UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL19990121 Describes Increasing Danger Faced by Humanitarian Staff; Council Members Stress Coordination of Humanitarian Action, Security Concerns
Imposing "smart" sanctions that did not lead to humanitarian crises, fostering fair media in conflict areas, and curbing the flow of arms were among measures to be considered for promoting peace and security, the Security Council was told this morning by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
While humanitarian activities were of direct concern to international peace and security, they could never resolve conflicts, Mr. Vieira de Mello stressed, in a briefing on promoting peace and security: humanitarian activities relevant to the Security Council. He said that the focus must be on addressing the root causes of humanitarian disasters.
In the meantime, several factors made the provision of humanitarian assistance increasingly dangerous and increasingly difficult, he added. The line between soldiers and civilians had blurred and, too often, humanitarian agencies were left alone in desperate circumstances. More and more humanitarian staff were being killed on duty, yet very few of those deaths were investigated. The situation would continue until humanitarian agencies refused to go where security could not be guaranteed, or governments with influence gave their security the attention it merited.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Council could not exclude using force to support humanitarian activities, but concepts such as humanitarian intervention raised a number of practical and theoretical questions. He was concerned about attempts to make humanitarian crises the grounds for intervention, without Security Council endorsement. Only the Council could determine whether a situation existed that was a threat to international peace and security and only the Council could authorize the use of force.
The representative of the United States said that coordinating humanitarian action with peace and security concerns should focus on ensuring access to populations in need, guaranteeing the safety of personnel, and
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
improving the transition from international peacekeeping to international peace-building. The Council should consider options to maintain law and order and create a secure environment for civilians. It should also consider humanitarian and human rights needs as part of the overall strategy of restoring peace and security to areas in crisis.
China's representative said that the international community paid great attention to the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslavia, and it was unconscionable to forget the hundreds of thousands of persons in Africa who equally required such care. There was a tendency to politicize humanitarian issues and that was a cause of great concern. He called on all countries and organizations to strictly adhere to the provisions of international law and respect the sovereignty and political independence of all countries.
However, Slovenia's representative said that sometimes the paralysing effects of national interests were hidden behind the rhetoric of respecting the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those were important principles, but not absolute. The Council must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, while being able to determine when and where the threat to international peace actually existed.
Humanitarian action could not substitute for political action, as illustrated by the genocide in Rwanda, the representative of the Netherlands said. Yet most governments were better at providing humanitarian action than at preventing violence. There was need for an integrated approach. Both sanctions and military capabilities should become more focused to avoid collateral damage involving innocent civilians. Almost every subject addressed by the Security Council had a clear humanitarian side to it. It was difficult to imagine a security situation that did not directly or indirectly involve human suffering.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, Namibia, United Kingdom, Gambia, Malaysia, France, Gabon and Brazil.
The meeting, which began at 10:11 a.m., was adjourned at 1:01 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to hear a comprehensive briefing on humanitarian activities relevant to the Council, in the context of promoting peace and security, from Sergio Vieira de Mello, Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Statements SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that contemporary warfare was seldom conducted on clearly defined battlefields by armies confronting each other. Today, civilians were often targets, terror was a premeditated tactic and displacement or elimination of populations was a strategy, as demonstrated by the acts of parties in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. As a result, even low-intensity conflicts generated enormous human suffering, and humanitarian needs were disproportionate to the scale of military conflict. Meeting needs had become more difficult as the line between soldiers and civilians had blurred.
Too often, humanitarian agencies were left alone in desperate circumstances and their efforts were taken for granted, he said. Humanitarian action could never resolve conflicts. The willingness to commit resources to resolving crises had diminished since the early 1990s.
Today, there was a great body of international law regulating the behaviour of parties in conflict aimed at protecting civilians, he said. That was a major human achievement. However, those laws were often unknown or ignored. Almost every attack on civilians represented a breach of international legislation and principles. The International Criminal Court elaborated on previous instruments, and ratification of the instrument and setting up the Court needed to be accelerated. By establishing the two Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Security Council had recognized responsibility for dealing with impunity and its link to international peace and security.
