SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN SITUATIONS OF ARMED CONFLICT IS KEY TO SUSTAINABLE PEACE

10 December 2002
SC/7591

SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN SITUATIONS OF ARMED CONFLICT IS KEY TO SUSTAINABLE PEACE

10/12/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7591

Security Council

4660th Meeting* (AM & PM)

SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

IN SITUATIONS OF ARMED CONFLICT IS KEY TO SUSTAINABLE PEACE

Practical Action Called for; Human Rights Day Discussion

Covers New Challenges to Ensuring Safety of Non-Combatants

Protecting civilians was the key to sustainable peace, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council this morning, as it began a day-long consideration of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, coinciding with International Human Rights Day.

No part of the world had been immune from the scourge of the death and abuse of civilians, the Secretary-General said as he introduced his third report on the issue.  The report noted that more than 2.5 million people had been killed and more than 31 million displaced in the last decade.  He said the work of the Council over the past three years had provided a conceptual framework to combat the problem, but what was needed now was practical action and a more systematic approach.

Since his last report 18 months ago, he said, many countries had begun a transition from war to peace.  The protection of civilians might prove decisive in sustaining that transition.  Ensuring humanitarian assistance, tackling the scourges of landmines and small arms, and beginning the process of reconciliation were all building blocks in that effort.

Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, said that it was noteworthy that the discussion was taking place on Human Rights Day, as protection of civilians was an important human rights issue.  According to the report, new challenges in that area included gender-based abuse, commercial exploitation and global terrorism.

He said the Security Council’s “aide-memoire” of March 2002 was a centrepiece of a strategy for civilian protection, which had already proved useful in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri Region.  Coordination between the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was also progressing.  The "road map" annexed to the report provided direction for further progress.  Such

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*     The 4658th and 4659th Meetings were closed.

momentum must be matched with action, he said; incremental change through building systematic support at all levels should produce results.

Most speakers in the Council today agreed with the need for concrete and systematic action to protect civilians in armed conflict, including universal application of international human rights law.  Most also welcomed the Secretary-General's emphasis on secure humanitarian access, the clear separation of civilians and combatants and the swift re-establishment of the rule of law, justice and reconciliation during the transition from conflict to peace.

Vidar Helgesen, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that in all those efforts, different United Nations bodies, international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Member States must all live up to their respective responsibilities.  His country was in the process of establishing a support group of Member States for the protection of civilians. 

Every single State, he said, had the obligation and responsibility to protect civilians in conflict situations.  Such universal responsibility was underlined by the entry into force of the International Criminal Court, which was a historic turning point for humanitarian law.

The President of the Council, Carolina Barco, speaking as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that, as part of national efforts in protection of civilians, her country's security policy sought to ensure the presence of the State in every corner of national territory, to guarantee democratic debate and to provide the individual security needed for personal development and the full exercise of fundamental rights. 

However, she said, the spillover effect of some internal conflicts, or their globalization as a result of criminal activities, showed that a national problem could not always be overcome by purely national means.  Only a collaborative effort could deal effectively with the global problem of illicit drugs, for example, especially in times of terrorism.

Many speakers today also noted the important role of non-governmental organizations in humanitarian action during conflict.  Angelo Gnaedinger, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the effectiveness of such humanitarian action could be improved but could never take the place of political action which must prevent conflicts and ultimately stop them.  Not only parties to conflicts, but also the entire international community, must enforce humanitarian law, through both punitive and preventive measures.  Respect for such law must also be built during peacetime, through teaching in schools and training in military institutions.

Also speaking today, as members of the Council, were the representatives of Bulgaria, Mexico, Ireland, Guinea, France, Cameroon, United States, Syria, Singapore, Mauritius, China, United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.

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Statements were also made by representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Austria (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Argentina and Burkina Faso.

The Observer for Palestine also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and went into recess at 1:05 p.m. Reconvening at 3:20 p.m., it adjourned at 6:20 p.m.

Background

As it met to consider the protection of civilians in armed conflict this morning, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2002/1300), the third such report since September 1999.

According to the report, civilians, rather than combatants, continue to be the main casualties of current conflicts, with women and children constituting an unprecedented number of the victims, with more than 2.5 million people killed and over 31 million displaced in the last decade.  The upsurge of global terrorism may significantly increase the scale of suffering.

In the 18 months since the last report, the Secretary-General states, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has worked towards a more systematic presentation of both the situation of civilians in armed conflict and steps to be taken to ameliorate it.  During the same period, three global issues have emerged that will seriously challenge the capacity of Member States to protect civilians:  sexual exploitation; commercial exploitation; and terrorism.

In that light, practical actions to protect civilians are described in three key areas:  secure humanitarian access; the clear separation of civilians and combatants; and the swift re-establishment of the rule of law, justice and reconciliation during the transition.

To improve humanitarian access to civilians in armed conflict, the report states that all parties to a conflict, including non-State actors, must understand their obligations and responsibilities to civilians, with clearly defined conditions for access in any terms of engagement.  Humanitarian and United Nations agencies should coordinate contact in that regard, with the aide-memoire used to guide access negotiations.  Contact between warring parties on humanitarian access issues should be structured; framework agreements are the best option when no peacekeeping mission is present.

To facilitate the separation of civilians from armed elements, the report notes the necessity of government commitments to remove camps for displaced persons from border areas and to separate combatants.  Rapid deployment of United Nations assessment teams to assist those efforts is also needed, as is security support from States hosting refugees.  The aide-memoire is important to ensure that government responses to perceived security threats meet international legal standards.

In the interest of promoting the rule of law, justice and reconciliation, the report states that resources must be provided to reform national institutions as soon as possible after the end of a conflict.  Similarly, early and adequate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants must also be ensured, with attention to reconciliation at the community level.

It is also important that laws and regulations inconsistent with international legal standards be repealed, in particular those regarding the right to return, property rights and housing rights, and that impartial mechanisms be put in place for the return and restoration of property.  Finally, international tribunals and the International Criminal Court must be supported, to bring to justice perpetrators of grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law.

To counter gender-based abuses in conflict situation, the report notes efforts on the part of the United Nations system and recommends measures to be taken by Member States to strengthen the culture of protection in humanitarian crises.  It notes that issues relating to women and children in armed conflict are specifically dealt with in other reports of the Secretary-General (documents S/2002/1154 and S/2002/1299).  Reports by the expert panels on the illegal exploitation of resources were also valuable regarding the relation of such exploitation and harm to civilians (documents S/2002/1146 and S/2002/1115.

