DIFFICULTY OF PROVIDING MILITARY SUPPORT FOR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIO

21 May 1997
SC/6371

DIFFICULTY OF PROVIDING MILITARY SUPPORT FOR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIO

Security Council                                                                                               SC/6371

3778th Meeting (AM & PM)                                                                               21 May 1997

                                                                              DIFFICULTY OF PROVIDING MILITARY SUPPORT FOR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS                       

            WHILE ENSURING IMPARTIALITY FOCUS OF SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE

                                       Humanitarian Assistance Should Not Become

                      Pretext for Intervention in Internal Affairs of States, Council Told

            International humanitarian agencies must be free to provide assistance to civilians in armed conflicts without fear of attack by warring parties, the Security Council was told as it held a day-long exchange of views on protection for humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations.  Discussion centred on the difficulty of providing international military support for humanitarian assistance operations while ensuring that humanitarian workers were perceived as impartial.

            Several delegations, together with representatives of humanitarian agencies, urged the Council to provide for the security of aid workers at the same time that it authorized humanitarian operations.  They urged that conflicting parties be held to the letter of international humanitarian law and that those legal regimes be backed-up by the credible threat of targeted sanctions, robust military engagement and international criminal prosecution.

            Others cautioned that humanitarian assistance missions should maintain their neutrality at all costs, and avoid being seen as parties to conflicts.  The Council was urged to address the root causes of refugee flows and conflict situations in the first place, as most conflicts had their origin in poverty and absence of tolerance.

            Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Yasushi Akashi told the Council that by committing to the defense of non-combatants and refugees, the international community was redefining "threats to international peace and security" as set out in the United Nations Charter.

            The Director of the New York Liaison Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Soren Jessen-Petersen, said that increasingly politicized and militarized refugee populations were being created by contemporary conflicts which deliberately generated massive and rapid refugee movements.  He stressed that far more could be achieved in such situations if early political and security initiatives were executed alongside humanitarian responses.

Security Council                                               - 1a -                 Press Release SC/6371

3778th Meeting (AM & PM)                                                       21 May 1997

            Peter Kung, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), cautioned against the expanding military dimension of international humanitarian operations.  Armed escorts could compromise the non-political and impartial character of humanitarian workers, he stated.

            The United Nations could not send peace-keepers into each and every emergency, the representative of the United States said, adding that sometimes the presence of armed security forces could actually complicate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  The United Kingdom's representative cautioned that creating a decision to provide protection for humanitarian assistance, without the consent of warring parties, was almost by definition a political act.  The deployment of peace-keepers could freeze a political or military situation, or alter the balance of forces, he said.

            Humanitarian activities should be undertaken only by relevant departments and agencies of the United Nations, the representative of China stressed, stating that the Security Council should occupy itself with the settlement of political and security-related issues.  Cuba's representative said military forces were being deployed to intervene in local conflicts under the pretext of providing humanitarian assistance.  The confusion of "humanitarian assistance" with "humanitarian assistance operations" put the former in the hands of the Council, which should not involve itself unduly in the latter.  The representative of Japan said that Council-mandated humanitarian operations should have clearly-defined and realistic terms of reference.

            Several delegations expressed regret that the Security Council had not authorized the dispatch of a humanitarian/peace-keeping operation to eastern Zaire late last year.  The representative of France said that the resulting situation had not enhanced the "honour" of the United Nations.  Stating that 80,000 refugees were still missing, Kenya's representative termed it "shameful" that the most glaring examples of failure of humanitarian action continued to be in Africa.  Citing an international "double standard", the representative of Guinea-Bissau stated that the deployment of that force could have alleviated the suffering of thousands and saved hundreds of lives.

            The representative of Rwanda said that the humanitarian crisis in Zaire could have been avoided had the international community disarmed the perpetrators of genocide who had overtaken refugee camps in Goma.  Even the multinational force proposed in the Council late last year would have been acceptable had its mandate included the disarming of those individuals, he added. 

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3778th Meeting (AM & PM)                                                       21 May 1997

            The safety of humanitarian workers in the field should be at the centre of the Security Council's attention, the representative of Chile said. International humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations could assist political bodies such as the Council, because they were often the only international actors to be found in areas of conflict.  The representatives of Sweden and Canada urged the creation of a "rapid deployment" capability to assist in separating military groups from bona fide refugees.  India's representative said that the United Nations should address the root causes of refugee flows.  Most conflicts had their origins in poverty, lack of development and intolerance, he stated.          

            Also making statements were the representatives of Egypt, Russian Federation, Poland, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica and Portugal.  Other non-members of the Council taking part in the exchange of views were the representatives of Ukraine, Armenia, Norway, Slovenia, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Germany, Pakistan, Malaysia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Brazil, Argentina, Solomon Islands, Albania, Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan.  The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Stephen Lewis, also spoke.

            The meeting was called to order at 10:55 a.m., recessed at 1:50 p.m., reconvened at 3:16 p.m and adjourned at 7:43 p.m.

            Council Work Programme

            The Security Council met this morning to consider the following topic:  "Protection for humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations".

            Statements

            YASUSHI AKASHI, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said some 90 per cent of victims of conflicts were civilians.  In the First World War the number of victims who were non-combatants was 10 per cent.  Eighty per cent of the people in need of protection were women and children.  The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had estimated that during the last two years 2 million children had been killed by warfare and some 12 million made homeless.  An estimated 42 million people worldwide were dependent on humanitarian assistance in 1995,

60 per cent more than the 1985 figures.

            Such a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of assistance was compounded by the complexity and nature of contemporary crises and the difficulty of relying on traditional protection instruments to safeguard the basic rights and integrity of people endangered conflict, he said.  The majority of people in need of assistance were displaced in their own countries, or trapped in besieged cities, and were often in need of protection from the very authorities responsible for their safety.  Recent estimates indicated that there were 22 to 24 million internally displaced persons worldwide which greatly outnumbers the 16 million refugees who had sought asylum or had recently been repatriated.  The growing number of displaced people, and others adversely affected by warfare, highlighted the importance of reformulating the understanding of protection requirements and pointed to the timeliness of the current debate.

            He said the most compelling and problematical challenge confronting humanitarian actors in today's conflict zones was the difficulty of providing assistance in abusive and hostile environments where civilians were directly targeted and the work of relief agencies was deliberately obstructed.  "When people are forcibly uprooted and pushed from their homes, and the aim of warfare is to inflict maximum pain, then `protection' requirements are quite different to what was needed in more traditional humanitarian assistance operations", he stated.  In redefining "protection needs", the international community was, in effect, redefining "threats to the peace".  There was a growing recognition that "security", first and foremost, concerned the well-being of people and was not of lesser value than the security of States.  Increasingly, the concept of sovereignty was fundamentally linked to the ability of States to respect and safeguard the security of its citizens.

            The vast majority of crises confronting the world today were essentially political in nature notwithstanding their dramatic humanitarian implications, he continued.  When confronted with emerging crises, the Security Council must be quick to respond; it must be bold, determined and imaginative in creating the conditions necessary for a durable solution that was the most important role of the Security Council and represented the best support it could provide to organizations concerned with the humanitarian dimension of crises.  Allowing situations to fester was harmful to the cause of protection and the well-being of endangered people, and it complicated the task of securing a viable and lasting peace.  A basic condition for the effectiveness of any Security Council initiated action was that mandates were appropriate to the task.  Half measures were likely to do more harm than good.  Experience from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Somalia showed that when war strategies were designed to harm civilians the issue of protection could not be divorced from the dynamics of the crisis and action necessary to stop the violence.  To resolve crises and address the protection needs of innocent civilians, long-term solutions must be sought and Security Council mandated missions must be given the tools necessary to deal with conflict situations.

            Another fundamental precondition for effective response, he said, was the importance of not operating in a policy vacuum.  He recalled that the chief finding of a multi-donor study of the response to the crisis in 1994 in Rwanda was that it was harmful and unhelpful to all when humanitarian operations become a substitute for political and other action needed to resolve conflicts.  The provision of humanitarian assistance in a vacuum was tantamount to managing only the symptoms of a crisis.  In such circumstances, it was difficult, if not impossible, for humanitarian assistance to be effective as relief supplies were often diverted to warring parties, access to vulnerable people was denied or obstructed, and relief workers effectively found themselves in situations where the international community was unwilling to deploy peace-keeping troops.

            He said erosion and disrespect of fundamental humanitarian norms was of great concern to the Secretary-General.  The Secretariat was concerned that in many settings a culture of impunity prevailed and, however shocking, heinous crimes were perpetrated with abandon.  The Security Council could consistently be more forceful in getting relevant authorities to respect the rights of victims to assistance and protection and initiating action which would hold perpetrators accountable.  In that connection, he noted that it had, on occasion, been possible to get all parties to agree to a set of principles which ensured access to all populations in need of assistance.  Security Council support for that type of arrangement could prove useful in many settings.

            It was also of great concern that relief workers were often targeted and killed for the specific purpose of disrupting relief operations and the "lifelines" they often represented, he said.  There was a danger that as those acts became more and more commonplace so did the tolerance threshold.  The Security Council needed to take a clear sand on all such violations of humanitarian law and use its prestige and authority to hold relevant parties accountable.  The 1994 International Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel covered a limited number of United Nations staff on specific peace-keeping operations.  There was a need to either expand it to cover all relief workers in conflict settings or develop additional international instruments for that purpose.  Effective protection policy and action by the Security Council also required that core humanitarian principles were respected.  When humanitarian assistance was perceived or used as a tool to achieve political objectives, however, worthy, it undermined protection activities and might well jeopardize the lives of those involved.