The Council had also, for some time, recognized that massive violations of humanitarian law represented breaches of international peace and security, he said. International law defined the moral and legal imperatives for action, but it was ineffective if not translated into pragmatic action. The recognition of that was an essential building block for peace and security. Human rights were integral to peace and security.
Humanitarian activities could not succeed without unimpeded access to those in need, he said. Governments and oppositions must understand that allowing access to people in areas they did not control did not constitute recognition of their enemy. He was pleased that was recognized in Guinea- Bissau, but he needed the Council's help to get that message across in Angola and Sierra Leone.
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
The caution regarding international engagement evident after the Somalia experience had led to more reluctance in the deployment of peacekeeping operations, he said. That had a bearing on humanitarian action. Peacekeepers could play a valuable role in achieving humanitarian objectives, even when that was not part of their mandate, by supporting and protecting needy populations and humanitarian workers and also through their engineering, airlift and manpower capacity.
Where mass murderers or other criminals hide in refugee camps, as in eastern Zaire in 1994, the main responsibility lay with the national government, he said. However, peacekeepers could play a key role in strengthening national forces, to allow for separation of the combatants from their victims. He sought the Council's continued support for the drafting of options by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Department for Peacekeeping Operations for international mechanisms to assist governments in maintaining security and a humanitarian environment in camps and settlements.
The Council might also like to look at the way media are used to prepare and foster conflict, he said. In an atmosphere of propaganda, peacekeepers and humanitarian staff faced a virtually impossible task. The Council could examine the feasibility of replicating the measures taken by the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR) and the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina to curb abuse of the media.
A further mechanism in the hands of the Council was the use of "smart" sanctions, which did not lead to humanitarian crises, he said. If sanctions could prevent war criminals from enjoying the fruits of their crimes without harming innocent civilians, they would be a potent new tool for the good.
In the past six years, 153 United Nations personnel had lost their lives while on duty, he said. He welcomed the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, but expressed disappointment that the Trust Fund established to provide security training for humanitarian personnel had received only three contributions from States.
Humanitarian staff appeared to be seen as dispensable, he said. Many times they were deployed where governments considered it too risky to deploy better trained, equipped and protected peacekeepers. The casualty rates among humanitarian workers was too high, and well over 90 per cent of those deaths were not investigated. That situation would continue until either humanitarian agencies refused to go where their security could not be guaranteed, or governments with influence gave their security the attention it merited.
A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said the Council could not ignore the linkages inherent in today's complex humanitarian emergencies. It should be kept informed of humanitarian aspects of conflicts, so that it could determine
Security Council - 4 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
the humanitarian aspects of actions it might choose to take. The Council should review ways to strengthen the linkages between humanitarian action and the early commencement of post-conflict integration, rehabilitation and peace- building. It should lend support to initiatives aimed at strengthening local and national capabilities for confronting humanitarian and human rights crises.
Coordinating humanitarian action with peace and security concerns should focus on ensuring humanitarian access to populations in need, guaranteeing the safety of personnel, and improving the transition from international peacekeeping to international peace-building, he said. The Council might wish to consider developing a range of options to maintain law and order and to create a secure environment for civilians, including humanitarian workers. The United States welcomed the entry into effect last week of the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and was currently pursing its ratification.
The Council should consider addressing situations where violations of international humanitarian law and human rights posed a threat to international peace and security, with due regard to the roles and responsibilities of other system bodies, he said. It should also review ways to ensure a smooth transition from international peacekeeping to post-conflict peace-building. The Secretary- General should make recommendations to the appropriate United Nations agencies to assist in peace-building efforts as peacekeeping operations concluded. He stressed the importance of a division of labour between peacekeeping activities and longer-term peace-building programmes. There was need for closer cooperation between the Council and other United Nations bodies.
Mechanisms must exist on the ground to coordinate between political and military components of a United Nations operation, as well as with human rights and humanitarian components, he said. The Council should consider humanitarian and human rights needs as part of the overall strategy of restoring peace and security to areas in crisis.