Regarding terrorism, the Secretary-General states that the threat must be condemned without reservation and fought with focused energy.  However, States must respond to acts of terrorism in a way that respects the need to protect civilian life and property.  To pursue security at the expense of human rights will ultimately be self-defeating, he says.  In addition, because of the added complexities caused by terrorism, the United Nations will need to formulate clear guidelines for its future work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in areas where terrorist organizations are active.

Statements

The President of the Council, CAROLINA BARCO, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said her country’s presidency of the Council had been in the framework of respect for the principles of the Charter and had stood for multilateralism to achieve a just international order.  In that, it had upheld the principle of shared responsibility.  Her country believed that concern for defence of life, liberty and independence and the need to preserve international peace and security remained equally valid today.  She expressed gratitude to the Secretary-General for his leadership in promoting a better future for her country, the population of which had suffered from the problems of illicit drugs.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said the question of protection of civilians in armed conflict was among the most urgent for the Council and the United Nations in seeking to address the impact of conflicts.  It was urgent, because millions of civilians were targeted, subject to human rights abuses and denied assistance.

He said the protection of civilians was key to achieving a sustainable peace.  The United Nations was now in a position to take measures to strengthen their protection.  It was a question of political will.  Colombia was a country where protection of civilians remained a key challenge.  It was, however, not alone in facing that challenge.  No part of the world had been immune from the scourge.  It was, therefore, fitting to have the discussion on Human Rights Day.  There was a link between improving security of the individual and securing peace.  The work of the Council over the past three years had provided a conceptual framework.  The work on that had to be continued.  What was needed most was practical action, from policy to implementation.  A more systematic approach was needed, as well as a structure of best practices that would translate into practical action.

He said since his last report, 18 months ago, there had been important developments, including a transition from war to peace in many countries.  That transition must be sustained and the protection of civilians might prove decisive in doing that.  Ensuring that civilians received assistance, tackling the scourge

of landmines and small arms and beginning the process of reconciliation were building blocks for peace.  Success in those endeavours was essential in achieving the most fundamental aim of the Organization -- to save populations from the scourge of war.

KENZO OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said it was noteworthy that the discussion was being held on Human Rights Day, as protection of civilians related to an important human right.  The United Nations had been raising awareness of the vulnerability of civilians in armed conflict as a number of long-standing conflicts had been making progress towards peace.  The establishment of the culture of protection, however, was still a distant goal.  Civilians remained the main victims of current conflicts.

New challenges included gender-based abuse, commercial exploitation and global terrorism, he said.  The Security Council’s “aide-memoire” of March 2002 was a centrepiece of a new strategy for civilian protection, which had already proved useful in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri region.  He also described the first three of a series of regional conferences on the protection of civilians.

He said that what ultimately mattered, however, was the implementation of the recommendations made in such conferences and reports.  The road map attached to the present report reorganized recommendations by theme, for clarity and to provide a broad picture.  Specific responsibilities now needed to be assigned.  A new support group on the issue, led by Norway, would organize Member States efforts on the issue, to work with new mechanisms within the United Nations system.  The Organization was conducting joint training and other new coordination on the issue, to mainstream civilian protection in the system.  Such momentum must be matched with action, he said.  Incremental change through building systematic support of at all levels should produce results.

ANGELO GNAEDINGER, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that his organization was unfortunately well placed to witness the untold suffering of civilians in armed conflict.  The key principle for protecting them was for the parties to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians; combatants alone may be subject to attack.  That principle would prohibit weapons that strike indiscriminately and prescribe humane treatment for civilians when they were in the hands of any of the parties.

For his organization, he said, the concept of protection related to violations of any human rights of all individuals.  It was necessary, therefore, to work with non-State actors.  Vulnerable categories of persons were focused on, because of need.  He asked why international law, which already protected civilians, was not respected.  Existing humanitarian law was a consistent whole and had constantly evolved since the 1949 Geneva Conventions.  But, it could be improved and the ICRC had been engaged in discussions on how that could be accomplished.  The greatest challenge now was not the creation of new norms, but the enforcement of existing rules.

Coordination between humanitarian actors was essential because of the magnitude of the problem, he said, and a harmonized approach was being encouraged by the ICRC.  The effectiveness of humanitarian action could be improved, but could never take the place of political action, which must prevent conflicts and ultimately stop them.  Not only parties to conflicts, but also the entire international community must enforce such law, through punishment and preventive measures.  Respect for such law must also be built during peacetime, through teaching in schools and training in military institutions.

VIDAR HELGESEN, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, aligning himself with Austria’s statement on behalf of the Human Security Network, said the main challenge was to ensure proper implementation of a comprehensive framework for action and thereby effective protection for the millions of civilians affected by conflict every day.  Different United Nations bodies, international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Member States must all live up to their respective responsibilities.  His country was in the process of establishing a support group in New York for the protection of civilians.  The most vulnerable part of the civilian population was children.  In too many conflicts, children were made into combatants.  At the third session of the Sri Lankan peace talks in Oslo, the parties had underlined that children belonged with their families and not in the workplace, whether civilian or military.

He said lack of humanitarian access to vulnerable populations continued to be a major problem.  Blatantly ignoring basic international standards in that regard was unacceptable.  He supported the option of framework agreements being further elaborated and implemented, and shared the grave concerns expressed in the report regarding denial of humanitarian access by means of targeting humanitarian workers or civilians.  Such acts should be recognized as war crimes and dealt with accordingly.  Every single State had the obligation and responsibility to protect their inhabitants in conflict situations.  The entry into force of the International Criminal Court was a historic turning point for humanitarian law and for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Those who were close to populations in need had a particular responsibility to uphold the principles and moral foundation on which the United Nations was founded, he continued.  Any kind of exploitation of the vulnerable populations could not be tolerated.  He welcomed, therefore, the serious and engaged response by the Secretary-General to incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation by humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers.

The aide-memoire adopted by the Council in March bad proved to be a useful tool in addressing the protection issues, he said.  It could not be a static instrument, however, and should be updated at yearly intervals.  He supported the idea of reviewing existing Council mandates based on the aide-memoire.  The road map was another tool which could facilitate further implementation of protection measures.  In that regard, he encouraged Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to continue its good work.  Increased cooperation between different agencies and departments was crucial for the further advancement of the protection agenda.  He welcomed current cooperation between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and supported continued efforts towards implementation of the so-called standard operating procedures.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with Denmark’s statement on behalf of the European Union, said today, Human Rights Day, was a day to discuss achievements and concentrate efforts to improve shortcomings.  Civilians were the majority of victims in wars.  For many people, war was a daily reality.  Decisive action was necessary to ameliorate the situation of millions of victims of war.  He recognized the crucial value of the aide-memoire of March for the protection of civilians, which presented a chance for the Council to make its mandate conform to the requirements of humanitarian law.  The attached road map to the report could be helpful, as well.  It would be useful to discuss Council mandates regarding the protection of civilians.