            No one would argue against the importance of a coherent and holistic approach and decisions which reflected an informed analysis of the crisis, he said.  Essential elements of such an approach included regular and structured interaction with humanitarian agencies including United Nations and non-governmental actors.  His office was in a unique position to facilitate and organize such consultations.  Fact-finding by the Security Council to crisis zones could also prove a useful means to engage its members in low-profile emergencies while simultaneously contributing to an improved understanding of on-the-ground realities.  If the Security Council was familiar with concerns and perspectives emerging from the humanitarian arena, then the task of ensuring that Council mandates address protection needs would be much easier.  Joint contingency planning by the Departments of Political Affairs, Peace-keeping Operations and Humanitarian Affairs already took place but greater consultation and interaction with the Security Council would also help ensure better synergy and minimize the risk of different entities operating in isolation to each other.

            He stressed the importance of not taking a selective approach to protection issues; whenever children and their parents were abused, he said, it was important that their protection needs were addressed.

            SOREN JESSEN-PETERSEN, Director, New York Liaison Office, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that in 1990 15 million persons had fallen within his organization's mandate.  Today, the UNHCR was responsible for 26 million refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  There were estimates of a similar number of unprotected and unassisted internally-displaced victims of conflict.  Many contemporary conflicts generated massive and rapid refugee movements which were the deliberate objectives -- not a

by-product -- of armed conflict.  The flight of such groups often resulted in increasingly politicized and militarized refugee populations.  Insistence upon the right of return often constituted a reversal of the very goals of a conflict.  The return of refugees in those situations might pose a direct threat to those in power. 

            Humanitarian responses to the "mega-crises" of the 1990s had often been ad hoc and improvised, he said.  What was needed was an integrated approach to crisis management in which all dimensions -- humanitarian, developmental and political -- were addressed in a mutually reinforcing manner.  Far more could be achieved if early political and security responses were executed alongside humanitarian responses.

            Millions of people were forcibly displaced within their own countries, and thus neither protected nor assisted by the international community, he continued.  More predictable arrangements were needed to resolve such issues.  Humanitarian action today involved more than just relief.  It also demanded that safety be brought to people -- not the other way around.  In many conflict situations safety could only be provided through military involvement and a readiness to use force to ensure human security where necessary.

            The primary responsibility for the protection of refugees fell to those in power -- be they State or non-State actors, he stressed.  Humanitarian organizations should not be left alone to solve refugee situations that were clearly politicized or militarized.  Humanitarian agencies were not capable of separating "the wolf from the sheep", he said.  Separation was both a political and a humanitarian necessity.  There was an urgent need to reaffirm the principle of the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps.  The time had come to remind the international community that the granting of asylum was a humanitarian and politically neutral act.  Voluntary repatriation was the best way to guarantee against the dangers of premature return.  There were times, however, when the UNHCR had to accept that a return to a "fragile peace" was the lesser evil.

            He said three conditions were indispensable for humanitarian action for creating the "humanitarian space" needed for UNHCR operations:  staff security, unrestricted access to people in need, and respect or the impartiality and integrity of humanitarian operations.  The Security Council could play an important role by setting the indispensable political parameters for humanitarian action, by exercising diplomatic pressure when necessary, by considering military protection of humanitarian operations, and by recognizing situations in which humanitarian operations might be suspended because of the total disregard of the "humanitarian space".

            STEPHEN LEWIS, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that recent examples could illustrate the humanitarian security challenge; some 9,000 refugees in eastern Zaire had been unaccompanied children.  A brutal assault had taken place against UNICEF staff only two weeks ago.  Many other assaults had been made against humanitarian agencies.  The international community must find ways to protect humanitarian staff if necessary with military force.  The Convention on the Safety and Security of United Nations and Associated Personnel should be interpreted so as to defend humanitarian staff of non-United Nations agencies.

            Humanitarian concerns regarding children in armed conflict should be integrated into peace-keeping and demobilization mandates issuing from the Security Council, he said.  Governments should integrate a knowledge of obligations to women and children into their training for peace-keeping operations.  Training in human rights and humanitarian law should be part of the induction process of all United Nations peace-keepers.  The UNICEF believed that an ombudsperson should be designated to handle investigations of peace-keeping operations.  A rise in child prostitution had been noted in six out of 12 United Nation peace-keeping operations, according to a recent United Nations study.

            The UNICEF also believed that all field operations mandates should include a mine-clearance and mine-education component, he continued.  Between 5,000 and 8,000 children were killed or maimed every year by land-mines.  Regarding sanctions, he said that vulnerable populations of women and children often suffered from imprecisely defined sanctions.  Armed elements among refugees should be weeded out by host governments, or by the international community by way of the Security Council.

            PETER KUNG, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the role of his organization was to protect and assist, without discrimination, the victims of armed conflict and internal disturbances who were primarily members of the civilian population.  The internally displaced were certainly among the "others" mentioned in the title of today's debate; their plight and the suffering they endured did not receive sufficient attention, despite the international efforts deployed on their behalf, as the spotlight was generally focused more on refugees.

            The ICRC had a particular responsibility with regard to international humanitarian law, which prohibited the forced displacement of civilians, he said. Many of its rules were all too often ignored and violated on a large scale, and such violations often caused entire populations to flee.  As a result, large groups of people found themselves without any means of survival.  They were in need not only of assistance, but also of protection.

            He said the fundamental right to humanitarian assistance was all too often denied.  Access was refused by the parties involved, who tended to invoke spurious arguments relating to security, and relief workers were becoming the target of deliberate attacks.  Humanitarian action was also made more difficult by the presence of armed elements among the civilian population, in particular in refugee camps.  The lives and safety of vast numbers of people were at stake and humanitarian organizations were looking for remedies to be able to exercise their respective mandates, he said.  Within the United Nations system, they had often worked with armed escorts.

            He said the ICRC had chosen another approach, and had often had the opportunity to make public statements about its policy.   It was of the opinion that humanitarian organizations needed to preserve the strictly non-political and impartial character of their work.  It felt that armed escorts could jeopardize their impartial status, because the direct involvement of military forces in humanitarian action could easily be associated in the minds of local authorities and the population, with political or military objectives which went beyond humanitarian concerns.  The importance of that perception could not be overestimated, he said.

            The ICRC strongly believed not only that humanitarian aid and political action must be dissociated from each other, but also that they must be perceived as truly separate.  Armed intervention should be aimed at securing the environment for humanitarian action.  Furthermore, the provision of humanitarian assistance should not be linked to progress in political negotiations, or to political objectives .  It should take place in parallel with a political process aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and achieving a political settlement.  Humanitarian assistance should not become a tool designed to mask the absence of resolve to take appropriate political action, or to compensate for the inadequacy of such political action.  It its view, there was no substitute for the political will to find a political solution.

            He said there was shared responsibility in that regard:  whereas the role of humanitarian organizations was to deliver assistance according to the needs of the victims and to promote their protection, the community of States must help ensure a secure environment for the work of those organizations; it must create the necessary "humanitarian space".  First, all those bearing weapons in refugee camps must be disarmed and interned.  It was essential for efficient assistance and protection to separate genuine refugees from combatants.  Only prompt action could safeguard the civilian and humanitarian nature of refugee camps and create the proper conditions for truly humanitarian assistance and protection.  He called upon States to assist in that difficult but crucial endeavour, as in those circumstances political action was what was needed -- an operation of a police or military nature.

            Considering the urgency of such situations, the possibility for immediate humanitarian action must be safeguarded, he said.  However, given the complex character of those problems, close consultation was essential between humanitarian agencies and the international community, including the Security Council.  Humanitarian organizations must confer closely with peace-keeping forces at every stage and at every level, in a spirit of complementarity.  Fortunately, that dialogue had become a well-established practice.  Experience had shown that consultations should begin at the preparatory stage of any peace-keeping mission which might affect humanitarian activities.  That helped enhance mutual respect and understanding of their respective missions and constraints.

            He added that coordination among humanitarian players was more important than ever.  The ICRC was at present engaged in an ongoing operational dialogue with the major United Nations humanitarian agencies, particularly UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP).  In that process, however, the ICRC's concern was always to keep its activities in line with its principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality.

            NABIL ELARABY (Egypt) said that violent conflicts in the 1990s were often inside States.  The parties often ignored international humanitarian law and deliberately targeted civilians.  The UNHCR was now estimating that fully 90 per cent of victims of armed conflict were civilians.  United Nations peace-keepers faced many difficulties when their mandates included protection for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  When contemplating a humanitarian crisis, the Security Council should integrate its political causes with its humanitarian needs.  Mission mandates should include provisions for the voluntary return of refugees and compensation for loss of property.  Clear rules of engagement must be established to define the relationship between the conflicting parties and the peace-keepers.

            International peace-keepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina had not been able to adequately defend themselves nor the "safe areas" that they had been dispatched to defend, he said.  That circumstance should never be repeated.  In Bosnia, peace-keepers had not defended the safe areas and the Council had not been able to take adequate action.  Egypt believed that the rules of engagement of peace-keeping operations must be better articulated so as to deal with such situations in the future.  In Somalia and in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the conflicts could not be resolved without addressing adequately their political sources.  International humanitarian agencies must be defended and must have unhampered access to refugees.