QIN HUASUN (China) said that although there was no shortage of conventions related to international humanitarian matters, the situation remained grim. He was particularly concerned about the frequent threats to the safety of humanitarian workers and called on all concerned to ensure their freedom of movement and security. The solving of humanitarian problems required palliative measures and steps to address the root causes. It was necessary to strive to address the root causes, by measures that included the promotion of national stability.
Sanctions directly impacted upon humanitarian conditions, he said. China was, in principle, against using sanctions as a means to settle international disputes. When they were necessary, time frames should be applied. The Council should study the humanitarian impact of sanctions and take that into account in future actions. As the result of prolonged wars, many countries faced grim
Security Council - 5 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
situations with large numbers of refugees lacking medical care and basic necessities. The international community paid great attention to the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslavia, and it was unconscionable to forget the hundreds of thousands of persons in Africa who equally required such care. There should be no double standards. There was a tendency to politicize humanitarian issues, and that was a cause of great concern, he said.
All countries and organizations should strictly adhere to the provisions of international law and respect the sovereignty and political independence of all countries, he said. China had always attached great importance to humanitarian matters and stood ready to continue its efforts to take a leading role in that area.
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said it was relevant for the Council to deal actively with humanitarian issues for a variety of reasons. To avoid having local conflicts spread, effective measures were needed that took into account the close interrelationship between justice, social well- being and peace. Many of today's crises involved intra-State conflicts, resulting in large numbers of refugees and gross violations of international humanitarian law. Crises developed quickly when bodies with political responsibilities in the United Nations did not adopt the measures necessary to prevent them. It was not possible to seriously negotiate an end to conflicts without resolving humanitarian conflicts. The idea of including humanitarian bodies in peacekeeping operations was of great interest and merited broad- based support.
In recent days, the Council had been considering matters where all the above elements clearly appeared, he said. Two aircraft chartered by the United Nations had been downed, with tragic loss of life. When such tragedy struck, the lack of an appropriate response, or paralysis or powerlessness, meant a lack of consideration for the victims and their families. Moreover, it encouraged the continuation of such criminal acts.
It was inconceivable to consider increasing the number of United Nations personnel in operations without also taking steps to protect them, he said. He regretted the renewed erosion of respect for humanitarian principles. International humanitarian law ensured that civilians had the right to receive humanitarian assistance. Yet, more civilian than military staff had lost their lives, according to the Under-Secretary-General. He recalled the Secretary-General's words that peace could be neither true nor lasting, if it was acquired without democracy, tolerance and human rights for all.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said this open meeting was part of the move to improve transparency in the Security Council. The relationship between international security and humanitarian activities was important. Last November, the Council convened a similar meeting where it debated a similar subject and received a briefing from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
Security Council - 6 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
Sadako Ogata. At that meeting, it discussed the protection of humanitarian workers. Humanitarian assistance could not meet the needs of those in crises unless the security of humanitarian personnel could be guaranteed, and the need to do that had increased.
The statistics on humanitarian workers and United Nations staff killed and taken hostage were disturbing, he continued. As time passed, the numbers escalated. So, there was a need to think seriously about how to protect workers. That only some States had signed the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel was disappointing. However, the Council should remember that intention was one thing; action another.
He asked Mr. Vieira de Mello what concrete measures were being sought by the Secretariat to achieve the protection that humanitarian workers needed. He would not blame workers if they left a situation because their security could not be guaranteed, but that would be a tragedy. What were the new obstacles preventing distribution of humanitarian aid to those in need? What was the gap between current voluntary contributions and the real needs?
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) confirmed the Russian Federation's political and financial support for the humanitarian work of the United Nations. He believed that today the Council was increasingly being asked for political support for humanitarian activities. He was not equating the functions of the Council and humanitarian agencies. Each had a different mandate. In practice, however, they were closely related. Coordination between them was essential, and it was necessary, also, to maintain their functional separation.
