|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6917th Meeting (AM & PM)
Security Council Says States Have Primary Responsibility for Protecting Civilians
in Conflict, Reaffirms Peacekeeping Missions Need Protection Mandate, Resources
Secretary-General Urges Council to Take Strong Lead in Protecting Civilians;
Top Human Rights Official, International Red Cross, More Than 70 Delegations Speak
In its continued consideration of the compelling need to protect unarmed populations targeted by belligerents in armed conflict or victimized as an unintended result of the fighting, the Security Council today held that States had the primary responsibility, but reaffirmed it would continue to ensure that peacekeeping missions, “where appropriate and on a case-by-case basis”, were also mandated to play their part and had priority in tapping into resources for that purpose.
In an agreed presidential statement read out by Kim Sung-hwan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, whose delegation holds the Council’s presidency for February, the 15-member body emphasized the need for missions with protection mandates to ensure their implementation and the importance of engagement by senior mission leadership to ensure that all mission components and all levels of the chain of command were informed of, and involved in, the protection mandate and their relevant responsibilities in that regard.
Also, the Council stressed the importance of ensuring that peacekeeping missions with protection of civilian mandates develop mission-wide strategies for incorporation in the overall mission implementation and contingency plans in consultation with the host Government, local authorities, troop- and police-contributing countries, and other relevant actors.
The Council reiterated its demand that all parties to armed conflict comply strictly with their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, and stressed the need for all parties to take all required measures to avoid civilian casualties and to respect and protect the civilian population.
Opening the day-long debate, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the obligation to protect civilians in armed conflict — he has reported that 90 per cent of the victims are civilians — “does not rest solely with warring parties: we all have a responsibility to protect”, and failure to do so could contribute directly to the commission of atrocity crimes.
Syria was a “searing reminder of the human cost of war”, he said, adding that that situation was “particularly acute and intractable”. He also pointed to Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and elsewhere, where civilians continued to suffer and die as warring parties ignored their obligations to protect.
He urged the Council to take a strong and visible lead in protecting civilians and pursuing accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Where there were peacekeeping missions, he pledged that the United Nations would do its utmost to support States in fulfilling their obligations in line with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
“It is time for us to find a way to do better,” declared Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressing that the lack of consensus on Syria and the resulting inaction “has been disastrous” for civilians. There would always be some disagreement within the international community on how to respond to a given situation, but when tens of thousands of civilian lives were threatened, as was happening in Syria, the world expected the Council to act.
As the discourse unfolded, many of the more than 70 speakers acknowledged the myriad obstacles in conflict-affected communities, as they grappled with the complex question of the moral and ethical responsibility to protect civilians when Governments and warring parties could not or would not meet those obligations.
Some offered prescriptions for protection norms, and, concerned at the slow pace of operationalizing the concept, advocated for more robust civilian protection mandates in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Others were more cautious, reiterating that the primary responsibility of meeting the immediate protection needs of populations rested with the Governments, themselves.
National Governments bore the primary responsibility for protecting their populations, agreed the United States’ Ambassador, however, she said, some were “manifestly failing” because of either insufficient capacity or will. In cases where Governments condoned or even perpetrated atrocities against their own people, the Security Council must press the Government to fulfil its obligations.
South Africa’s speaker said that protecting civilians from the scourge of war was at the core of the Council’s mandate. If it did not play its role in that regard, then it would have failed the international community. The representative of the Russian Federation cautioned, however, that the international community should take reactive steps to protect civilians, including use of force, only with the Council’s approval and in strict compliance with the Charter.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran’s delegate stressed that the civilian protection mandates in several United Nations peacekeeping operations should not be used for Government change, or military intervention. It must be ensured, as well, that United Nations’ efforts were in support of, and not in substitution for, those of the national authorities. Nicaragua’s representative said that, in principle, the concept was a lofty one, but as everyone had seen in recent years, its implementation had been totally manipulated. Such had been the case in Libya, and the same script was now being used in Syria.
Indeed, several delegations throughout the day drew attention to what Belgium’s representative called the “unprecedented horror” unfolding in Syria. He called on the Council to assume its responsibilities to find a solution to the crisis. He regretted that it had been unable to adopt a press statement at the start of this month in support of the appeals of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for greater access to the entire Syrian territory.
Responding to the many comments was Syria’s Ambassador, who said the best ways to protect civilians lay in preventing conflict, adopting peaceful means to settle disputes and holding accountable Governments working to incite violence. Civilian protection, he said, had been used to serve “intrusive” agendas. Political propositions that did not enjoy consensus — including the responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention — were being marketed to pave the way for intervention in the domestic affairs of developing countries.
Ahead of the debate, the Secretary-General said a few words about what he called today’s “appalling” underground nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He strongly condemned that “reckless act” as a “clear and grave violation” of Security Council resolutions, saying it was deplorable that Pyongyang had chosen the path of defiance, and he urged the Council to act and speak with one voice and engage with that country in a unified manner.
The Republic of Korea’s Minister, speaking in his national capacity, announced that the Council strongly condemned the test and decided to immediately begin work on a resolution to take necessary measures. He said the nuclear test was a flagrant violation of Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2018 (2013). It posed a direct challenge to the international community, and threatened peace and security, both on the Korean peninsula and North-East Asia.
Also briefing the Council today was Philip Spoerri, Director for International Law and Cooperation, International Committee of the Red Cross. Representatives of Rwanda, Azerbaijan and Brazil also participated at the ministerial level.
Statements were also made by the representatives of the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Australia, Togo, Morocco, Guatemala, Luxembourg, France, China, Russian Federation, Argentina, Italy, Liechtenstein, Israel, Colombia, Japan, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Estonia, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire (on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States), Senegal, Belgium, Uruguay, India, Indonesia, Sweden, Norway (on behalf of Argentina, Austria, Indonesia), Costa Rica, Malaysia, Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Lithuania, Netherlands, Mexico, Armenia, Venezuela, Ireland, Austria, Croatia, Nigeria, Montenegro, Germany, Benin, Nicaragua, Chile, New Zealand, Botswana, Ecuador, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Hungary, Qatar, Turkey, Sudan, Georgia, Sierra Leone and Bolivia.
It was announced that a statement by Jordan’s delegation would be circulated.
The representatives of Syria, Azerbaijan and Armenia made additional statements.
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Head of the European Union delegation also spoke.
The meeting began at 11:05 a.m., was suspended at 1:57 p.m., resumed at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 10:22 p.m.
The Security Council met today to convene an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, for which it had before it a concept paper (document S/2013/75) from the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, whose delegation holds the Council’s rotating presidency for February.
The paper states that the strong international normative frameworks and the key steps taken by the Council notwithstanding, civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflict and the abysmal state of their protections has changed little. The situation they endure in many of today’s conflicts warrant renewed attention and action. “Normative progress during the past 14 years is of limited value if it does not translate into specific improvements in the protection of civilians on the ground,” the paper says.
The open debate, says the text, will be a valuable opportunity for all Member States and observers to discuss ways to enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict. It will also be a chance to translate advancement at the normative level into tangible progress on the ground by identifying, not only the positive developments made so far, but also the remaining challenges.
According to the paper, the Council will be able to renew its commitment to the protection of civilians, for which the following themes for discussion have been proposed: bolstering accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law; enhancing implementation of protection mandates by peacekeeping and other relevant missions; and ensuring compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians, including in particular, health-care providers, women and children.
Before turning to the subject of today’s meeting, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said he wished to say a few words about the appalling underground nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He strongly condemned that “reckless act, which shows outright disregard for the repeated call of the international community to refrain from further provocative measures”. The test was a “clear and grave violation” of relevant Security Council resolutions.
Together, with the international community, he said he had repeatedly called on the new leadership in Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, address international concerns through dialogue, and start building confidence with neighbouring countries, particularly the Republic of Korea, and the international community. He had also appealed to Pyongyang to focus its energies on ensuring a better future for the country’s people by addressing the dire humanitarian and human rights situation. Regrettably, he said, his appeals had “fallen on deaf ears”, adding that he was profoundly concerned about the negative impact of that action on regional stability.
“It is deplorable that Pyongyang has chosen the path of defiance,” he continued. This third nuclear test was a “serious challenge to global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation”. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the only country that had carried out nuclear tests in the twenty-first century. The authorities there should “not be under any illusion that nuclear weapons will enhance their security”. Rather, as Pyongyang pursued nuclear weapons, it would suffer only greater insecurity and isolation.
The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the swift and overwhelming international condemnation of that “wanton act”, which was a direct challenge to the Security Council. It was absolutely essential, he said, that the Council act and speak with one voice and engage with that country in a unified manner.
Turning to today’s debate, he said that since the Council last had addressed the civilian protection issue, unarmed populations remained subjected to unacceptable threats to life and dignity in conflict zones worldwide. Warring parties had continued to violate human rights and international humanitarian law with impunity. Efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian actors to provide assistance and protection had been hampered by violence.
Every day, he said, civilians were being killed or maimed in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. Women and girls, men and boys were raped in front of their families. Children and youths were abducted, held in slavery or compelled to take up arms and inflict abuses on their own communities — scarring them for life. Families were forced from their homes into a state of desperation and dependency from which they might never escape.
In Syria, every day provided a “searing reminder of the human cost of war”, he said. Four million people were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, more than 2 million had fled their homes, and many lacked even the most basic services. Sexual violence was a constant threat, and the volatility of the security situation, logistical challenges and bureaucratic constraints were hampering the response effort. The international community needed access to all areas so it could reach people in need. The situation was “particularly acute and intractable”, he said.
In Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and elsewhere, civilians continued to suffer and die as parties to conflict ignored their obligations to protect, he said, adding that the obligation “does not rest solely with warring parties: we all have a responsibility to protect”. Failure to protect civilians in armed conflict could contribute directly to the commission of atrocity crimes. Violence against civilians was also unquestionably abetted by the free flow of weapons, which underlined the importance of next month’s arm trade treaty conference. “We urgently need a robust and comprehensive agreement that addressed the humanitarian impact of the poorly regulated trade in arms,” he urged.
Continuing, he said the findings of the internal review panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka raised important issues, and he would report its recommendations later in the year. He reiterated his own recommendations for protecting civilians, among them that parties to conflict should avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas, which included roadside bombs, heavy weapons and artillery and air strikes; the Council must emphasize that States bore the primary responsibility for protecting civilians; and it must ensure that peacekeeping operations mandated with protecting civilians had adequate resources. Particularly important was that they were equipped to respond to conflict-related sexual violence.
Where there were peacekeeping missions, he pledged that the United Nations would do its utmost to support States in fulfilling their obligations in line with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. He urged the Council to take a strong and visible lead in protecting civilians and pursuing accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In that regard, he welcomed the debate triggered by the call of some Member States for the Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. In closing, he urged the Council to bring all its considerable powers to bear on reducing the unacceptable toll that conflict was taking daily on civilians.
NAVANETHEM PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the time of her previous briefing, 60,000 people had been killed in Syria. That figure was probably approaching 70,000 now. The Council was at its best when it acted in unison. The lack of consensus on Syria and the resulting inaction “has been disastrous” and civilians on all sides were paying the price. “We will be judged against the tragedy that has unfolded before our eyes. This Council, as well as those of us in key positions within the United Nations, will be rightly asked what we did,” she said. One immediate action that the Council could take was clear: refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. That would send a clear message to both the Government and opposition that there would be consequences for their actions and that could have a very significant preventive effect.
In contrast, she continued, the Council had achieved political consensus on the situation in Mali, and she welcomed its provision for United Nations human rights monitoring there, as its protection was key to stabilizing the situation. As events evolved, however, attacks and reprisals risked driving Mali into a “catastrophic spiral of violence”, she said, calling on all parties to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law, and to prevent retaliation.