He said the impact of insecurity and lack of access for humanitarian organizations was clear in many situations.  The culture of prevention had not yet been fully mainstreamed.  The protection of civilians would be better served before conflicts emerged.  The entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court gave hope in putting an end to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  It was shocking to see how widespread impunity was concerning violations of human rights in times of war. The Department of Political Affairs, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other United Nations bodies should cooperate more closely, to see to it that peace agreements would give priorities to humanitarian action and protection of civilians.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said that his country favoured peaceful resolution of conflicts and supported the validity of international humanitarian law.  The United Nations, he said, must perfect measures to protect civilians during peacekeeping operations.  The aide-memoire was a step in the right direction, as was the coordination of humanitarian and peacekeeping divisions.

Mexico, he said, also supported the need for access to civilian populations in conflicts, including through NGOs.  He was concerned over the increasing attacks on such organizations and he said concrete measures should be taken to protect them.  Greater use should be made of early warning mechanisms, and he highlighted the role of the Council and the Secretary-General in that regard. 

For separation of civilians from combattants, the needs of refugees must be taken into account, as well as the necessity of bringing to justice those who have committed crimes.  In that latter regard, the International Criminal Court would be an important instrument.  It was important, as well, to further analyse the humanitarian impact of the exploitation of resources.  Punitive measures were not enough to end it; development problems must be considered, as well.  Finally, he condemned all terrorism, and reiterated the importance of protecting civilians during the fight against that problem, as well as strengthening a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations.

GERRARD CORR (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said that two-and-a-half million civilians had been killed in conflict situations over the past decade, and more than 30 million uprooted or displaced.  Countless more had died or suffered from malnutrition or disease as a consequence of conflict.  A clear political point must be made today that the catastrophes of the two world wars that had devastated Europe and the world in the first half of the twentieth century had led to actions that reshaped the world, including the founding of the United Nations.  That same determination was owed to the sufferers of the conflicts that had ravaged much of Africa and other parts of the world. 

He said that cooperation within the United Nations family, especially the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, must be strengthened.  There was now be a moment of real opportunity as conflicts ended or were about to end in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.  Protection of civilians was an imperative in shaping the Organization’s work in years to come, and by failing to provide that protection, the safeguarding of international peace and security would rest on shallow foundations.  Access to vulnerable populations was an indispensable and absolute requirement, he said, adding that the separation of civilians and combatants was also critical.  Ireland supported the proposal for the rapid deployment of United Nations multidisciplinary assessment teams in that regard.

The restoration of the rule of law, justice and reconciliation, and gender-based violence in humanitarian and conflict situations were also issues of utmost gravity, he said.  Early action to follow up reports of the commercial exploitation of resources was also required.  The rise of terrorism had added a new set of challenges to the work of protecting civilians, he noted, cautioning that, as the international community worked to combat terrorism, it must be careful not to pursue security at the expense of human rights.  Finally, adequate funding for United Nations agencies in the areas of food, refugee protection and shelter was an immediate, practical issue that should not be ignored.  United Nations’ action was owed to people around the world who asked for help, he concluded. 

MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) recalled that, in the Millennium Declaration, world leaders had committed themselves to strengthen protection of civilians in complex emergency situations.  The Council had adopted various resolutions and statements on that matter.  Supporting the 21 practical measures recommended in the Secretary-General’s report, which strengthened previous recommendations, he emphasized that the matter of women and children should be addressed within the framework of a comprehensive approach for protection of civilians in armed conflict.  Those were key measures, and it was hoped a multidisciplinary group would be established to study all recommendations in order to put them in a comprehensive framework.

He welcomed the work done by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the question of sexual exploitation in refugee camps, but expressed concern about commercial exploitation of conflict.  The question of terrorism complicated the work of dealing with armed conflict and should be subject of study by the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  Guinea was pleased with the road map, which took into account the different aspects of managing the problems of the populations concerned.

The efforts of the United Nations had made it possible to provide norms for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and those norms should be implemented, he stressed.  The Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat had a decisive role to play in that regard, and Guinea supported efforts by United Nations agencies to draw up a manual to facilitate coordination and make negotiations more effective.  The best way to protect civilians in armed conflict was to prevent those conflicts, and the Council must further stress conflict prevention, he reiterated.

JEAN DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said that one of the ugliest aspects of conflicts nowadays concerned the fate of civilian populations, an aspect that the international community had at first appeared powerless to deal with because international law had dealt with conventional wars.  Those times were past, however, and the Secretary-General’s report illustrated the progress made, among which was the inclusion of elements relating to protection of civilians in the maintenance of peace in Sierra Leone and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) . Prevention of the recruitment of child soldiers was of particular concern to France, he added.

One point that had not been sufficiently dealt with in the report was the need to make all parties to conflict aware of their violations against civilians, particularly the restriction of access by humanitarian workers.  The overriding concern was effective protection of the most vulnerable groups.  Welcoming  the attention paid to exploitation of resources during armed conflict, he said such abuses must be stopped, as they included the massive use of forced labour, including child labour.

There was a need to implement objectives in a practical way, he said, and the road map was a decisive contribution in that regard.  To make it operational, it should be made clear which parties or institutions should implement recommendations and draw up priorities. He asked what measures could be envisioned to strengthen the protection of civilians against terrorist organizations.  Had the participation of terrorist organizations in armed conflict been taken into account in the road map?

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said that the international community had put in place an important body of human rights law relevant to the protection of civilians.  That law had adapted to the times.  Today, however, many armed conflicts involved non-State actors, as well as State actors who violated such conventions, thus creating more tragic, complex and unbearable situations.  Those facts called for action from the international community.  In that light, he welcomed the report of the Secretary-General and its recommendations.

The road map annexed to the report merited further study by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to determine future action, he said.  Awareness among member States was also essential, including awareness of the new challenges mentioned in the report. 

