RECENT KILLINGS OF HUMANITARIAN WORKERS DEMONSTRATE CHANGING LANDSCAPE FOR UN OPERATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD BY HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS HEAD
RECENT KILLINGS OF HUMANITARIAN WORKERS DEMONSTRATE CHANGING LANDSCAPE FOR UN OPERATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD BY HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS HEAD
4877th Meeting (AM & PM)
RECENT KILLINGS OF HUMANITARIAN WORKERS DEMONSTRATE CHANGING LANDSCAPE
FOR UN OPERATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD BY HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS HEAD
Briefs on Challenges Faced in Protecting Civilians in Conflict Areas;
Speakers Welcome Updated Aide-Memoire on Objectives, 10 ‘Action Points’
The landscape in which the United Nations was operating was changing, as shown by the fact that in recent months humanitarian workers from the United Nations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent and non-governmental organizations had been assassinated, Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council today, as it considered protection of civilians in armed conflict in an open debate.
Briefing the Council, he said those deliberate attacks against humanitarian personnel dramatically reduced access to civilians in armed conflict and the humanitarian space required to render support. The first challenge to be addressed, in considering the issue, was, therefore, access and protection. “Vulnerable communities have the right to receive humanitarian assistance, as we have the right and the obligation to provide it”, he said.
Other challenges to be addressed included security of humanitarian workers; the special protection needs of children affected by conflict; disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement; sexual violence in armed conflict; justice and reconciliation; special protection and assistance needs of the displaced; and sexual exploitation of civilians in conflict by United Nations personnel, he continued.
He presented an updated version of the Aide-Memoire on protection of civilians in armed conflict, the original of which had been adopted by the Council in March 2002 [see Press Release SC/7329 of 15 March 2002], as well as the “road map”, which Council members had called for as a tool to clarify responsibilities, enhance cooperation, facilitate implementation and further strengthen coordination within the United Nations system.
He further outlined 10 action points that built on areas in the road map that enjoyed consensus support of the Council, which included, apart from challenges mentioned before, the need to address the impact of small arms and light weapons on the protection of civilians, and to develop further measures to promote the responsibility of armed groups and non-State actors to protect civilians and to respect international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
Echoing concerns raised by Mr. Egeland, speakers in the ensuing debate welcomed the updated Aide-Memoire and hoped it would be reflected in a presidential statement in order to help establish a “culture of protection”. France’s representative suggested it could be adopted in the format of a resolution. Council members also expressed their support for the road map and looked forward to a report to be issued by the Secretary-General next year which would incorporate the 10-point action platform. The updated Aide-Memoire and road map should serve as a guide for drafting future Council resolution.
Many speakers stressed that the prime responsibility to protect civilians rested with the parties to the conflict, who should strictly comply with international humanitarian law. Other speakers called for increased coordination between the Council and the Economic and Social Council, as well as with other bodies of the United Nations, governments, civil society, the private sector and international financial institutions. In calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators of crimes against civilians, many speakers emphasized that the International Criminal Court could be helpful in that regard. Ukraine’s representative stressed that, as journalists were also often targeted in armed conflict, journalists should also be included in the protection efforts.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the efficacy of humanitarian work depended largely on the ability of the international community to make progress in the political sphere. He said it would be wrong to talk about approaches to resolving the civilian protection issue if those were not put in the context of new and emerging threats and challenges, including acts of terrorism, such as that which took place today in Moscow.
China’s representative, echoing other speakers, said preventing conflict was the most effective way to protect civilians. The Council should, therefore, take measures to strengthen preventive diplomacy. The protection of civilians in armed conflict was a multidisciplinary task which required a comprehensive strategy. Coordination within the United Nations system should, therefore, be strengthened.
The representative of Japan drew attention to the fact that it was not sufficient to protect civilians from physical harm; their human dignity must also be protected. Dignity could not be recovered if vulnerable civilians were left in extremely poor conditions. They needed to engage in their livelihoods free from fear of extreme poverty or deadly disease.
