|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5319th Meeting (AM & PM)
EFFECTIVE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT REQUIRES
STRONGER PARTNERSHIPS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Gaps Cited in Areas of Prevention, Protection, Humanitarian Access, Impunity
The effective protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict required stronger partnerships that systematically identified their various protection needs, as well as who was best placed to address them, the Security Council was told today, during an open debate on the issue.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict noted that in the new warfare that had emerged, the impact of armed conflict on civilians went far beyond the notion of collateral damage. Targeted attacks, forced displacement, sexual violence, forced conscription, indiscriminate killings, mutilation, hunger, disease and loss of livelihoods collectively painted an “extremely grim picture of the human costs of armed conflict”.
Briefing the delegations today on the progress made in the six years since the Council adopted the first thematic text on the protection of civilians -- resolution 1296 (2000) -- Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted that the Council’s more systematic and sustained engagement on civilian protection issues had had an impact, leading to a real difference on the ground.
Despite that, he continued, the engagement by relevant bodies was too often inadequate and grave areas of concern persisted. Among key protection concerns, he noted that civilians had continued to bear not only the devastating side-effects of armed conflict, but often had been deliberately targeted by parties to conflict, both non-State actors and Government military forces alike. Most disturbing was the widespread sexual violence and abuse of women and girls. Likewise, obstructed or restricted humanitarian access remained a key concern, as did attacks on humanitarian personnel.
With regard to the latter, he welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption yesterday of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which expanded the application of the Convention to the implementing partners of the United Nations agencies, those delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance in peacebuilding or delivering emergency humanitarian assistance.
The mere presence of aid workers in the region, he added, did not ensure assistance and protection. The presence of aid workers, therefore, should never be used as an alibi to camouflage the absence of genuine efforts to find lasting political solutions. “Year in and year out, we are unable to undertake adequate humanitarian programmes in severe emergencies because no coherent and systematic attempts are made to end the conflict. We become an expensive plaster on an open, unhealed wound. The band-aid approach costs lives and ultimately costs the international community dearly in both moral and financial terms”, he stated.
Jacques Forster, Vice-President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the lack of political will to fully respect humanitarian law and other applicable rules remained the main impediment to protecting civilians in times of armed conflict. To build acceptance, establish dialogue and play its humanitarian role effectively, the ICRC must continue to be -- and be seen to be -- neutral and independent. Neutral and independent humanitarian action had a clear added value for the protection of civilians in times of armed conflict, and that was essential to avoid misperceptions that political, military and humanitarian actors all pursued the same objectives.
He also drew the Council’s attention to the third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, adopted on 8 December by a Diplomatic Conference. The additional emblem was a very important step, which would enable the ICRC and the Red Crescent Movement to at least achieve universality and, thus, more effectively protect civilians in armed conflict.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of the United Kingdom, whose country holds the Council Presidency for this month, said that the gaps were clear: prevention, protection, humanitarian access and impunity. Those could only be filled by combined action by the parties to conflict, by individual States concerned, by the international community, by United Nations agencies, peacekeeping and peace support missions. At a political level, that required everyone to be alert and active.
The need for reliable information, ensuring humanitarian access and strengthening partnerships with regional organizations were among the many points highlighted during the debate. Japan’s representative regretted that little reliable statistical data was available to enable a certain assessment at the field-level of the impact of the Council’s work on protecting civilians caught in armed conflict. Admittedly, work on collating figures in those circumstances sometimes entailed enormous difficulties, but it was important for the Council to have more solid, reliable facts in considering the nature and scope of tasks and duties that a peacekeeping mission could realistically be expected to perform.
While the representative of South Africa agreed with the need to enhance the capacity and readiness of regional organizations to respond to the protection needs of civilians, he emphasized that stronger involvement in the protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance of regional organizations such as the African Union should not lead to an abdication by the United Nations system of its responsibilities. What was important was closer cooperation and partnership between the United Nations system and regional organizations.
Today’s topic was all too poignant for Iraq, which suffered daily from attacks on its civilian population, stated that country’s representative. The aim of such senseless carnage, whether committed in Iraq or elsewhere, was to disrupt ordinary life and engender fear and panic in the civilian population. In Iraq’s case, it was also to dissuade the world community from engaging with the country in its reconstruction. As a country suffering daily from terrorism, Iraq was disappointed that momentum had stalled on completing a convention on that scourge in the General Assembly. A clear, unequivocal condemnation of terrorism by the world body would go a long way in affirming the commitment of the international community to enforce the duty to protect civilians at all times in all places.
Speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, Canada’s representative once again called on the Council to place northern Uganda on its agenda. He stressed that impunity for violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including acts of sexual and gender-based violence were leaving a painful legacy for war-torn societies to manage, and in some instances -- like northern Uganda -- there was an urgent need for Council action. In the five years since the Council had adopted resolutions stressing the legal protection of civilians in armed conflict, he would argue that the quality of the Council’s performance in the area had been uneven.
In response to those comments, Uganda’s representative said northern Uganda was not experiencing the level of turmoil that warranted the sending of peacekeepers, or of putting Uganda on the Council’s agenda. It was widely known, he stated, that Canada had been leading a sustained, uncalled for, and unjustified crusade to have northern Uganda put on the Council’s agenda, a move which he strongly resisted.
Also addressing the Council today was the Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy, as well as the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Benin, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Germany, Greece, United Republic of Tanzania, Switzerland, Mexico, China, Denmark, Algeria, Nepal, Egypt, France, United States, Norway, Qatar, Slovakia, Pakistan, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Spain and Rwanda.
The meeting, which began at 10:16 a.m. and suspended at 1:15 p.m., resumed at 3:12 p.m. and adjourned at 5:06 p.m.
The Security Council met today to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, for which it had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2005/740). The report states that, five years ago, in April 2000, the Council adopted its latest resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (resolution 1296 (2000)), having adopted its very first resolution on this topic (resolution 1265 (1999)) seven months earlier. The Council’s adoption of these resolutions marked a significant milestone, reflecting the international community’s growing commitment to better address the tragic plight of civilians trapped in situations of armed conflict.
The report seeks to identify the emerging trends that affect the lives of civilians in conflict and the areas where relevant Council resolutions have had an impact on the lives of those forced to endure the hardships and tragedies of armed conflict. In so doing, the report seeks to identify measures and actions that the Council can take to strengthen and improve the response to the protection needs of civilians in armed conflict.
The report provides a review of the main events of the past five years that have shaped the environment of protection. These have been years in which civilians have continued to be caught up in armed conflict or acts of terrorism in situations as diverse as those in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Nepal, the Sudan, Uganda, West Africa and elsewhere. These are years in which the cumulative impact of conflict has continued to disproportionately affect the civilian population, especially women and children, requiring sustained attention and a renewed commitment by the Member States of the United Nations to address these concerns.
The Council has addressed new challenges to the protection of civilians as they have arisen, most recently the issue of ensuring humanitarian access in Darfur. Protection concerns are better and more consistently reflected in peacekeeping mission mandates. Multidimensional peacekeeping missions have begun to integrate expertise from United Nations agencies, which is helping to develop a more complementary approach to the protection of civilians. A number of missions have now employed “civilian protection officers”, who have been instrumental in developing an improved and shared understanding of protection needs.
All of that notwithstanding, there are gaps in the current framework, and addressing them will consolidate progress made in tackling protection needs, ensure effective mandates that better meet current protection needs and concerns and better engage regional organizations and other key partners in the protection of civilians. For these reasons, the Council may wish to consider adopting a resolution incorporating developments in areas such as a more systematic, comprehensive mandate for peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, physical protection and, especially, protection from sexual violence and child protection.
Incorporating with greater clarity particular issues of concern and possible actions to be taken in a resolution would further strengthen the protection framework. Regional organizations will continue to play an important role, and closer collaboration and support are needed. Similarly, the Secretary-General has called for a more predictable humanitarian response in complex emergencies. The absence of a multisectoral monitoring and reporting mechanism does not allow the Council to systematically identify areas of concern or assess the impact of its actions.
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that in the six years since the adoption of the first thematic resolution on the protection of civilians, there had been some significant improvements in the protection afforded to civilians. First, the Council’s more systematic and sustained engagement on protection of civilian issues had had an impact. Second, the enhanced engagement by regional and subregional organizations had made a real difference on the ground, as demonstrated by the African Union’s appointment of a special representative, the timely deployment by the European Union of rapid reaction forces to Ituri, and others. It was critical that such organizations were provided with sufficient resources to enable them to effectively protect civilians.