He said his country, being part of a region often embroiled in conflict, had cooperated with many international instruments for the protection of human rights and welcomed thousands of refugees every year.  It had also taken part in many efforts to prevent future conflict in the region and promote a culture of peace.  He appealed to the parties involved in all armed conflicts to guarantee the security of civilians and access of humanitarian services to vulnerable populations.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that safeguarding civilians in armed conflict was at the heart of the United Nations Charter.  The report and OCHA’s efforts were important steps forward in that regard.  He supported the further development of the road map and the implementation of many of the measures called for in the report. He encouraged the continuation of dialogue on the issue towards the presentation of further specific measures before the Security Council.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the item under discussion was of utmost concern to the peoples of the world.  The decision by the Council to keep the item at the top of the agenda showed the importance the Council attached to the issue.  Women and children made up an unprecedented number of victims of current conflicts.  The Middle East was the most flagrant example.  A record number of acts perpetrated against the Palestinian populations by the Israeli occupation forces had been witnessed lately.  Israel was perpetrating a crime of genocide.  Israel had exploited the international umbrella for combating terrorism after 11 September and continued to attempt to eradicate elements of resistance against occupation by classifying them as terrorism.  The report had referred to the tragedy of the Palestinian people, which it described as a crisis of access to, among other things, medical services and education, because of curfews.

He said the issue of access to vulnerable populations in armed conflict was a complex one.  Programmes for assistance to millions of vulnerable people were at times abused, delayed or rejected with destructive results.  The report had concentrated on the suffering of children.  The international community must also attach importance to the particular conditions of the women and elderly in armed conflict.  He welcomed current cooperation between the Peacekeeping Department, the Department of Political Affairs, and OCHA in that regard.  Although half a century had passed since adoption of the Geneva Conventions, there remained a wide gap between the norms therein and their implementation.  Some States hid behind “particular circumstances” in order not to implement them.  He called for justice and conciliation in taking up the root causes of conflict, in order to stay away from the instruments of violence.  The recommendations in the report deserved in-depth consideration.

CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) said in the First World War nine soldiers died in battle for every civilian.  Nowadays, 10 civilians died for every soldier.  Civilians had become legitimate targets in conflict.  The United Nations had always taken a key role in protecting civilians in armed conflict.  The aide-memoire was an important contribution by the Council.  But, the Council should be judged by the impact of its decisions and not by the amount of paper it generated.  There was a need for less talk and more action.  Humanitarian intervention was a complex issue.  Questions as to who might authorize such action had been debated ad infinitum.  As a practical matter, the Council could include a component on the protection of civilians in all its resolutions and adjust current mandates in that regard.  A structured mechanism had to be set up to take stock of mission mandates.

Prevention was better than cure, she said, and certain universally acknowledged factors were the root causes of conflict.  A structured mechanism to deal with conflict prevention would allow the Council to respond to reports on conflicts brewing.  She supported the recommendations regarding sexual exploitation and illegal exploitation of resources.  Terrorism had implications for the protection of civilians.  Revision of the aide-memoire to include emerging challenges would be a logical next step.

KHERMRAJ JINGREE (Mauritius) said that in today's armed conflicts, civilians were very often the first and the direct victims of the fighting.  They were used as targets to attract attention or as human shields in conflicts led by non-State actors, who did not feel bound by any humanitarian treaty.  The recent terrorist attacks in the United States, Bali and Kenya had shown that new instruments were needed to protect civilians.  In that context, he fully supported the Secretary-General's recommendations.  Priority should be given to stemming the proliferation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons.  Also critical were the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation of former combatants, and the numerous anti-personnel landmines in several countries, which endangered millions of innocent civilians.

He urged the international community to devote more resources and to elaborate concrete measures to address such issues.  The blending of armed groups with the civilian population resulted in situations where civilians became innocent targets of raids and reprisal by opposing factions or even government forces.  Israeli forces had caused numerous civilian casualties, for example, in their attempts to pursue suspected leaders of suicide bomb attacks in the Middle East.  In other places, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebels mingled among the refugees.  It was important, therefore, to separate armed elements from ordinary civilians.  More efforts were needed to screen refugees, especially those located near the border, as those camps were often used as rebel bases.  He also urged deeper cooperation in protecting internally displaced persons.

Particular attention should also be given to access by international aid workers to affected areas, he said.  In many conflicts, safe and unhindered access to vulnerable civilian populations by relief workers was granted only sporadically, if at all.  Access often was denied, and to make matters worse, aid workers themselves had been attacked, kidnapped or harassed.  Armed groups must be made to understand that they have to ensure the safety of civilians and provide unimpeded access to international aid workers.  He supported the proposal to include conditions for humanitarian access needs in all framework agreements signed between State and non-State actors.  The regular killing of unarmed civilians, including children, must not go unpunished; the perpetrators of those heinous acts must be brought to justice, either through national or international courts.

WANG YINGFAN (China) commended the Secretary-General and the United Nations for recent efforts to protect civilians and promote awareness of the issue.  He encouraged United Nations agencies to further improve coordination and improve the road map on the issue.  In addition, he said, it was important that the roots of conflict be addressed.  The responsibility for protecting civilians, he added, was primarily with States and parties to conflicts.

Demobilization, disarmament and reintegration efforts were important in the effort, as well, he said.  In addition, he said that Israel should allow greater access of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, who were being severely affected by that conflict.  Negotiations towards a lasting peace should also be seriously pursued to end the suffering in the Middle East.

ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) aligned himself with the statement of the European Union to be made by Denmark, and said that a common reference point, provided by the aide-memoire, was necessary to effectively address the problem.  He agreed strongly with the Secretary-General and Mr. Oshima that concrete, practical measures were now important. The aide-memoire had to be implemented proactively, and States, as well as non-State actors, had to be engaged in the protection of civilians.  Responsibility for such protection must be targeted.

Agreeing with much of the Secretary-General’s report and its recommendations, he asked Mr. Oshima to provide examples of situations where framework agreements had proved useful.  In addition, he requested early feedback on assessment teams that had worked on the distinction between combatants and civilians in refugee camps.  He strongly supported the emphasis on core principles for United Nations staff operations, along with further development of those principles by the Best Practices Unit.  He asked how gender concerns could be better integrated into those efforts.

Governments, he said, must protect relief workers; their killing was an affront to humanitarian law.  The Security Council had to consider how it could be more proactive in protection measures for civilians, and he mentioned the situations in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi as immediate concerns in that regard.  Throughout the United Nations system, protection of civilian should be prioritized.  Finally, he asked how the road map and the aide-memoire fit together.