Pakistan’s representative said protection of civilians was more difficult when non-State actors were involved in conflicts and greater effort was needed to secure from the contending forces a commitment to humanitarian law principles. The rules of engagement should also be improved, particularly involving the use of civilians as shields, the targeting of civilian structures, and the use of force in populated areas.
The representatives of United Kingdom, Chile, Syria, Spain, Guinea, United States, Angola, Mexico, Cameroon, Germany and Bulgaria also spoke. Non-Council members also addressed the Council, including representatives of Italy (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Switzerland, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Colombia, Republic of Korea, Norway, Azerbaijan and Canada.
The meeting started at 10:15 a.m. and was suspended at 1:20 p.m. The meeting was resumed at 3:10 p.m. and adjourned at 4:32 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”, one of the thematic issues on its agenda.
A presidential statement of 15 March 2002 identified 13 core objectives for protecting civilians in conflict situations: access to vulnerable populations; separation of civilians and armed elements; justice and reconciliation; security, law and order; disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation; small arms and mine action; training of security and peacekeeping forces; effects on women; effects on children; safety and security of humanitarian and associated personnel; media and information; natural resources and armed conflict; and the humanitarian impact of sanctions.
Following an open debate on the issue on 10 December 2002, in a presidential statement of 20 December, the Council condemned strongly all attacks and acts of violence directed against civilians or other protected persons under international law and international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict. The Council emphasized the responsibilities of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of humanitarian law. It also recognized the needs of civilians under foreign occupation and stressed in that regard the responsibilities of the occupying Power.
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the Council was the United Nations’ principal mechanism for the promotion of peace and security around the globe. The humanitarian community administered to victims in the absence of peace and security. The landscape in which the United Nations was operating was changing, as in recent months humanitarians from the United Nations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent and non-governmental organizations had been assassinated. Those deliberate attacks against humanitarian personnel dramatically reduced access to civilians in armed conflict and the humanitarian space required to render support. “If we fail to keep abreast of this changing environment, we will end up with even greater challenges to international peace and security”, he said.
In explaining what had to be done in the current complex environment for humanitarian action, he said, first, access and protection had to be addressed. There were over 20 countries where access to civilian populations in need was in some way restricted. One had to work with governments and, where necessary, with armed groups to systematically address restrictions on access. “Vulnerable communities have the right to receive humanitarian assistance, as we have the right and the obligation to provide it”, he said, describing examples of the consequences of the absence of humanitarian access in Uganda and the occupied Palestinian territory. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was an example of what the return of a measure of security could mean for restoring humanitarian access, he said.
He said the second major challenge was the security of humanitarian workers. He encouraged the Council to continue to stress to all parties to an armed conflict their obligation to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and to ensure that those responsible for attacks were brought to justice without delay.
The special protection needs of children affected by conflict were a third challenge, he continued. In today’s conflict, children were increasingly targeted, as witnessed in Uganda. Recruitment and use of child soldiers was a problem mirrored in many conflicts around the world today. It was incumbent on all to do more to respond to the tragedy of children being recruited as child soldiers, suffering violent sexual attacks, or bearing the responsibility for brothers and sisters because they had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
The fourth challenge was disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and resettlement. It must be addressed on a regional basis and neighbouring States should recognize their responsibilities to assist. Sexual violence in armed conflict was a fifth challenge. Rape and other forms of sexual violence continued to be used as brutally devastating weapons of war. The attention of the Council to those issues was critical, he said, and asked the Council to maintain a strong focus on sexual violence in future missions to areas of conflict. Given cultural sensitivities, the most effective response was to work with and support local initiatives to assist victims. The special needs created by the increase in female-headed households also needed to be addressed.