In Afghanistan, she said the Council’s decision to provide a strong human rights mandate to the United Nations Assistance Mission there (UNAMA) allowed the international community to have an authoritative account of the protection of civilians’ challenges, and the responsibility of all parties for protecting them. According to the Mission, insurgents’ indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices accounted for 53 per cent of all civilians killed or wounded, she said, calling again on all anti-Government groups to cease targeting civilians and stop the use of improvised explosive devices and other illegal tactics.
In the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she encouraged the Council to include an accountability element in its interaction with all parties, as well as with neighbouring countries. Independent and stronger human rights monitoring was also essential in Somalia and the Central African Republic. She urged the Council, as well, to provide for a stronger human rights monitoring capacity in the peacekeeping mission in Abyei to help respond proactively to the fragile situation in the border area. The recent expulsion of a human rights officer by the South Sudanese Government without any valid justification set a dangerous precedent and did not facilitate the Mission’s efforts to protect civilians.
Generally speaking, she said, the report on United Nations action in Sri Lanka highlighted systemic failings that extended across responses to many situations and indicated that important recommendations of the 1999 United Nations independent inquiry on Rwanda had not been implemented. “It is time for us to find a way to do better,” she declared.
She highlighted four areas where improvement was needed: early, credible information on human rights and international humanitarian law violations; strengthening of the United Nations common purpose and management; its offer of a wide range of tools for intervention on the ground; better support to Member States in their efforts to reach early consensus on the Rwanda and Petrie reports [the latter named for the former senior United Nations official Charles Petrie, who headed the internal review panel on Sir Lanka], which found that the single most important element for United Nations protection of civilians was early political consensus among Member States.
In closing, she said that “effectiveness, integrity, courage and accountability are what the people we try to protect are expecting from us”. That should guide the interaction when dealing with the killing of many. There would always be some disagreement within the international community on how to respond to a given situation, but when tens of thousands of civilian lives were threatened, as was currently the case in Syria, the world expected the Security Council to act.
PHILIP SPOERI, Director for International Law and Cooperation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that during the previous debate in June, he had focused on three issues of fundamental concern to his organization — threats affecting access to health care for the wounded and sick; the availability and use of arms; and the lack of compliance with international humanitarian law by State and non-State armed groups. “The continuing urgency of these issues justified me to return to them today,” he said.
There was some modest good news on the issue of violence against health-care personnel and facilities. Following the adoption of a far-reaching resolution on “Health Care in Danger” in December 2011, ICRC had begun consultations with States and others to make the delivery of health care safer in dangerous situations worldwide. States had, in some cases, undertaken diplomatic initiatives aimed at facilitating the delivery of health care in conflict-affected countries. In others, Colombia and Yemen, for example, specific steps had been taken towards ensuring respect of health-care structures and personnel in their own countries. Sadly, ICRC data for 2012 had shown that more than 80 per cent of the nearly 900 recorded violent incidents in 22 countries had affected local health-care workers, with around 25 per cent of them killed or wounded. In some cases, secondary explosions even targeted those trying to assist the victims of an initial explosion, a particularly repugnant practice. So much more needed to be done.
Another major concern was the massive circulation of arms and ammunition, he said, pointing out that such a situation put civilians at similar risk of being wounded or killed even after an armed conflict had ended. A strong and effective arms trade treaty was “urgently needed”. A third major concern — prevailing lack of respect for international humanitarian law — was the common denominator for protection concerns. Yet, some progress had been made at both national and international levels to improve compliance and accountability — ranging from the implementation of domestic legislation to the training of security forces and the judicial processes of the international criminal tribunals. With ICRC marking its 150th anniversary this week, it was a fitting moment to reflect on not only the necessity to adapt to the profound changes in the humanitarian environment over the years, but also on what had remained constant. Henri Dunant’s vision of humane treatment for the wounded and captured on all sides — extended to one of providing protection and assistance to all people affected by armed conflict, on the basis of humanitarian need alone — must surely remain the bedrock of humanitarian action as much today as it did 150 years ago, he said.
KIM SUNG-HWAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, speaking in his national capacity, turned first to the nuclear test conducted last night by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stressing that it constituted a “flagrant” violation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2018 (2013). It also posed a direct challenge to the international community, and threatened peace and security, both on the Korean Peninsula and North-East Asia. One hour ago, the Security Council had strongly condemned the test and decided to immediately begin work on a resolution to take necessary measures. His Government, as President of the Council for the month of February, would cooperate with the international community.
Turning next to today’s debate, he said that despite “significant” normative progress, civilians continued to suffer the direct effects of armed conflicts on the ground. He deeply regretted that they represented the majority of victims of conflicts in many parts of the world. “Widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law trouble us all,” he said, urging the Council to remain vigilant in addressing that issue. In Syria, it was alarming that more than 60,000 citizens had been killed. They also had endured a humanitarian tragedy.
Against that backdrop, he emphasized the need to bolster accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, which was crucial in the protection of civilians. While Governments bore the primary duty to provide accountability, the Council should play a more active role when national authorities failed to do so, including by referring relevant situations to the International Criminal Court. It was also vital to investigate and document such violations. He went on to stress the urgent need to ensure timely and unhindered humanitarian access, as well as the safety and security of humanitarian workers, noting concern that such violence threatened humanitarian activities in many armed conflict situations.
On that point, he said the Secretary-General’s report S/2012/376 last year rightly stated that constraints on humanitarian access varied in nature. States and other parties to conflict must work with humanitarian groups to identify appropriate solutions. Finally, he said attention must focus on the various forms of violence against women and children, noting his deep regret that sexual violence remained a prominent feature of armed conflict. Ending such violence should be pursued throughout the process of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Reiterating the need to ensure accountability for the perpetrators of such abuse, he urged enhancing women’s empowerment, including their participation in peacekeeping operations and post-conflict reconstruction processes. He also paid tribute to the peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel working around the world to ease civilian suffering.
LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, said civilian protection was a personal issue for her country, following the 1994 genocide that had claimed the lives of almost 1 million Rwandans. “Enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict requires action before a conflict starts,” she said, stressing that the proliferation of non-State armed groups made that task more urgent and harder to achieve. “Significant” progress had been made in the evolution of international norms since the genocide in her country, with consensus growing that civilian protection, as well as the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity were the fundamental duty of each State.
Noting that civilians were at serious risk in Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she connected today’s debate with the evolving norm of Responsibility to Protect, emphasizing that enhancing civilian protection required a shift from conflict management towards prevention. Moreover, States and peacekeepers must be sensitive to the subtle forms of incitement that led to genocide. On peacekeeping, she welcomed the development of civilian protection strategies and operational baselines, noting that peacebuilding was critical. On accountability for crimes against civilians, she said justice must be timely, and its rendering the only objective of accountability mechanisms. Political considerations should have no place. She also urged a focus on the principle of “subsidiarity” when choosing a venue for judicial proceedings, and on the need for international investment in national judicial capacities.
ELMAR MAHARRAN OGLU MAMMADYAROV, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, said the war unleashed by neighbouring Armenia against his country and the resultant military occupation of its territories had had a considerable impact on civilians. As a result of the aggression, Azerbaijan had continued to suffer from having one of the highest numbers of refugees and displaced persons in the world. At present, about one of every nine persons in the country belonged to those categories of people. Twenty-one years ago, an unprecedented massacre had been committed against the Azerbaijani population in the town of Khojaly. In one night, more than 600 civilians had been killed in that town, only because they were Azerbaijanis. Not even women, children and elderly had been spared by the invading Armenian troops and irregular local armed groups.
He recalled that in all its four resolutions adopted in 1993 in response to the occupation of Azerbaijan, the Security Council had referred specifically to violations of international humanitarian law, including the displacement of a large number of civilians, attacks on civilians and bombardment of inhabited areas. He felt that consistent measures at the national level and the existing international legal framework would serve to bring to justice those responsible for grave offenses committed against the civilian population of Azerbaijan during the conflict. “It is incontrovertible today that no official or political status cloaks the person concerned with immunity for the most serious international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing,” he said, adding that unfortunately, not all grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law had received due attention and a response at the international and regional levels. As a result, past wrongs left unpunished and unrecognized continued to impede the progress in achieving long-awaited peace and reconciliation, and could even play a key role in the eruption of new conflicts and the commission of new crimes.
Particular consideration must be given to the implications for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts aggravated by population displacements and foreign military occupation, he said. The impact of conflict on housing, land and property, as well as discrimination on ethnic grounds and forced demographic changes in such situations, required a more consistent approach in order to put an end to illegal practices and policies and ensure the safe and dignified return of displaced people to their homes. Among pressing issues requiring urgent action and attention was that of civilians, including women and children, taken hostage and reported missing in armed conflict. Azerbaijan was continuing its efforts to address that disturbing phenomenon, including through the relevant biannual resolution of the General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of Women.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said that protecting civilians in armed conflict was a fundamental responsibility of the international community and a core function of the Security Council in safeguarding international peace and security. The United States knew its own security was diminished when masses of civilians were slaughtered, when refugees fled borders, and when murderers wreaked havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. Flowing from President Barack Obama’s directive on preventing atrocities, the Government had implemented unprecedented steps to enhance capacities and structures to prevent heinous crimes against civilians. But, national action was not enough; international collective action was required to ensure that no State slaughtered civilians, and she looked forward to strengthened cooperation with the United Nations and Member States to that end.
She said that few were more likely to be the victims of mass atrocities than civilians caught in armed conflict. Too often, the world bore witness to mass killings, sexual violence and gross human rights violations in armed conflict. Thus, protecting civilians must remain a top priority of the Council and United Nations. Strides had been made in that regard, with recommendations flowing from a number of studies focused on international procedures and mission structure, in support of protection mandates. Mission-wide strategies, however, depended on a mission’s true understanding of the civilian threats and violence in its area of operation, which would help it to outline steps to counter the escalation of violence against civilians that could culminate in mass atrocities. Peacekeepers also needed strong training in civilian protection.
Still, she said, national Governments bore the primary responsibility for protecting their populations, noting that some were “manifestly failing” because of either insufficient capacity or will. In some instances, Governments condoned or even perpetrated atrocities against their own people. In those cases, the Security Council must press the Government to fulfil its obligations. She highlighted the “horrific attacks of the Syrian regime against the Syrian people”, which included the use of ballistic missiles. The “carnage released by Assad merited universal condemnation and strong action by the Council”. It had done so in Libya, thereby preventing a massacre and saving countless lives. Council action could mean the difference between life and death. When Governments failed to protect civilians, the international community “must not dither, but must act responsibly to assume its collective responsibility to protect”. She noted, as another difficult case, the Sudanese Government’s refusal for nearly two years to address the acute humanitarian emergency in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflict. That must stop. States had the primary duty to protect civilians and must act in line with their legal and moral obligations, while the United Nations must provide support. Civilians suffered in multiple ways, including through targeting, sexual and gender violence and displacement. “We must address them all,” he said, stressing that the global community must not be an idle witness to gross violations against civilians. He deeply regretted that, since last June, limited progress had been made in addressing situations of grave concern, notably in Syria, where the crisis had intensified.
He went on to say that more than 60,000 Syrians were believed dead and 7,000 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. He urged an end to violence and the start of a political transition, with the Council applying its weight towards that goal. Ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes was at the heart of protecting civilians and the International Criminal Court was essential in that regard, as were commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions. The Council must support such mechanisms, as well as address a range of crimes, including rape, by overturning the assumption that such abuse was a by-product of conflict. Condemning child recruitment into conflict, he said the denial of humanitarian access in Blue Nile and South Kordofan had resulted in nearly 1 million displaced people. Humanitarian access must be expanded in fragile and conflict-affected States.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) highlighted the grim reality today in armed conflicts around the globe, saying that civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties. “They bear the brunt of wars, conflicts and strife,” he said. Progress had been made to elaborate the normative framework for civilian protection, but it had yet to be translated into tangible results. His delegation endorsed the presidential statement to be issued by the Council today. All parties to armed conflict must bear responsibility to protect civilians and ensure protection of women, children, journalists, refugees and internally displaced persons, who were most vulnerable. He also strongly condemned attacks against medical personnel and facilities, as well as schools and teachers.