SERGEY N. KAREV (Russian Federation) said in times of conflict innocent civilians continued to suffer, despite the international instruments to protect them adopted over the last half century.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and progress made in the last 18 months, in particular the analysis of changing trends.  Many of the proposals were in keeping with Russia’s positions, such as providing access to humanitarian assistance and prosecution of violations of humanitarian law by, among other institutions, the International Criminal Court.  The upsurge in terrorism was confronting new challenges in the protection of civilians.  He urged each State to wage a campaign against terrorism, as it challenged the institution of the State.  In supporting measures to increase protection of vulnerable populations in emergency situations, he stressed the crucial importance of eradicating war from societies and preventing conflicts.

Reactions to crisis should be based on norms of international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.  States must comply with principles of international humanitarian law.  It was up to States to protect civilians, but international efforts might have an additional positive impact.  It was, however, important that those international efforts be properly coordinated.  To enhance the work of the Council, a fuller account of the nature of each armed conflict had to be taken account.  Interaction between the Council and regional and subregional organizations would enable pooling of capacities in protecting civilians in armed conflict.  Such measures could be taken under Chapter VIII of the Charter.  Member States and the Secretary-General should promptly convey to the Council situations that might threaten international peace and security, including violations of the rights of civilians.

When the meeting resumed this afternoon, Council President CAROLINA BARCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, speaking in her national capacity, said the world was not just living through a terrible humanitarian crisis, but also a crisis in the humanitarian global regime.  Terrorism had fully debased armed conflicts, through brutal and unimaginably cruel acts.  The United Nations must preserve universal public assets:  the dignity of each and every human being; the right to life; and the right to live without fear.  Doing so was a shared responsibility.  Armed conflicts deliberately targeted unarmed civilians, civilian facilities and civilian means of transportation.  The atrocities committed during the fall of Srebrenica and the appalling genocide in Rwanda were reminders that the great humanitarian tragedies could be avoided, or at least lessened, if the world learned from its failures and omissions.

She said her country's policy on democratic security sought to rescue and consolidate the democratic content of the concept of security, with a view to reinstating public order and promoting economic and social development.  Moreover, it was a policy to ensure the presence of the State in every corner of national territory, to guarantee democratic debate and to provide the individual security needed for personal development and the full exercise of fundamental rights.  The spillover effect of some internal conflicts, or their internationalization as a result of associated criminal activities, showed that a national problem could not always be overcome by purely national means.  Only a collaborative effort could deal effectively with the global problem of illicit drugs, especially in times of terrorism.

Concerning the commercial exploitation and illegal financing of conflicts and terrorism, she highlighted three activities that must be combated:  the prosperous illegal drug industry, which was much more profitable than the bloodstained trade in diamonds or other resources fuelling conflicts; the growing kidnapping phenomenon, which obtained large ransoms sometimes used as weapons for political blackmail; and extortion, which was a criminal alternative to kidnapping.  The United Nations, thus, faced a formidable challenge from all forms of barbarity.  The goal must not only be to protect civilians in armed conflicts, but to prevent the occurrence of intra- and inter-State conflicts in a timely way.  The campaign to eradicate the scourge of terrorism must continue unabated.

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said today civilians -– most often women and children -– were the victims of conflicts.  That was far different from wars of the past century, when 95 per  cent of the victims were soldiers.  Everyone should, therefore, be aware of the particular danger to which women and children were now exposed.  Recent discussions on follow-up to Security Council resolution 1325 had shown that, since women’s wisdom and understanding were often not fully applied, efforts to ensure gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping operations and post-conflict reconstruction needed to be strengthened.  Equal participation in peace-building efforts could help ensure that the unique situation of women was taken into account.  Further, women could play an important role in brokering durable peace.

It was a cruel fact, she went on to say, that in many parts of the world large numbers of children were severely affected by conflict.  Many were uprooted from their homes, maimed or killed.  Others were orphaned, abused and exploited.  It was crucial to protect children in times of conflict.  In that regard, the Union welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General, as well as the Council, to ensure respect for such protection in the formulation of mandates for United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building operations.  To that end, the inclusion  of Child Protection Advisers in peace missions was a promising new development, as was the effort to strengthen the expertise available to such missions in those areas of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

While it had been encouraging that an increasing number of States, United Nations agencies and regional and non-governmental organizations were making use of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to strengthen the legal framework for their protection, combatants mixing with refugees and internally displaced persons posed a serious threat to the security of civilians in armed conflict.  The Union, therefore, supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that governments make use of the aide-memoire adopted by the Council on 15 March 2002, as well as the agenda for protection outlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in situations where combatants and civilians were intermingled.

Helping civilians in armed conflict was an essential part of United Nations humanitarian efforts, she continued.  It could, however, cost humanitarian workers their lives.  She recalled the death of Iain Hook, a United Nations worker shot two weeks ago while trying to evacuate civilians and other United Nations staff from a United Nations compound in the Jenin refugee camp.  That “deeply worrying” incident was not only a tragedy for Mr. Hook’s family, but also drew the international community’s attention once again to the urgent need to ensure security and protection of aid workers and humanitarian personnel at all times.  Only then could full access to civilians in conflict be guaranteed.  With that in mind, she appealed to all States to become party to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that information on the relevant activities at United Nations Headquarters should be widely disseminated to all regions of the world.  At the same time, the view of partners from the wider international community should be reflected in the work undertaken at Headquarters.  Through such interactions, the entire United Nations family, as well as all other partners, would be able to develop more practical and effective ways to protect civilians in armed conflict.  In that regard, his Government welcomed the relevant workshops held in South Africa, as well as Japan, and looked forward to additional seminars currently being considered for other regions.

Japan was also of the view that all Member States should be fully briefed  on the work undertaken by the Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict -- including the aide-memoire -– so that States might have the opportunity to express their views before the Council’s deliberations led to any new initiatives.  To that end, Japan welcomed the initiative of Norway and OCHA to set up a support group on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which could serve as a forum for exchange of information and views among interested parties.  It was important to ensure that the deliberations on the issue be mainstreamed into the Council’s work, particularly when addressing peace and security situations in specific countries or regions.

He said the Council needed a credible road map that could translate the recommendations of the Secretary-General into practical measures applicable on the ground.  Japan welcomed the provisional guidelines contained in the Secretary-General’s report as an initial step in the right direction.  Japan also welcomed the coordination among the relevant departments of the Secretariat, as well as other organs of the United Nations, on the issue.  That coordination should be constantly reviewed and strengthened.  By example, he noted that the application of various points of the aide-memoire to each peacekeeping mission required closer, more detailed and constant coordination between DPKO and OCHA.

SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said that the three areas in the Secretary-General's report -- access to vulnerable populations; separation of civilians and armed elements; and the rule of law, justice, and reconciliation -- deserved active consideration by the Council.  There was a growing tendency to include a civilian protection element in peace agreements between warring parties and the mandates of the relevant United Nations missions.  The cases of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were relevant examples.  In addition, strengthening the international legal regime for the protection of civilians offered another source of optimism. 