The scourge of sexual violence could not be stopped without a functioning justice system, he continued. Justice and reconciliation was, therefore, a sixth challenge. He asked the Council to continue to address the issue of impunity. It was critical that political and military leaders in areas of conflict stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and make clear the human rights violations would not be tolerated. Perpetrators must be brought to justice, and potential perpetrators must be deterred. He welcomed the statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that his office would follow the situation in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo, including allegations of widespread sexual violence.
The special protection and assistance needs of the displaced were a seventh challenge. The eighth and final challenge related to charges of sexual exploitation of civilians in conflict by United Nations personnel. The Secretary-General’s bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse had been promulgated last month. The United Nations system was establishing a coherent system for the bulletin’s implementation at the field level. The need for vigilance and follow-through should not be overlooked, he said, and he hoped troop-contributing countries would want to play their part.
He said he would present two documents for consideration. The first was an updated version of the Aide-Memoire on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the original of which had been adopted in March 2002 [see Press Release SC/7329 of 15 March 2002]. The Aide-Memoire was a tool used in the field that provided a systematic basis for analysis and reporting during humanitarian crises. It had been used effectively as a protection matrix in Iraq and Burundi.
The second document was the “road map”, which Council members had called for as a tool to clarify responsibilities, enhance cooperation, facilitate implementation and further strengthen coordination within the United Nations system. The road map focused primarily on the role of the United Nations system. To truly reflect the needs of civilians in a constantly changing humanitarian environment, the instrument would need to be updated and developed.
He said, the United Nations system now had the tools, the early warning capacity, the technical expertise and the logistical capacity to provide more timely and targeted humanitarian assistance than before. Lacking, however, was the ability to have humanitarian principles become a reality for political, military and economic leaders around the world. The humanitarian and human rights workers needed the Council’s help.
He then presented 10 action points that built on areas in the road map that enjoyed the consensus support of the Council, which included: improve humanitarian access; improve security of humanitarian personnel; ensure special protection of children; ensure special protection of women; combat impunity; address “forgotten emergencies”; better respond to security needs of refugees; address shortcomings in disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation; address the impact of small arms and light weapons on the protection of civilians; and develop further measures to promote the responsibility of armed groups and non-State actors to protect civilians and to respect international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) said her country had expressed its commitment to protecting civilians in armed conflict, both through relevant legal reforms in Spanish law, as well as through its work and efforts to ensure that such protection was provided within the framework of international law. The Spanish Constitution explicitly stated that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties ratified by Spain would be the reference point for interpreting norms relevant to fundamental rights and freedoms. Internal legislation for crimes committed against civilians in armed conflicts had been codified in the penal code. Specific norms also existed for military personnel. In addition to legal norms, measures should be taken to ensure the development of the so-called “culture of protection”.
She expressed firm support for the Aide-Memoire, as well as its endorsement by the Council. She also appreciated the 10-point platform just introduced by the Under-Secretary-General. Of priority importance was improving humanitarian access to civilians in need. She urged all parties to conflicts to ensure such unhampered access. Particular importance should be placed on ensuring that peacekeeping mandates included the objective that United Nations forces facilitate access of humanitarian organizations. Another priority was the protection of children. She supported the Council’s work in that regard and appealed for cooperation to ensure the protection of children in compliance with the several relevant resolutions. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should also target children.
Concerning violence again women in armed conflicts, she said her country had firmly supported gender-training programmes for humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel. The situation also called for an increase in gender advisers in peacekeeping operations, as well as a clear change in attitudes and behaviours, which underscored the important role played by women in conflict resolution and reconciliation. Also, all existing legal resources should be used to put an end to impunity, including the International Criminal Court.
SERGEY KAREV (Russian Federation) called for respect for international law, which was intended to protect civilians embroiled in conflicts. It should also be emphasized that during hostilities it was most often innocent children, women and the elderly who suffered, as well as humanitarian personnel. The latter was a crucial component, particularly as an element of a comprehensive strategy of crisis prevention, and during post-conflict phases. The efficacy of humanitarian work, however, depended largely on the ability of the international community to make progress in the political sphere. The evolution of international humanitarian law showed that it was continuing to adapt to contemporary conditions. A recent example had been the creation of the International Criminal Court, whose activities should complement legislative work at the national level.