Over a decade ago, when the Security Council started addressing protection issues, there were some questions about the Security Council’s role and mandate, as well as its ability to deliver. However, a broad consensus had been forged that the Council’s work, when pursued without politicization, produced salutary results on the ground. Pakistan, as one of the top troop-contributors, had worked in many missions, currently participating in such operations as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. Protection of civilians remained the primary responsibility of host countries, but consultations among the host Government, troop-contributors and humanitarian actors was a good practice. Yet, there should be no misplaced expectations, because missions could not provide protection to all the civilians all the time. Thus, it was vital to build national defence and security capabilities. The key element in the protection of civilians in armed conflict was impartial handling of all situations by the Council.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia) stated that protection of civilians was not an esoteric or theoretical issue. Rather, it was at the core of the Council’s responsibility and should be a moral compass. “More than any other issue, we will be judged by our actions and by our failures to act on protection challenges. This is already our failing in Syria. And in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile,” he said. Because of unregulated small arms and the indiscriminate use of weapons in densely populated areas, Syria being an egregious example, approximately 2,000 people — mostly civilians, many women and children — were being killed every day. The Arms Trade Treaty, thus, offered an historical opportunity to set universal standards in preventing the illegal and irresponsible transfer of conventional arms, particularly small arms and light weapons, and he urged Member States to not squander that opportunity.
The protection of civilian mandates needed to be enforced within peacekeeping missions, he continued, with mission-wide protection strategies, including early warning systems. Mission-specific training for peacekeepers was crucial, as well. The Council also had a critical role in ensuring accountability, a crucial element in the protection of civilians, through its International Criminal Court referrals and follow-up, the Commission of Inquiry and fact-finding missions. He called for more regular and formalized mechanisms of input to the Council, as well as an annual report from the Secretary-General on the matter.
Commending the personnel involved in peacekeeping and political missions, and other humanitarian actors and civil society groups, he said that though they were the front line of protection, they were also all too often inadequately resourced for the challenges they faced. “The Council must not fail them, and we must do all we can for them to perform their essential roles,” he stated.
KODJO MENAN (Togo) said that a main concern of the international community was to ensure civilian protection when a crisis occurred to threaten it. Despite the existence of a broad body of law, the civilian population frequently suffered rights violations. Even early warning systems revealed their shortcomings. Civilians suffered all types of violence, including gender-based and sexual violence, enforced disappearances and impeded access to humanitarian aid. The number of civilian victims in armed conflict had increased exponentially, he said, citing the situations in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and the recent conflict involving Gaza and Israel. In all cases, children, women, persons with disabilities, the elderly and humanitarian and medical personnel paid the most for that violence. Paradoxically, those egregious acts were sometimes caused by peacekeepers themselves.
He said that parties to conflict flouted the relevant international legal obligations, including the Geneva Convention of 1949 and additional protocols. Additionally, non-State actors were not bound by those instruments and ignored their existence. Media outlets were also shielded from the realities on the ground, rendering them unable to truly inform public opinion. He welcomed efforts by some organizations, such as ICRC, to provide for civilian protection, despite their very limited resources. The Council should strive to overcome its differences in the face of crisis, such as that occurring in Syria. Also worrying was the sometimes-inadequate funding of commissions of inquiry and ineffectual efforts by criminal tribunals, in some cases, to execute arrest warrants. He advocated training modules for missions and the establishment of training centres in troop-contributing countries. The Council had a dual challenge of adopting clear and precise mandates that included civilian protection provisions, and of implementing the outcome of its 17 October 2012 debate on combating impunity.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict had been a priority since the Council’s adoption of resolution 1265 (1999). That track record was impressive with regard to the legal framework developed, but insufficient in terms of implementation and impact on the ground. The situation of civilians was growing more serious amid conflicts that militarized in a dangerous manner, with some marked by transnational organized crime. In the quest to protect civilians, attention should focus on the situation of women and children, who were the “number one” target of all sorts of violence, including rape. Children were often forced to take up arms or used as human shields by armed groups.
He went on to say that humanitarian personnel and journalists had also paid a heavy price for their commitment to mitigating civilian suffering and had a right to be protected. Refugees and internally displaced persons often were exposed to inhumane practices by armed groups. That such groups evaded accountability was a further repudiation of international law and he urged sustainable solutions that involved carrying out censuses of refugees. Reducing victims required long-term action, with legal, humanitarian and security protection for civilians. A protective environment was needed, promoted through democratic values and the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes before they turned into armed conflict.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said his country had participated actively in the United Nations peacekeeping missions that were strongly mandated to protect civilians, as was the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, simple analysis of the ratio of peacekeepers to the civilian populations revealed that the Blue Helmets could not guarantee the protection of everyone. The protection of civilians required equipment and logistical support, which was often insufficient or not available to the Missions. This gave rise to the broader question of the balance between mandates and resources. His Government was committed to continuing working with the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on the delivery of civilian protection.
His delegation was also, however, concerned with such special issues as the difficult situations faced by refugees and internally displaced persons; the limited access to humanitarian assistance of the most vulnerable groups of populations needing food and medical attention; the attacks against humanitarian assistance workers, clinics and ambulances; and the increasing use of explosives of ample coverage in densely populated areas where people congregated in markets, schools and religious places. He was also concerned with civilian casualties caused by modern technologies such as unmanned airplanes and the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war. In conclusion, he recalled that there was an ample arsenal of preventive diplomacy “at our disposal”.
Last year, the Security Council presented a five-year plan of action which included moving forward the agenda on the responsibility to protect. He fully supported that priority. Heads of State accepted the concept in 2005. Today, seven years later, the Security Council should at least offer assurance that the important advancement continued to evolve in it practices and operational application.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) said that since the Council’s last open debate on the issue, the situation in Syria had become even more serious. “When civilian populations are tortured on such a scale, when international humanitarian law and international human rights law are violated on such a scale, the principle of accountability must be upheld,” she stated. To that end, she supported the Human Rights Council’s establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Syria, and for the call by States that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Observing that 12 February marked the international day against the use of child soldiers, she said that the recruitment of children continued, and they were often the first victims of war, not only in Syria, but in northern Mali, Darfur and the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others. As chair of the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, she was committed to do everything to fight the scourge. She went on to say that three core challenges faced improving the protection of civilians, including enhancing compliance by parties to conflict with international law, enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups, and strengthening the mandate for the protection of civilians of United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions. She also observed that 42 per cent of the approximately 25,000 civilians killed or injured by explosive weapons had been children.
Concluding, she stressed that for the personnel serving in peacekeeping operations to fulfil their mandate, the international community had the responsibility to provide them with the necessary resources. In that regard, it was critical to deploy, in every situation where it was necessary, a sufficient number of women protection advisers and child protection advisers, as their work was indispensable for the Organization’s endeavours.
GERARD ARAUD (France) said his country was committed to civilian protection and human rights, as had been proven in Libya and Mali. In the latter country, France had intervened against groups threatening Bamako, refusing to allow the creation of a terrorist State in Africa, which would be marked by executions, rapes, amputations and the destruction of cultural heritage. France had liberated Gao and Timbuktu. He urged the swift deployment of human rights and humanitarian observers to Mali, as outlined in resolution 2085 (2012), and that peacekeepers take over from France’s efforts, with civilian protection as part of their mandate and tools at their disposal for implementation.
Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the number of internally displaced persons had risen to 2.7 million, while looting, rape, and executions persisted, with the army unable to shoulder its duties. The mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) must be bolstered. The Council’s recent authorization of drones to observe the Kivus and border zones would enhance the Mission’s capacities and deter arms trafficking. Atrocities should not go unanswered, including in Syria, where the Assad regime continued to assassinate its own people and refuse access to humanitarian personnel. He urged the Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
WANG MIN (China) said the Council had adopted numerous resolutions and Presidential statements aimed at the protection of civilians. Yet, civilians were still being harmed and China supported the Council in conducting in-depth discussions so as to achieve constructive results. He stressed the responsibility of all parties to conflict for the protection of civilians, urging that they implement the Geneva Conventions, international law and Council resolutions. Host countries shouldered the main responsibility in that regard; the international community could not take on that role. In response to human rights violations, the first line of action was to use domestic judicial systems, he added.
He went on to urge States to comply with the Charter of the United Nations, especially the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and avoid politicizing the issue of civilian protection. Further, the Council should adopt a consistent position in all situations, avoiding double standards that would only damage its authority. In humanitarian relief, it was imperative to observe the principles of neutrality and objectivity. The Council should place civilian protection in the larger framework of peaceful dispute settlement, and urge all parties to participate in dialogue and negotiations. Peacekeepers should work to minimize civilian casualties in respect of the sovereignty of the host Government, as well as practise objectivity. The Council should take steps to strengthen the justice sector of countries and improve the ability to protect civilians.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said today’s item had been on the Council’s agenda for nearly 15 years. Civilian protection was regularly included as a component of peacekeeping operations and relevant provisions also existed in international legal documents. However, despite assurances by parties to armed conflict, news continued from war zones with alarming regularity of cases of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against civilians. The only guarantee against that was unswerving compliance by the parties to conflict of their commitments under international humanitarian law. Far from being theoretical, the problems being discussed were of a practical nature, particularly given that settling such situations involved the Council directly. Moreover, if civilians died at the hands of the few that should be protecting them, that reflected a flaw in the system or a breach in the Council’s authority to protect civilians.
Despite the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, the circumstances of the civilian deaths in Libya as a result of the air strikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had yet to be duly qualified. That fundamental issue highlighted the need for scrupulous compliance with Security Council mandates on civilian protection, as well as the ethical norms of offering apologies and compensation for the victims. Civilian protection was in the spotlight, owing to the practice of unmanned aircraft or drones; the concern was the death of civilians, as well as life under the constant threat of devastation, including from a missile strike. He highlighted the value of establishing a mechanism for tracking civilian deaths, as had been done by UNAMA. In closing, he said the international community should only take reactive steps to protect civilians, particularly use of force, with the Council’s approval and in strict compliance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) echoing the Secretary-General’s report on the “abysmal state” of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, stressed that promoting compliance of international humanitarian law depended on Member States’ commitment to disseminating of their obligations under international humanitarian law. In her country, several law schools, as well as the training courses for the armed forces, included the study of such laws. In addition, Argentina adhered to a joint initiative, “Reclaiming Protection of Civilians in International Humanitarian Law”, which promoted compliance through practical recommendations.
Prevention was key in order to avert serious violations of humanitarian law, she continued. It was important to continue including protection activities in the mandates of United Nations missions in the field. Thus, resources needed to be provided to missions in an effective and timely manner, with specific support, structure and staff for the protection of women and children from violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence. She went on to say that training courses had been developed for Argentina’s armed forces, especially those involved in United Nations peacekeeping operations to address those issues. She pointed out that no complaints against any of the men and women of Argentina’s peacekeeping forces had ever been lodged. Concluding, she urged all States to fully respect the obligations of the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions and the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Protocols. “Standards must become reality,” she stated.
Following that intervention, the Council President drew attention to a presidential statement on the topic agreed by the 15-member body, to be issued as document S/PRST/2013/2.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA, Minister for External Relations of Brazil, said the use of force in the protection of civilians stood out “as an issue that divides opinions, compromises efforts towards the peaceful settlement of disputes, and distances us from dealing with the multifaceted issues surrounding protection”. A Brazilian concept paper on the “responsibility while protecting” had been shared with the Security Council in 2011. In its view, resort to military action should always be an exceptional measure, after all peaceful means had been exhausted and only upon the authorization of the Council. And if force was authorized, it must be judicious, proportionate and limited to the objectives established by the Council. One must be careful not to worsen a situation that put civilians at risk and involuntarily contribute to further violence and instability.