He said that the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court last July and the work of the Council regarding ad hoc tribunals served as a deterrent to potential perpetrators committing acts of inhumanity against civilians.  Such legal instruments explicitly countered the culture of impunity.  Also welcome had been recent regional developments, such as OCHA's recent initiative to hold a series of six regional workshops on civilian protection.  Final success in the field, however, hinged on the willingness and ability of the parties directly involved in a conflict to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law and to rebuild their nations, including the judicial institutions.

Among the current challenges were gender-based violence, the commercial exploitation of resources, and the global threat of terrorism, he said.  Of serious concern were the cases of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by United Nations personnel.  All preventive and disciplinary measures, including advance and in-mission training and the establishment of an adequate monitoring and reporting system, should be implemented.  Regarding rivalries over the control of natural resources, United Nations efforts would be further strengthened when combined and coordinated with existing voluntary mechanisms, such as the Kimberley Process on conflict diamonds.  Further, the international community must sustain every effort to send a clear message against any involvement in global terrorism, and Member States should take concrete measures towards that goal.

PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said that the Secretary-General’s report acknowledged that during the past decade, civilian populations had not only become the main victims of war, but were also frequently and deliberately targeted by parties to violent conflict.  That unacceptable development, which had been exacerbated by the upsurge in terrorist activity, was counter to the fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.  Switzerland resolutely condemned terrorism and terrorist violence, but would also emphasize that the struggle against terrorism must be conducted in full respect for international humanitarian law.  Respect for such laws, international justice and the rule of law were the critical factors for strengthening the protection of civilians.

In that regard, Switzerland welcomed the entry into force last July of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, and further would invite all those States that had not done so to ratify the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions as soon as possible.  He added that the reports before the Council also recognized that appropriate attention should be given to the specific needs of vulnerable groups.  Switzerland welcomed the adoption of the agenda for protection at the last Executive Committee meeting of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and would note that implementation of that initiative without delay would be a positive development on the ground for the protection of vulnerable groups, particularly refugees.  The Secretary-General’s report also underlined the urgency of ensuring the security of humanitarian personnel, as well as access to vulnerable groups.

Here, he paid tribute to the untiring commitment and dedication of humanitarian workers in the field who carried out their work under precarious conditions.  Those conditions were indeed cause for concern, as many aid workers had been taken hostage or attacked, despite the impartial character of their jobs.  Such acts or threats often rendered humanitarian access to victims impossible.  Switzerland would reaffirm that safe, swift and unimpeded access to vulnerable populations was a basic condition for strengthening civilian protection.  He added that armed groups, as well as governments, must ensure access to vulnerable people in compliance with international humanitarian law.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada), associating himself with Austria’s statement to be delivered on behalf of the Human Security Network, said he endorsed the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report.  At its best, the Council had been a powerful vehicle of collective action to protect people, for example, in Timor-Leste.  At its worst, the Council had seemed an indifferent instrument of abdication, turning a blind eye to the most vulnerable at their time of greatest need.  The Council needed to revisit its own performance at regular intervals.

He said encouraging advances had been made on the difficult issue of separating armed elements from refugee populations.  Valuable strides had also been made in upholding the rule of law and ensuring accountability for those who committed international crimes against civilians.  To support law, justice and international peace and security, the Council needed to support the International Criminal Court.  The Court had extensive safeguards preventing politically motivated prosecutions, and explicitly recognized the primary jurisdiction of troop-sending States.  He hoped that the entirely unnecessary and counter-productive message sent by the Council’s resolution 1422 (2002) would not be repeated when the resolution came up for discussion next year.

A concerted international response to terrorism must not be allowed to weaken the very legal and institutional mechanisms that shielded civilians from the effects of conflict.  The resolution “Protecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism”, adopted by the Third Committee, underlined the crucial responsibility of the State to fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law when taking counter-terrorism measures.  He said the illicit exploitation of natural resources continued to have a destructive impact on the security of civilian populations.  More potent enforcement was required to target those who were repeatedly identified as “sanctions busters”.  Civilian populations, in particular women and girls, must not be put at further risk by those whose job it was to provide protection and assistance.  In that regard, he said, he called on the Council to take up the Secretary-General’s proposal to insert language in relevant texts requiring follow-up to allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation.

He said protecting its citizens was the most fundamental obligation of a State.  However, there was a growing consensus that when States were unable or unwilling to protect their citizens, the international community must become engaged.  While few beyond the Council had the authority to compel Member States to act in support of civilian needs in situations of conflict, action and advocacy were not the duty of the Council alone.  The General Assembly, regional organizations, United Nations agencies, NGOs, the private sector and individual countries must all be proactive in protecting the vulnerable.

JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said armed conflicts led to death and the displacement of civilians, with consequences that impeded development, created obstacles for reconciliation and both caused and fuelled conflicts.  At the same time, those adverse humanitarian consequences were themselves a threat to international peace and security. The upsurge in global terrorism was a new threat to civilian populations and could increase the scale of suffering considerably, as well as affecting the efforts of the international community to protect civilians, and in particular to separate the civilian population from combatants.

He reaffirmed his country’s position that the Charter of the United Nations was a higher norm that governed the conduct of States in the international arena and supported the strengthening of multilateralism to confront the crises that threatened international peace and security.  The Council must maintain an active role in the prevention of armed conflicts, and solutions adopted by the Council should be decided upon by consensus, through transparent procedures and with due participation of all its members.  The notions of peace and security transcended the State because they were worth very little if they did not also take into account the conditions of security and dignity of the individuals that lived within the State.  He supported the ideas and objectives expressed by the representative of Austria in his capacity as Chairman of the interregional group of countries known as the Human Security Network.

His country favoured restricting recourse to sanctions, the use of which should be reserved for situations in which they were strictly necessary and not target civilians.  The social dimensions of crises should also be taken into consideration by the Council, as it had a role to play in addressing the social crises that had the potential to affect international peace and security.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the Council would have his country’s support in elaborating a policy framework, and an agenda for action, for the protection of civilians that was more than an ensemble of palliatives but also addressed the range of consequences and causes of conflicts.

He said that an examination of the many failures of civilian protection, and the ultimate success in Sierra Leone, demonstrated the need for the Council’s determination, adequacy of peacekeeping mandates and physical involvement of major Powers or a directly concerned permanent member of the Council.  In situations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations involvement should be strong and its responsibility should not be constrained by lack of troops or budgetary considerations. 