Third, he continued, there had been strengthened humanitarian assistance and response by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to the needs of civilians in conflict, helping to reduce conflict-related deaths, including death through malnutrition and disease, and to shield innocent children, women and men from some of the worst side effects of armed conflict. Fourth, an increasing number of countries had signed and ratified the relevant international legal instruments. Yet, it was disturbing that only 13 of the 26 countries in which there was currently armed conflict were party to Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. Finally, efforts to deter war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and to break the prevailing culture of impunity in situations of armed conflict had been boosted by the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
Despite the progress outlined, he said, the engagement by relevant bodies was too often inadequate and grave areas of concern persisted. Addressing some key protection concerns, he noted that over the past six years, civilians had continued to bear not only the devastating side-effects of armed conflict, but often had been deliberately targeted by parties to conflict, by both non-State actors and Government military forces alike. Most disturbing was the widespread sexual violence and abuse of women and girls. Improving the security situation in the longer term required firmer action in relation to disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation. Lack of adequate and sustained funding for such activities should not become the reason that fragile countries slipped back into conflict.
Efforts by peacekeeping missions to provide physical security for civilians under immediate threat of physical violence needed to be augmented by concrete measures to facilitate a secure environment more generally, he said. It was vital that multidimensional peacekeeping missions worked to improve the overall security situation. Working closely with the African Union and other regional and intergovernmental organizations towards that objective was crucial.
Obstructed or restricted humanitarian access remained a key concern in most conflict areas around the world, he said. To facilitate cooperation in providing access, his office would soon launch a manual on humanitarian negotiation with non-State actors in armed conflict situations. Also, humanitarian personnel increasingly found themselves exposed to threats, violent attacks, kidnappings for ransom and ambushes. As the Council had consistently stressed, all parties must guarantee the safety, security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of humanitarian organizations. In that connection, he welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption yesterday of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. The new Protocol expanded the application of the Convention to the implementing partners of the United Nations agencies, those delivering humanitarian, political or development assistance in peacebuilding or delivering emergency humanitarian assistance.
A humanitarian response could not be effective without adequate security conditions and a safe and secure operating environment, he said. The mere presence of aid workers in the region did not ensure assistance and protection. The presence of aid workers, therefore, should never be used as an alibi to camouflage the absence of genuine efforts to find lasting political solutions. “Year in and year out, we are unable to undertake adequate humanitarian programmes in severe emergencies because no coherent and systematic attempts are made to end the conflict. We become an expensive plaster on an open, unhealed wound. The band-aid approach costs lives and ultimately costs the international community dearly in both moral and financial terms.”
He underscored three of the recommendations for action contained in the Secretary-General’s report. First, the present framework needed to be updated to reflect the current environment of conflict and the latest developments and best practice in providing protection to civilians in armed conflict. Second, it was necessary to improve the collation of empirical data for both situation-specific and global trend analysis to facilitate the Council’s deliberations and decision-making. The Council must be properly informed about the nature and extent of protection needs, so that its response could be better tailored to the specific needs of the population.
Third, much more emphasis and support needed to be devoted to peacemaking, and all peacemaking efforts must reflect the protection needs of the civilian population. Those involved in peacemaking and mediation were the natural partners for the humanitarian community in ensuring that the impact of conflict and violence came to an end. The effective protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict required stronger partnerships that systematically identified the various protection needs of civilians, as well as who was best placed to address them.
JACQUES FORSTER, Vice-President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that, in contemporary conflicts, civilians were often the victims of the deliberate disregard shown by bearers of weapons for the strict obligation they had under international humanitarian law to spare those not taking part in the hostilities. Unarmed men, women and children were intentionally targeted. The lack of political will to fully respect humanitarian law and other applicable rules remained the main impediment to protecting civilians in times of armed conflict. The prime responsibility for providing protection and solutions fell upon the State authorities and all those who bore weapons. Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions clearly stipulated that States had such an obligation, and a duty encompassing measures ranging from purely preventive action to the repression of serious humanitarian law violations.
He said that the ICRC had a duty to act on behalf of all persons affected by armed conflict and other forms of violence, without distinction. It took into account, however, specific vulnerabilities and needs, such as those of internally displaced persons, women, missing persons and their families, and children –- for whom the Security Council so strongly had expressed its deep concern in the recent past. The plight of the internally displaced was of primary concern to the ICRC, whose priorities in that area centred mainly on such challenges as how to prevent displacement, how to alleviate the suffering it causes, where and how to relocate those persons, how to take into account the needs of the resident population in areas hosting those persons, and how to ensure the security of the returnees. The ICRC was convinced that enhanced cooperation was crucial to the protection of the internally displaced persons. Also extremely important was for humanitarian organizations to work in a complementary manner. That approach had sometimes led the Red Cross to focus on preventing displacement in remote areas.
In times of armed conflict, women were the victims of various forms of violence, owing to violations of international humanitarian law. Many were wounded or killed; others were marginalized and suffered anguish and deprivation after losing or being separated from family members, he said. Sexual exploitation was too often used as a weapon of war, targeting not only women, but through them, the entire community. The social repercussions of rape were one of the most difficult issues for humanitarian organizations to address, as it was totally devastating for women if the community responded by stigmatizing them. Another issue was the plight of the countless families whose relatives had gone missing. Any infringement of their right to know what had happened to their relatives hampered reconciliation and peace efforts. The authorities must spare no effort to prevent such disappearances, and to deal with the consequences when they did occur. The ICRC took a comprehensive approach to that issue, endeavouring to carry out preventive activities.
He said that, in order to build acceptance, establish dialogue and play its humanitarian role effectively, the ICRC must continue to be -– and be seen to be –- neutral and independent. Neutral and independent humanitarian action had a clear added value for the protection of civilians in times of armed conflict, and that was essential to avoid misperceptions that political, military and humanitarian actors all pursued the same objectives. Building trust and acceptance among all the parties to a conflict was an arduous undertaking that might be rapidly destroyed, with lasting consequences if doubts arose as to the independence of the humanitarian actor. He stressed the importance for the international community to prevent armed conflict and to support actions aimed at addressing its underlying causes in an effective and sustainable manner. He drew the Council’s attention to the third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, adopted on 8 December by a Diplomatic Conference. The additional emblem was a very important step, which would enable the ICRC and Red Crescent Movement to at last achieve universality and, thus, more effectively protect civilians in armed conflict.
CÉSAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) said there was no national security issue that could prevail over the primary obligation of all States to fulfil the rules of international humanitarian law. In such instances where the national legal system failed, the international community had an important role, even through the International Criminal Court, to judge those who committed atrocities against civilian populations. In considering the consequences of armed conflicts on civilians, the special way that armed conflicts affected women, children and other vulnerable groups should be taken into account.
He said the Council had expressed its willingness to examine situations that affected refugees and internally displaced persons and adopt adequate measures to contribute to the establishment of a secure atmosphere. In certain cases of special threat, the Council should consider deployment of a peacekeeping presence, including that of regional forces, when the affected State is not in a condition to provide protection. He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal that the Council updated the current framework for protection of civilians through a mechanism of information. There should also be information regarding incidents of protection in countries that are included in the Council’s agenda, in particular those subject to intense conflict.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil) said that, in the course of the Council’s discussions, much had been said about the nature of contemporary warfare and its deep impact on civilians. The latest report of the Secretary-General highlighted two of the most disturbing features of today’s conflict: forced displacement and sexual violence. Against that bleak background, the work of humanitarian personnel, in many cases, had been thwarted by denial or obstruction of access, poor conditions of security and the continuously regrettable lack of resources. As a consequence, a set of rules and principles had been developed, which sought to limit the consequences of armed conflict, but the international community still fell short of ensuring a more effective application of humanitarian law.
Violations must be prevented or duly punished, he continued. While States bore the primary responsibility to exercise their criminal jurisdiction, account must be taken of the full range of justice mechanisms, first and foremost, the International Criminal Court. The three investigations already under way were positive developments. By bringing perpetrators to justice, the Court would be able to provide long-term deterrence, with a positive impact on protecting civilians.