He said he had highlighted the interdependence between peace, security and development during Brazil’s Council presidency in February 2011. It was possible to argue that the promotion of sustainable development, poverty eradication and food security contributed to the promotion of peace and security by creating a more stable environment for civilians. It was regrettable that the world should spend astronomical resources on the development of weapons and military budgets, while States were short of meeting official development assistance (ODA) targets, as agreed in the 2002 Monterey Consensus. On the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the Brazilian Government condemned the new nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, urging that country to fully comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions on the matter. The Council should also fully assume its responsibility regarding the plight of those who were victimized daily in protracted conflicts, such as the one between Israel and Palestine.
The complexity of today’s challenges required inclusiveness in decision-making and in the implementation of decisions. Security Council reform was long overdue, he said, calling for a more representative and legitimate body. He went on to stress the need for a broader awareness of the importance of preventing conflict through such peaceful means as the promotion of social and economic development, among others. In situations where conflict broke out, there must be an urgency in placing emphasis on diplomacy and dialogue as the primary tools in addressing them.
EKMELEDDIN İHSANOĞLU, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the real and grave challenge facing the Council was the ongoing violence in Syria, which had resulted in more than 60,000 deaths of Syrians and the displacement of approximately 700,000 others. He lamented not only the Council and the international community’s inability to protect Syria’s civilians, but the Syrian leadership’s perpetuation of violence against its own people. He reiterated his call to the Council to “do its utmost to protect the Syrian people and bring a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict through a political dialogue”.
He then went on to say that ensuring accountability for violations of international humanitarian law was a sine qua non for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. However, Israel continued to enjoy impunity, despite flagrant violations of international law, international humanitarian laws and human rights law. The Palestinian people continued to suffer under illegal measures imposed by the Israeli occupation, impeding their aspiration to self-determination and an independent State. Noting that the General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a Non-member observer State offered a timely opportunity to renew momentum in the deadlocked peace process, he stated that it was long overdue for Israeli and Palestinian Peoples to live side by side in peace and security.
Civilians were not only targets of terrorism, but counter-terrorism efforts by law enforcement agencies as well, he said and he urged that measures be taken to ensure civilians were not be harmed in counter-terrorist activities. Further, he noted the importance of responding to the needs of refugees displaced by armed conflict, in particular the continuing situation of Azeri refugees forced to leave their homes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy) highlighted several components crucial to the protection of civilians, including pre-deployment training for personnel on missions with a protection mandate, prevention strategies and mechanisms, engagement of local communities in sustained dialogue, and the political will of all involved to implement protection mandates, among others. He also stressed the need to “tell the peacekeeping story better”, noting that the media often reported the failures, but rarely the successes of such missions. However, he also offered appreciation for the journalists on the front lines who reported on and brought attention to violence committed against civilians, and he commended the use of social media as a means to bring global awareness to violence against civilians.
In closing, he said free access must always be granted to humanitarian assistance and the people on the ground to assist should never themselves become the targets of attacks. Further, in cases of violence against civilians, the Council had the crucial task of assessing responsibility and when warranted, reference to the International Criminal Court.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that promoting accountability implied that the Council must neither mandate nor endorse amnesties or one-sided exemptions from criminal jurisdiction, which in the long run would be detrimental to both peace and justice, as illustrated in the developments in Yemen. Greater emphasis needed to be put on accountability on the national level. However, international components could play a key role. Hybrid models, such as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, was such an example and demonstrated that the Council, while crucial, was not the only actor.
On the situation in Syria, he urged that accountability issues be discussed with the Syrian National Coalition, and demanded that those taking up arms against the current regime respect international humanitarian law, and encourage any future Government to submit the situation to the Court’s jurisdiction. He also welcomed a centralized database tracking all civilian harm, stating that such a database would help improve tactical directives, rules of engagement and the training of troops in strategies that would minimize civilian harm and ensure compliance with international law.
RON PROSOR (Israel) noted that the death toll in Syria had quadrupled from 14,000 in June to more than 60,000 now. His thoughts were with the students of Aleppo University, who had been indiscriminately slaughtered by the Syrian military last month because of the school’s reputation as the “university of revolution”. The clock was ticking. “Every day that passes before this Council takes firm and decisive action in Syria is another day that countless civilians lose their lives and countless more lose hope,” he said. The Assad regime was not alone. Iran’s arm extended from Syria into Lebanon, where it had helped Hizbullah amass 50,000 missiles and transform Lebanon into an outpost for terror. Some European lawmakers continued to bend over backwards attempting to differentiate between Hizbullah’s military and political wings. This was an exercise in futility. The only difference was that the political wing negotiated the sum of drug cartel money that the military wing later used to purchase weaponry. “It does not take a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to realize that we are not exactly dealing with a selfless humanitarian organization,” he said.
OSORIO LONDOÑO (Colombia) said he agreed on the need to promote respect for international law, intensify protection of civilians by peacekeeping missions and improve access to humanitarian assistance. Accountability should be promoted when the law was violated. On legal compliance by armed groups, he said each situation must be considered in its unique circumstances and State ownership of policy development must be preserved. Non-State actors were in compliance with international legislations if they observed the principles of proportionality and precaution. Colombia had a policy of dialogue with armed groups that had been labelled international terrorist organizations. The absence of United Nations contacts with those groups had not been a factor; what counted was the will of the parties. The recommendation to establish commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions could only be applied to countries on the Council’s agenda, or by prior arrangement with the State concerned. He also agreed that the promotion of peace processes and respect for human rights and rule of law was of utmost importance in protecting civilians.
NAOTO HISAJIMA (Japan) said that the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles contributed to the effective measures in peacekeeping missions mandated to protect civilians, such as that of MONUSCO. In Mali, strengthening the capacity of the Malian authority was crucial to tackling the challenges of re-establishing stability. To that end, his country was considering allocating $120 million towards refugee assistance and internally displaced persons, both in Mali and in neighbouring countries, and towards supporting peacekeeping operation training centres. On the issue of accountability, he said that the Council should take more proactive actions, including launching fact-finding missions and submitting referrals to the International Criminal Court. In that respect, 57 countries, including his own, had requested the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Inaction by the Council, he said, would “send the wrong message to perpetrators,” as well as compromise the credibility of the Organization.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement currently chaired by his country, said the measures adopted thus far fell short of addressing the wider implications of attacks against civilians and their effects on international peace and security. Due priority should be given to promoting knowledge of and respect for States’ observance of their Charter-based obligations, as well as those of international human rights and humanitarian law. All parties to conflict should redouble their efforts to comply with their legal obligations, including by prohibiting the targeting of civilian populations and property and stressing their responsibility to ensure general protection against dangers arising from military operations to civilian installations, hospitals and the means to transport and distribute relief materials.
He reiterated the Movement’s condemnation of the increasing attacks on humanitarian personnel and urged Governments to ensure respect for their protection, while upholding the principles of sovereign equality, political independence and territorial integrity of all States and of non-intervention. A country’s consent was imperative for obtaining access to humanitarian assistance. The civilian protection mandates in several United Nations peacekeeping operations should be guided by Charter principles, and not be used as a means for Government change or military intervention. Those missions should conduct their tasks without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the host Government to protect civilians. United Nations’ efforts were in support of, and not in substitution for, those of the national authorities. Developing strategies for civilian protection mandates was crucial, as was overcoming challenges to their operationalization.
THOMAS GURBER (Switzerland), speaking for the Ground of Friends of the Protection of Civilians, said that the Group strongly advocated for regular biannual debates and for a standing reporting requirement, so that the Secretary-General was in a position to report on a regular basis, as had been done for “Children and Armed Conflict”. As called for in resolution 1820 (2008), the Security Council should address the root causes of sexual violence and consider including sexual violence as criteria in country-specific sanctions regimes. The Council should also become a driving force in the area of accountability and promote an appropriate combination of justice, reparations and institutional reforms with a view to satisfying the essential rights of victims of serious violations and in order to prevent their recurrence. He recalled that the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians lay with the State. Enhancing national capacity to sustain longer-term efforts to protect civilians should always be the key objective of international action.
Switching to his national capacity, he said his Government, supported by 57 other States, had recently called on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. No lasting peace was possible in Syria without taking consistent action for accountability and against impunity. On Mali, securing continued access was pivotal. Despite the speedy progress of military operations, it should not be forgotten that the needs of vulnerable populations were significant. He welcomed that Mali had referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, and the Security Council had called on the African-led International Support Mission to support national and international efforts to bring to justice perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. In general terms, enhancing compliance with the international humanitarian law remained the biggest challenge. In that regard, he was pleased to report that the joint initiative between Switzerland and ICRC to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law had gained momentum, with increasing numbers of States engaging in debate on that topic.
FRANCISCO VAZ PATTO (Portugal) said that peacekeeping missions, although a remarkable tool, was also a limited one that could not multiply infinitely. Prevention of conflicts was always the most effective way to protect civilians. Thus, the Council could not only use its existing tools to convey robust political messages when the protection of civilians was at stake, but develop new tools to increase its role on the matter by addressing more situations of concern. Underscoring the important roles of the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council, among others, in fighting impunity, he said that countering impunity had a deterrent effect at the domestic, regional and international level, and was a fundamental tool to prevent further violations. Concluding, he said that the Council had found the political will to take effective action in many dire situations. “But not always,” he noted. It was fundamental to the Council’s credibility that it acted consistently and with resolve to protect all civilians directly targeted or accidentally victims of conflicts.
FERNANDO ARIAS GONZÁLEZ (Spain) endorsed the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s 2012 report. Accountability had impacted support for compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. But, that was not enough. Inclusive mediation — outlined in the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation — could play a preventive role in the protection of civilians. Three aspects obstructed civilian protection, he said, citing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, destruction of basic infrastructure and civilian displacement. The elderly, women and children suffered most from conflicts. Sexual and gender-based violence left enduring scars and the Council should play attention to that issue. Attacks on medical facilities and humanitarian personnel were indirect attacks on civilians and he recalled the “Health Care in Danger” resolution adopted in 2011 by ICRC and the Red Crescent in that regard.
GILLES RIVARD (Canada) said he was deeply concerned at the high number of victims of targeted and deliberate attacks, and he pointed to Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan, where the situation was a stark reminder of the work still to be done. The violence in Syria was taking a terrible toll and, despite calls to end it, the humanitarian crisis was worsening. Four million people required humanitarian assistance and half were children. Such staggering numbers should remind the Council of its duty. There were also disturbing reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence, all of which underscored the “appalling impact” of the Assad regime. The outflow of Syrian refugees was causing considerable strain in the region. Humanitarian organizations were making heroic efforts, and he called for their full, safe and unhindered access to all communities to do their life-saving work. He was also deeply concerned by the current crisis in Mali, where more than 300,000 people were displaced and 2 million were at risk of food insecurity.
MARGUS KOLGA (Estonia) said his delegation was concerned about the implications of an armed conflict to the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children, who were disproportionately impacted by the effects of conflict and its aftermath. A worrisome trend was a rise in the use of children in suicide attacks. On the issue of compliance with and accountability for international humanitarian law and human rights law, he said: “Peace is often presented as a precondition for justice: but there can be no lasting peace without justice and there is no justice without accountability.” Two recent resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict adopted by the Security Council underlined the essential relationship between civilian protection and ending impunity for the most serious crimes. Justice must form an integral part of the solution to the crisis in Mali. And serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, allegedly crimes against humanity and war crimes, had been committed in Syria, he said, stressing the need to hold those responsible for the crimes accountable.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the best ways to protect civilians in armed conflict lay in preventing conflict, adopting peaceful means to settle disputes and holding accountable Governments working to incite violence. He urged respect for international law and the Charter principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs. The issue of civilian protection had been used to serve “intrusive” agendas and the interests of countries working to aggravate tensions. Some countries’ practices had drifted away from the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Political propositions that did not enjoy consensus — including the responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention — were being marketed in order for NATO to intervene in the domestic affairs of developing countries.