On the issue of terrorism, he said that unresolved conflicts and the non-completion of peace-building efforts had proved extremely dangerous.  Describing the situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East in those terms, he said that, in addition, Palestinians had long been denied the protection of international humanitarian law, which must be applied universally.  In all those efforts, and in stemming the illegal exploitation of resources during conflicts, there needed to be political commitment from the entire international community.

OUCH BORITH (Cambodia) said he agreed with the Secretary-General who had called for the establishment of a culture of protection in his 2001 report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  In such a culture, governments and armed groups would respect the recognized rules of international humanitarian law, while Member States and international organizations would display the necessary commitment, to ensure decisive and rapid action in the face of crisis.  The multidisciplinary nature of the problem required an inter-agency approach.

He said the rule of law must be applied fairly and universally, to all countries, large or small.  Conflicting political interests must not be accorded higher priority than providing justice and reconciliation for the people.  In light of its bitter experience, his country had been one of the first countries in Asia to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Regarding the issue of humanitarian access, he said the protection of civilians was, first and foremost, the responsibility of the sovereign governments concerned. The issue of humanitarian access should not supersede the principle of national sovereignty.

Regarding the separation of combatants from civilians, he reminded the Council of the experience of his country.  After being ousted from Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge "hunkered down" in border refugee camps taking with them large numbers of civilians under their “protection”.  He emphasized that if the international community were not in agreement on the solution of a certain problem, it was difficult to tackle such an important issue.  He said it was important to put the principles of the Secretary-General's aide memoire into practice.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking in his country’s capacity as Chair of the Human Security Network, said the issue on the Council’s agenda today was very much at the heart of the Network’s efforts to ensure the security and rights of the individual.  The Network’s aim was to take concrete action to make the world a place where people lived in security and dignity, free from fear and want, and with equal opportunities to develop their human potential.  Those efforts reflected what the Secretary-General had stressed as the United Nations “humanitarian imperative”, the very essence of the Organization’s work.

He said that armed conflicts still affected millions of civilians around the world, depriving them of basic necessities and leaving them vulnerable to violations of their rights, separation from their families, displacement and exploitation.  Further, in a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, civilians were frequently and alarmingly being targeted during warfare.  Too often, the principal victims of armed conflict were women and children, the very people on whose shoulders the future of all societies rested.  The protection of civilians was not peripheral but central to the Council’s mandate for ensuring international peace and security.

He said that achieving a sustainable peace depended on the establishment of an effective and fair administration of justice, of institutions ensuring accountability for past atrocities, as well as credible truth and reconciliation mechanisms.  The Network agreed with the Secretary-General that education -- particularly human rights education -- provided a window of opportunity for building tolerance and social justice in communities, both during and after conflict.  The Network was currently in the process of elaborating a Declaration of Principles on Human Rights Education, as well as producing a manual on the subject, which could be adapted to different regional situations.

The Network welcomed the latest reports of the Secretary-General aimed at identifying practical strategies for promoting a “culture of protection”, and urged the Council to sustain the momentum behind that agenda.  The primary responsibility for the protection of civilians in armed conflict rested with governments, he continued.  At the same time, non-State actors could have a direct responsibility in such situations to ensure that the basic needs of civilian populations were met.  An essential element of that responsibility was for all parties to a conflict to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to vulnerable populations.  Reports before the Council had shown, however, that very few non-State actors recognized that responsibility.

The Network, therefore, believed it was of paramount importance to develop measures to raise the awareness of all parties to conflict, including non-State actors, of their responsibilities and of relevant provisions under international humanitarian, human rights, refugee and criminal law.  He urged the Council to encourage States to put the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement into practice, as well as to find durable solutions for internally displaced persons, since wherever there was conflict, in all likelihood there was displacement too.

He said the widespread use of small arms, light weapons and anti-personnel landmines had a significant impact on the scope of violence affecting civilians in armed conflict.  He added that last week the Network had commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Ottawa Convention, and would today call for the universal ratification of that important treaty.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict was a basic responsibility of the United Nations.  He agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General in that regard and his highlighting of new challenges.  Territorial integrity of States and their responsibilities for the protection of civilians within their borders should be remembered.

The disregard of international humanitarian law was responsible for much harm that had occurred to civilians during conflict, he said.  Despite the recognition of the importance of that challenge, the international community was still not taking up its responsibilities.  A primary example was the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, where the suffering was increasing due to the occupying Power’s impeding of humanitarian aid, as well as its other practices, which Egypt fully condemned, particularly since the right to resist such occupation was recognized.

He said Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories should thus get more attention in regard to the matter at hand, as should the situation of vulnerable populations such as women and children, during armed conflict

AARON JACOB (Israel) said the focus in the Secretary-General’s report on sexual exploitation of women and girls in situations of armed conflict arose out of an increased awareness of the disparate effects of conflict on men and women. The increased participation of women in decision-making at the highest levels would serve to mitigate some of those disproportionate effects of armed conflict on women.  The focus on commercial exploitation came from the recognition that the illegal exploitation of natural resources served to fuel conflicts that might otherwise have petered out.  His country participated in control regimes intended to stem the illicit revenue generated by the illegal export of natural resources.

He said terrorism posed unique challenges to efforts to protect civilians from the ravages of conflict, as it blurred the fundamental distinction between civilians and combatants, not only in the objects they targeted, but also in their non-combat operations. They routinely situated themselves in the midst of civilian areas for the express purpose of defending themselves against possible preventive action.  Restoring respect for the distinction between combatants and civilians was critical to efforts to fight international terrorism and to protect civilians from its deadly effects.

He said his country recognized the need to provide humanitarian assistance in areas of conflict, but the Secretary-General’s report had also recognized that humanitarian workers and the access routes they used could be employed in a manner that posed a threat to other civilian populations.  It was imperative that measures be taken to ensure that humanitarian workers were empowered to perform their functions, but were also protected from exploitation by any local actors whose objectives and tactics were the very antithesis of those of humanitarian personnel.

All States must endeavour to strike a proper balance between their obligations to fight terrorism and their responsibilities under international humanitarian law.  That process would be greatly advanced if the international community placed primary responsibility for the harm caused to civilians on the shoulders of those who had deliberately obscured the distinction between civilian and combatant.  Failure to hold accountable those armed groups who abused the protected status of civilians would only encourage terrorist groups to increase their reliance on that reprehensible tactic.  Ways must be explored to isolate terrorists from the civilian populations they endangered.  Suicide terrorists had shown utter disregard for any civilian life and posed a unique challenge to the mechanisms of prevention and deterrence under international humanitarian law, he said.