He said it would be wrong to talk about approaches to resolving the civilian protection issue if those were not put in the context of new and emerging threats and challenges, including acts of terrorism, such as that which took place today in Moscow. An important role in protecting civilians should also be played by mechanisms of early warning and conflict prevention. The Council should be more quickly informed about situations that could threaten international peace and security, including the deliberate refusal to grant unimpeded access to humanitarian personnel. In that regard, the Council should play a leading role, taking full account of the particular nature of the conflict situations and taking concrete measures to protect civilians.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the statement to be made by Italy on behalf of the European Union, said the recent attacks on the United Nations demonstrated an increasingly fragile environment to which humanitarian workers were exposed. He was concerned about the lack of access and urged all parties to armed conflict to comply with international obligations to allow safe and unimpeded access to all humanitarian personnel. The international community as a whole must better address humanitarian crises where access was being denied.
He said protection of women and children in armed conflict must be better addressed. Situations where children were educated to regard a gun as a protection tool were deeply disturbing. He called for signing, ratifying and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child in that regard. In addressing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, national judicial systems were important.
He looked forward to working with the United Nations system on the proposed 10 action points. There were three interconnected themes to be addressed, he said: establishing a robust frameworks for application; building solid field-based information; and delivering outcomes from the first two elements through an effective United Nations system-wide response, through having the right people at the right place at the right time. He strongly supported the forthcoming Secretary-General assessment regarding children in armed conflict and hoped for detailed proposals. Individual Member States should make efforts to implement the Aide-Memoire and the road map. The Council must work better at mainstreaming protection issues in country-specific consideration.
HERALDO MUNOZ (Chile) said the various and serious violations taking place in armed conflict affected millions of civilians, in particular women, children and the elderly. In Afghanistan, nine children had died in a bombing, which was a deplorable act that had to be investigated. The development of a plan of action for protection of civilians in armed conflict would be a cornerstone for implementing an international policy establishing the “culture of protection”, as called for by the Secretary-General in 2001. A plan for dissemination was a step forward. The updated Aide-Memoire and road map should serve as a guide for adoption of future resolutions. The situation of displaced civilians deserved special attention, as did the forced recruitment of children.
Close cooperation with international and regional organizations was important to establish a network with the aim to prevent conflicts, he said. The United Nations had lost its innocence this year. Never before had United Nations staff been a military target and concrete actions must be taken. Sanctions should be used in specific areas, targeted at those responsible and not at the civilian population. The social dimension also had to be addressed. The Council had a role to play in that regard, given the social threats to international peace and security. He suggested that the Council endorse the Aide-Memoire through a Presidential Statement.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the most import statement in the briefing had been the elaboration of specific points, which were worthy of endorsement as an official document of the Council. He also associated himself with the Council President’s strong condemnation of the terrorist act that took place today in Moscow. The Council’s decision to keep the question of protection of civilians at the forefront of its agenda was proof of the great importance it attached to that matter. Civilians today were the targets in major conflicts. In the past decade, more than 2.5 million people lost their lives as a result of armed conflicts, and more than 30 million more had been displaced or uprooted.
He said that international humanitarian law had made it obligatory for warring parties to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Unfortunately, despite the fact that more than half a century had elapsed since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions and although most States had acceded to those instruments, there was still a wide gap between their provisions and implementation during armed conflict. Some States invoked certain situations as a pretext to continue practices that ran counter to international humanitarian law. There could be no acceptance of any pretext that permitted the killing or displacement of innocents. Instead, the causes of conflict should be treated and violent retaliation prevented.