At the country level, he said, building capacity was crucial to enhancing the national legal, law enforcement and judicial systems, as well as to develop other long-term post-conflict initiatives. For a secure environment to be sustainable, he stressed the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, which must be fully resourced, especially in the reintegration phase. In countries emerging from conflict, disarmament and demobilization activities should be matched with actions to reintegrate former combatants into society through employment support and income-generation projects. Concerning the provision of humanitarian assistance, he had been supportive of efforts to make the United Nations system more predictable, and aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of humanitarian assistance, so that aid could be allocated in a non-discriminatory, balanced and proportionate manner. The Security Council must remain fully engaged in the protection of civilians in armed conflict, but it must also recognize the essential role of, and work in close coordination with, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
SIMON B. IDOHOU ( Benin) said that the changes that had accompanied the end of the bipolar world had led to the proliferation of internal, low-intensity armed conflicts, caused by prolonged destabilization of certain countries and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The international community, and the United Nations, were deeply frustrated due to the crimes against human dignity committed in conflict situations. It was important to recognize the considerable progress made since the first report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians.
In his current report, the Secretary-General had usefully presented different aspects that must be tackled by the United Nations. The Secretary-General had facilitated the work of the Council by identifying current problems, as well as actions at the appropriate level. The Council should reach agreement on those recommendations as soon as possible. He supported the reaffirmation of the responsibility of the international community, acting through the Council, to provide protection of civilians where public authority did not have the ability or will to provide that. He also supported giving peacekeeping operations the mandate to fully exercise their duty to protect threatened civilian populations.
The work of the United Nations should be geared toward developing national judicial institutions and promoting recourse to international justice, when national capacity did not make it possible to prosecute the violators of international law and international humanitarian law. The best solution would be to repeat the model for children affected by armed conflict. He appreciated the mechanism for systematically gathering data, used by United Nations structures, and the establishment of databases of incidents in areas of conflict. The Council should not just proscribe violations, but also provide protection for people.
ALFREDO MANTICA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, said there had been limited progress in protecting civilians affected by conflicts, as indicated by the conclusion of the Security Council President in June. Women and children were too frequently the subject of heinous forms of abuse and violence. Accordingly, Italy sought to contribute to establishing a safe environment for those population groups as a fundamental objective of peacekeeping operations. Italy had long followed that question and felt that another Security Council resolution that took into account, among other things, the results of the World Summit on the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity deserved his resolute support. He was committed to making an effective contribution to advancing the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly in the tragically complicated situations of armed conflict. During its presidency of the European Union, Italy had sought the protection of vulnerable groups in domestic conflicts.
He said that, given the nearly 25 million displaced persons within countries in conflict, his country’s attention had been focused primarily on preparing peacekeeping forces to cope with the requirements to defend the fundamental rights of the civilian populations involved. Its efforts had also focused on the tragic phenomenon of the millions of children involved in armed conflicts, as their rights and fundamental freedoms were systematically violated. Italy remained in the forefront of efforts to eliminate the phenomenon of child soldiers and their recruitment, and it had devoted efforts to elaborate and adopt the European guidelines on children in armed conflict. Moreover, it had been actively involved with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in projects to improve the condition of such children by helping countries to rehabilitate and reintegrate those “small victims” into society. Given his country’s long history on the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms worldwide, he reiterated his resolute support for the draft resolution under discussion.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO ( Peru) said that reality had shown that in several situations of conflict, the United Nations had not been able to prevent genocides, massacres and ethnic cleansing. The responsibility to protect implied three responsibilities: to prevent the internal causes of conflict that brought people into risk; to respond, which might include coercion measures, sanctions and, in extreme cases, military intervention; and to reconcile people and to rebuild the collapsed country. An important measure to reinforce the credibility of the capacity of the Council to protect civilians would be for the five permanent members to reach a “gentlemen’s agreement” of not using their veto on collective operations authorized by the Council to save lives.
Advancing the concept of the responsibility to protect and the effectiveness of the Council should occur in parallel with advancing the rule of law, the strengthening of national judicial systems and putting an end to impunity, he said. The referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court constituted an important landmark in the path of justice for great violations of human rights, and would contribute to putting an end to the sense of impunity that existed in Darfur. However, juridical dissuasion was not enough; strong guidelines for peacekeeping operations were also required. It was also necessary to update the framework that was being used by the Council to give support to the protection of civilians to better reflect the new environment and the capacity of the United Nations to respond. In that connection, he emphasized the need to involve regional and subregional organizations.
ALLAN ROCK (Canada), speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, once again called on the Council to place northern Uganda on its agenda. He stressed that impunity for violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including acts of sexual and gender-based violence were leaving a painful legacy for war-torn societies to manage, and in some instances -- like northern Uganda –- there was an urgent need for Council action. Indeed, the deliberate killing and displacement of civilians remained an active aim of combatants in a significant number of conflicts. In the five years since the Council had adopted resolutions stressing the legal protection of civilians in armed conflict, his delegation would argue that the quality of the Council’s performance in the area had been uneven.
On one hand, the Council had made significant strides to build and strengthen the range of actions it can draw on to support civilian protection and peacekeeping had been given express mandates to use force when civilians were under attack, and targeted sanctions have been applied that took humanitarian concerns into account. On the other hand, the Council has remained selective about which countries it would engage, frustratingly so when it came to preventive diplomacy. When the Council had become involved and where troops had been deployed, neither the Council nor the United Nations wider membership ensured that such missions were adequately equipped with resources to fulfil the tasks assigned.
His delegation was also concerned that the Council had been sending mixed signals regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as in the monitoring and enforcement of its own resolutions. By example, he drew attention to the continued impunity for militias in Darfur, which was “seriously challenging” the Council’s credibility. Indeed, the Council’s own resolution had committed the 15-nation body to respond to situations where civilians were being targeted or where assistance to them was being obstructed.
“Our delegations firmly believe that the Council must be timely in its engagement, vigilant in its monitoring and have the political will to draw upon the full range of measures at its disposal in support of civilian protection, including, ultimately and as a last resort, the use of force where diplomatic efforts have proven futile, and where States are not able to exercise their own responsibility”, he said. The Charter had tasked the Council with the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, and that was why world leaders at the September Summit had made a strong commitment to respond –- through the Council -– to fulfil their responsibility to protect.
Urging the Council to take up that challenge and to further clarify its position and resolve to act in the area of civilian protection in a new resolution, he also called for the Council to make greater use of its power to refer situations to the International Criminal Court. The delegation also called for more consistent monitoring by the Council and the Secretariat of existing mandates for the protection of civilians. Further, the Council must urgently explore the tragic cycle of displacement and violence, he said, urging the Council to adopt a new text which broadened the scope of civilian protection concerns.
LESLIE B. GATAN ( Philippines) said that civilians were not only caught in the crossfire as innocent victims, but were also deliberately targeted by many parties to conflict as part of strategy. Exacting accountability from the perpetrators of the violence against civilians was now even more difficult, with many violators being non-State actors, who were not bound by relevant international legal instruments. While international law covered the situation of civilians in inter-State conflicts, it was still difficult to make those parties to the conflict comply with international law. In addition, globalization had made borders more porous, so that many internal conflicts became increasingly regional in character. Today’s efforts to combat terrorist activities had also, inadvertently or otherwise, affected the safety of many civilians. Of utmost importance was that protection was delivered in a comprehensive manner. For all aspects of the process, the United Nations system must adopt a coordinated approach. The Security Council, through ongoing negotiations of a draft on the subject, would ensure that adequate protection components were incorporated into existing and future peacekeeping mandates.
He said that access to affected civilians had been stressed as key to providing protection. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had emphasized in its briefings to the Council that humanitarian access remained a challenge, owing, in part, to the increasing perception of the seemingly tarnished image of humanitarian assistance, including the perception that humanitarian assistance could be diverted for political ends. The challenge of remaining faithful to the principle of neutrality was further amplified by the involvement of non-State actors in many conflicts. There should be a proactive and renewed effort to emphasize the core motivation of humanitarian assistance, namely, the safety and security of civilians. Another impediment was the lack of adequate “protection space” for humanitarian actors to do their work because actual combat had not ceased, or worse, because there were attacks against the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel. He, therefore, stressed the need to ensure that those providing humanitarian relief be assured of the necessary protection and safety, primarily by United Nations peacekeepers.
MIHNEA MOTOC ( Romania) said that resolution 1296 (2000) had placed human rights and the humanitarian dimension higher on the Council’s agenda. Since then, the Council had not hesitated to deal with the devastating effects of armed conflict on civilians; mandate peacekeepers to ensure the protection of civilians; activate mechanisms to end impunity and stop abuses in Darfur, northern Uganda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo; call for unimpeded humanitarian access; and react promptly when humanitarian workers and United Nations personnel had become targets.