One of the ways in which cooperation could be established was by ensuring the separation of the duties of the special representatives of the United Nations and the humanitarian coordinators. In addition, when a mission had a humanitarian element, it must be defined in the mandate, it must be feasible, and it must be properly resourced. Better coordination was usefully strengthened by the increasing cooperation between the Security Council and humanitarian operations.
He highlighted the task of curbing arms flows into conflict areas, which he said was directly related to allowing humanitarian workers to perform their work. The Council should not take lightly violations of arms embargoes it declared. Much had been said about safety and security of humanitarian personnel. That was one of the most important tasks. The use of military contingents to safeguard humanitarian activities was an important response.
It should also be remembered that humanitarian work must be based on impartiality and not used to bring pressure to bear on parties to a conflict, he said. That principle applied to humanitarian operations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For example, two NGOs in northern Iraq operated without consent of government and in the presence of government protests. They illegally crossed the border into northern Iraq. That undermined the Council's efforts to
Security Council - 7 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
confirm the sovereign integrity of Iraq. The Council had never taken a decision on a no-fly zone in Iraq. Attempts to invoke a Council resolution to justify the unilateral declaration of no-fly zones was improper.
The Council could not exclude the use of force in support of humanitarian activities, he said, but concepts such as humanitarian intervention raised practical questions and questions of principle. The Council's prerogative were described in the Charter. He was concerned about attempts to make humanitarian crises grounds for intervention, without Security Council endorsement. Only the Council could determine whether a situation existed that was a threat to international peace and security and only the Council could authorise the use of force. That principle of international law could change, but at present it was outlined in the Charter and must guide deliberations. One could hardly provide humanitarian assistance while violating the Charter and the basic principles of international law.
PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that almost every subject discussed in the Council had a clear humanitarian side to it. It was difficult to imagine a security situation that did not directly or indirectly involve human suffering. The Netherlands was particularly concerned with the growing number of attacks on humanitarian workers, which jeopardized the entire concept of humanitarian assistance. The nature of armed conflict had not changed fundamentally over the past decade. Indiscriminate use of violence had characterized many conflicts since the Second World War. What had changed was the number of intra-State conflicts, and the impact of public opinion. Modern communication technology resulted in policy makers being pressured to do something.
The genocide in Rwanda clearly illustrated that humanitarian action could not substitute for political action, but that was difficult to put into practice, he said. Most governments were better at providing humanitarian action than preventing violence. He suggested a number of steps to bring about a truly integrated approach. First, efforts should be made to ensure a coherent and adequate decision-making in the Council. Also, the performance of special representatives should be enhanced by greater coordination with special envoys of, for example, the European Union or the United States, and coherence between all United Nations entities should be promoted by the establishment of strategic frameworks. Sanctions should be made more sophisticated, so as to minimize their impact on civilians and maximize their impact on warlords. Military capabilities should likewise become more focused, to avoid collateral damage involving innocent civilians. Finally, better use should be made of existing instruments of international humanitarian law.
He recalled that his country had hosted, one century ago, The Hague Peace Conference. That centennial and the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions at the end of the United Nations Decade of International Law provided the opportunity to reflect on the item being discussed today. Further, The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration would celebrate its 100th anniversary
Security Council - 8 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
this year. His country and the Russian Federation would be organizing centennial commemorations and seminar sessions, and the NGO community would also be holding events in The Hague. To address deficiencies in several areas of law, a number of highly respected international lawyers were preparing reports to serve as a basis for discussions during those events.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said the current debate was by no means merely theoretical. In Sierra Leone, for example, banditry, acute violence, the employment of mercenaries, and the use of child combatants must be confronted by the international community. The Council was only beginning to define appropriate responses. That small country of 4.5 million persons contained, in microcosm, many of the conceptual challenges that the Council must find ways to address, if it was to remain relevant, effective and credible.
Humanitarian, refugee and human rights law provided the international community with the legal framework in which the protection of war-affected civilians was enshrined, he said. However, that was not evenly applied, and violations were often committed with impunity. The establishment of the International Criminal Court and the Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda were concrete examples of how to begin addressing such gaps. Much remained to be done, and it was a matter of grave concern that Justice Louise Arbour had been prevented from fulfilling her responsibilities in Kosovo.