            Political pressure must be brought to bear on parties to conflicts to fulfil their obligations to international humanitarian law, particularly the 1949 Geneva Conventions, he said.  The international community should remove refugees from the front lines of conflict and deny attempts by the parties to use them for political barter.

            ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said that civilians had become the primary victim of both internal and international conflicts.  Those populations depended upon humanitarian assistance which could not reach them without the protection of the international community.  The Security Council had the entirety of international humanitarian law at its disposal.  It had looked to those instruments recently concerning the situation in eastern Zaire, when it had demanded that refugees be protected.  Unfortunately, a simple demand that international humanitarian law be complied with did not carry much weight.  The Council must go further; the leaders of belligerent policies must be made to feel the threat of sanctions.  The parties should be made to understand that they would be accountable to international tribunals.

            The Security Council also had recourse to economic sanctions, he said.  Current conflicts -- particularly those between internal militias -- made that difficult.  Sanctions often had a more meaningful effect upon States.  In the former Yugoslavia, that had been the case.   The seriousness of humanitarian situations being dealt with by the Security Council sometimes demanded more drastic solutions.  Sanctions often took time.  The Council should have at its disposal a military instrument.  In the former Yugoslavia, the mandate of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNPROFOR) had been expanded to include the defense of humanitarian assistance.

            In November 1996 the Council had contemplated the deployment of a military force to defend the distribution of humanitarian assistance in eastern Zaire, but action had not been taken, he continued.  The resulting situation had not enhanced the honour of the United Nations.  The Council had recently authorized the use of military force to defend humanitarian assistance in Albania.  The Security Council should be ready to draw on the resources provided by the United Nations Charter's Chapter VII.  It needed to define rules of engagement so as to allow the defense of those providing humanitarian assistance in situations where civilian populations were the principle victims of conflict. 

            Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom) said that the Security Council should always take into account the underlying causes of complex humanitarian emergencies.  Almost invariably their origins were political -- often resulting from intra-State conflicts which in turn had emerged from bad governance, the repression of minorities, the violation of human rights and struggles over land and natural resources.  The Council should have timely and accurate information.  More should be done to increase the range of information available to the United Nations and to ensure that the best use was made of it.

            Helping to ensure a secure environment for humanitarian agencies often had political consequences, he said.  Intervention should be undertaken with the consent of the parties, but when consent was not granted, a decision to provide protection for humanitarian assistance was almost by definition a political act.  The deployment of armed troops, for example, could freeze a political or military situation, or alter the balance of forces.  Once peace-keeping troops were deployed in securing safe areas, the maintenance of neutrality and impartiality became extremely difficult.

            The Security Council should realize that providing protection for a humanitarian intervention was not a "soft option", he said.  A force must be properly equipped and given a feasible mandate, including suitably robust rules of engagement.  That might require heavily armed peace-keepers operating under the auspices of Chapter VII of the Charter.  A clear and proactive media policy for peace-keeping operations was also required.  The Security Council must in the end be responsible for deciding the shape, format and objectives of any mission in support of humanitarian goals.  Humanitarian agencies were not always the most objective source of advice, but their views should be taken into account. 

            Humanitarian crises did not belong in a "different box" with their own special rules and considerations, he said.  In responding to such crises, the Council should create an overall strategy which addressed both humanitarian symptoms and underlying political causes.

            SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that few peace-keeping operations took place within traditional parameters.  Increasingly, they were involved in defending civilian populations.  It remained to be seen whether peace-keepers could defend humanitarian operations without becoming embroiled in local conflicts.  But the Council's primary responsibility was with the defense of international peace and security; there could be no automatic linkage between Council peace-keeping activities and humanitarian assistance.  While all United Nations personnel operated under the principles of neutrality, that was particularly the case for United Nations humanitarian agencies.

            The forced repatriation of civilians, or the use of civilians as political pawns, as had been the case in safe areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was inadmissible, he said.  In many cases, as in Abkhazia, Georgia, the return of refugees had not been facilitated.  In Tajikistan, the international community should distribute assistance and facilitate the return of refugees.  The challenge of returning refugees was also a key challenge for peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and in eastern Slavonia.

            ZBIGNIEW M. WLOSOWICZ (Poland) stressed that the Security Council should focus on humanitarian emergencies which resulted from situations falling within its mandate or on humanitarian developments which might lead to the actual emergence of such situations.  He said greater use should be made of preventive diplomacy to reduce a need for or to avoid more complicated and more expensive undertakings regarding humanitarian assistance.  Poland believed that the ways to improve preventive capability of the international community had not been sufficiently explored, particularly a greater role for regional organizations.  Poland also believed that further refinement of the early-warning system, already operational in the Secretariat, would be helpful.

            He said the best way to contain and eventually eliminate humanitarian emergencies was to promote political solutions to their underlying causes.  Poland favoured the establishment by the Council at the very early stage of contacts with countries of a region and regional organizations concerned to discuss the situation and to look into the possibilities of a coordinated approach to the issue at hand.  The humanitarian situation should figure prominently on the agenda of such discussions.  He would welcome, for instance, briefings by the UNHCR and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in different, including the initial, phases of the Council deliberations.

            The question of when and how to use force to protect refugees and other civilian populations as well as to secure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance was important, he said.  In Poland's view, the provisions of the Charter did not preclude using force for humanitarian reasons.  It was imperative, however, that the troops involved were properly mandated and that their strength, equipment and rules of engagement were in line with what was expected of them.  Before deciding on humanitarian operations, the Security Council should thoroughly assess the situation to determine that other means of alleviating the emergencies, including political ones, were not available any more.  Once again, the input of UNHCR and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs as well as information and opinions supplied by the countries of the region and regional organizations would be of paramount importance for the Council's discussions.  No means of persuasion at the disposal of the international community should be ruled out, but the application of any of them should be considered very carefully

            He stressed the need for coordination, adding that everything should be done to prevent politicizing humanitarian relief.  The role of the Secretary-General should be strengthened.

            PETER OSVALD (Sweden) said recent internal conflicts posed new challenges to the international community:  victims of conflict were denied urgently needed emergency relief, forced to walk hundreds of miles in search of safety and left to die in remote wilderness.  Those there to help were refused access to the refugees and were even themselves increasingly made targets of such violence.  Large-scale attacks on human security and gross violations of human rights within States were the harbinger of threats to regional and international security.  Sweden welcomed the debate which should be a step towards concrete proposals and decisions by the Council.

            He said governments bore the primary responsibility for the security of all individuals under their jurisdiction, entailing that governments should seek international support if they lacked the ability to provide such protection and assistance.  But individual perpetrators must always be held accountable for violations of humanitarian law, also in areas where government authority had broken down.  The role of the Security Council was first and foremost to promote political solutions to crises, preferably even before a conflict had turned violent.  Peaceful conflict resolution or preventive diplomacy were certainly the best methods of addressing the fundamental problems of refugees and displaced persons.  The Council had an essential role in ensuring respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.  Its actions in each individual case, also contributed to the development of norms for the behaviour of States, and even non-State entities.  Protection of humanitarian assistance should be a task specifically mandated in connection with many peace-keeping operations.  In the absence of United Nations peace-keeping, however, the Security Council must ensure that it was fully appraised of the humanitarian and human rights situation at hand and of the requirements of humanitarian organizations.

            He said the Council should therefore consult closely on a regular basis with humanitarian organizations and seek their advice on how to improve the security of refugees, displaced persons and the humanitarian relief workers themselves.  From the outset of a crisis, the Council should use its moral authority and political leverage to impress on leaders of parties in conflict their personal accountability for crimes against refugees and displaced persons as well as humanitarian personnel, in areas under their control.  Impunity should not be accepted.  The Council should consider ways and means to follow-up on such crimes.  An international criminal court could be a helpful instrument.

            The protection of refugees and displaced persons might require different kinds of arrangements, he said.  A clear distinction should be made between protection measures in an enforcement situation under Chapter VII of the Charter and measures in the context of other United Nations operations.  Early consultations between the Council and relief agencies could help define the proper response.  The UNHCR had a unique international mandate to protect refugees and others in refugee-like situations.  The Council could reflect on the proposal by the High Commissioner for Refugees for a rapid deployment force to assist in separating military groups from bona fide refugees in mass displacement situations.

            Protection of humanitarian action could not be isolated from protection of people in need, he said.  Protecting humanitarian assets and relief workers might be essential for humanitarian operations to continue.  But protection mechanisms must also as their primary objective, deal with shielding civilians from threats to life and livelihood.

            He said that humanitarian action must always be based on need and on the principle of impartiality.  Its integrity must be respected.  Humanitarian action could not be expected to be a substitute for political resolve to deal with the conflicts themselves and their root causes.  It was increasingly recognized that complex man-made crises required an international response, combining political, military, humanitarian and other civilian action, that would create the conditions for peace, while protecting victims of armed conflict.  The Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities in that regard.

            CHONG HA YOO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said that recent experience had shown that there was an urgent need to improve the protection of refugees and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  Faced with that challenge, the Security Council, through a certain amount of trial and error, had engaged in that situation.  When the Council determined that a humanitarian crisis required a peace-keeping operation, the Council should ensure that no "mismatch" existed between operations' mandates, capabilities and the expectations that they raised.  Lessons could be learned in that regard from the experience in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Close coordination among United Nations agencies would enhance the ability to protect refugees and civilian victims.