However, gaps remained, he noted. And the “sober representation” contained in the Secretary-General’s report was indeed alarming. It was his delegation’s desire that the measures taken in the Council have an immediate and relieving impact on civilians. However, much depended not only on the action of the Council, but on the willingness of States to bear the responsibility to protect their own citizens. Romania was working with Council members to have that issue reflected in the new resolution that was being negotiated. He added that the chances of successfully protecting civilians in armed conflict increased significantly when regional organizations and other key partners were engaged.
ILYA ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) said that a lot had been done to increase the protection of civilians and to ensure the right to a peaceful life. He particularly noted this year’s adoption of resolution 1612 on the protection of children in armed conflict. It was necessary to ensure the implementation of existing Council instruments and decisions, of which there were many, in the areas of protecting children, women and civilians in armed conflict.
He agreed with the concern in the Secretary-General’s report about restrictions on access of humanitarian personnel. The primary responsibility for that lay with the parties to the conflict. He also noted the important role of peacekeeping operations in that area. Also, it was timely to work out clear recommendations on interactions on such issues with various groups. The regional approach must be increased, he said, noting the peacekeeping role taken on by the African Union. Prompt reaction by the Council to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and combating sexual violence, were important for dealing with crisis situations. The Council should consider the role of peacekeeping operations in protecting civilians from violence, particularly sexual violence. He also stressed the role played by the International Criminal Court, and recalled the untapped potential of the fact-finding mission resulting from the Optional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
Advancing the responsibility to protect was clearly premature, he stated, recalling the complex compromise it took to reflect that in the 2005 Summit outcome. It was necessary to have a detailed discussion of the issue of the responsibility to protect by the General Assembly before discussing its implementation. The mechanisms for early warning and conflict prevention were important for protecting civilians. Their effective functioning should lead to a situation where the question of protecting civilians was not so starkly present on the international community’s agenda.
GUNTER PLEUGER ( Germany) said that the protection of civilians in armed conflict was highly important to the international community, but while it used to be concerned with civilian casualties as collateral damage in traditional warfare, the focus had now changed. Armed conflicts now were characterized by targeted attacks on civilians, forced displacements, sexual violence and indiscriminate killings. Combatants terrorized the civilian population, and internal strife and civil war and terrorist attacks brought untold harm to civilians. In 2003 and 2004, Germany had repeatedly called for a new resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Complex crises, such as in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, tragically demonstrated the need to fill the gaps in the current system protecting civilians.
He said, therefore, that he wholeheartedly welcomed the new draft resolution and appreciated the efforts of the United Kingdom to reinforce the discussion in that manner. He particularly appreciated that the draft recalled the primary responsibility of States to protect civilians from war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Also clear was that the international community had an obligation to help, through all measures available under the Charter, in rendering such protection effective. He strongly supported the inclusion of a reference in the text to that important concept. One tool of the international community was the International Criminal Court. The “ICC” could deter and hold responsible the perpetrators. It was important that the international community made use of the Court as an effective instrument for the protection of civilians. He welcomed the fact that several countries over the past five years had adopted policies or legislation concerning internal displacement, and he called on them now to implement that legislation.
At the same time, he said that the United Nations should do its utmost to ensure that civilians were best protected. He commended the Organization for incorporating the protection of vulnerable groups into its peacekeeping missions. In order to provide them with the best protection, a holistic approach was needed, which included not only humanitarian relief, but also development strategies. In post-conflict, the United Nations should focus on capacity-building of national, regional and local institutions, the reintroduction of the rule of law and the functioning of a justice system, as well as police training, the provision of quick impact employment measures in cooperation with the private sector, and the rebuilding of infrastructure. The creation of the Peacebuilding Commission would allow the United Nations to better pursue that approach, but post-conflict peacebuilding could not be achieved by the United Nations alone –- that should include regional organizations and neighbouring countries. The new resolution would be an important step towards reforming the current system of protection.
FEISAL AMIN AL-ISTRABADI ( Iraq) said that today’s topic was all too poignant and relevant for his country, which suffered daily from attacks on its civilian population. The aim of such senseless carnage, whether committed in Iraq or elsewhere, was to disrupt ordinary life and engender fear and panic in the civilian population. In the specific case of Iraq, it was also to dissuade the world community from engaging with the country in its reconstruction. Iraq’s position was clear: the targeting of civilians was wrong at all times, in all places, regardless of the cause. Practical steps must be undertaken by the United Nations and Member States to combat that scourge. He urged the international community to take up the proposals presented by the Secretary-General in his report.
He also said it was time to establish strict protocols safeguarding against the transport of light and automatic weapons across international boundaries. Unequivocal condemnation of terrorism wherever it might occur, coupled with controls on the transport of weapons, would undoubtedly result in decreased suffering by civilian populations worldwide. As a country suffering from terrorist attacks on a daily basis, Iraq was disappointed that momentum had stalled on completing a convention on terrorism in the Assembly. A clear, unequivocal condemnation of terrorism by the Assembly would go a long way in affirming the commitment of the international community to enforce the duty to protect civilians at all times in all places.
ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) said that the Secretary-General’s report had indicated that civilians had not only continued to be caught up in violent conflicts, but, alarmingly, targeted attacks, forced displacement, and sexual violence had become one of the most disturbing features of those conflicts. Another disturbing fact was the denial or obstruction of access to vulnerable populations by United Nations humanitarian personnel. Such incidents continued to take place with serious implications for the protection and survival of thousands of people in need. Recent cases of deliberate attacks on humanitarian personnel had also hampered aid delivery. All of those facts had indicated that the current level of protection of the civilian population should be enhanced through developing and improving existing means. The draft resolution to be considered by the Council was an important text, which addressed the complex range of current protection issues and identified key areas of action by the Member States, the United Nations and the relevant bodies, aimed at ensuring better protection of and respect for civilian populations.
He said he firmly believed that respect for international humanitarian law, human rights law, refugee law and international criminal law provided the best protection for civilians. Governments and non-State actors had the obligation to strictly comply with those laws. It was disquieting, however, that many States had not yet ratified all the treaties relating to civilian protection, particularly the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977. The restoration of law and the tackling of impunity were vital in preventing further violence. If national authorities were unwilling or unable to prosecute violators, the international community’s role was vital. The referral by the Council of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court had been a “bold step” towards putting an end to impunity and to consolidating peace, security and justice in that society. The early prevention of atrocities against civilians was an obligation of the State concerned, but if that State was unwilling or unable to protect its civilians, the Council had the “political and moral” obligation to take effective action and alleviate the human suffering. Also crucial were early warning mechanisms in preventing such crimes.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said that the 2005 Summit Outcome endorsed by world leaders in September contained significant agreements and concepts in advancing the humanitarian agenda. Particularly important was the reference to women and children in armed conflict, an acknowledgement, for the first time at the Head-of-State level, of the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement and a clear enunciation of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Yet, much remained to be done. The stark reality was that of innocent civilians attacked and killed, subjected to damage, injury, humiliation and loss in armed conflict. Particular pain was inflicted on women and children in the form of sexual violence and the forced recruitment of child soldiers. The Council should redouble its efforts to ensure that it made a difference on the ground.
He said his first point concerned the need for accurate information. Regrettably, little reliable statistical data was available to enable a certain assessment at the field-level of the impact of the Council’s work on protecting civilians caught in armed conflict. Admittedly, work on collating figures in those circumstances sometimes entailed enormous difficulties, but it was important for the Council to have more solid, reliable facts in considering the nature and scope of tasks and duties that a peacekeeping mission could realistically be expected to perform. Second, it was essential to ensure humanitarian workers’ access to people in dire need of assistance. Peacekeeping missions alone, now at their record high in terms of number and size, could not necessarily cover all the protection needs of civilians in armed conflict. Neither was it realistic to expect them to grow in size or to proliferate, given that troop-contributing countries were already “stretched thin” in the many recent and ongoing operations.