The question of access was most important and required suitable security arrangements, he said. The Council must continue to impress on all parties to armed conflicts, both State and non-State actors, the need not to harass humanitarian relief workers. Attention should also be focused on the suffering of women and children in armed conflict, as well as the need for the inclusion of that aim in peacekeeping mandates. He also attached great importance to ending impunity and reminding neighbouring States to a conflict to shoulder their responsibilities. His region was the clearest example of civilian suffering. The actions of the occupation forces had killed some 3,000 Palestinians, mostly women, children and the elderly. That policy had also extended to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staff, resulting in the murder of six of its workers.
Further, by imposing restrictions, closures and curfews, the occupation forces had deepened the suffering of Palestinian civilians, in contravention of all international norms and treaties. The occupying Power had now widened its reach by building a racist, expansionist wall in defiance of United Nations resolutions. That would affect the lives of many thousands of Palestinians in some 65 nearby villages, including access to their land and water sources.
ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said today’s meeting attested to the Council’s desire to delve further into the item before it. The road map and Aide-Memoire, as well as regional and subregional programmes, served as a compendium and reference point for the Council, helping it to better understand the various challenges. Since the protection of civilians took place in complex and changing environments, those instruments must be constantly reviewed and updated. Accordingly, he appreciated the good work done by the Secretary-General, which had led to the submission of the revised Aide-Memoire. Particularly welcome had been the taking on board of new elements relating to women, child soldiers, refugees, internally displaced persons and persons in transit. Questions arising from the illegal exploitation of natural resources, as well as sexual exploitation, should also be more thoroughly considered.
He said that the link between terrorism and armed conflict was an urgent matter, deserving an in-depth study. The United Nations, together with its many partners and drawing on past experience, was applying several preventive and corrective measures to improve the situation of civilians in armed conflict. He said that access for, and protection of, United Nations and associated personnel should also be stressed. States and armed groups that were the primary benefactors of protection should shoulder their responsibilities to provide unconditional access to relief workers. In his region and elsewhere, all parties were duty-bound to recommit to enhancing peacekeeping efforts and to finding the right solution to protection issues.
JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) said safeguarding civilians was at the heart of the United Nations Charter and he wished the Council could protect all civilians from armed conflict. The Secretary-General and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had given some good suggestions for the way ahead. The updated Aide-Memoire and road map were useful in addressing the challenges. He supported the mentioned general principles, including separation of civilians from armed elements, as they were fundamental for protection of civilians. He also supported the special attention given to children in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.
He welcomed the road map and the revised Aide-Memoire and hoped they would serve as guidelines in devising Council mandates. He encouraged the United Nations system to continue dialogue with the Council on how the system could work better together and looked forward to a comprehensive plan of action to be developed by the Secretary-General.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said in recent years the United Nations and the Council had made progress in carrying out the work of the protection of civilians. The Aide-Memoire and road map were important documents of reference. The United Nations peacekeeping operations had paid great attention to the protection of civilians, and he commended the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
There still were serious challenges, however, he said. There were deliberate attacks on civilians. Refugees and internally displaced persons were living in deplorable situations. Attacks against humanitarian personnel had hindered their work. The prime responsibility to protect civilians was with the parties to the conflict, who should strictly comply with international humanitarian law. All actions in violations of international humanitarian law should be punished. Prevention of conflict was the most effective way to protect civilians, however, and the Council should take measures to strengthen preventive diplomacy. Protection of civilians in armed conflict was a multidisciplinary task which required a comprehensive strategy. Coordination within the United Nations should, therefore, be strengthened.
JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said that the Council’s meeting translated the deep concern of the international community over the current state of affairs and strengthened the resolve to protect the countless human beings caught in the web of conflict. Efforts, first and foremost, should be directed at conflict prevention. Preventive diplomacy was the most suitable way to resolve disputes before conflicts broke out. That entailed the necessary preparedness by the international community, political will and operational readiness. Several past conflicts could have been prevented, or, at least, action could have been taken in that regard. But, often, the inaction of the international community had helped things spin out of control.