Peacekeeping operations had been employed as a mechanism to separate warring factions, monitor ceasefire agreements, and support the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he said. However, there had not been adequate consideration of how such forces could be used to ensure the physical protection of civilians from combatants. In carrying out humanitarian operations, the international community tended to emphasize the delivery of assistance to affected populations, and to accord less attention to how to ensure the safety and security of displaced and other affected populations, or how to curb threats to those who acted in the service of peace. The passengers and crew of the United Nations-chartered aircraft recently shot down in Angola were a tragic reminder of that grim fact.
The Council had begun to address such issues, including insecurity in refugee camps, the impact of armed conflict on children, and the protection of humanitarian personnel, he said. That was welcome, but much remained to be done. In particular, the Council should build on its efforts and focus its attention on the broad issue underlying the Under-Secretary-General's concerns -- the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Only by dealing with the issue in a comprehensive manner could the Council begin to acquit its responsibility for reducing the vulnerability of civilians where international peace and security were at risk.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that, during conflict, the most vulnerable members of society -- women, children and the elderly -- were often targeted
Security Council - 9 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
and deprived of the most basic human right, that of the right to life. Lack of access to those vulnerable groups for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, had become a tactic in conflict. Efforts must be devoted to the elimination of conditions that provoked the violation of human rights. He was particularly disturbed by reports that children were targeted for attack by warring factions, recruited -- sometimes forcibly -- and used as war instruments. The situation of girls was even more precarious. He urged those engaged in such conduct to refrain from those activities.
He commended the efforts of humanitarian organizations and their personnel who worked tirelessly under extremely difficult circumstances to provide assistance to affected populations. It was disheartening to know that those men and women were often targeted in the performance of their duties. He deplored the increased level of violence against humanitarian personnel. It was disturbing that those who were fighting often denied humanitarian personnel access to those in need. Such obvious disregard for international humanitarian law could not be condoned.
The Council's recent debate on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel should be taken further, with the aim of adopting measures that should be adhered to by all parties, he said. Deliberations on the security of humanitarian activities should be confined to its proper context. The technical role of coordinating such activities should remain with the Economic and Social Council. It was time for the international community to turn words into action, by ensuring that steps were taken to protect those who provided aid and assistance. Instruments must be put in place to punish those who violated laws in the name of war. Member States must ensure that attacks against humanitarian personnel were investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.
DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said the body of international humanitarian law was an impressive achievement, but too often those norms were unknown or deliberately violated. The Council must insist on the responsibility of all parties to all conflicts to respect international humanitarian law, and it must insist on punishing violations. The Council must be consistent and persistent. It must pay due attention and be aware of the non-applicability of statutory limitations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. That was an important challenge to the Council and, while it might seem impossible now, it could, in time, become reality.
The nature of contemporary conflicts was such that they often produced serious humanitarian crises, he said. It was necessary to include assistance to humanitarian action in the mandates of United Nations military forces. The Council must pay special attention to the problem of child soldiers, particularly regarding demobilization after the conflict. Protection of humanitarian personnel should be an important priority for the Council. In addition to the above, it was worth keeping in mind that humanitarian action
Security Council - 10 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
could never resolve conflicts that were, in essence, of political origin. Humanitarian action must not be the only response of political bodies, including the Security Council, which must consider carefully its basic approach to such crises. The Council must be aware of the need to address political issues.
The Council should focus on preventive action, when possible, he said. It should engage itself in early stages of conflicts and encourage the Secretary-General, in his role as an actor to prevent conflicts. Sometimes, however, far-reaching decisions had to be taken, as prevention was not always possible. Threats to the peace must be addressed at early stages. The Council should not allow itself to be paralysed in early efforts to address such threats. Sometimes, the paralysing effects of national interests was hidden behind the rhetoric of respecting the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those were important principles, but not absolute. The Council must respect the general protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity and be able to determine when and where the threat to international peace actually existed.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that he hoped this would be the first of many occasions the Council could hear Mr. Vieira de Mello. Violations of humanitarian law often perpetuated a cycle of violence. How could that cycle be broken? he asked. One key was the state of existing international law. Were new instruments needed? The establishment of the new International Criminal Court was a valuable step, but was not enough on its own.