Third, the United Nations must strengthen its partnership with regional organizations, he said. Regional experience should be more fully utilized for effective protection of civilians. He welcomed the African Union’s efforts to play an increasingly important role in that regard. He also commended OCHA for its initiative to draft a work plan to serve to systematically engage with regional organizations in civilians’ protection. Japan, for its part, would provide all possible assistance to the important work done by and through regional organizations. Finally, from a mid- and long-term viewpoint, the establishment of the rule of law and security sector reform were indispensable to achieving effective protection. He had high expectations for the Peacebuilding Commission, the establishment of which would hopefully be agreed soon. That would make a valuable contribution to the effort.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said he understood that the United Nations Mission had no other option than to put criminals in its own facilities, as national authorities could not provide the necessary prisons. Under the circumstances, it could not realistically be expected that impunity would end. Clearly, the capacity-building of national authorities should be given priority. The education of children, especially those who had endured painful experiences as child soldiers, should be emphasized further in international efforts to put an end to the vicious circle of violence. The Security Council should now consolidate its past achievements and lay out the directions for future action in clear and bold terms. He strongly supported the draft resolution and looked forward to its early adoption, with some possible new inputs from the deliberations during today’s open debate.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said he was deeply concerned by the increase in acts of violence and abuse against civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law, human rights, and refugee law. The pattern of those violations constituted a threat to international peace and security. He, therefore, urged all parties to conflict to respect the relevant international laws. A grave violation of that law was the use of sex as a weapon of war, mostly against women and children. While he was encouraged that sexual abuses in conflict situations were now regarded as war crimes, perpetrators should be exposed and prosecuted expeditiously without the constraints of political expediencies. He reiterated the need to end impunity and bring justice to all those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and humanitarian law violations. In that regard, he urged assistance in the restoration of national judicial systems in countries emerging from conflict.
He said that the protection of civilians was primarily the responsibility of Governments, but when those failed or were unable to offer such protection, there was a collective responsibility to protect. Attention should be given to the development of the culture that upheld the rule of law and protected human rights and democracy through education. He called on States to ratify all instruments relating to the protection of civilians, as well as to implement the various relevant Security Council resolutions. Technical assistance might be required to assist States in developing countries. He, meanwhile, noted with concern the denial of access for humanitarian workers to populations in dire need. He echoed the Secretary-General’s demand for the parties to conflicts to immediately allow full and unimpeded access for humanitarian personnel. He also called on them to uphold the international principles guiding their work. Protecting civilians in conflict situations also required reducing the prevalence and risk of war. There again, he emphasized the importance of quality education and training, especially to youth, to ensure their reintegration into society and the building of an inclusive culture of peace and tolerance. He welcomed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission to address such issues.
XOLISA MABHONGO ( South Africa) noted that the Secretary-General’s report had highlighted the problems created by the continued recruitment of child soldiers. It also put an important emphasis on protection from physical and sexual violence, especially where it affected women and children. In that regard, he supported the call on all parties to strictly comply with the relevant rules and principles of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. He also agreed with the appeal to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and other egregious crimes perpetrated against civilians.
The report also correctly recognized that a secure environment for the protection of civilians, following a period of armed conflict, required the strengthening of national legal, law enforcement and judicial systems. In addition, it required that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should be fully funded. Therefore, he supported the Secretary-General’s call to reinforce the inclusion of adequate reintegration measures in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. He also agreed with his appeal to enhance the capacity and readiness of regional organizations to respond to the protection needs of civilians. However, he emphasized that stronger involvement in the protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance of regional organizations, such as the African Union, should not lead to an abdication by the United Nations system of its responsibilities. What was important was closer cooperation and partnership between the United Nations system and regional organizations.
PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) recalled the fundamental importance of respect for international law, including the dense body of customary law that applied to all situations and was of particular relevance in non-international armed conflicts. The substance of those rules was described in April by the International Committee of the Red Cross. That filled out a coherent body of non-negotiable law and legal principles to guide actions, and the resolution before the Council must reflect that situation.
Continuing, he said the broadening mandates of peace operations were welcome. However, while the military had an obligation to protect civilians, it was imperative that humanitarian action be carried out only by civilians to ensure the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Since that required close coordination between civilian and military actors, the Council should include civilians in the planning and definition of mandates. It should also follow the Guidelines on humanitarian activities in complex emergencies, while ensuring that regional organizations did the same.
Finally, he said he welcomed the references to “responsibility to protect” and also the adoption this week of a third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which introduced the emblem of a red square against a white background to represent the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The emblem was devoid of national, religious or cultural connotation. As the Depository State of the Geneva Conventions, his country called on all States to ratify the instrument quickly.
ENRIQUE BERRUGA FILLOY ( Mexico) said that the protection of civilians was a growing challenge. Today’s debate was timely, both in terms of taking stock of the progress achieved in the past five years, and in order to identify measures required to improve the level of that protection. In the past decade, there had been a marked increase in the number of armed conflicts and an unprecedented degree of violence and cruelty. The command and control of armed groups had broken down to such an extent that identifying parties to a conflict had become extremely difficult. Violence had reached farther, with civilian populations, formerly a collateral victim, becoming a main target. Those facts underscored the scope of the challenge before the world community. It was imperative that the Council, as well as regional organizations competent in the field of peace and security, take measures to compel the parties to conflicts to conduct hostilities within respect for humanitarian standards and to facilitate the delivery of assistance to the civilian population. Similarly, once hostilities were suspended, the disarmament and reintegration of armed groups were an indispensable prerequisite to repairing the fabric of a society.
Asserting that civilians were victims of conflict during and after the hostilities, he highlighted the linkage between their protection and the carriage of justice. Violators of international humanitarian law, in keeping with national legislation and international law, must be brought before the courts. The International Criminal Court was a fundamental tool for eradicating a culture of impunity, including as concerned cases of sexual exploitation and deliberate attacks on humanitarian personnel. The Court’s existence should be an incentive to strengthen national organizations. That should also serve as an official mechanism to deal with crimes when national structure had collapsed as a result of conflict. The United Nations system and relevant regional organizations must be given mandates that enabled them to implement international law properly, and those mandates must be backed by the necessary financial resources.
He said that identifying the vulnerable populations was crucial. That was why, as a Council member, he had promoted expanded communication between the Council and non-governmental organizations in the field. He had also defended and supported the creation of channels making it possible to offer safe and unrestricted access for humanitarian organizations to suffering populations. Once peaceful solutions had been exhausted, the international community, through the Security Council, must take all necessary measures to protect civilians from genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as other serious violations of international law, human rights and international humanitarian law.
ZHANG YISHAN ( China) commended United Nations agencies, especially OCHA and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, for their enormous efforts in the field. In recent years, the protection of civilians had attracted the increasing attention of the international community. He said that efforts to protect civilians should comply with the United Nations Charter and the provisions of relevant international law. Individual States assumed the primary responsibility for protecting their own citizens. The parties to conflict should provide effective protection to affected civilians. Protection activities should not overstep the principles enshrined in the Charter or infringe on the sovereignty or territorial integrity of States. Humanitarian personnel should abide by the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.
Second, he said, the work on civilian protection should focus on conflict prevention. The protection of civilians was not an isolated issue. The best protection to civilians was the prevention of conflicts. Policies to promote sustainable development, build a sound and harmonious society, and realize national reconciliation should be pursued to remove the root causes of conflicts. The Council should actively encourage preventive diplomacy and promote the resolution of existing conflicts.
Third, he continued, the concept of the responsibility to protect should be undergoing in-depth discussion. The outcome document of the World Summit had elaborated on that concept at length, due to the sensitivity of the issue. In cases of large-scale humanitarian crises and massive violations of human rights, the international community must take rapid measures to address the situation. The Council should make its own judgement of the situation. At the same time, it could not lose sight of the fact that conflicts were a result of many factors. A cautious approach should be adopted in determining whether a State had the capability or will to protect its own citizens. Intervention in a hasty manner should be avoided. Fourth, the States of concern should take initiatives in assuming the responsibility to end impunity and bring to justice the perpetrators. The Council, he added, should proceed cautiously and avoided the adoption of a “cookie cutter” approach in dealing with situations.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said the responsibility to protect and the fight against impunity were two key aspects to the protection of civilians. The Heads of State and Government had agreed at the 2005 World Summit that, if all else failed, collective action must be taken to put an end to acts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It was not a matter to “consider doing”, but one that “must” be done.
Likewise, she said, the Council must continue exploring ways and means to fight impunity. Legal mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, were already in place, and universal legal protection standards already existed. States could choose the instruments to which they would be party, but it was a collective responsibility to ensure that justice prevailed. The Council should consider the issue in the context of strengthening the international rule of law.
Overall, she said, action on behalf of protecting civilians in armed conflict should be guided by the 10-point platform of action set out by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Unhindered access to civilians in need by humanitarian workers must be ensured. The Agenda for Protection should be applied in the case of refugees and the displaced. And finally, capacity-building must be stepped up, including through the proposal on Capacity for Protection put forward by OCHA.