He said that regional organizations were particularly well suited to work with the Council, as those could provide accurate assessments of crisis situations, engage in preventive diplomacy and take political decisions. They could also play a fundamental role in maintaining peace and stability, including in the fight against the illicit small arms traffic. Thus, their capacities should be enhanced, including through the provision of adequate resources. The road map and Aide-Memoire were important tools for addressing today’s momentous issue. By calling for a strengthened legal framework and for State and non-State actors to comply with their decisions, the road map was a concrete demonstration of respect for international humanitarian law.
He recalled that, in Angola in 1991, the United Nations’ ability to open humanitarian corridors had been “a decisive contribution” to dialogue and towards obtaining a ceasefire. He stressed the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, dealing with the effects of armed conflicts on women and children, mine action, justice and reconciliation as components to help heal the wounds of the past. Critical to the success of existing instruments was the link between exploitation of natural resources and armed conflict. He supported the 10-point action plan, as well as the Council’s endorsement of the Aide-Memoire. It was very important that the Council apply those tools and include, in peacekeeping operations, the mandates and resources to protect civilians.
CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said his country had participated actively in talks on the original Aide-Memoire and the updated version. Besides having the necessary instruments available to it, the Council must pursue the question of civilian protection in all of its deliberations and send a clear and firm message that parties must abide by the Geneva Conventions under all circumstances. Also, States must bring to justice those responsible for serious international law violations, particularly of international humanitarian law. Safe and unimpeded access must also be ensured for humanitarian personnel. The increase in the number of deliberate attacks against civilians was of particular concern. That constituted a war crime, since those attacks sought to deprive the most vulnerable of assistance necessary to their survival, and increased their suffering.
He recalled that his delegation had submitted resolution 1502 (2003). Now, it was the Council’s responsibility to ensure that adequate measures were taken to guarantee the safety and protection of humanitarian personnel and civilians, and alleviate their suffering. He reiterated his condemnation of all acts of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of the motive or who committed them, and whether in peace or conflict. At the current General Assembly session his delegation had introduced a resolution on the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in combating terrorism. Specific measures should be formulated to protect women and children, and the elderly. Unfortunately, and despite some efforts, exploitation and sexual aggression persisted. He also invited the Council in its consultations in January to reflect on ways of avoiding the use of child soldiers, and to promote a gender perspective in peacekeeping.
There could be no greater action to address civilian protection than to regulate the flow of small arms and light weapons, explosives, munitions and the use of proxies. It had become clear that the weapons used to attack civilians in armed conflicts were then diverted and reused in others.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said massacres of civilians during armed conflict were nothing new in the history of humanity. What was the horrible exception in the past, however, was today tending to become a normal occurrence, a structural component of contemporary conflict. The Council was aware of that phenomenon and trying to determine the consequences. The Aide-Memoire increasingly represented the common platform of the Council and the international community in confronting the new situation, and major progress had been made in the revised Aide-Memoire. Also, there was now international justice available through the International Criminal Court, and that institution could make contributions both to justice and to reconciliation.
He said the problems of protection of civilians in armed conflict were in constant flux, which offered new opportunities, new obligations and new sources of concern. There were new opportunities for close regional coordination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. New obligations were presented by Iraq. There was an obligation to provide humanitarian assistance, and the Coalition Provisional Authority had a special duty to act on their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions. New sources of concern included violence against women, the use of children in armed conflicts and increasing attacks against humanitarian personnel. The worsening situation required action from the Council.
He fully supported the 10-point platform presented today and suggested they could be adopted through a resolution. Full priority had to be given to the matter of information. Top priority had also to be given to the question of access to populations. There was a need to emphasize secure access, but also to enforce respect for humanitarian workers, including by armed or illegal groups that participated in armed conflict.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) welcomed the regular dialogue on the subject, as it was the best way to promote and develop a culture of protection of civilians. Apart from challenges already mentioned, he said it was worth mentioning other challenges, such as the commercial use of conflict, restricted access of humanitarian organizations and attacks against humanitarian personnel. Protection of civilians was the cornerstone of international humanitarian law in a changing environment. There was, however, a need to adapt to new ways of conflict. Further international involvement was needed to improve the security situation of civilians and humanitarian personnel.