            Further effort should be made to combat the prevailing culture of impunity that bred disregard for international humanitarian law, he said.  The Council had repeatedly issued warnings to parties suspected of violation of such law, but those admonitions had not had their desired impact.  The Council should consider imposing further punitive measures against violators, such as targeted sanctions.  The Council should also consider establishing ad hoc international criminal tribunals endowed with powers to enforce their decisions.  The most prominent indictees of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were still at large, he noted.

            The Security Council should place greater emphasis on improving its preventive capacities, he said.  Crisis prevention always cost less than crisis response.  A more systematic use of early-warning systems, fact-finding and preventive deployment may be warranted.

            JUAN LARRAIN (Chile) said that the Council's responsibility for the defense of international peace and security had originally been focused on State-to-State conflict.  But today, intra-State conflicts were generating massive humanitarian crises and refugee flows.  The men and women of international humanitarian agencies required the support of the international community in carrying out their efforts.  Humanitarian workers in the field should be the centre of the Security Council's attention.  Many attacks had been carried out against humanitarian aid workers.  Those individuals, who had sought to protect the victims of armed conflict, had become victims themselves.  Often, the presence of international humanitarian aid workers was the only presence that the international community had in conflict areas.

            All parties, including non-States parties to individual treaties, should respect international humanitarian law, he said.  Individual responsibility for violations of that law was a natural corollary.  A permanent international criminal jurisdiction should be created to try those who violated international humanitarian law.  Chile, as an elected member of the Security Council, was seeking to raise the awareness of the Council regarding the interrelation of conflict and humanitarian tragedy.  International humanitarian agencies could assist political bodies such as the Council to focus on conflicts.

            The organs of the United Nations system could be used to inform the Council about what was happening in various conflicts around the world, he said.  While the Council had received information from many agencies such as the UNHCR and the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, international non-governmental organizations had no such access.  Recently, initiatives had been undertaken by which the Department had presided over meetings between Council members and non-governmental organizations.  In February, a meeting had taken place which included the organizations Oxfam, Medecins sans frontieres and Care with respect to the situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

            WANG XUEXIAN (China) said the fate of refugees deserved the deepest sympathy.  The refugee problem plaguing the international community had defied solution for a long time.  In recent years, regional conflicts, territorial disputes, ethnic and religious contradictions had further aggravated the outflow of refugees.  That had not only plunged numerous innocent people into dire situations, causing lasting consequences to social stability and economic development of the countries concerned, but had also inflicted a heavy burden to neighbouring countries.  The solution of the refugee problem and the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees were the joint responsibility of the international community as a whole.  As far as the United Nations was concerned, humanitarian activities should mainly be taken by the relevant departments and agencies, with the Security Council mainly involved with the settlement of political and security-related issues.  A distinction should be made between the two, both in discussions and practice.

            He paid tribute to the staff of humanitarian agencies, especially the UNHCR for their tremendous efforts.  China highly appreciated and would continue to support their efforts.  The promotion of peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and the protection of refugees and humanitarian assistance through peace-keeping operations merited in-depth study.  In China's view, compliance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter -- particularly respect for State sovereignty and for the views of the States and parties concerned -- and strict neutrality, remained important principles for international humanitarian assistance.  Political will and willingness by States and the parties concerned to cooperate were the key to the success of conflict resolution and humanitarian assistance.  Furthermore, it was essential that national reconciliation was achieved and hostility and hatred removed.  The international community should make greater efforts to promote peace.  Resolution of conflicts by such peaceful means as good offices, mediation and negotiations was in itself an effective way to protect refugees.

            Invocation of Chapter VII of the Charter or authorization of the use of force, would more often complicate problems in peace-keeping operations and humanitarian relief activities, he said.  China did not favour that approach.  Use of force should be strictly confined to self-defense.  It should not be used indiscriminately, still less for retaliation, or in any way hurt innocent  civilians.

            He cited a Chinese saying:  "prevention is better than cure".  The United Nations should seek the root cause of regional conflicts and humanitarian crises for appropriate remedy and solutions to be provided.

            "The Chinese delegation believes that while `preventive deployment' is being much talked about, there is the need to seriously consider "preventive development", i.e. integrate such issues as the provision of humanitarian assistance -- the protection of refugees and their voluntary repatriation and resettlement in order to work out a comprehensive solution.  The international community should make great efforts in this regard and eradicate the root causes of refugees by encouraging national unity, promoting economic development and maintaining national stability."

            NJUGUNA M. MAHUGU (Kenya) said that the determinations of the Security Council were essential in defining international responses to humanitarian crises.  The Council's responsibilities could not be passed on to any other body.  When the Council failed to resolve a humanitarian crisis, it was usually because the situation had either moved to fast, or because the Council had not adequately defined mandates for assistance and protection.

            The Security Council should clearly identify parties to the conflict and should consult with them prior to deployment, so as to avoid misunderstandings with respect to mission mandates, he said.  The establishment of safe havens should only be undertaken if there was an international commitment to defend the safe area.  When refugees crossed borders, the international community must clearly separate civilians from armed combatants.  Council sanctions should be defined in such a way as to avoid unnecessary impacts on civilians.

            Without political will, the challenge of humanitarian assistance would evade the international community, he said.  If the Security Council had authorized the deployment of an international humanitarian force to eastern Zaire, the fate of thousands of refugees could have turned out differently.  "After all, isn't it about saving lives?", he asked.  Some 80,000 refugees were still unaccounted for in that region.  It was "shameful", he stressed, that the most glaring examples of failure of humanitarian action continued to be in Africa.

            HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said the Council's agenda today was one of the burning issues that the international community should address.  At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the protection for humanitarian activities was a problem with multifaceted dimensions.

            The quantitative and qualitative changes in humanitarian emergencies required commensurate changes in the response of the international community, he said.  To meet that new challenge, coordination and cooperation among the various humanitarian agencies should be strengthened.

            The following conditions should be met for the protection of humanitarian efforts:  the mandate of such an operation must be clearly defined, and its terms of reference precisely specified; the actual situation on the ground must be such that the protection might be realistically expected to be accomplished through the means offered; the operation must be equipped with necessary human and material resources to ensure its accomplishment; and the Security Council must closely monitor the situation, so that the operation might be adapted to the rapidly changing situation on the ground.

            He said consideration should also be given to the roles that regional organizations might play in such an operation in cooperation with the United Nations.  One of the most fundamental questions to be considered, was whether an intervention by the Security Council would be conducive to ameliorating the situation.  The humanitarian agencies, whether intergovernmental or non-governmental, would have to adhere to the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality to be effective.  The involvement of the Security Council, through the provision of protection by peace-keeping forces or other forces authorized by the Council, would have to be meticulously weighed and tailored in such a way that the humanitarian operations themselves were jeopardized.

            He drew attention of United Nations Member States to the need for securing the safety of international personnel engaged in providing humanitarian assistance under extremely difficult and at times life-threatening circumstances.  The international community should seriously consider the possibility of reinforcing the mechanism for ensuring the safety of such personnel through legal instruments.  Member Sates should ratify the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel to ensure that it entered into force without further delay.  He suggested that the Security Council declare, as a matter of course each time it launched an operation, that there did exist an exceptional risk to the safety of personnel.  Such a declaration would serve a useful ancillary purpose of raising international awareness of the importance of the issue of the safety of personnel engaged in humanitarian assistance activities.

            Furthermore, Japan believed it was necessary to redress the deficiency of the Convention by revising it to cover in its scope the personnel of the ICRC and other non-governmental organizations, who were not covered at present by the Convention, he said.  His delegation stood ready to cooperate closely with like-minded Member States in a joint effort to enhance the safety of all international personnel.  The provision of humanitarian assistance to the victims of armed conflicts was a vitally important responsibility of the international community and specifically of the United Nations.  He stressed that in the final analysis, however, the problem of refugees and other humanitarian crises would not completely go away, unless and until the underlying political crises were solved.  For that reason, he said there was greater need for the Council to address each crisis situation in a holistic manner -- tackling all the related issues together, including diplomatic action, cease-fire, protection of refugees and humanitarian assistance, as well as economic reconstruction and social rehabilitation.

            BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said there was a growing need for integrated and creative approaches to complex emergencies -- approaches that would take into account the political and military as well as the humanitarian aspects of each situation.  The United States was extremely concerned about  the increasing incidents of violence against humanitarian workers.  Emergency assistance to refugees and displaced persons was difficult enough without security threats and violent actions against relief workers and those they were trying to help.  Security concerns for United Nations and staff of non-governmental organizations working in humanitarian emergencies posed unique and complex challenges for the agencies involved and the United Nations system as a whole.  The increasing number of internal crises -- in the Balkans, the Great Lakes region of Africa, the Caucasus -- had greatly complicated the problem with irregular and often undisciplined combatants.  There was no single solution to the problem and no model that could be set up ahead of time to meet the complexities of each new emergency situation.  Local security issues must be addressed each time the United Nations sent people to work in an area of unrest.