ABDALLAH BAALI ( Algeria) said the legal arsenal available for the protection of civilians provided a solid guarantee for the effective handling of that complex question. Undeniably, progress had been made since the publication of the first Secretary-General’s report on the issue, including the reinforcement of the mandates of peacekeeping operations and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. However, a lot remained to be done. Sexual violence, the conscription of child soldiers, and difficulty in delivering emergency humanitarian assistance were characteristics of many of today’s conflicts. A comprehensive and coherent approach for the protection of civilians must be undertaken with a heightened sense of urgency.
He emphasized that a far-ranging prevention strategy would make it possible to provide protection to civilians in the long term. Second, the protection of civilians must comply with international norms and must be free from any political calculations. In some cases, the humanitarian community was doing little or nothing. Third, he agreed that all forms of impunity should be combated in cases of violations of international law and human rights. Fourth, recent events had demonstrated how vulnerable humanitarian work was. More must be done to ensure security and freedom of movement for humanitarian personnel. Fifth, more effective coordination was needed between the Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. It was also necessary to encourage regional approaches and strengthen partnerships with regional and subregional organizations.
He recalled that the September Summit had mandated the Assembly to continue the debate on the responsibility to protect, on which there was still no unanimity within the international community. It was necessary to await the outcome of the ongoing analysis of the United Nations humanitarian response capacity. He could not overemphasize the importance of complying with the principles of the Charter and the principles underpinning international relations.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said that the international community should address the root causes of conflicts, such as poverty and a lack of democratic participation. In Uganda, apart from the usual causes of conflict, fighting was ongoing against a “fanatic and satanic” rebel group, self-styled as the “Lord’s Resistance Army”. Despite several offers for peace, “Kony and his gang” had not responded. Mr. Egeland reminded us this morning that the military option was no solution, but realism should prevail. The group that the Council was urging his Government to talk to did not want peace; it was simply taking “a breather” to obtain supplies and reorganize themselves, in order to carry out their “murderous activities”. The international community had just watched as civilians were brutally killed. Sadly, even when displaced people in a camp known as Barlonyo in northern Uganda were massacred, the Council had not uttered even a word of condemnation in a presidential statement. Some of the remnants of those rebels had run away to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He called on the Council to have them arrested and disarmed. Instead of blaming the aggressor, the victim –- Uganda -- had been blamed for not ending the war.
Referring to specific points in the Secretary-General’s report, he said that paragraphs 8 and 17 referred to displaced persons, but it was incorrect to assert that 90 per cent of the population in the districts of Gulu, Pader, and Kitgum were displaced. Most areas, especially in Gulu and Kitgum, were now safe, and people were returning home. The Government was carrying out reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in those areas under the northern Uganda reconstruction programme. The departments of Government were functioning. The conditions in the internally displaced persons camps were far from perfect, but the Government, in partnership with some non-governmental organizations, was addressing issues such as sanitation, security and the provision of food. Those camps were only a temporary measure to protect civilians from marauding Kony rebels. In fact, the Government had announced the resettlement of some 700,000 people in displaced camps in Lira and Teso to their home areas, for which the Government needed international assistance. In that regard, he welcomed the recent humanitarian appeal for Uganda in the form of a grant of $223 million.
Paragraph 20 of the Secretary-General’s report contained an “alarmist” statement referring to the “elimination” of the right to freedom of movement in northern Uganda, he asserted. There was no such policy. When the Government unilaterally offered a ceasefire to the rebels, it designated certain areas where the rebels could assemble safely. Any rebels found outside those areas would be treated as enemy combatants and dealt with accordingly. That restriction was never meant to restrict free movement of the civilian population. Since the rebels had not responded positively to that good gesture for peace, the designated areas no longer existed. There was free movement of people throughout northern Uganda, and the Government was in control of the entire area. Northern Uganda was not experiencing the level of turmoil that warranted the sending of peacekeepers or of putting Uganda on the Security Council’s agenda, as had been suggested by Mr. Egeland this morning, and supported by Canada. It was widely known that Canada had been leading a sustained, uncalled for, and unjustified crusade to have northern Uganda put on the Council’s agenda, a move which he strongly resisted.
He said that the report also stated that the Government’s inability to guarantee security continued to hamper access in northern Uganda. That was incorrect. The Government had been providing escorts, and the World Food Programme had testified to that, in the form of relief convoys. In some instances where some relief workers had unfortunately been targeted by the few rebels and lost their lives, those concerned had chosen not to ask for Government escorts against the advice of the Government. No Government anywhere in the world could guarantee 100 per cent security to its citizens. With the cooperation of the Sudan and the region, the menace of “Kony and his gang” would soon be history. He appealed to the international community to assist in carrying out the warrants issued by the International Criminal Court against the indicted top leadership of the “Kony gang”. Even at this late hour, the peace talks option was still on the table. Any rebel who surrendered would benefit from the amnesty extended by his Government.
MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said that national Governments had the primary responsibility to protect their citizens. The protection of civilians, especially women and children, remained the primary challenge to be addressed. Nepal had been victim to terrorist attacks by armed groups. In their attacks, such groups had destroyed lives and livelihoods. Innocent civilians had become victims of killings, maimings and kidnapping. Turning to the references to his country in the Secretary-General’s report, he said Nepal was committed to undertake measures to protect civilians. The Government was conscious of its responsibility to protect civilians, even in difficult circumstances. It had given the highest priority to protection of civilians, and to assisting internally displaced persons.
The Government, he continued, was committed to intensifying efforts, taking into account short-term and long-term perspectives. It observed the principles of international law to protect civilians. Security personnel were given instructions and training on international humanitarian law. The Government had allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all areas of the country, including detention centres. Non-governmental organizations had been allowed unhindered access to the civilian population, if they were registered in line with the law. Forthcoming elections in 2006 and 2007 would help strengthen democracy in his country. He supported the notion that humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the State concerned.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said that the changing nature of conflicts and combatants in several parts of the world, including territories under foreign occupation, had had a profound impact on respect for civilian status and the safety and well-being of civilian populations. A new vision was required to address those challenges and enhance the United Nations’ role, for which several factors should be taken into account. First, the Council should confine itself to cases of protection of civilians defined in its agenda and not extend its authority by setting the general policies dealing with humanitarian issues and human rights. Elaboration of such policies was within the mandate of the General Assembly and its main committees. He was concerned about the mention in the report regarding the Council’s role in legislating and implementing what was called “protection of population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity”.
Second, he said, the protection of civilians required the Council to exert more effort to address the underlying causes of conflict and terrorism, and not to limit its intervention to dealing only with the results. He regretted that such an important report had not included any reference to the role of the General Assembly, ECOSOC, or to their mandates. Nor had it addressed the economic and social issues contributing to armed conflicts and impairing civilians’ well-being. Third, he viewed favourably the proposal of the Secretary-General regarding a more systematic, comprehensive mandate for peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, physical protection and protection from sexual violations and child protection. He was looking forward to the establishment of a peacebuilding commission with the Security Council ensuring that both bodies worked in a complementary fashion when dealing with post-conflict phases and the conclusion of peacekeeping operations. He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to establish a group of legal experts to address the liability of the United Nations operations regarding any illegal activities.
He called on the Security Council to give special attention to the situation in Africa, where there were numerous flagrant examples of suffering among civilians in armed conflict, and to find ways to enhance the African Union’s role. At the same time, the mention in the report that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and other humanitarian agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, had been subjected to more than 2,000 incidents of denial or obstruction of access from January 2004 to July 2005 had been extremely worrying. Effective measures should be taken to prevent a recurrence of those incidents and to guarantee Israel’s respect for its obligation as the occupying Power. He was following closely the activities of the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the inter-agency standing committee to reinforce the humanitarian protection response. Overall, the United Nations’ management of the protection of civilians should evolve through the framework of international law, international humanitarian law and the Charter, and without prejudice to sovereignty, national unity, and without interference in internal affairs. Only that would guarantee balanced progress.
MICHEL DUCLOS ( France) said he supported the intention of the United Kingdom presidency to submit a new resolution on protection of civilians. As to what that resolution should include, he mentioned three points. The first was the responsibility to protect, which was something that had appeared since the 2000 resolution. What was proposed by the United Kingdom presidency was not a re-opening of the debate on the subject. All had agreed that refining that concept would occur within the context of the General Assembly. That did not mean that the Council was absolved from reflecting the basic agreement on that concept.