The Council had a role in addressing humanitarian problems, he said. It needed to ensure that peacekeeping operations supported establishment of proper local policing and the reintegration of combatants. There was a need to strengthen civil society and ensure rights were protected. Could more be done in that area? He said he understood Mr. Vieira de Mello's statement about the effects of media on humanitarian crises.
The gulf between international law, and respect for it on the ground, was at its widest, he said. He asked how higher humanitarian standards could be upheld, at the same time fulfilling the Council's Charter responsibility to respect territorial sovereignty. He agreed with the representative of the Russian Federation that the issue needed further analysis and might require changes.
The United Kingdom had worked with may United Nations programmes and non-governmental organizations to protect children in conflict, he said. Did Mr. Vieira de Mello have suggestions about what more could be done? Was cohesion between the Council and other areas taken seriously enough? Did the Secretariat have ideas of what special measures might be taken to give protection to people in crises? The United Kingdom was working with non-
Security Council - 11 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
governmental organizations to study options for protecting humanitarian workers. He asked if the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs had further ideas on the matter. The Council meeting was important. The Council must follow up the Under-Secretary-General's ideas and the questions he himself had raised.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said the question of humanitarian action had always been on the agenda of the international community, but the Secretary-General's report on Africa had rekindled interest in the matter and its relationship to issues of peace and security.
When wars were fought in cities and villages, he asked, what did people expect. The answer was simple. Women and children were targeted, as happened in Sierra Leone. What could be more criminal than denying people food and water? In such situations, humanitarian agencies were often left alone in danger.
Mr. Vieira de Mello had referred to the importance of international instruments. He joined the appeal to States to recommit themselves to these instruments. Today, the problem was more difficult because of the changed nature of conflicts, in which armed groups with no belief in the concept of the sanctity of life were involved.
As the Council tackled the problem of unimpeded access to those in need, it should also redouble its efforts to deal with impunity, he said. He followed the international tribunals with interest, and the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Member States must pursue violaters of international laws. The media must be used both judiciously and as widely as possible, so all would know and uphold international law. The briefing had been useful. Through concerted international effort the Council could make a big difference in people's lives.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said he welcomed this briefing, and similar future briefings, as they concerned matters that had a direct bearing on international peace and security, particularly given new and more pernicious forms of conflict. The briefings served to highlight the issues and to sensitize Council members and others to the observance of international humanitarian laws.
His country shared the Secretariat's concern, and that of other Council members, on the security of humanitarian personnel, he said. Actions against them were reprehensible. Those responsible must be brought to justice. National and local authorities must guarantee the safety of those courageous workers. Humanitarian personnel and organizations should also be commended, in appropriate ways, as was often done for peacekeepers.
Security Council - 12 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
Member States must reaffirm and comply with international law to ensure the protection of refugees, displaced people and the vulnerable in conflict situations, he said. The culture of impunity for violators of humanitarian law must be brought to an end. States had primary responsibility for prosecuting such violators. Malaysia would support holding combating parties liable when civilians were targeted.
His Government had many other areas of concern on humanitarian assistance, which had been adequately addressed by other Council members, he said. He commended Mr. Vieira de Mello for his proposals, and assured him that Malaysia would have an active and constructive attitude in the discussion of his ideas, as it was generally in agreement with them. He associated Malaysia with the statement by the representative of China on the need to address the humanitarian element of sanctions imposed by the Council.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said that he trusted that the debate, ably introduced by Mr. Vieira de Mello, would encourage members of the Council to continue thinking, so that fundamental matters, such as respect for people caught in armed conflicts, could be resolved. He was aware of considerable changes in the problem, such as that victims of armed conflict were now 90 per cent civilians, whereas in the past, 80 per cent were combatants. Sometimes civilians, including children, were deliberate targets.