He said protecting civilians in armed conflict must be done in a holistic manner, based on the promotion of peaceful dispute settlement and accountability for Governments that supported violence and terrorism. In that context, he emphasized the need to protect civilians living under Israeli occupation in the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, and to end such aggressive practices.
He said concern for Syrian civilians should not be expressed through sponsoring terrorism, derailing settlement efforts or exerting pressure aimed at undermining the chances for an inclusive national dialogue that would enable Syrians to determine their future through a Syrian-led political process. There was a difference between protection afforded to civilians, and to insurgents and terrorists. His Government was carrying out its constitutional duty to protect citizens from terrorism and working to restore security and stability. It was doing its best, despite unilateral measures, to meet their needs, provide shelter to those forced to leave their homes and facilitate their safe return. Political trading vis-à-vis the situation of Syrian refugees was not in line with efforts to protect civilians.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Delegation of the European Union, said the Union was appalled by the deteriorating situation in Syria and remained deeply concerned about the widespread and systematic human rights violations there. He reiterated his delegation’s call on the Council to address all aspects of the Syrian crisis, and noted that if concerns about war crimes were not addressed at the national level, the Council could refer the matter to the International Criminal Court at any time. “Strengthening accountability is an important element in enhancing compliance by parties to armed conflict with their international obligations,” he said, and where national authorities failed to provide such accountability for violations of international law, the Council could take a more proactive role.
More broadly, the European Union was concerned by the increasing failure of conflict parties to comply with their international legal obligations, he continued, calling on adherence to international law, including securing humanitarian space and ensuing humanitarian access to those in need. Civilian populations, especially women and children, in many countries were routinely subjected to various forms of extreme violence, which sparked grave humanitarian crises and huge population displacement. Turning to the situation in Mali, he said the European Union welcomed the decision by the International Criminal Court to open an inquiry into violations there and encouraged Malian authorities to cooperate. As for the work of the United Nations, he said that training was, in many ways, the cornerstone of civilian protection, and it was up to Member States to ensure that peacekeepers were properly trained before deployment, including on the basics of international humanitarian law.
MLUNGISI CEDRICK MBALATI (South Africa) said that protecting civilians from the scourge of conflict was at the core of the Council’s mandate. If it and the wider United Nations and its partners did not play its role in that regard, then it would have failed the international community. South Africa remained unwavering in its commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council had made notable contributions through the inclusion of civilian protection mandates in its decisions, and it must be ensured that such advances were not lost or selectively pursued. At the same time, abusing the authorization granted by the Council to advance political and regime change was unfortunate. Another challenge related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles against human targets, which inevitably led to the killing of innocent civilians. Finally, those entrusted with protection of civilians had a stake in ensuring that their actions did not undermine the very objectives they sought to advance and there must be scrupulous compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in carrying out those mandates.
MIRSADAČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said every opportunity should be seized to send a message that crimes against civilians were unacceptable and that all perpetrators would be brought to justice. Additional efforts were needed to make Governments aware of their responsibility to protect civilians. Supporting relevant institutions and strengthening their role and capacity to deal with those issues was also of vital importance. Combating impunity required prosecuting the perpetrators of serious crimes. Gradual and targeted measures played an important role in efforts to improve compliance with the law by non-State armed groups. At the same time, Council-mandated actions to protect civilians should ensure the international response was proportional to the threat; the use of force should be the last resort. As for ongoing reports of attacks on schools and hospitals — part of daily life in conflict settings — those places must be deemed “protected areas” or “zones of peace”, and that should be included in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding mandates.
MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt) said civilians continued to suffer in armed conflicts, citing today’s estimate by the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the death toll in Syria was approaching 70,000 people. Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had captured Goma, while in Mali, armed groups had seized Gao before being driven out. Israel again attacked Gaza. In that context, he hoped that a future arms trade treaty would include a provision that weapons should not be transferred when there was a risk they would be used to violate international humanitarian and human rights law. The Council must take actions to hold accountable perpetrators of civilian attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories. All parties must comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality in armed conflicts. They also must grant humanitarian assistance. He urged the adoption of pre-emptive approaches, including the comprehensive resolution of protracted conflicts.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal) said civilian murders, attacks against schools, sexual violence and forced disappearances persisted, while theatres of operation widened. The world continued to confront a heavy humanitarian burden, as seen in Afghanistan, Gaza and Syria. To mitigate risks to civilians, he urged pursuing a holistic prevention strategy. Arms circulation must be controlled, especially towards non-State actors. Participants in the Arms Trade Treaty conference in March should show the will to overcome the obstacles in preceding negotiations. Also, parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons should re-examine the problem of all types of mines, including unexploded ordinance. In sum, he underlined the need to nip the causes of violence in the bud, including by strengthening preventive diplomacy.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that the Secretary-General’s finding that civilians accounted for 90 per cent of the victims of armed conflict, 80 per cent of which were women and children, was true for West Africa, which had seen numerous conflicts since 1990, most recently, in Mali. In situations where civilians were massacred, the member States of ECOWAS had responded by, in 1991, adopting a Declaration of Principles of Abuja. Throughout the 1990s, the Community established mechanisms and frameworks to deal with the conflicts, including by creating an ECOWAS stand-by force. Additional advances followed in the twenty-first century and, in 2008, a legal framework complemented previous efforts. Experience had shown that conflicts in the subregion were linked to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, a “democracy deficit”, and poverty. That concern had led ECOWAS to change its moratorium in 2006 to a legally binding convention on the transfer and manufacture of those weapons. An international arms trade treaty could incorporate the elements of the ECOWAS instrument.
JAN GRAULS (Belgium) said that with the Syrian situation having attained a level of “unprecedented horror”, he recalled the terms of Council resolution 1894 (2009), which stated the Council’s readiness to intervene, in accordance with the Charter, in armed conflict where civilians were targeted or the delivery of humanitarian assistance was deliberately impeded. Belgium called on the Council to assume its responsibilities to find a solution to the Syrian crisis and to support the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy. He regretted that it had been unable to adopt a press statement at the start of this month in support of the appeals of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for greater access by the United Nations to the entire Syrian territory. Belgium, with other partners, had been active in pressing all parties to the conflict to respect and fully protect access to health care and medical services. It was working in Geneva to draw up a joint statement on that imperative. He was counting on the Council “to ensure that one day justice will be done in Syria”. For that reason, he was calling for the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) said civilians were the main victims of armed conflict, as seen in Syria, and prevention was the best remedy. It was crucial to identify early on signals from the ground and send them on to actors as reminders to respect civilians’ physical and moral integrity. Peaceful solutions, inclusive political dialogue, enhanced rule of law, and the promotion of reconciliation were prerequisites for strong protective environments. Prevention efforts were often lacking, and there was a need to facilitate access for humanitarian personnel. In all such cases, international law must be respected. Accountability was another element in preventing human rights violations, including through the International Criminal Court and fact-finding mechanisms. Uruguay also was receptive to the idea of a victim registry. At the Arms Trade Treaty conference, he urged considering the human cost of a lack of arms trade regulation and the availability of weapons, saying that the humanitarian dimension must be prioritized in that instrument.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) underscored the multidimensional nature of protecting civilians. Conduct of warring factions towards civilians, challenges of impunity, weak or absent State authority, political will of the international community, and lack of the means necessary to reverse the spiral of violence together made that task much more difficult. India, a partner of United Nations peacekeeping from its inception, had contributed ideas and resources to global efforts in that regard. “Our soldiers have been at the forefront in translating Security Council mandates into actions in challenging circumstances,” he said, adding: “Our troops and police personnel have always upheld the mandates and protected civilians.” India brought to the table a quantum of experience in actually protecting civilians in peacekeeping missions. He joined speakers of other troop-contributing countries in expressing a view that the protection of civilians was, first and foremost, a national responsibility. It was, therefore, necessary to strengthen the capacities of the States and their national institutions. Since 1999, the Security Council had provided for protection of civilians in the mandates of peacekeeping missions. But, mere addition of words to the mandates alone would not enable peacekeepers to fulfil protection mandates, because it required sufficient personnel, proper equipment and suitable capacities.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) offered some observations on the issue of protecting civilians. First, the Secretary-General’s report urged the Council to assist States to perform accountability on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law at the national level. That would be a daunting goal. Apart from insufficient capacity, there was often a tension between justice and politics. Leaders were often pressured for so-called stability, rather than undertaking accountability. The best form of assistance by the Council might be support and capacity-building in the preventive functions of justice, rule of law and education, which could mitigate the culture of violence in the first place. Second, the peacekeeping missions’ protection mandates under imminent threat of physical violence were vital. Indonesia supported the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations’ call in its 2012 report that protection mandates should be implemented without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the host Government. Third, Indonesia was of the view that parties to the conflict must comply with their international law obligations. It was tragic that, due to lack, if not absence, of effective preventive measures and rule of law, women and children remained the most vulnerable in conflicts.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, highlighted the changing character of armed conflict. “Today, the majority of conflicts are, in fact, civil wars,” he said. They had been often fought not on a clearly defined battle ground, but in populated areas using guerrilla tactics. Too often in those situations the principles of international humanitarian law — such as the principle of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack — were not respected and, as a result, civilians suffered. He called for full respect of international humanitarian law and human rights law by all parties to armed conflict. The parties must also allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance, including the provision of medicines. Syria was a case in point.
Regarding the use of explosive weapons, he said that negotiations on an arms trade treaty would resume in March and the Nordic countries expected the adoption of a strong, robust treaty incorporating “very strong” provisions on human rights and international humanitarian law. On impunity, he said that the Nordic countries were horrified by the continuous atrocities in Syria, urged the Council to take decisive steps to ensure accountability for those responsible, and welcomed the decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Mali. Lastly, he stressed the importance of preventive measures. Where a State was not willing or unable to protect its population, the responsibility to protect fell on the international community, he said, adding: “Capacity-building in host countries is an important preventive tool.”
SAUL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica) stressed the need to respond to increasingly complex needs with protection mandates, saying that options included establishing early alert mechanisms, support for national authorities in protecting civilians and providing assistance for the functioning of security and rule of law bodies. National capacity-building was needed to guarantee accountability. For its part, the Council should play a more proactive role in the international response by providing follow-up to the findings of investigative committees and establishing cooperation arrangements with the International Criminal Court. He supported establishing a list for the verification of referrals, as well as a subsidiary body to provide follow-up on those cases. The Council should refer the Syrian situation to the Court. It also was important to broaden the range of players involved in protecting civilians by strengthening cooperation with regional organizations and civil society. He urged showing a commitment to protecting civilians through a robust agreement at the upcoming Arms Trade Treaty conference.
TINE MØRCH SMITH (Norway), speaking also for Argentina, Austria and Indonesia, recalled that regional seminars had been held in Jakarta, Buenos Aires and Kampala to identify practical measures to effectively address the humanitarian challenges at hand, with a fourth meeting to be held in Vienna 21-22 February. A number of possible recommendations had been identified. In order to fully implement international humanitarian law, there was a need to focus on how military operations might be conducted with lesser risk for the civilian populations. It was essential that practical and scenario-based training in international humanitarian law was promoted at all levels within the military. There was also a need for increased dialogue with non-State armed groups towards enhancing the respect of international humanitarian law. In complex conflict situations, States should strive to apply all applicable law, not limited to international humanitarian and human rights law, in a manner that afforded the best possible protection for the civilians. It was also vital to ensure proper documentation of the conduct of military operations, and to strive for increased transparency, both during and after an armed conflict. That seminar series would culminate in a global conference in Oslo on 23-24 May, with the aim of agreeing on strong and concrete recommendations.