MOCHAMAD HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said he shared the Secretary-General’s view that, in a post-conflict scenario, the restoration of the rule of law was fundamental to a country’s capacity to emerge into a sustainable peace, with the assured protection of civilians.  In that regard, he said, balancing justice and accountability with the needs of stability and progress was important.  Every conflict had its own dynamics and required a unique response; much could be learned from successful conflict settlements such as Sierra Leone, Angola and Afghanistan.

While supporting the practical measures suggested by the Secretary-General in regard to new challenges in the protection of civilians, he added that Member States should propose additional approaches at national, regional and multilateral levels for a “massive wave of response” to those challenges.  He cited, in that light, Indonesia’s work on an anti-terrorism bill.  Finally, he noted that the issue under discussion was related to others such as those involving women and children, small arms and terrorism.  He hoped that coordination of those issues would help the multilateral system overcome the problems involved.

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste) said the experience of his own, young country exemplified the need to more effectively protect civilians in conflict,  as well as in times of transition.  Cessation of hostilities, fragile peace agreements and emerging democratic governmental structures required the sustained focus of the international community. 

Training local government and law-enforcement officials in respect for human rights and the rule of law, providing the secure environment for democratic institutions, disarming militias and reintegrating displaced people were some of the challenges that must be met during the transitional period, he said.

The Secretary-General’s report, he said, indicated that it was the primary responsibility of the State to protect its people.  In that context, Timor-Leste had today, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, ratified a number of core human rights instruments and optional protocols.  In addition, to face the challenges created by the unfortunate events of last week, the Government had established a commission of inquiry with the participation of civil society.  He hoped that international expertise would be available for such efforts at disseminating human rights.

ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said that, over the last three years, sustained progress had been made on the issue of protection of civilians.  Now, attention had to focus on operative and systematic action.  States had the primary responsibility in protection of civilians and also had the primary responsibility in respecting and ensuring respect for humanitarian law in all circumstances and with respect to all people under their jurisdiction.  That was not in conflict with the sovereignty of the State, but rather a natural expression of that sovereignty.  Another problem was assistance to needy populations, which was often hampered.  A central factor in that was lack of contact with non-State parties and such contact should be established by humanitarian agents.  That implied that the humanitarian agent was neutral.

The security of humanitarian workers was also important, he said.  They were often direct targets of attacks and undermined efforts of the Organization.  Peace missions must continue to incorporate measures to protect personnel.  Legal protection was also necessary.  Separation between civilians and combatants was a complex topic.  It was essential to separate and disarm combatants, moving refugee camps away from borders.  States that welcomed a large number of refugees must be helped.

Natural reconciliation based on justice was another important aspect.  There must be no impunity.  In the last decade, there had been different judicial formulas such as tribunals.  The International Criminal Court constituted a powerful tool to strengthen human rights.  National reconciliation could also be expressed through truth commissions.  The international jurisdictions, however, referred only to the most serious crimes.  Local tribunals must also be strengthened in order to establish the rule of law.  Reconciliation was impossible where there was a feeling of impunity.  He said he welcomed the consideration now being given to the effects of terrorism on civilian populations.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that in current conflicts, particularly internal ones in Africa, civilians were especially vulnerable.  Protecting civilians was a sacred duty of the parties, and a legal duty according to international humanitarian law.  There were now many actors assisting the application of such law.  Humanitarian intervention was also an option that was supported in certain instances by the Secretary-General, whom he quoted to that effect.  A reasonable approach, in respect of national sovereignty, must be applied, and the Security Council must endorse all such actions.

States, he said, had a responsibility to assist with the response to and punishment of violations of international law.  Those responsible for atrocities in Côte d’Ivoire should now know they also must answer to the International Criminal Court and other international mechanisms.  It was high time that the international community took its responsibility for better protection of civilians in that country.

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the Secretary-General's report contained direct references to the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories.  He hoped future reports would reflect in a more accurate fashion that dimension.  There was an international consensus on the existence of a humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian populations arising from the policies of Israel, the occupying Power.  Those policies led directly to injury and death of civilians, and widespread destruction of homes, enterprises, agricultural crops and physical infrastructure.

He said the policies that related to access were another problem.  Those policies included extended curfews and isolation of population centres.  The Palestinian community was being destroyed.  Those actions all involved serious violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the first Additional Protocol thereto.  The international community was duty bound to take measures, including bringing war criminals to justice.

He said Israel had a duty to take measures to prevent aggression against its citizens in Israel proper.  But Israel was present as an occupying Power in Palestine, and colonizing the Palestinian territories through settlements.  Those "colonials" were not civilians:  their presence constituted the core of a war crime committed by the forces of the occupying Power.  Israel must be forced to end its current crimes.  The Council had failed over many years to provide protection for the Palestinian people.

Mr. OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, thanked speakers for their encouraging suggestions.  He agreed that practical action was needed; speakers had demonstrated a resolve for policy to be implemented.  He expressed his hope that the Council’s clear statement of its commitment to the protection of civilians would have a positive effect on the problem.  He reiterated his commitment to work with the Council and all other actors on the matter.

Compliance and understanding of humanitarian law had been stressed, he said, and he would continue to prioritize that area in his work.  He would also make sure that the road map was further developed; the support group led by Norway would certainly help that effort.  At his next presentation before the Council, it would be reintroduced in a completed form.  An updated aide-memoire would also reflect the growing importance of the subject.

Also stressed in the discussion was further coordination between United Nations agencies, and he said he hoped that action towards that end would become more evident in future presentations.  He welcomed regional workshops in that effort, as well.

In answer to a question from the representative of France, he said the road map did not reflect the issue of terrorism, and should be updated in that regard. There was a need to formulate clear guidelines on that matter.  The issue should also be addressed by the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Council.

Responding to a question from the representative of the United Kingdom on whether structured framework agreements on humanitarian access, such as used in the Sudan and Somalia, would provide a stronger basis for protection of civilians in armed conflict elsewhere, he said attempts towards that end had been made in Burundi, but some non-State actors in the conflict had not agreed to it. Humanitarian access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be strengthened by a shared framework agreement among all parties.  Côte d’Ivoire would also benefit from such a framework agreement.

He said the importance of the rule of law had been emphasized by the Task Force on the Rule of Law of the Secretary-General’s Executive Committee on Peacekeeping, in which various agencies –- Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs -- cooperated.  The Task Force would consider lessons learned from, among others, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and East Timor.

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For information media. Not an official record.