Second, since 2000, an important development was the establishment of the International Criminal Court, he said. The Council had been able to transfer the situation in Darfur to the Court. The precedent created by that transfer was in keeping with the recommendations produced by the High-Level Panel. Third, the protection of civilians required giving particular attention to the most vulnerable, including women and children in armed conflict. The Council had established a monitoring and reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict. It was important that that mechanism “get down to practical work” in the coming months. The Council should give great attention to that matter.
ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) said that the Secretary-General’s report had painted a disturbing picture. The world continued to be plagued by violent conflicts, with civilians now the major casualties of wars worldwide. The primary responsibility for protecting them, however, lay with States and Governments. International efforts should complement those efforts, rather than assume responsibility for them. Improving civilian protection depended largely, not on what was said and done here, but on what Governments did to protect their own people and how they allowed others to assist. He continued to be gravely concerned about the ongoing crisis in Darfur and the impact on civilians. While large-scale organized violence had substantially diminished, civilians continued to be subjected to lawlessness and banditry, and girls and women continued to be raped.
Also in Darfur, he said, more than 2 million people had been displaced, and peacekeepers and humanitarian workers were increasingly targeted. The continuing insecurity had had a direct detrimental impact on the international community’s ability to deliver assistance and provide basic services for the victims of the conflict. That situation illustrated the urgent role that all parties to a conflict, especially States, must play to safeguard civilians, including those internally displaced. Clearly, the Sudanese Government had not fulfilled its responsibility to its people in Darfur. The internally displaced persons living in camps could continue to face serious human rights violations.
Several other countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were in delicate situations of transition, he said. United Nations peacekeeping and assistance missions could help ensure that civilians in those regions were not denied the dividends of peace. He was encouraged that the Security Council had consistently been addressing the dimension of civilian protection and that peace missions were consistently incorporating provisions on the safety of United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel. He was grateful to the delegation of the United Kingdom for its efforts on the resolution, and he looked forward to continued negotiations on the text.
On behalf of the European Union, ADAM THOMSON ( United Kingdom) said that five years after the last resolution on the issue, the situation for civilians caught up in armed conflict remained critical. After five years of recommendations, it was time to take stock of lessons learned and what gaps needed to be filled. The gaps were clear: prevention; protection; and humanitarian access and impunity. Those could only be filled by combined action by the parties to conflict, by individual States concerned, by the international community, by United Nations agencies, peacekeeping and peace support missions. At a political level, that required everyone to be alert and active.
First, he said, everyone must do better to prevent harm to civilians. The world community at the September Summit had recognized that prevention was a critical part of the continuum in the protection of civilians, and it recognized the collective responsibility in that regard. By it, world leaders had also pledged to fully support the mission of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. Timely and adequate briefing by the Special Adviser, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and other relevant parts of the system would help the Council act sufficiently early in conflict situations to effectively protect civilians at risk.
He said that parties to conflict must comply fully with the requirements of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law on the protection of civilians, especially concerning the bans on physical attack, sexual and gender-based violence, the use of child soldiers, and forced displacement. They must also ensure that specific measures for the protection of civilians were included in peace agreements. Meanwhile, peacekeeping missions must be given the mandates and the resources to protect civilians. Just as importantly, the missions must be given proper guidelines on how to do that. Humanitarian access was a crucial part of protection. Starvation and dying from cholera, dysentery or malnutrition were only slower ways of dying. The right to food and the right to health were fundamental human rights, but the denial of humanitarian access was increasingly used as a political tool, and even as a weapon of war.
Attacks on humanitarian personnel could not be tolerated under any circumstances, he stressed. All parties to conflict, as well as neighbouring States, must, as the draft resolution proposed, provide unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance and take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel. United Nations peace support operations must have the mandates and the resources to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance where States could not or would not. Involving the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator from the earliest stages of planning of all peacekeeping operations would help ensure that.
He said that the investigation of crimes committed against civilians, and bringing the perpetrators to justice, was also vital. That would deter future abuses, provide some redress to the victims, and ensure that “a page can be turned” in a State’s history. There could be no peace without justice. Participation of victims in judicial proceedings, and assistance to victims through the ICC Victims Trust Fund formed an integral part of the healing process. As the resolution demanded, it was for States to bring to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, and for the international community to support their efforts. But where States could not or would not bring to justice the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, the international community should be able to act. As the Court investigation of atrocities committed in Darfur and northern Uganda showed, “we cannot stand by while people -– no matter how high their rank -– get away with the most egregious crimes”, he said.
While not directly addressed in the draft resolution, it would be wrong to address the issue of civilians’ protection in armed conflict without raising the issue of illicit small arms and light weapons, he said. Much progress had already been made since the 2001 Programme of Action, but small arms and light weapons still accounted for more deaths worldwide each year than did any other type of weapon. The excessive and destabilizing accumulation of those weapons and their unrestrained transfer seriously challenged international security, human safety and socio-economic development. The Union looked forward to working with others in the 2006 review of the Action Programme to ensure that it remained relevant. It also welcomed the growing support for an international treaty to establish common standards for the global trade in conventional arms.
JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway) noted that, although the number of conflicts had decreased in the last 10 years, today’s conflicts were often protracted and fought by groups without clear command structures. In protracted armed conflicts, civilians were subject to widespread violence, insecurity and displacement, with no protection against even the gravest breaches of international humanitarian law. As social structures and common norms of behaviour gradually broke down, the vulnerability of the population sharply increased. Sexual violence against women was a particularly serious problem in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sexual crimes were not only being committed by irregular armed groups, but also by those who had primary responsibility to protect, namely the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Strict compliance with international humanitarian law, human rights law, refugee law and international criminal law provided the best basis for ensuring the safety of civilian populations.
He said Norway strongly welcomed the 2005 World Summit Outcome, which explicitly set out the common responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. A new Council resolution must bring the international community closer to an effective international protection regime. It must also include a clear and unambiguous reference to the responsibility to protect as a responsibility resting with the Council. The resolution should also underline the particular role of the International Criminal Court in ending impunity and securing justice. There was no doubt that the true challenge for the Council was effective implementation on the ground. While a new resolution would potentially bring the Council forward, it must continue focusing on already agreed texts, which were far from being fully implemented. He also stressed the need for empirical information on the situation of women and children in armed conflicts, and on the recruitment of child soldiers by warring factions, including States and non-State actors.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that no effort should be spared to mainstream the protection of civilians into State policies, United Nations programmes and mandates of peacekeeping operations. Member States must be encouraged to sign and ratify the legal instruments that were readily available within the wider framework of protecting civilians in armed conflict. Pressure must also be brought to bear on the belligerents to bring them into compliance with the rules and principles of international law. In that regard, the United Nations had an important role to play in the field of advocacy. It was impossible to develop a culture of protecting civilians unless all stakeholders adequately coordinated their actions. The time had come to act seriously and decisively, pursue an integrated and systematic approach to prevent the outbreak of conflicts, promote a culture of respect for human rights and put an end to impunity.
He stressed that the protection of civilians, whether in times of transition, armed conflicts or when fighting terrorism, should be anchored in the respect for international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. Qatar was determined to promote those principles and values during its tenure as an elected member of the Council for the period 2006-2007. He called on the Council to resort to monitoring mechanisms and fact-finding missions, and to end illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, given their impact on civilian populations. The Council should also dedicate more attention to the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, in particular to the use of sexual violence as a weapon and a tool of war; to ending forced displacement through enacting measures; and to pursuing additional approaches to protect civilians in armed conflict.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said that even after Srebrenica and Rwanda, there were still attacks motivated by ethnic or religious hatred, sexual violence and killing of civilians. The international community must continue to adopt and implement feasible measures to put an end to such grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Further elaboration of the principle “responsibility to protect”, outlined during the 2005 World Summit, should continue, also through a Council resolution. The Council must also ensure immediate, decisive and rapid reaction to emerging situations of massive attacks on civilians and their livelihood. Political questions or selfish national interests should not be an obstacle for the international community to act through the Council.
He said a few days ago, militias had attacked a city in western Darfur, destroying all water wells built by humanitarian workers. Even in cases when there was no direct armed attack, civilians might starve to death and suffer from grave shortage of water. Attacks on basic infrastructure, such as sources of drinking water and crops, should, therefore, also be considered as direct attacks against civilians. The international community should not only condemn attacks that targeted the very livelihood of people, but also prosecute those who perpetrated such inhumane acts.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said that an overall decrease in the number of armed conflicts since the 1990s was indeed encouraging; however, in today’s armed conflicts, the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law had escalated with tragic consequences for civilians, especially women, children and minorities. As the Secretary-General had observed, “in the new warfare, the impact of armed conflict goes far beyond the notion of collateral damage”. The details he provided were a sad commentary on the “poverty of implementation” of the entire body of international humanitarian and human rights law, which codified protection of civilians. A comprehensive response entailed proper identification of underlying problems, which were multidimensional -- legal, moral, political, cultural, social and economic.