HANIFF HUSSEIN (Malaysia) concurred with the Council’s efforts to place civilian protection mandates in United Nations peacekeeping emissions, especially with civilian casualties and injuries, as well as conflict-related population displacement, continuing to mount. While urging mission leaders to ensure those mandates were carried out without prejudice, he also urged greater emphasis on reporting and monitoring protection-related activities, which could be regularly reported to the Council. Continuing, he said Malaysia believed that those who violated international law and who deliberately targeted civilian population centres or humanitarian facilities and personnel, must be held accountable. “The absence of accountability will allow violations to thrive,” he said, adding that the world could not turn a blind eye to the situation of conflict-affected civilians. More must be done to protect Palestinian civilians, especially in the wake of Israel’s recent universally condemned assault on the Gaza Strip. He also expressed concern about the loss of civilian lives in Syria and called on all the parties involved to adhere to the spirit of the 30 June 2012 Joint Communiqué of the Syria Action Group towards finding a political solution to that crisis.
ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), noting that the Council’s informal expert group on the protection of civilians continued to meet regularly, said that such protection related to prevention and the building of a mindset of a culture of peace, which included tolerance, diversity, friendship, love and respect for others. Thus, the preventive capacity of the United Nations needed to be enhanced and Member States needed to take steps to inculcate such values that would contribute to long-term prevention. As Bangladesh was one of the largest troop-contributing countries, he said there needed to be a closer dialogue between the Council and troop-contributing countries in order to provide valuable information on the situation on the ground. Further, the presence of uniformed female personnel could also play a pivotal role in a State’s ability to protect its citizens, and he referred to the all-female Formed Bangladesh Police Unit that worked with peacekeeping missions in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that because most conflicts arose from citizens being denied their basic rights and freedoms, the promotion of good governance and the rule of law was crucial in prevention. The Council should support the efforts by the General Assembly on the topic of the pacific settlement of disputes by holding joint consultations with the Assembly. Such settlements of disputes, as recently illustrated by Sudan and South Sudan, could spare civilians from harm. The disarmament and arms control agenda should also be revived, as the protection of civilians should go hand in hand with the debate for the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Further, preventing such weapons from falling into the hands of non-State actors was also critical, and he urged the adoption of a robust arms trade treaty. Concluding, he said that perpetrators of heinous crimes needed to be held accountable. The International Criminal Court played an important role to that end and its effectiveness would be enhanced if it achieved universal membership.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITE (Lithuania), commenting on several aspects of the subject, said that creating civilian casualties tracking mechanisms could provide insights regarding the harm done to civilians, and lead to better preventive actions in the future. Supporting the Secretary-General’s call to the Council to address the attacks on journalists, she noted that they not only exposed themselves to great harm while reporting, but ended up being the object of attacks themselves. Observing that 90 per cent of peacekeepers were currently serving in missions that had the mandate to protect civilians, she urged that the Organization further develop the necessary guidance and training to ensure peace operations mandates could be fully implemented. On a national level, Lithuania had mandatory training in international humanitarian law and rules governing armed conflicts in both general military education and for specific pre-deployed troops about to join missions. She concluded, calling for the adoption of a strong and legally binding arms trade treaty that would enhance the protection of civilians through strengthening controls on arms availability.
HERMAN SCHAPER (Netherlands) said that accountability based on the rule of law provided a solid basis for justice being done. It also was a key element in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The international community had an obligation to engage with and assist all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law, as the absence of such accountability created an atmosphere where people thought they could get away with committing atrocities. Although it was preferable to investigate and prosecute on a national level and the International Criminal Court functioned as a court of last resort, he urged States to ratify the Rome Statute and Kampala amendments.
Towards facilitating domestic prosecution, he said, his country, along with Belgium and Slovenia, had started an initiative to strengthen the international legal framework covering inter-State cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Concluding, he recalled the repeated attacks and threats on Dr. Dennis Mukwege, a human rights activist and doctor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, because he had spoken out for women who had been raped and violated. “People like Dr. Mukwege and his clients should be able to count on protection and security to live a life free of violence and fear,” he stated in conclusion.
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico) said significant progress had been made in the normative framework for the protection of civilians, including through collective sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights violations. He recognized the commitment of troop- and police-contributing countries in that regard. Missions faced difficulties in converting their mandate into reality on the ground. State and non-State actors must strengthen their compliance with international humanitarian law. Missions also must be guaranteed the human and material resources to fulfil their mandates. Humanitarian access should be timely. He stressed the usefulness of the International Criminal Court in fostering accountability, and urged that negotiations for an arms trade treaty lead to the adoption of a robust instrument that prohibited arms transfers when there was a risk of violating international law. The Council must strengthen coordination with regional and subregional groups, as such efforts were essential for ensuring the credibility of the United Nations
GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia) voiced alarm at the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria, condemning all terrorist attacks that targeted civilians and expressing deep concern for the Armenians in that country. He urged taking a balanced approach to international humanitarian law and strict adherence to human rights standards. Azerbaijan’s delegate had referred to a 1992 military event, he said, noting that Azerbaijan itself was responsible for it. In response to the people in Nagorno-Karabakh exercising their right to self-determination, Azerbaijan launched pogroms and attacked an Armenian community for no other reason than its ethnic origin. That was followed by an Azeri military offensive against civilians. Today, Azeri snipers indiscriminately attacked schools in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Council must assume a more proactive approach in response to such events and Azerbaijan’s attacks must end. A solution must be found through peaceful means and in full respect for international law.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said that the State had exclusive responsibility to protect civilians, in keeping with national constitutions and in compliance with Charter principles, such as non-intervention, respect for sovereignty, refraining from the threat or use of force, and peaceful settlement of disputes. The parties to a conflict, be they Governments or armed groups, had an obligation to protect civilians. In recent decades, military technologies were used to “dilute” responsibilities, and the indiscriminate bombing and disproportionate use of force had led to the deaths of innocent civilians — so-called collateral damage. Those actions violated international law and international humanitarian law and were a breach of the fourth Geneva Convention. Nor were military intervention and support to armed groups “from the outside” viable solutions. Civilians could not be protected when weapons were provided to parties attempting to overthrow legitimate Governments. Peacekeeping operations could promote solutions to armed conflict, but they must comply strictly with their guiding principles.
JIM KELLY (Ireland) said reports of violence and brutality against civilians in Syria, of serious violations of human rights law in Mali, and of massive population displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were all daily reminders that people living in those zones faced extreme vulnerabilities. “The protection of civilians is at the heart of what the United Nations stands for. It is where the [United Nations] can and does make a critical difference every day,” he said, stressing that while the Organization had made great strides in the area since 1999, it was up to affected States and the United Nations peacekeeping operations they hosted to deliver more tangible results. States bore the primary responsibility to protect civilians, and all countries must spare no effort to ensure the safety and unhindered movement of relief workers, and to ensure that resolute action was taken to address sexual violence in armed conflict. While he reiterated his delegation’s call to ensure that peacekeeping missions were properly funded to carry out protection mandates, he offered other suggestions to provide better converge over sometimes vast areas of mission responsibility, including increased use of unmanned aerial surveillance to offer improved force protection, and closer cooperation and information sharing between peacekeeping operations and political missions to improve early warning.
ANDREAS RIECKEN (Austria) regretted that the Security Council had held only one debate on the protection of civilians in 2012. It was extremely important for the body to regularly take up that topic in a broader and more inclusive manner, allowing for an exchange of views on new trends and obstacles, including the five core challenges identified by the Secretary-General. Austria had developed an interdisciplinary training course on the protection of civilians open to national and international participants. That training course had been piloted in December last year in Stadtschlaining in Austria, with the participation of senior decision makers of the armed forces, police, civilian administration and other civilian stakeholders and experts. In light of that success, Austria had decided to run the course on an annual basis, with the next one to be held in late 2013. Austria would also continue to cooperate closely with the United Nations Secretariat to support the ongoing shaping of the training landscape for civilian protection at all operational levels.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said civilians often were the targets of murder, rape and sexual violence, not just as consequence of war, but as a method of such. States were obliged to protect their populations. The international community had a duty to take collective action, through the Council, if or when authorities manifestly failed to do so. Those violating human rights today, including in Syria, should know they faced justice tomorrow. He urged referring that case to the Court. Croatia’s experience had taught that the experience of conflict could vary among groups of people and Croatia was committed to protecting the most vulnerable: women and children. The recruitment and use of children as soldiers was a widespread problem, as were attacks on educational facilities. Equally alarming were attacks on humanitarian workers and journalists. He urged a focus on civilian and military cooperation, with an integrated approach involving police, diplomats and civil society in civilian protection activities.
The Council President then announced that the representative of Jordan was no longer present in the Council due to the late hour and that his statement would be circulated.
USMAN SARKI (Nigeria) said his country had made great strides in protecting civilians through its contributions to various peacekeeping operations worldwide. At the subregional level, ECOWAS had continued to remind States and other parties to conflicts of their obligations to respect and protect civilians. To protect defenceless civilians in conflict situations, it was imperative that the international community, especially the United Nations, deepen its commitment to bolster accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. “It is time to put our words into action and adopt standardized measures to bring persistent perpetrators of violations against children to justice. In this connection, the Security Council should take the lead by adopting targeted measures against such perpetrators,” he said, urging the Council to move beyond discussing the impact of conflict and begin to adopt resolutions that criminalize war.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ (Montenegro) said that civilian suffering required vigilant attention and decisive action. He was alarmed at the widespread and systematic violations of human rights and international law in Syria, which, according to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, might amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes under the Rome Statute. Bolstering accountability was integral to strengthening compliance by the warring parties with their international obligations. Since accountability was lacking in Syria, Montenegro had decided to support the Swiss initiative, calling for the Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. Ensuring safe and unhindered access for humanitarian staff was vital for civilian protection. Also, parties must refrain from using explosive weapons in densely populated areas. In that connection, a strong arms trade treaty could address the human cost and dire consequences of the poorly regulated global arms trade.
MIGUEL BERGER (Germany) welcomed the presidential statement and establishment of a standard reporting procedure. The civil war in Syria was intensifying, as was civilian suffering. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including women and children, were often caused by explosive weapons in densely populated areas. Such killing of children could amount to war crimes. In Syria, children were being bombarded in their neighbourhoods. “Schools and hospitals must be zones of peace, even in times of conflict,” he said. Yet, in Syria, Government attacks on schools and denial of civilian access to hospitals continued. Anti-Government armed groups also had targeted schools. Some 1,300 had been damaged since the violence began. All parties responsible for targeting medical personnel and misusing Geneva Convention emblems should know that such acts constituted war crimes. States had requested that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court.
JEAN-FRANÇOIS R. ZINSOU (Benin) urged following up on the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including for the responsibility to protect. The Council should ensure the best possible protection to civilians during armed conflict and increase the price to be paid by violators of international law, who should be tried before the International Criminal Court. He appreciated the efforts of France, with Malian forces, to build peace in Mali. Peacekeepers should be given a clear mandate to ensure the protection of civilians when they were threatened with violence. As such, he urged reaching consensus on the rules of engagement for peacekeepers, so they were not forced to stand by when United Nations principles were being flouted, as was the case in Syria. Non-armed peacekeeping by civil society groups was making headway, and could be relied upon during low-intensity conflicts where there was no United Nations peacekeeping presence.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said that, in principle, the concept of protection of civilians in armed conflict should be a lofty one, but as everyone had seen in recent years, its implementation had been totally manipulated. Actions taken had produced results that ran contrary to protection. In Libya, by invoking the arguments of civilian protection and responsibility to protect, a war was waged against a sovereign country. Under the guise of an “exclusion zone”, Libya’s airspace was used to assassinate men, women and children who were the very civilians intended to be protected. The Head of State was assassinated, the regime was changed, and as if that was not enough, the region was overrun with arms and terrorists, whose status was raised to that of “liberation armies”.