            The United Nations could not send peace-keepers into each and every emergency and the record on using the military to provide security for humanitarian deployments was mixed, he said.  Armed forces, even those wearing "blue helmets", were sometimes not seen as neutral in a conflict.  At times, the presence of armed security forces could complicate delivery of humanitarian assistance.  Some organizations, such as the ICRC did not work with security forces, except under very limited circumstances.  The United Nations peace-keeping forces had themselves become the target of violence, as in the recent kidnapping of military observers in Tajikistan, or the targeted killings of United Nations military personnel in Rwanda and Somalia in years past.

            In some emergencies, regional organizations had played a positive role in providing security in conflict situations, notably the coalition forces in Haiti, the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) in Liberia, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) participation in the former Yugoslavia, he said.  Growing confusion of victims and victimizers had complicated the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  It had become increasingly difficult in some cases to distinguish legitimate refugees from parties to the conflict.  The tendency of humanitarian agencies had been to give persons fleeing their country the benefit of the doubt, and to classify all as "refugees".  Or, large refugee camps administered by humanitarian agencies could serve as staging bases for armed combatants.  Inevitably, that led other parties to the conflict to view the humanitarian agencies as taking sides and losing their impartiality.  "Humanitarian agencies should not be given succour to combatants who perpetrated conflict and hide behind innocent populations.  The moral dilemma is whether to leave those 'human shields' to their fate, or to rescue them, and simultaneously protect their victimizers."

            For each new humanitarian operation, he said, security assessments should be incorporated in the planning from the very beginning and updated continually.  The international community and those involved in the conflict must observe the principle of respect for the neutrality and the inviolability of international humanitarian personnel.  They all had the responsibility to provide protection for international humanitarian workers and facilitate their work.  They also should ensure access by humanitarian aid workers to vulnerable populations.  When a party could not or would not provide security for humanitarian operations in its territory, the United Nations agencies and the Security Council must work together to explore the best response.

            Appropriate, effective measures to ensure security should be incorporated into the programmes of the humanitarian agencies, he said.  Continuous coordination between the political/military and humanitarian aspects of any intervention in a crisis was crucial to its success.  He urged the United Nations to consider how best to ensure such coordination.  The United States would continue to work with the Security Council and all United Nations agencies to address the grave problem of assuring the security of humanitarian assistance operations.  The brave humanitarian workers who remained in the front lines fighting hunger, disease, and homelessness in stark, and often dangerous surroundings, deserved the thanks of the international community.  They also deserved active efforts to improve their security as they helped the world's most vulnerable citizens, he concluded.

            The meeting was suspended at 1:50 p.m.

            When the meeting resumed at 3:16 p.m., the first speaker, MELVIN SAENZ BIOLLEY (Costa Rica), said the issue of the humanitarian aspects of international peace and security had become timely, given developments in recent years, the suffering of hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the problems of Rwandan refugees.  The holocaust of refugees had not yet stopped, but was taking place despite the attempts of international organizations to help them.  Those who were massacring refugees or hindering their safe and voluntary return home should be dealt with.  The Security Council should deal with the problems of refugees which were now becoming more pressing with the end of the cold war.

            He said the international community was today witnessing the emergence of double standards in dealing with certain issues, with some countries supporting dictatorships when it suited them.  The current gap between the developed and the developing world was also a problem that should be tackled.  Currently, nine of the major refugee concentrations in the world could be found in the developing world.  Efforts should be made by countries that hosted refugees to ensure that humanitarian organizations had access to and helped the refugees.  Their right to life and voluntary return should also be respected.

            The social and economic conditions in the refugees' countries of origin should be addressed to facilitate their return, he said.  The plight of internally displaced people, too, should be tackled to avoid the emergence of major refugees groups.  The United Nations should deploy personnel to ensure that the rights of refugees were protected on the ground.  A new view of international issues should be developed, using a new vision of security that took account of political, economic and environmental aspects of the

co-existence of nation States.

            He said security should not be based solely on military criteria.   Peace-keeping should go beyond that narrow strategic view and help promote the rights of those who deserved protection.  There should be an urgent review and update of the concept of peace-keeping operations to cover humanitarian aspects of international peace.  The operations should be restructured to take into account the presence on the ground of the various bodies of the United Nations system.  It would be necessary to continue in the process of post-conflict peace-building.  Actions should be taken to create new economic opportunities to ensure social cohesion.  The cases of El Salvador and Haiti provided good examples of such developments.

            MARIO LOPES DA ROSA (Guinea-Bissau) said that the 1980s had been dark years in Africa.  His Government had hoped that the images of suffering refugees in the Horn of Africa would have "pricked the conscience" of the international community.  But unfortunately, as witnessed in the Great Lakes region, a massive exodus of human beings had again been witnessed.  Massive violations of human rights caused by struggles for political power had generated alarming flows of refugees.  The international community should mobilize to find solutions to the causes of such situations.

            His Government wondered what were the whereabouts of the thousands of refugees missing in eastern Zaire, he said.  Countries-of-origin should provide refugees a safe avenue of return to their homes.  Like France, Guinea-Bissau profoundly regretted that the humanitarian force proposed by the Security Council last year had not been created.  That force could have alleviated the suffering of thousands and saved hundreds of lives.  There appeared to be a double-standard, he said, adding that human rights and international humanitarian law should be uniformly observed around the world.

            The Security Council today should demand that parties to conflict observe international humanitarian law and allow humanitarian agencies access to those in need, he said.  He hoped the Council would consider a resolution of the problem of refugees as essential to the maintenance of international peace and security.

            ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said the Security Council should develop thinking on its role on protection of humanitarian assistance to refugees in conflict situations.  The internal nature of such conflicts might be used to resist or caution against United Nations-backed international humanitarian intervention in the name of State sovereignty, non-interference in domestic affairs and territorial integrity.  The legitimacy of the United Nations Charter conferred upon the Council to determine when such intervention was necessary and justified could be dwelt upon by Council members.

            He said the Council must address three problems: first, protection of civilian populations caught up in armed conflicts, particularly vulnerable groups of refugees and internally displaced persons; second, protection of the protectors when they become targets of attacks; and third, how the impunity of the perpetrators of such crimes could be countered.  In dealing with the first problem, he said the Council should not forget a crucial element, namely the fact that humanitarian assistance was not limited to aid delivery but included protection of the right to life and other basic rights inherent to the dignity of the human person.

            In measuring the success or the needs of a humanitarian assistance operation, he said the Council must consider the extent to which those core rights were being protected.  It must spell out clearly in its mandate the purpose of protecting human rights alongside political and military objectives.  An integrated approach to crisis management was needed.  The Council must ensure that all those involved in United Nations humanitarian and military operations were made aware of all those dimensions and given training for carrying out the tasks involved.  Due consideration should also be given to the gender perspective and to the specific needs of children.

               With regard to the protection of the protectors, he said it had emerged as a particularly pressing and alarming problem which had not been properly addressed.  He paid tribute to the "brave and generous men and women who work for the UNHCR, Unicef, WFP and all the other United Nations agencies" as well as those with non-governmental organizations.  He said: "they need support.  They need Security Council collective action not collective inaction.  They need us -- officials, governments, political leaders -- to do our job".  Portugal supported the proposal by the High Commissioner for Refugees for the establishment within the Secretariat of a rapid deployment capability.  The Council should discuss it and also seek the views of the Secretary-General.

            As regards the problem of the impunity of those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said the perpetrators on the ground, as well as their political and military leaders should be held accountable. In addition to whatever individual responsibility criminal proceedings might establish, he said political leaders must also pay a political price.

            He said the non-governmental community must be invited to participate in the debate.  Humanitarian assistance could not be delivered in a political vacuum, he said, and added that the Council must devise a long-term strategy to deal with violations of fundamental human rights.

            ANATOLI M. ZLENKO (Ukraine) said the international community must ensure protection of humanitarian supplies and secure their fair distribution.  It must also protect the personnel of humanitarian agencies, as well as refugees, displaced persons and others in need. The United Nations must be entrusted exclusively with the general guidance and coordination of international humanitarian assistance, with the Department of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peace-keeping Operations playing significant roles.

            A Secretariat unit should be established with responsibility for contingency planning for the protection of humanitarian assistance, he said.  A comprehensive code of conduct for humanitarian activity should also be prepared, and the proposal for a rapid deployment force should be considered.  Humanitarian assistance could not be considered a substitute for political, diplomatic and military action.  Efforts should therefore be made to achieve a cease-fire in conflict situations and a solution found to the problems of refugees.

            Stressing the important role played by neighbouring countries in conflict resolution, he proposed the elaboration of incentives to encourage them to pursue a constructive policy towards refugees in their midst.  The Security Council should also elaborate measures to prevent threats to and oppression of refugees and the violation of international humanitarian law by parties to a conflict.  A clear and comprehensive concept of humanitarian corridors and passages should also be formulated.  The Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations should study in depth the idea of deploying multinational forces for humanitarian purposes under the authority of the Security Council.

            He said the Council should resolutely urge Member States to become parties to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, adopted by the General Assembly in 1994.  It was through the strengthening of existing mechanisms and the elaboration of innovative approaches and ideas that humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations could be improved.

            MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia) said his country had accommodated over 300,000 refugees from Azerbaijan.  The United Nations and affiliated agencies should provide assistance in the meeting of basic needs.  In particular, it should make all necessary arrangements to evaluate the needs of the people of Nagorny Karabakh and provide humanitarian assistance to them.  International relief efforts should have free and unimpeded access to that region.  Humanitarian spaces and corridors represented a suitable mechanism for that purpose.