It was essential that measures be taken to raise the minimum age for children entering armed conflicts, he said. It was common knowledge that unimpeded access to victims and populations in need was fundamental. That was often flouted, but also often respected, demonstrating that respect for principles in difficult circumstances was possible. Mr. Vieira de Mello was right to point to Guinea-Bissau as an example of that situation.
Other fundamental principles included the protection of refugees and displaced people, and maintenance of the distinction between civilians and fighters, he said. They also included respect for hospitals and for humanitarian personnel. Above and beyond recalling those principles, they must be strengthened. Security Council members must act over the long term, by creating tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court and the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia tribunals. The International Criminal Court was a major achievement and France was proud to have acceded to it at the beginning of the process. Over the short term, Security Council members must find immediate responses to daily political and humanitarian crises. As they reflected on the maintenance and the establishment of peacekeeping operations, they must look at potential humanitarian problems in advance, and think about the protection of civilian populations.
The Council must act before events happen, he said. It had recently talked about acting to avert disasters. That was possible, as had been done, for example, in Albania. It must discuss the reasons it had not been able to
Security Council - 13 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
avert disaster in other instances. Successes and failures must make the Council think about the lessons that could be extracted. The Council already knew that it must try to precisely define mandates, distinguish political, military and humanitarian activities, and preserve the neutrality of humanitarian work. As several speakers had said, it must be well aware of the risks of humanitarian disasters and of the extent and movements of displaced persons and refugees. The Council had a responsibility in that area.
To be specific, he said, the Council must understand the challenges faced by humanitarian workers. One of those was distinguishing humanitarian activities from political activities. Another issue that must be addressed was to what extent could departures from neutrality and non-discrimination be accepted, so that agencies could do their work. That problem arouse recently in Africa and in Afghanistan. What were the acceptable limits to constraints local authorities sought to impose? The answers involved ethics, an agency's specific responsibilities, and respect for the more general principles of law. He asked Mr. Vieira de Mello whether new international norms and rules had to be introduced to account for the changing nature of armed conflict.
DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said he had listened attentively to the statement made by the Under-Secretary-General on humanitarian problems and problems involving freedom of movement affecting humanitarian organizations and other international organizations in times of war. He expressed gratitude to the Under-Secretary-General for his efforts. It was regrettable that, despite all the efforts made to replace war with peaceful measures, human suffering and material destruction caused by war continued unabated.
The United Nations and the entire international community had an important body of laws, designed and adopted to protect civilian populations in areas of armed conflict, he said. Last year, in considering the report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict in Africa, the Council had adopted a number of measures, including those designed to protect refugee camps contained in resolution 1208 (1998). He agreed with the Under- Secretary-General that the Council, within the framework of its responsibilities, must contemplate more specific measures to make it possible to stress the protection of humanitarian personnel and the civilian population. In so doing, it should take into account the Charter of the United Nations.
CELSO L.N. AMORIM (Brazil) said that having good intentions was quite different from actually doing good. It was important to focus on results. The previously expressed need for a political strategy, within which humanitarian elements would be placed, was an important point. He was not sure that internal conflicts today were more frequent or more violent than in the past. But, with the end of the cold war, there had been a decrease in the interventions by principal Powers in internal conflicts. While that was a good thing, in many respects, one consequence was that many of the conflicts
Security Council - 14 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
had "become orphaned", with the Council becoming the forum of last resort to control the levels of violence.
He said it was important to reach some understanding on the limits of the Council's actions in humanitarian affairs, with the Council reserving its attention for cases that truly threatened international peace and security, while other organs, such as the Economic and Social Council, might deal with other cases. The new president of the Economic and Social Council did, in fact, intend to have that body deal with matters such as reconstruction and rebuilding. The concept of collective responsibility existed in the humanitarian area, while the concept of collective security was the role of the Council. The former could be implemented by other bodies.