He said that the same script was being used in Syria, and in Palestine, the Council had taken no action towards a solution and protection of the civilian victims of the genocide there. It should be asked why the Council did not invoke the concept of civilian protection in cases where innocent civilians were assassinated by the famous “drones”. The actions of the Council on the item under debate, and the impact of implementation of the responsibility to protect, had only created greater divisions and suspicion within the international community.
JUAN PABLO ESPINOZA (Chile) said that the presence of high-level participants highlighted the importance of today’s debate. Protection of civilians was based on human rights and humanitarian law. Recalling that the primary responsibility rested with the States affected by armed conflict, he said headway had been made in putting a normative framework in place. His delegation was, however, concerned about daily situations in which millions of people were affected by armed conflict. He reminded all parties to conflict of the need to comply with international humanitarian law, refrain from attacks on medical facilities and personnel, and refrain from using explosive weapons, which had resulted in the displacement of a large number of people. He also stressed the importance of precisely articulated mandates to protect civilians and the importance of an early warning mechanism in protecting civilians, while also emphasizing the importance of rule of law and local institutions. Any perpetrator should be prosecuted, he said, underscoring the role of investigative committees and fact-finding missions to enhance accountability. Noting the role of the International Criminal Court in preventing impunity, he called on the Security Council to use available tools and refer cases, where necessary, to the Court, including the situation in Syria.
STEPHANIE LEE (New Zealand) said that the targeting of civilians, among other war crimes, was not just against the victims, but against all people. She reminded the Council that the powers given to it by the Charter enabled it to act decisively on the world’s behalf, and she called for the Council to exercise its responsibilities when civilians were targets of armed attacks. Aware that the Council’s efforts were also dependant on the actions of peacekeepers in the field, practical and constructive measures were necessary to ensure peacekeepers were ready to respond quickly to emerging threats. It was not good enough for missions to hide behind the “within available resources” provisions in mandates and not act when atrocities were committed against civilians. She went on to herald the actions of Ghanaian and Canadian peacekeepers during the Rwandan genocide that had saved thousands of civilians, and she underscored that current and future peacekeepers needed to be able emulate those brave efforts. She also urged that the Secretariat be more courageous with the Council, recalling that the 2000 Brahimi Report warned the Secretariat to tell the Council what it needed to hear, not what it wanted to hear, advice, she noted, that had not been taken much to heart. Concluding, she said that it was important to note that not all conflicts involved atrocities against civilians, as it showed that some combatants, even in civil wars, abided by the basic norms of international humanitarian law.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) stressed that his country attached great importance to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and today’s debate could not take place at a better time, as gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms continued in armed conflicts around the world. It had been observed that the absence of accountability was a leading factor in undermining the rights of civilians in armed conflict. For that reason, he called on the Council to aggressively promote accountability by thoroughly investigating and prosecuting persons responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The reports of the Secretary-General on the issue had highlighted concerns and challenges affecting civilians in armed conflict, but had also contributed to the advancement of debates through the identification of five core challenges: enhancing compliance by parties to conflict with international law; enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups; enhancing protection by United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions; improving humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability for violations. While strong normative frameworks had been put in place, a lot still remained to be done as the situation endured by civilians in conflict called for “urgent and drastic” measures. A recent report by UNICEF had highlighted that, in Syria, more than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, had been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad had begun in early 2011.
XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador) recalled that the Geneva Conventions’ second article outlined the rules with regard to their application. It did not grant States the option of assassinating their own citizens in the name of precaution. Such crimes should not go unpunished. On 21 February 2012, Brazil held an informal discussion to analyse the responsibility to protect, a concept that contemplated the lack of responsibility in that area. States had the main duty for protecting civilians against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, or the incitement to such abuses. The international community was obliged to use diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from those crimes. Brazil’s contribution reinforced those ideas, restricting international interference and ensuring the use of force as a last resort to protect civilians. The protection of civilians should not be applied with double standards or political justifications for massacring some, but not others. Any international action to protect civilians should adhere to the Charter principles.
IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said more than 8 million people had been killed during 15 years of war in his country. In North Kivu, the violence had led to new forms of criminal activity, most often affecting women and children: systematic rape; killing sprees; sexual torture; forced displacement; and conscription of children. There was evidence of grave human rights violations of children in North Kivu by the “M23” group. Further, the Council had proof that Rwanda was offering assistance to them and inciting the desertion of the Congolese armed forces. The Geneva Conventions enshrined respect for the individual during conflict. It was encouraging that the Council had pursued civilian protection, as well as operational questions for peacekeeping operations and requests for humanitarian assistance. In resolution 1894 (2009), The Council acknowledged it should set up guidelines for peacekeepers for protecting civilians. He called for full implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations in that regard.
PALITHA KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said that the reports of civilian trauma could be the result of deliberately distorted propaganda. The use of modern technology by rebels groups, in particular terrorists and their networks, was a reality and needed to be kept in mind when addressing the question of violence against civilians. Further, protection of civilians posed difficult challenges in situations where civilians were being used as human shields and bargaining chips by rebel groups, making the application of standard principles a nightmare. The practical realities, based on the experiences of States, needed to be seriously considered, instead of a theoretical application of a one-size-fits-all humanitarian framework.
On a national level, he said, among multifaceted responses, policies and initiatives, his country adhered to a goal of “Zero Civilian Casualties” and addressed the post-conflict internally displaced persons resettlement, along with other issues, with speed and efficacy. Further, child combatants were treated as victims, not villains, and were sent back to their communities after a short period of rehabilitation. “Reality is to be found not in newspaper headlines, but at the unexciting ground level,” he said in conclusion, emphasizing that the nature of contemporary conflicts posed new challenges to established legal principles for the protection of civilians in conflict situations.
ZSOLT HETESY (Hungary) said while the Security Council’s primary responsibility was the settlement of disputes that constituted a threat to international peace and security, in situations where civilians were being targeted, the Council should take all possible measures at its disposal to protect the civilian population. Such measures must include ensuring that perpetrators of serious crimes were held accountable in cases where national authorities failed to prosecute them. Political reconciliation and accountability were closely interlinked and mutually reinforcing. It was not an “either/or” question. All political solutions, in order to become lasting ones, must be based on accountability, which could serve an as effective deterrent and might contribute to the prevention of future attacks against the civilian population. It was on the basis of the above principles that Hungary had joined the initiative of Switzerland and had signed a letter along with 57 other States — almost one third of United Nations membership — requesting the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. It was heartening to note that the initiative was now supported by more Member States, including Council members.
YOUSEF SULTAN LARAM (Qatar), on behalf of the Arab Group, said civilians formed the bulk of victims of armed conflict. Despite progress, challenges persisted, which required parties to refrain from using explosive devices in densely populated areas. Improving security was a task that required various efforts, including the application of national and international laws to protect civilians without discrimination. Civilians around the world faced violence that had resulted in killing and displacement. Women and children formed the majority of displaced persons and refugees. For its part, the Arab Group urged the Council to take measures to protect civilians and strengthen accountability.
In that context, he reaffirmed the importance of mandating peacekeepers to protect civilians, which was among the most important measures it could take to strengthen such protection. He went on to say that Gazans were subject to Israeli aggression, including bombings by the air force in residential areas. The occupied Palestinian territories had become a place where the Geneva Conventions were violated. In Syria, the crisis had reached “scary” dimensions. In 2012, the Arab Group conference called for a halt to the violence and requested immediate access for humanitarian personnel. On 12 November 2012, the Group voiced deep concern at the humanitarian situation in Syria and for the Council to end cycle of violence in that country. The basic feature of the Syrian regime was disregard of the Syrian citizen’s rights, dignity and freedom, he said. It had used every possible element of the military arsenal, including cluster bombs, against residential areas, pursued oppressive policies and targeted medical facilities. He called on the Council to respond promptly and affirmatively to the dangers faced by Syrian civilians.
LEVENT ELER (Turkey) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict was a common concern for all and constituted one of the top priorities for the international community. Unfortunately, a vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts continued to be civilians. He condemned all attacks on civilians and was deeply concerned about their destructive effects, particularly on women and children. The normative framework on the protection of civilians had been largely established, he noted, adding “there now needs to be an increased focus on implementation, rather than norm setting.” The Council had a particular and inevitable obligation in that regard, which had consequences on the ground. Syria was a case in point. The humanitarian situation was getting grimmer every day, as the two-year mark of the crisis approached. He also recalled the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, the violation of the fundamental rights of Palestinian people in Gaza, West Bank and elsewhere in the region, where they lived as refugees. The illegal blockage of Gaza by Israel was in its sixth year, in defiance of international law. The best protection was to prevent armed conflict in the first place, and tackle the root causes. Promotion of human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance should continue to be on the agenda at global and regional levels, because they were important for preventing armed conflict.
DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN (Sudan) said 13 years had passed since the Secretary-General’s first report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. There should be no double standards when addressing the issue. Unfortunately, the Council had not even “raised its little finger” in some recent conflicts. He agreed that civilians were the first victims of armed conflict, highlighting the fact that armed groups in Darfur were the best example of rebel movements that aimed to provoke Governments by attacking civilians. He regretted that those speaking about the situation of civilians in Blue Nile and South Kordofan had not addressed the underlying causes of it: increased attacks by armed groups.
He went on to say that the Council must play its role vis-à-vis the “northern popular movement” and call on South Sudan to immediately disengage and disassociate from such rebel groups. “What protects civilians is peace,” he said, as well as efforts towards reconstruction; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and the implementation of quick revenue projects. He appealed for the Council to recognize Sudan’s peace efforts and send a signal to those refusing the Doha Document to join the peace process.
VAKHTANG MAKHAROBLISHVILI (Georgia) said more than 10 years had passed since the Council had held its first open debate on the protection of civilians. His country had not been spared armed conflict. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees had been deprived of their right to return to their homes. Despite Georgia’s efforts to ease their burden, the failure of all actors to recognize the inherent right to return was an open challenge to the rights framework. He touched on the international community’s ability to assess human rights situations in areas where authorities could not exercise their sovereign rights, saying that, in such cases, international humanitarian law prescribed a minimum threshold for civilian protection. The safe and unhindered access of humanitarian actors was also important.
OSMAN KEH KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said that, despite the United Nations’ systematic engagement to streamline and improve peacekeeping standards, there were inherent challenges resulting from the Organization’s ambiguity on how it should intervene when Member States lacked either the military force or the political will to stop violence against civilians. Thus, peacekeeping missions should include a protection mandate as part of an international response, so that steps could be taken to ensure accountability. Addressing impunity should not be considered an afterthought. Rather, the Council should proactively seek an appropriate international response, especially in cases where national authorities failed to take responsibility. He went on to say that the United Nations was the only organization where all major Powers, including rising regional ones, were able to jointly participate in providing stability. The participation of major Powers in missions would not only enhance rapid deployment, but send a signal that opposition to the mission carried real political costs.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said his country had met all its Charter obligations, as well as those under the Geneva Conventions. It was most important to understand the causes of armed conflicts. Many wars had occurred because of expansionist attempts to appropriate people’s resources. He hoped the arms trade treaty would not become an instrument for arms manufacturers that profited from war. He was concerned at the use of drones, which had killed innocent civilians and violated international law. Those who used them went unpunished. He asked if those responsible would stand before the International Criminal Court, or if there would be double standards. He asked why protection measures had been taken in Libya, but not in “Palestine”. He urged States that had not done so to ratify the Court’s statute and for the Council to carry out reforms that would make it more democratic and legitimate.
Taking the floor for a further intervention, the representative of Syria said he rejected the statements made by Qatar in its national capacity, as well as the unjustified lies. Qatar was one of those countries that had caused the suffering of civilians in Syria by the support its Government was giving to armed terrorists through funding, and arms and communications to frustrate the settlement of the crisis through dialogue, which would allow Syrians to decide their own future. The practices of the Qatar Government totally contradicted what it claimed were its intentions and commitments to the people of Syria.