            The international community should resolve refugee crises by examining their root causes, he said.  Preventive activities by humanitarian and human rights organizations should be encouraged.  Tolerance and respect for individual and minority rights, as well as for ethnic communities, should be promoted.

            HANS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said the first priority in meeting new complex emergency situations was the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance to civilians in need whenever a refugee crisis occurred.  As one of the largest contributors to that effort, Norway had been involved with the provision of humanitarian personnel and assistance to refugees in all the major emergencies of recent years. The presence of humanitarian aid workers and the assistance that they provided were important elements in protecting refugees from hunger, as well as from intimidation, killings and violations of humanitarian law.

            The deployment of human rights monitors, civilian police and military observers could further strengthen that protective presence, he said.  In recent years, however, the world had seen an increasing tendency among parties to a conflict to directly target civilians and refugees, as well as international and humanitarian personnel.  He went on to outline a number of issues which the United Nations and Security Council should consider when undertaking complex operations.

            Specifically, he said the mandates for such operations should be clear and realistic.  They should be properly explained to the local populations as well as to the international community.  An effective information strategy could prevent misunderstandings of what the United Nations could be expected to accomplish in a particular conflict.  At the same time, Member States should ensure that sufficient resources were made available for the United Nations to fulfil its mandates.  The Council should ensure that there was a congruence between mandates and resources.

            He said the Council should consistently emphasize the responsibility of the parties to a conflict for the safety of humanitarian personnel and other international staff, as well as for the protection of refugees and other vulnerable civilians, particularly women and children.  The Council should maintain a united stand in keeping political pressure on all parties to implement their obligations and commitments to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian deliveries.

            Political pressure by the Council could entail a range of measures, including the imposition of targeted economic and political sanctions, he said.  Such measures should be formulated with a view to ensuring compliance with Council decisions, including those regarding humanitarian law.  The possible use of military means could not be ruled out in situations where the central government had collapsed or where violations against international law and human rights were widespread and human suffering was pervasive -- as in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia.

            He said that coordination, cooperation and information-sharing between military, civilian, political and humanitarian elements of a multifunctional operation was essential to ensure the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and the security of personnel.  Such cooperation, both at Headquarters and in the field, was vital in all stages of a potential or actual conflict, from the fact-finding phase, through analysis, planning, elaboration of the mandate, and into the implementation phase.

            Mechanisms for consultations with the Council prior to adopting or renewing mandates should include potential troop contributors and countries heavily involved with humanitarian personnel, he said.  Ways should be considered for involving non-governmental humanitarian organizations in the early preparations of fact-finding missions.  At the same time, care should be taken to avoid compromising the impartiality of independent humanitarian organizations.  A more cooperative liaison between political, military and humanitarian actors should be established to avoid a mixture of roles and mandates.

            To end the culture of impunity, those who violated humanitarian law and committed war crimes should be prosecuted, he said.  Cooperation and resources should be provided to ensure the effectiveness of international criminal tribunals.  Norway supported the establishment of a permanent international criminal court to expedite the prosecution of violators of humanitarian law. 

            ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said humanitarian assistance should always address the root causes of crises.  Such assistance was only effective when accompanied by political efforts to resolve the underlying disputes.  Military personnel around the world were increasingly being called upon to play a role in humanitarian relief operations.  Such intervention forces must have clear military objectives and be equipped to achieve them.  The disarming or separation of combatants was very dangerous if peace-keepers were inadequately equipped.

            Better results could be achieved through preventive action, he said.  Canada regretted that the United Nations had not yet established a rapidly deployable mobile headquarters, despite its endorsement by the General Assembly and by the Secretariat.  A greater emphasis on peace-building -- including preventive mediation, monitoring, refugee protection, human rights investigations, police force training, judicial reform and demobilization -- would enable the United Nations to better take up the challenge of creating durable peace.

            The growing number of casualties among humanitarian workers demanded that the international community give urgent attention to improving security measures for humanitarian personnel.  The establishment of international tribunals to adjudicate violations of humanitarian law in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia represented a critical step towards eliminating impunity and improving protection for the victims of conflict.  A permanent international criminal court was needed to avoid the necessity of creating tribunals on an ad hoc basis.

            DANILO TURK  (Slovenia) said one of the most important lessons learned recently was that humanitarian action could not be a substitute for political or miliary action.  The basic issue before the Council in its efforts to protect humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict was the need for a political framework for such action.  The Council had a key role in the international community's response to humanitarian crises.  However, in many complex emergencies, its decision-making had not always worked well.  Some of its decisions had been weak, inconsistent and ambiguous.  The Council should ensure that the mandates of United Nations operations were as clear and coherent as possible and maintained the distinctions between peace-keeping and peace enforcement.

            Another lesson learned was that prevention was better than cure, he said.  However, when preventive diplomacy was not available, preventive deployment might reduce the danger in complex emergencies.  An example was the multinational protection force for Albania approved by the Council in March.  Slovenia had contributed troops to that operation, which had already helped stabilized the situation and had a preventive effect.  Such prevention was important, as it forestalled the emergence of more complex problems

            Carefully targeted economic assistance and development aid could help keep economic problems from degenerating into political and ethnic conflicts and their resulting humanitarian emergencies, he said.  A stronger human rights machinery could expose violations that led to conflicts or humanitarian emergencies.  While the Council could not directly influence the evolution of the entire United Nations system, it must ensure the effectiveness of the war crimes tribunals, which it had created.  Their success would influence the emergence of an international criminal court to prevent the abuse of international norms.

            When preventive action was not possible, the Council faced the challenge of protecting humanitarian operations in conflict zones, he said.  The Council should address such problems as the timeliness and adequacy of its response.  When it authorized military action, it should ensure that such support for humanitarian efforts did not become a substitute for the necessary political action.  The coordination between humanitarian efforts and political and military action should be more carefully handled.  The Council should not condone the abuse of human rights by its personnel.  Together with other organs, the Council should continue to support the concept and programmes of the UNHCR's "three-fold strategy", of prevention, emergency assistance and the voluntary repatriation of refugees.

            NICOLAAS BIEGMAN (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as well as Iceland and Liechtenstein, said they were exploring new ways to alleviate the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons, 80 per cent of whom were women and children.  The Security Council should insist that in concrete situations safe and unimpeded access for international humanitarian organizations, like the UNHCR, must be ensured.  Refugee camps should never be misused as military bases.

            All parties involved in a conflict should ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and human rights monitors, he said.  The Security Council should emphasize, whenever appropriate, the responsibilities of host States and parties concerned in that respect.  No attempt should be made by warring parties to use humanitarian assistance for political objectives that would endanger the impartiality of the humanitarian assistance.

            He said the mandates and the nature of specific operations should be clearly explained to local populations and the international media through a proactive and coordinated public information strategy, including the deployment of United Nations radio stations.  United Nations mandates and missions should be clear and feasible and should also be based on accurate and up-to-date information to ensure protection of humanitarian assistance.  Peace-keeping operations should be kept informed of the plans and intentions of the humanitarian effort.  That required effective and close coordination, both at United Nations Headquarters and in the field.  Greater cooperation in pooling and accessing information between the humanitarian community, the peace-keeping operations and other actors and the United Nations as a whole would improve the precision of risk assessments.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, where present, would have a key role to play.

            He called for an expanded role for civilian police in United Nations peace-keeping operations in contributing to the restoration of the rule of law, promoting respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and fostering civil reconciliation.  All parties in armed conflicts must respect human rights and international humanitarian law.  Violators of such a law should be prosecuted, and if found guilty, sentenced accordingly.  Special attention should be given to preventing violence against women and children, as well as raising more generally the awareness on international humanitarian law and human rights for all relevant personnel.

            GERHARD WALTER HENZE (Germany) said humanitarian assistance should be distinguished from peace-keeping missions.  That was essential if humanitarian agencies and their personnel were to preserve their impartiality and independence and avoid being sucked into conflicts.  When the neutrality of a humanitarian operation was questioned by the parties to a conflict, when they were arbitrarily denied access to refugees and displaced persons, or when access was prevented owing to the security situation in an area, the Council was asked to take action.  That sometimes led to the deployment of troops by the United Nations.  Support for humanitarian action had become an important aspect of peace-keeping missions.

            Since decisions with respect to humanitarian emergencies were often influenced by the pressure of international opinion, there was a need for political guidance regarding actions to be taken, he said.  The Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations had recently addressed that question, stating that operations subject to Council mandates could help create a secure environment for the effective delivery of humanitarian relief.  The Committee called for better coordination between the peace-keeping operation and other agencies, within their respective mandates.

            The Council should ensure that its mandates were clear, balanced and feasible, he said.  If they were not, the humanitarian support operations they covered might lose the consent of the parties to a conflict and fail.  The case of the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) and the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNPROFOR) were glaring examples.  Mandates must be clear about who should do what and spell out the role of peace-keepers in humanitarian assistance, should they have such roles.  They must take account of the difficulty in keeping clear-cut lines between peace-keeping and humanitarian assistance in conflict zones, where even a wholly humanitarian operation could be drawn into conflict. 

            At the political level, Member States, as well as regional, international and non-governmental organizations should take part in the decision-making processes leading to the establishment of humanitarian operations, he said. At the field level, the coordinating role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General must be enhanced.  The question of whether the Council should try to enforce the delivery of humanitarian assistance remained a contentious and thorny one.  In any event, there must be no doubt that the violators of international humanitarian law and human rights would be held accountable.  The war crimes tribunals and the current negotiations on an international criminal court were encouraging signs in that direction.

