. In that way, the Council would also have the knowledge needed to take timely and appropriate actions to address humanitarian needs.
* *** *