It was also necessary to consider whether the abandonment of impartiality had in some instances led to violence against humanitarian personnel, he continued. Regarding options for protecting humanitarian operations, force could be indispensable as a last resort, but only with the Council's support. The United Nations Charter determined that force without the Council's support could occur only in instances of self-defence. For the Security Council to preserve its authority, it was necessary that Council members, particularly those with the veto power, avoided acting in their national interests. He said he hoped the Council would soon be able to adopt guidelines regarding sanctions, especially regarding humanitarian matters.
Mr. BURLEIGH (United States) said that many delegations had made reference to the use or misuse of the concept of sovereignty. He raised this as a possible matter for future discussion. The United States believed there were circumstances when the international community must act to protect citizens from their governments. The sovereignty argument was sometimes used to find excuses for gross violations of human rights, and an incapacity of the international community in those circumstances should not be tolerated.
Responding to the questions of Council members, Mr. VIEIRA DE MELLO thanked the Council for its recognition that humanitarian activities were of direct concern to international peace and security. He welcomed the suggestion that the Council's tolerance of violations of international humanitarian law would be zero tolerance, and he sought the Council's help to translate that into specific actions.
He said that all humanitarian agency heads insisted that the focus must be preventive -- on the root causes of humanitarian disasters -- and he welcomed the Security Council's recognition of that principle. The curbing of arms flows mentioned was also central to humanitarian agencies' concerns. The West African moratorium was a good model for what could be achieved in that regard. Something similar to the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines was necessary to stop arms flows.
Security Council - 15 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
Responding to a question about what steps he would recommend to protect workers, he said that peacekeeping missions with mandates to protect them were excellent, but often not available. In their absence, if the option of withdrawal was to be avoided, some form of deterrence was essential. There was a role for the International Criminal Court in providing deterrence, but the support of the Security Council was also essential. Local agreements, such as with the Taliban and with the Government of Sudan and with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, were necessities that increased security.
Regarding new obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance, he said that resources were definitely one obstacle. Fifty per cent of global activities were currently funded, although within that, some activities were financed to 80 per cent, while others were only 23 per cent funded. This year the United Nations Consolidated Appeal had been reduced by about one third, and it was hoped that would lead to greater generosity. Host countries generosity was also very important and often forgotten.
He particularly welcomed Council support for minimum guarantees of access for humanitarian agencies to those in need. While impartiality was very important, it was sometimes very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain when conflicts went on for many years. The only solution was greater preventive efforts and earlier resolution of conflicts.
Security Council support for the strengthening of civil society and for rebuilding was important, he said. In some instances the early development of post-conflict strategies might be the answer. Coordination and cooperation within the Secretariat for post-conflict rebuilding, and within the United Nations system, was excellent, but that cooperation could be broadened to include others, such as international financial institutions.
He welcomed comments on the coordinating role of the Economic and Social Council. As for security for refugee camps, he said the role of host governments was critical, and support for them in fulfilling that role was worthwhile. Strategies to counter media disinformation that made humanitarian work impossible existed, but they were not always effective.
He then provided the Council with details on the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Africa. He said he hoped soon to have an agreement with the Angolan President that would allow agencies to provide support for displaced people in the area not currently under Government control, via the United Republic of Tanzania. In Angola, it was not a coordinated response to the humanitarian problems that was needed, but progress on the peace agreements leading to a ceasefire.
In response to a question about the need for new international legal instruments, he said he shared the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross that, while the instruments were not perfect, opening them up for
Security Council - 16 - Press Release SC/6629 3968th Meeting (AM) 21 January 1999
change might result in their being weakened. The focus should be on promoting support for the existing international humanitarian laws.
The proposal for a study of the role of the Security Council in the protection of civilian populations was welcome, he said, as was a Council member's affirmation of the dominant role of humanitarian concerns currently on the Council's agenda. Peace and security were based in order and ethics. They would make humanitarian activity redundant. He was also grateful that it had been pointed out that verbal moral indignation was important, but not enough, and that the Security Council had a collective responsibility aimed at delivering results.
* *** *