He said that one reason for the escalation in violations was the changing nature of conflicts from inter-State conflicts to internal wars. In many aspects, it was the “politics of poverty” that led to and exacerbated conflicts, involving competition between groups, including civilians, for scarce resources. There again, civilians were usually on the front line. Systematic and consistent violations of civilians’ rights were move pervasive in situations of foreign occupation and suppression of the right of peoples to self-determination. The list of places where the gravest violations were taking place amply illustrated that point. That list, however, was not exhaustive, as it had excluded, for example, a situation of particular concern to his country, where the most blatant violations had been and were being perpetrated against civilians. An important question was how to protect civilian populations when their very suppression was the object of the conflict. The rationale of suppressing terrorism should not provide an escape route for the suppression of civilians seeking respect for their fundamental rights, including the right to self-determination.
The challenge of addressing gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law was also exacerbated by the problem of inequity in the international response, he said. In some situations, there was a quick, and even, robust response. In others, the perpetrators enjoyed virtual impunity -– both at the national and international level. Most often, there was sufficient public concern, but insufficient political will to act. The record of the Security Council, itself, in that context was not without blemish. It was vital to reinforce the concept of protection of civilians in all such situations of complex crises, which deserved a uniform and timely response. If powerful bodies such as the Security Council were unable to act, the international community should consider utilizing the Charter authority of the General Assembly to do so. The international judicial mechanisms could also be utilized for that purpose.
His proposal to ensure protection of civilians in armed conflict included the following points, among others: all States should undertake a binding legal obligation to observe international humanitarian law and refrain from and oppose genocide and war crimes; much greater emphasis was required to prevent the outbreak of conflicts; and international monitoring could play an effective part in prevention. Particular attention should be paid to the abrogation of draconian laws, and, where United Nations peacekeeping or observer missions were already deployed, their mandates should include reporting on the treatment of civilian populations. Lastly, the humanitarian response to situations of violations should be adequate and timely. For that purpose, the United Nations’ humanitarian capacity should be enhanced; predictable financing should be provided; and coordination should be reinforced.
PATRICK RITTER ( Liechtenstein) said that the recognition of the responsibility of the international community to protect civilian populations when their Governments failed to do so constituted a major breakthrough in the common endeavour to prevent genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The main obligation for its implementation naturally fell on the Security Council. Such a huge responsibility led to the conclusion that collective action to prevent and respond to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes must not be made impossible by a non-concurring vote of one of the permanent members of the Council.
Transitional justice was an inevitable element of any serious discussion of post-conflict situations, he said. There was now a close and well-established relationship between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations –- both through the adoption of a relationship agreement between the two organizations and the Council referral of the situation in Darfur to the Court. Prevention was indeed the key aspect in the protection of civilians. Preventive action could, however, only be effective if it was made clear that abuses against civilian populations, often carried out against their most vulnerable members, were violations of international law that would not go unpunished. An unequivocal and firm stance of the Council that there would not be impunity for such crimes would have a strong deterrent effect in any situation and, thus, serve as a very useful tool of prevention.
Y.J. CHOI ( Republic of Korea) said it should be kept in mind that the most vulnerable people in armed conflict were women and children. Indeed, acts of sexual violence against women and girls continued to be committed in many conflict situations, while children were frequently recruited or abducted and used as soldiers. Effective protection measures were urgently needed. He also noted that violence against civilians in a given country directly affected the surrounding region through refugee flows and the proliferation of illicit arms trading. Meanwhile, the role of neighbouring countries was crucial to ensuring humanitarian access to civilians in regions of conflict. Effective, comprehensive protection of civilians in armed conflict, therefore, required further strengthening of regional cooperation.
Welcoming the inclusion of the concept of the responsibility to protect in the World Summit’s outcome, he said the United Nations should continue to discuss ways to put it into practice. While national authorities had the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, when they failed to exercise that responsibility, the international community should use various means to help them meet that responsibility. He added that to deter the recurrence of crimes against civilians, the culture of impunity must be brought to an end. In that regard, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the ad hoc international tribunals and the Special Court for Sierra Leone had great significance. Also crucial to ending impunity was providing assistance for judicial capacity-building in war-torn societies, with a view to ensuring that law and order were restored.
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said that most conflicts had a low level of intensity, thereby inflicting its most severe suffering on civilians. The main responsibility for the protection of civilians rested with national authorities. However, in cases where a State was not able to provide such protection, the international community had a responsibility to intervene, including by using coercive measures under Chapter VII of the Charter.
Of particular concern was the need to guarantee access of humanitarian personnel to areas in need. As the Secretary-General had noted in his report, and as Mr. Egeland had indicated, access could not be gained to some 10 million people. Security problems not only impeded access but sometimes made it necessary to withdraw humanitarian personnel. It was vital not to let those responsible for atrocities go unpunished. States under whose jurisdiction crimes were committed bore the primary responsibility for bringing the perpetrators to justice. Transitional justice, truth commissions, joint tribunals and the International Criminal Court were among the tools available to do that.
He added that making use of the International Fact-Finding Commission, mentioned in resolution 1265 (1999), would help ensure compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law, particularly those regarding protection to victims of armed conflict. He hoped more States would accept the jurisdiction of the Commission. It was necessary to study the establishment of official channels to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and the Commission.
STANISLAS KAMANZI ( Rwanda) said that the protection of civilian populations in armed conflicts was “strictly mandatory” for all concerned State and non-State parties. A higher threshold in that respect should be contemplated in those situations where populations were at risk of genocide and other large-scale atrocities. One important and far-reaching development had been the commitment expressed by world leaders to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes. His Government reiterated its sincere gratitude to all the delegations to their solemn adherence to that revolutionary commitment. That agreement by Heads of State and Government at the World Summit had been a recognition that only collective action was the way forward if humanity was to be freed, once and for all, of such grave violations, which had recurred in past decades in many parts of the world. That was a recognition that “business as usual” was inadequate and could no longer prevail.
He said that the first and foremost responsibility for the protection of populations lay with the State itself, yet there was a collective responsibility. He, therefore, supported the courses of action envisaged in the outcome document of the September Summit, including that the international community be prepared to act in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, where the State was manifestly failing to protect its populations from atrocities. Given the undeniable role of the Security Council in that respect, it was appropriate for it to support that important development on the agenda of civilian protection. He, therefore, urged the Council to seriously consider, including in the draft resolution under consideration, an expression of its willingness to discharge its mandate and act accordingly, by endorsing the commitments set forth in the Summit’s outcome text.
In closing remarks, Mr. EGELAND thanked speakers for the many expressions of support, noting that it had been a year of crises and natural disasters like no other. Today’s debate underlined the importance of mainstreaming protection and addressing critical gaps in implementation. There had been recognition of the need to increase mechanisms for peacemaking and prevention, as the main tools to protect civilians. Speakers had emphasized the need to address the root causes of conflict and to devote greater efforts to conflict prevention.
Today, the focus had been mainly on Africa. At the same time, he recalled the situation reported by the representative of Iraq, who reported that some 30,000 had been killed there. He extended his deepest condolences to the victims of violence in Iraq and elsewhere, where there were protection problems. He was pleased that Uganda had stated that a negotiated outcome was still on the table for northern Uganda. He condemned the senseless violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader. It was necessary to recognize that the problems created could not be solved solely by military means.
He noted that resources devoted to peacemaking, the root causes of conflict and security efforts for the most vulnerable were totally inadequate. In Darfur, developments were worsening and the protection crisis was deepening. The international community could only address that if there was sustained access to all the displaced, which had been reduced in northern Uganda and Darfur. Many had stated that humanitarian principles must be respected by those working in the humanitarian field. The neutrality of humanitarian workers had been strengthened through increased training, particularly for humanitarian coordinators. The importance of more accurate reporting was also underlined by many speakers.
He said the representative of the Russian Federation had stressed the importance of implementing the first two resolutions on the protection of civilians. He fully agreed with that imperative. More must be done to implement those important resolutions. At the same time, a new resolution was needed now that reflected relevant developments over the past five years in order to guide future work. He urged Council members to redouble efforts to conclude a strong resolution, keeping in mind the women, children and most vulnerable that needed protection.
* *** *For information media • not an official record