Also taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Azerbaijan said it was curious that the representative of Armenia — a country that bore primary responsibility for unleashing the war against Azerbaijan and for other serious crimes and non-compliance with Security Council resolutions — took the floor here and tried to lecture others about such notions. His delegation would issue a detailed statement on what “passed in silence” and what was deliberately distorted in that delegation’s speech. The position of Azerbaijan’s Government was well-known and he was ready to provide all delegations with documentation and evidence, allowing them to draw their own assessments and conclusions about the “hopeless attempts by Armenia to mislead the international community”.
It was pertinent in the context of today’s debate, said the representative, to recall what Armenia’s current President had said about his role in the massacres committed against the civilians of Azerbaijan. When asked if he had any regrets about the thousands of deaths, he had said he had absolutely no regrets, since the upheavals were necessary even if thousands had to die. Those were the words of someone in the highest political and military position in Armenia; they spoke for themselves and made any statements on behalf of that Government, in the United Nations or other international forums, irrelevant and obsolete.
Armenia’s delegate, responding to Azerbaijan’s “provocative” statement, regretted that another attempt had been made to mislead the Council by “mispresenting” the causes and consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the former Azerbaijani President [Ayaz] Mutalibov, responsibility for the slaughter of civilians in the mostly Azeri city of Khojalu, near Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, fell on the Azeri opposition group, the Azerbaijani National Front. In the following days, the President, in an interview with a Czech journalist, said the militia of the Azerbaijani National Front had actually prevented the exodus of the local population through mountain passages specifically left open by Karabakh Armenians to facilitate the flight of the civilian population.
She said that while Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister was busy falsifying information to strengthen the propaganda machine, there was an abundance of statements and testimonies that pointed to those events not as an Armenian war crime, but as “twisted” self-inflicted Azeri atrocities. An Azeri human rights activist wrote that the “town and its citizens were deliberately sacrificed for a political goal”, with references to an Azerbaijani newspaper in 1992. Other testimony had come from the chair of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan, who said that a tragedy had been committed by Azerbaijani authorities, specifically a top official, with a reference to a 1992 newspaper.
Recalling that former President Heydar Aliyev had admitted that the former leadership of Azerbaijan was guilty concerning those events, she said that in April 1992, he had stated: “The bloodshed will profit us. We should not interfere with the course of events.” She urged the Azerbaijani delegate to seek the truth in his country, with participation of political parties and civil society. On the Council resolutions urging parties to resume negotiations, she said Azerbaijan had violated those provisions.
In a further intervention, the representative of Azerbaijan said it was unfortunate that the Armenian representative had once again used the opportunity of today’s debate for groundless propaganda. In fact, the delegation had abused its right to speak from the high rostrum of the United Nations. The delegation had not even taken the trouble to listen carefully to what had been said and instead had read out from a prepared text. Thus, what had just been heard was irrelevant and out of context and failed to address his delegation’s remarks.
The representative of Armenia suggested that, instead of attempts to mislead Member States and abuse the time allocated for this debate, the delegation of Azerbaijan should abandon its propaganda. The Organization was much more suited to serious deliberations on issues of multilateral concern.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2013/2 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to the continuing and full implementation of all its previous relevant resolutions including 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1674 (2006), 1738 (2006), 1894 (2009), as well as all of its resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, Children and Armed Conflict and Peacekeeping, and all relevant statements of its President.
“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security and its commitment and readiness to strive for sustainable peace in all situations under its consideration.
“The Security Council expresses its deep concern that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict.
“The Security Council recognises that States bear the primary responsibility to protect civilians, as well as respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction, as provided for by relevant international law.
“The Security Council reaffirms that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians, and urges parties to armed conflict to meet civilians’ basic needs, giving particularattention to the specific needs of women and children, refugees, internally displaced persons, as well as other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities, including persons with disabilities and older persons.
“The Security Council reiterates its demand that all parties to armed conflict comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. The Council stresses the need for parties to take all required measures to avoid civilian casualties and to respect and protect the civilian population.
“The Security Council remains committed to addressing the impact of armed conflict on civilians and its consequences in post-conflict situations, in particular on women and children. In this respect, in reaffirming the principles of international humanitarian law, the Security Council strongly condemns all violations of international law against civilians, in particular the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, and sexual and gender based violence, including the use of sexual violence for political motivations and as a tactic of war. The Council expresses grave concern about situations in which armed forces and groups persist in committing violations and abuses against children exposed to and affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations in open disregard of applicable international law and the Council’s resolutions on this matter. The Council demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to these violations and abuses, calls upon them to cooperate with the United Nations, and reaffirms its readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures. The Council calls upon States to ensure that perpetrators of violations and abuses of international law are held fully accountable.
“The Security Council reaffirms its strong opposition to impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and emphasizes in this context the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to end impunity and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of international humanitarian law. The Council recognizes international commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions as valuable mechanisms to verify and investigate allegations of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and in accordance with their respective mandates to make recommendations to advance accountability and justice and protection for victims. The Council considers the possibility, of using the International Fact-Finding Commission established in accordance with Article 90 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
“The Security Council notes that the fight against impunity and accountability for the most serious crimes of international concern has been strengthened through the work on and prosecution of these crimes in the International Criminal Court, in accordance with the Rome Statute, in ad hoc and “mixed” tribunals, as well as specialized chambers in national tribunals. In this regard, the Security Council reiterates its previous call on the importance of State cooperation with these courts and tribunals in accordance with the States' respective obligations, and expresses its commitment to an effective follow-up of Council decisions in this regard. The Council intends to forcefully continue to fight impunity and also draws attention to the full range of justice and reconciliation mechanisms, including truth and reconciliation commissions, national reparation programmes and institutional and legal reforms, including guarantees of non-recurrence. The Council reaffirms its readiness to adopt appropriate measures aimed at those who violate international humanitarian law and human rights law.
“The Security Council recalls in this regard applicable provisions of international law on the right to reparations for violations of individual rights.
“The Security Council reaffirms the relevant provisions of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including paragraphs 138 and 139 thereof regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
“The Security Council notes that, consistent with its functions in relation to international peace and security, it seeks to remain engaged in all stages of the conflict cycle. The Security Council also notes that it will continue to explore ways in which to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict and develop measures to address the root causes of conflicts in order to ensure sustainable peace. The Council further stresses the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution to prevent their escalation and their impact on civilians.
“The Security Council notes with concern the current and ongoing humanitarian impact of armed conflict and regrets the impact of armed conflict on the civilian population, including in or near densely populated areas, with negative effects continuing even after the armed conflict has concluded. The Security Council condemns all acts of violence and other forms of intimidation deliberately directed at humanitarian personnel, as well as attacks on peacekeepers. The Council calls on parties to armed conflict to comply with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and relief consignments and to take all required steps to facilitate the safe, rapid and unimpeded passage of relief consignments, equipment and personnel.
“The Security Council calls upon all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and protect, and refrain from attacking, medical personnel, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, and facilities, as well as from using medical infrastructure in fighting. The Council further urges that medical personnel be granted all available help for the performance of their duties.
“The Security Council expresses deep concern about the severity and frequency of attacks against schools, threats and attacks against teachers and other protected persons in relation to schools, and the use of schools for military purposes, and significant implications of such attacks on the safety of students and their access to education. The Council calls upon all parties to armed conflict to put an end to such practice and to refrain from attacks against teachers and other protected persons in relation to schools, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status of civilians.
“The Security Council expresses deep concern about acts of violence against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict, in particular deliberate attacks in violation of international humanitarian law, and calls upon all parties to armed conflict to put an end to such practice. The Security Council recallsin this regard that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected as such, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians. The Security Council recalls its demandthat all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.
“The Security Council reiterates that safe, and unhindered access by United Nations humanitarian agencies and national and international organizations to people in need, in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and the Guiding Principles of Humanitarian Assistance, is a prerequisite for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Security Council recognizes the need for consistent engagement by humanitarian agencies with all parties to armed conflict for humanitarian purposes, including activities aimed at ensuring respect for international humanitarian law. The Council stresses the need to ensure simplified and expedited procedures for humanitarian personnel and goods in order to better deliver quick support to civilians on the ground. The Council also underlines the importance of systematic monitoring and analysis of constraints on humanitarian access.
“The Security Council recognizes the needs of civilians affected by foreign occupation and stresses further, in this regard, the responsibilities of the occupying power in full compliance with international humanitarian law.
“The Security Council recognizes the acute impact of conflict on refugees and internally displaced persons. The Council stresses the need for all actors to work together for a durable solution for refugees and internally displaced persons including voluntary safe, dignified and sustainable return, resettlement, or local integration, as appropriate.
“The Security Council also recognizes the importance of registration as a tool of protection and as a means to the quantification and assessment of needs for the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance to refugees. Further, the Security Council calls upon all actors to take adequate and necessary measures to ensure respect for the principles of refugee protection and obligations under refugee law, including the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps.
“The Security Council emphasizes the need for peacekeeping missions with protection of civilian mandates to ensure their implementation, and stresses the importance of continued and further engagement by senior mission leadership, with a view to ensuring that all mission components and all levels of the chain of command are properly informed of and are involved in the mission’s protection mandate and their relevant responsibilities. The Security Council recognizes the need for strong leadership in peacekeeping missions, and also encourages further coordination between UN and regional and sub-regional institutions, as appropriate, on issues relating to the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations.
“The Security Council emphasizes the importance of ensuring that peacekeeping missions with protection of civilian mandates develop mission-wide protection strategies for incorporation in the overall mission implementation plans and contingency plans in consultation with the host Government, local authorities, troop- and police-contributing countries, and other relevant actors. The Council stresses the importance of ensuring the widest possible dissemination of tools created to develop mission-wide strategies and requests that mission reporting include information on their use and effectiveness in protecting civilians, as well as recommendations on necessary updates and revisions, based on field experience. The Council also emphasizes that effective interaction and coordination of United Nations peacekeeping missions with host Government authorities, civil society, and local populations, as well as with humanitarian actors, is essential for improving and strengthening their respective and the overall protection response. In this regard, the Council also emphasizes the importance of effective interaction and coordination as appropriate both among United Nations peacekeeping missions and between United Nations peacekeeping missions and political missions. The Council welcomes progress made by the Secretary General in elaborating a conceptual framework, outlining resource and capability requirements, and developing operational tools for the implementation of protection of civilian mandates. In this context the Council reiterates the importance of including provisions on the protection of women and children including the appointment of gender advisers, women protection advisers, and child protection advisers, as appropriate in the mandates of United Nations missions.
“The Security Council reaffirms its practice of ensuring that mandates of UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions include, where appropriate and on a case-by-case basis, provisions regarding the protection of civilians, stresses that mandated protection activities must be given priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources, including information and intelligence resources, in the implementation of mandates; and recognizes, that the protection of civilians when and as mandated requires a coordinated response from all relevant mission components.
“The Security Council recognizes the need for systematic monitoring and reporting on progress to protect civilians in armed conflict. The Council reaffirms its practice of requiring mission-specific benchmarks, as and where appropriate, to measure and review progress made in the implementation of peacekeeping mandates and in this regard underlines the importance of clear mission-specific benchmarks in the context of mission transition.
“The Security Council reiteratesthe importance of the Aide Memoire on the protection of civilians (S/PRST/2010/25) as a practical tool that provides a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key protection issues, particularly during deliberations on peacekeeping mandates and stressesthe need to implement the approaches set out therein on a more regular and consistent basis, taking into account the particular circumstances of each conflict situation.
“The Security Council notes the report of the Secretary-General on protection of civilians in armed conflict of 22 May 2012 (S/2012/376) and the recommendations made therein, and requests the Secretary-General to submit his next report, to include an assessment of concrete measures taken by peacekeeping missions to implement their mandates to protect civilians and the impact of those measures, by 15 November 2013 and for reports to be submitted every 18 months thereafter.”
* *** *For information media • not an official record