            AHMAD KAMAL (Pakistan) said that the "drift and selected avoidance" that had characterized the international community's post-cold-war approach to refugees had been devoid of consistent commitment.  The protection of civilians in armed conflict was clearly provided for under international law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its additional protocols.  Under that legal regime, international assistance must be neutral, impartial and humanitarian.  Pakistan was concerned about the current trend to link humanitarian assistance to such extraneous issues as the social norms, customs or religious views of people affected by conflict.

            Citing two examples from the Asia region, he said that international humanitarian assistance in Cambodia had been complemented with a simultaneous effort by the international community to resolve the root causes of the conflict.  Conversely, in Afghanistan, the premature scale-down of humanitarian assistance had resulted in a potentially serious and explosive situation.  Pakistan fully subscribed to the recently adopted conclusions of the Special Committee on Peace-keeping Operations, which had emphasized the need to differentiate between peace-keeping operations and humanitarian assistance.  His Government also supported the conclusion that peace-keeping operations could play a role, subject to the mandates established by the Security Council, in contributing to the creation of a secure environment for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

            PEDRO NUNEZ-MOSQUERA (Cuba) said he would have preferred to see the debate held in the more democratic General Assembly where all States were equal.  The issue of humanitarian assistance was more closely related to the work of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  With a mandate to deal with international peace and security, the Security Council was not empowered to deal with humanitarian issues; but it had taken upon itself the consideration of that matter, which might have arisen from the need to take account of the interest of some Powers.

            It was interesting to see that under the pretext of providing humanitarian assistance, military forces were being used to intervene in some local conflicts, he said.  Hunger, poverty and disease could not be solved by the deployment of soldiers in troubled spots.  Internal conflicts did not fall within the competence of the Security Council.  So, the usual procedure employed in considering international conflicts could not be applied to internal problems that sometimes arose from years of injustices in various countries.

            The trend towards confusing "humanitarian assistance" with "humanitarian assistance operations" was tending to put the former in the hands of the Council, he continued.  In resolution 46/182, the Assembly had set the rules governing the implementation of humanitarian assistance.  Among them were the need to respect sovereignty, the non-interference in internal affairs and respect for the concerns of the States involved.

            The meaning of humanitarian assistance was being changed to undermine the sovereignty of States and to intervene in some conflicts, he said, stressing that there must be clear distinctions between peace-keeping operations and humanitarian assistance operations.  The Council should not involve itself unduly in the latter.  Having the Council play a role in which it had no mandate could be used to create a militarization of what were termed "complex emergency" situations.  The exceptional circumstances that cropped up must be considered case by case. 

            HASMY BIN AGAM (Malaysia) said the Security Council should seriously consider the report of the Third Singapore Conference on Humanitarian Action and Peace-keeping, organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and other entities last February.  The report had looked at the issue in a holistic manner, covering aspects such as the political framework for humanitarian actions, the relationship between humanitarian and military actions, cooperation with regional organizations and multinational forces, funding, human rights and the role of the media.  The 17-point recommendations in the report deserved careful consideration by the Council as they provided a useful framework for a fuller examination of the issues of peace-keeping and humanitarian actions in the post-cold war world.

            In such a changing world, the international community should try to provide and ensure the protection of millions of ordinary citizens caught in conflict zones and subjected to human rights violations, he said.  Since the security of such people was as important as that of Member States, the Council was being called upon increasingly to address problems that threatened to escalate and to endanger civilians caught in crises.  In such situations, the Council's actions should be immediate, bold and determined so as to create conditions which would ensure immediate safe protection of the hapless civilians and to provide a framework for a durable solution to the related conflicts themselves.  "This, in the view of my delegation, is the most important role of the Council in this post-cold war period and represents the best support it can provide to organizations concerned with the humanitarian dimension of crises."

            For effective humanitarian operations, he continued, the relevant mandates should be clear and appropriate to the task.  The necessary authority and resources should be made available to missions assigned to address the protection of refugees.  "Half measures are likely to do more harm than good, as the experience of Bosnia and Somalia had borne out."   Humanitarian actions must be neutral, impartial and go to the aid of those who needed protection.  "Not to respect such basic fundamental norms, including the right of people to receive assistance and the right of concerned groups to provide it, or to use humanitarian assistance as a bargaining chip for specific political objectives, however worthy, would be to jeopardize the lives of these civilians in need as well as humanitarian workers."

            GIULIO TERZI DI SANT'AGATA (Italy) stressed the need to hold those who violated the basic principles of international humanitarian law personally accountable.  The establishment of a permanent international criminal court would be the most adequate way to ensure the prosecution and punishment of such crimes. The United Nations and its Member States were now confronted with a new type of conflict which often originated within a State rather than between States.  The consequences of such conflicts on the fabric of society and on the plight of civilians were even more disruptive because of the historical animosities and ethnic rivalries that frequently were involved.

            It was difficult for the international community to formulate a strategy to deal with such situations, he said.  Human suffering and the danger of further deterioration was the high price of inaction.  When confronted with the humanitarian crisis in Albania, his country had proposed the establishment of a limited multinational protection force to facilitate the delivery of basic goods to the population and help create a secure environment for the missions of international organizations there.

            A number of practical steps had been taken to ensure the success of that operation, he went on to say.  A steering committee had been created to provide political guidance and promote close cooperation among the participating States and international organizations active in Albania.  Cooperation with the Albanian Government, also represented in steering committee meetings, was of utmost importance.  The multinational force coordinated closely with civilian organizations, as well as governmental and non-governmental bodies engaged in humanitarian assistance.  Their role was essential as were contributions from international financial organizations and regional bodies.

            A strong international commitment, with the support of the Albanian authorities and people, was now needed to implement the programme of political, economic and financial assistance needed to strengthen the democratic dialogue and the recovery of Albania's economy, he said.  As the developments in Albania had demonstrated humanitarian issues had a visible impact on the actions of the Security Council.  While it was not easy to define the correct approach, respect for human life should always be the paramount consideration.

            MUHAMED SACIRBEY (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said an organization had been established in his country representing refugees and displaced persons from different ethnic backgrounds.  The most effective way to minimize the problem of refugees was to address the underlying causes of their situation.  Humanitarian assistance should not be used as a fig leaf to cover an impotent reaction to the political or military causes of humanitarian crises.

            Today, many refugees were the deliberate targets of military force, he said.  The Council had been repeatedly told that the displacement of ethnic groups in his country was not a consequence but an objective of military conflict.  Impartiality demanded that, in such situations, the international community must not remain neutral.  Those who had committed genocide in the former Yugoslavia continued to mock international humanitarian law.  Those who openly denied the right of refugees to return and rejected the authority of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia should not be shielded by a refusal of the international community to respond.  

            NIZAR HAMDOON (Iraq) said the United Nations had the responsibility of assuring the delivery of assistance to deserving refugees.  But it should be noted that the problems of refugees sometimes emerged from effects of political and other actions, as in the case of Afghanistan.  The conflict there had been made worse by the pursuit of the strategic interests of some powerful nations.

            Iraq, too, had been facing problems due to the war that was imposed upon it with the blessing of the Security Council, he continued.  Iraq's situation was worsened by the imposition, for instance, of sanctions and of "no-fly" zones on the country.  The same could be said of the interference by a powerful member of the Security Council in Iraq's internal affairs by supporting insurrections.  The Council should not be empowered to delve into humanitarian issues at the expense of the roles of the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  The sanctions it imposed should conform with the provisions of the Charter, should have clearly spelled out goals and should not be allowed to lead to humanitarian crises in targeted countries.  Food, educational and medical supplies should be exempted from the sanctions.

            The Council was being accused of applying double standards, as exemplified by its neglect of the recent Turkish intervention in Iraq, he continued.  The Council's role should remain within the bounds of the Charter.  Resorting to coercive measures in handling humanitarian situations would only worsen problems rather than improve them, as seen in the case of the intervention in Somalia.

            HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said a new look must be taken at the advantages and disadvantages of involving the Council in humanitarian affairs and, more importantly, at the conditions under which Chapter VII provisions could be considered an acceptable tool to guarantee a secure environment for humanitarian assistance.  The complexity of the subject did not lend itself to immediate conclusions.  Nevertheless, any resort to Chapter VII should be considered with utmost caution.  To the extent possible, humanitarian relief should not be associated with coercion.

            He drew attention to the extraordinary contribution of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the development and codification of international humanitarian law, as well as in the field.  That example illustrated the scope of what could be accomplished within a framework of impartiality and the consent of the parties to a conflict.

            The Council had been presented with difficult challenges which had required, at times, that to improvise in order not to be perceived as incapable of reacting, he went on to say.  However, if it was to play a more active role in guaranteeing safe conditions for humanitarian assistance, such efforts must be in keeping with multilaterally defined diplomatic agendas and, if possible, within the possibilities offered by Chapter VI provisions on the peaceful settlement of disputes. 

            FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said the Council's role in supporting agencies working in the humanitarian field was complex and deserved adequate consideration.  The proposals made to the Council by the High Commissioner for Refugees should be considered with adequate attention.  Since about 21 million were looking for the help of the UNHCR, their plight should be a subject of consideration by the international community.  But responses to humanitarian crises should not be subordinated to any other interests than the need to prevent harm being visited on the refugees and displaced persons.  Action in the humanitarian field should be accompanied with diplomatic and political measures to address the problems being tackled.

            The need to avoid impunity had been stressed by some delegations who had spoken today in the Council, he said.  It was fortunate in that regard that war crimes tribunals had been set up to try those responsible for international crimes.  The effectiveness of those tribunals would serve as a deterrent to further violations of international humanitarian laws.  The need for actions to take off with clear mandates should not frustrate the ability of the international community to act.  The role of public information in humanitarian actions should be enhanced because no political group or persons were immune from the pressures of public opinion.  Therefore the provisions of the United Nations Charter and similar documents should be disseminated widely.

            PRAKASH SHAH (India) said experience had demonstrated that political action and political will were not enough to solve most situations involving humanitarian crises.  There were several fundamental causes of refugee crises, which should be dealt with on a preventive basis.  As stated by the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement at their recent meeting in Delhi, there was need to differentiate between peace-keeping operations and humanitarian assistance.  That was also underscored by many non-governmental organizations which were providing assistance on the ground. 

            He said the focus of United Nations efforts should shift to the prevention of those crises which created humanitarian situations, rather than on military solutions or enforcement measures.  As long as fundamental issues were not addressed, United Nations agencies and other bodies which provided much needed assistance would be placed in increasingly difficult situations.

            The United Nations should therefore address itself to the root causes of refugee flows and conflict situations, he said.  Most conflicts -- if not all -- had their origin in poverty, lack of economic and social development, and a lack of tolerance.  Unless those issues were dealt with sincerely and with political commitment by the United Nations and its major players, the international community would continue to face such crises.  The United Nations should focus on addressing the development needs of the majority of its members and on poverty alleviation.  Its  preventive diplomacy should find innovative ways to promote development, social cohesion, pluralism and tolerance.  Assistance should be provided to refugee-receiving States, which bore a great burden.

            He paid tribute to the dedication and commitment with which many relief and refugee organizations and personnel were functioning, under difficult and trying conditions, to bring relief to those in need.  Whoever attacked them should be punished.  At the same time, the United Nations should be careful not to take any steps which might in any way affect the perception of impartiality or neutrality of relief workers and agencies.  

            GIDEON KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said that the Council debate should be a proactive attempt to appreciate the complexities of humanitarian emergencies.  Often the exigencies of humanitarian crises obscured the international community's ability to appreciate the long-term political implications of a humanitarian operation.  The exodus of Rwandans to eastern Zaire in 1994 had been deliberately orchestrated.  Those refugees had been accompanied by the architects of genocide, together with a 50,000-man army.  Refugee camps at Goma in Zaire had been used by those individuals to threaten refugees and aid workers alike.  The perpetrators of the genocide had even levied a "war tax" on humanitarian assistance.

            Timely action by the international community to disarm those who had committed the genocide in Rwanda would have avoided the subsequent humanitarian situation in Zaire, he said.  The multinational force proposed in the Security Council late last year would have been acceptable had its mandate included the disarming of those individuals.  Under international law, he recalled, individuals could not claim to be internationally-protected persons when their presence undermined the security of host States.

            In eastern Zaire, he said, the genocidal former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) had enjoyed internationally protected status despite their responsibility for the genocide of 1 million civilians in Rwanda.  Also in eastern Zaire, international mercenaries had been deployed, financed by a well-known European State.  Today, some in the international community were again calling for international assistance for those responsible for the Rwanda genocide as they fled in the direction of the Central African Republic.

            The Security Council needed to seriously consider what it could do to impartially support international humanitarian assistance, he said.  It should consider how humanitarian assistance affected the political dynamics of both the source-country of refugees and those of recipient and third countries.  It also should ensure that international humanitarian staff were perceived as impartial.  Failure to so could threaten their personal security.

            The Council should also seriously consider the duration of humanitarian assistance missions, he said.  Some 900,000 Rwandan refugees had been displaced in 1959, only to be condemned to exile for 34 years.  The Rwandan Government had sought to forbid the return of those refugees, but the international community had ignored the situation.  It should not have been necessary for those refugees to wait 34 years to return to their homes.  By way of contrast, he said that his Government had consistently called on exiled Rwandans to return.  Some 2.3 million refugees -- both the 1994 refugees and the long-term refugees who had been displaced in 1959 -- had returned home, he concluded.

            REX STEPHEN HOROI (Solomon Islands) said protecting humanitarian assistance in conflict was difficult.  Was an international convention needed specifically for the protection of humanitarian aid personnel and materiel?  Was there not a need for an international commitment to vigorously pursue and prosecute those who violated such a convention on the Geneva Protocols?

            Did not the international community need to include among crimes under the jurisdiction of the proposed international criminal court, the harassment or attack of those engaged in humanitarian aid? he asked.  Did not the international community need to move beyond this one-day debate to the planning of a special session of the General Assembly designed to generate the political will to do what was required?

            PELLUMB KULLA (Albania) said that Council resolution 1001 (1997) which had authorized the deployment of the multinational force to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance in his country had constituted an excellent example of the efficacy of the work of the Security Council.  That humanitarian action and cooperation with legitimate authorities in the areas concerned had allowed Albanians greater opportunity to overcome the situation and to expect political solutions in elections scheduled for the end of June.

            His Government was convinced that the waves of Albanian refugees in neighbouring countries would be a temporary phenomenon.  He hoped that through the reports of the Secretary-General and through everyday contacts, the Council would follow closely the situation in Albania until its definitive and safe resolution.

            NGONI FRANCIS SENGWE (Zimbabwe) said the Council, which had a mandate to maintain international peace and security, should mobilize the requisite political will to address the underlying political dimension of humanitarian crises.  This was its most important role and it represented the best support the Council could ever provide to organizations concerned with the humanitarian dimension of conflicts.  When situations were allowed to fester, the well-being of endangered people was harmed and the task of securing a viable and lasting peace was further complicated.  A basic condition for effective Council action was that mandates should be appropriate to the tasks, and the necessary authority and resources should be made available to missions.  Half measure would do more harm than good.  It was not sane to send Blue Berets to a conflict to provide protection and assume that they could remain untouched by it.  The inevitable abuse of safe havens by warring parties, together with the culture of violence in war situations had often led to the failure of such half measure. 

            It was harmful to all when humanitarian efforts became a substitute for the political and other action needed to resolve conflicts or when they operated in a policy vacuum, he said.  In such settings, humanitarian action became a no-win situation, as aid was diverted to assist warring parties and humanitarian workers found themselves on front lines considered too dangerous for well-armed peace-keeping troops.  A prerequisite for effective humanitarian action was respect for the fact that relief had a limited but vital role to play in minimizing suffering and mitigating the effects of war. It had neither the capacity not the mandate to resolve crises.

            Another precondition was respect for the neutrality and impartiality of such efforts, and for the overriding imperative to aid all those in need of assistance, he said.  Failure to respect such basic fundamental norms would jeopardize the lives of those in need, as well as of humanitarian workers.  Similarly, the use of humanitarian assistance as a bargaining tool to achieve political objectives, however worthy, would breed irreconcilable competition between the mandates of the Security Council and those of humanitarian practitioners.

            By virtue of its great importance, the question of humanitarian assistance and the responsibility of all Member States and the international community towards humanitarian actors must be revisited time and again in the General Assembly, he said.  Its debate on the security and protection of United Nations and associated personnel and the relevant convention adopted in 1994, were outside the purview of the Council.  Like the question of humanitarian assistance, the issue of refugees and internally displaced person should not be politicized.  The UNHCR had performed well in protecting refugees and its mandate should not be diluted, not even to suit the pattern of zealous reform exercises. 

            "The bottom line is that, in an effort to protect the providers of humanitarian assistance, the Security Council should be careful not to take over or politicize the mandate of humanitarian practitioner", he said.  "Neither should it abrogate its own mandate of maintaining international peace and security by seeking to reassign it to humanitarian actors."

            YASHAR TEIMUR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said the mandates handed out to humanitarian operations must be clear enough to allow the actors involved in such work to do the jobs they had been assigned.  The personnel should be provided with the security they needed and a mechanism could be established to help protect them.

            The issue of internally displaced persons was an acute problem that needed attention, he said.  The Council should facilitate the political, military or economic measures that could be taken against aggressor States to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons to their homes.  Regarding humanitarian assistance in conflict situations, generally, various aspects should be considered in a comprehensive approach.  The international community must deal with all political, economic and other aspects of humanitarian assistance in conflict situations, as proposed by the representative of Japan.

            Turning to the statement made earlier by Armenia's representative, he said he was not clear about what that delegate had meant in speaking of the imposition of a blockade against his country.  He reminded the Council that Armenia had several other neighbours apart from Azerbaijan.  Armenia was occupying about 20 per cent of Azerbaijan's territory, where it had been carrying out "ethnic cleansing".  As a result of Armenia's actions, Azerbaijan hosted about 1 million refugees on its territory.  As for the conflict in the region of Nagorny Karabakh, it could be resolved in accordance with the statement of the President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the basis of the decision reached at the Lisbon Summit of 1996.  The principles propounded at the Summit had been accepted by all except Armenia.  Also, it was cynical of that State to ask for international assistance after spending more than $1 billion on weapons such as "Scud" surface-to-surface missiles.

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For information media. Not an official record.