He welcomed the progressive establishment of international norms that would reinforce the Geneva Conventions. That protection called for coordinated efforts, as well as close cooperation among the bodies of the United Nations systems, humanitarian organizations, parties to the conflict, civilian society and regional organizations. The greatest challenge, however, was not in developing new norms, but in implementing existing ones. He welcomed the updated Aide-Memoire and road map. Prevention of conflict, promotion of a culture of respect for human rights, and combating impunity deserved the greatest attention from the international community. He supported the advocacy approach to Member States through a series of regional workshops, and agreed with the 10-point platform of action.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) hoped today’s meeting would create a better comprehension of the complexity and gravity of the problem and a renewed determination of the international community to address it. The two important documents under discussion presented a blueprint and a strategy for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. Meanwhile, the Council, and the United Nations, could take several practical actions. First, they could adjust to the new nature of warfare and conflict. While humanitarian laws were devised mostly to regulate the conduct and discipline of organized armies, present-day conflicts were mostly asymmetrical in nature with strong organized forces confronting non-State and guerrilla forces.
He said that the protection of civilians was more difficult in those circumstances and a greater effort was needed to secure from the contending forces a commitment to adhere to the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, and other humanitarian law principles. The onus was on the organized forces, but the non-State parties should also be asked by the international community to respect those norms. Given the difficulty sometimes in distinguishing between civilians and combatants, minimum standards must be observed where suspected combatants were concerned. The rules of engagement should also be improved, particularly involving the use of civilians as shields, the targeting of civilian structures, and the use of force in populated areas. Asymmetrical or massive force against individual targets should also be examined, as there was a need for greater proportionality in the use of force.
Calling also for the examination of so-called “smart” weapons, he said that those, all too often, were not so smart. He also called for greater certainty of intelligence before applying force. There was also a greater need to resort to ceasefires and truces, even if those were temporary. He had been pleased at his Prime Minister’s proposal for a ceasefire along the line in Kashmir, which had been reciprocated and continued to hold. That would save hundreds of lives in the coming months. The international community must also deal more effectively with the consequences of conflict. Other practical steps to promote protection involved securing the agreement of all parties for access to conflict areas and civilian victims. The international community should also respond in a more targeted way to the widows and orphans of war. For example, it could consider the creation of an international fund or facility to help them.
Also, he continued, assistance in most cases for refugees and internally displaced persons was inadequate. The United Nations, therefore, should establish some criteria and publicize the location of those persons, as well as their numbers and assistance needs. The Council could create binding obligations on States through a resolution or resolution to provide assistance to all refugees and displaced persons in need. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should be required to periodically circulate statistics for that purpose. Regarding impunity, the redress of wrongs against civilians during conflicts must be punished, both as a deterrent against future violations and to create the basis for reconciliation and sustainable peace.
“No conflict should be a forgotten emergency”, he said. Resort to “naming and shaming” had been an effective instrument to securing good behaviour and protecting and promoting human rights. The United Nations should be authorized to publish annually a compendium of the estimates of civilians affected by armed conflicts, the nature of the violations against them and, if possible, those responsible for the violations. That could become an appendix to the annually updated Aide-Memoire. Also, conscious efforts should be made to ensure the protection of United Nations and associated personnel. Through the adoption of resolution 1502 (2003), the Council had taken a laudable step in that regard. Now, publicity campaigns should be launched in conflict situations to impress upon all parties that the United Nations and international personnel were impartial and their mission was to ease the pain of war and help promote peace with justice.
WOLFGANG TRAUTWEIN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the rules of international treaties aimed at the protection of civilians in war situations of the twentieth century no longer provided sufficient protection in the twenty-first century. New procedures had to be developed. The Council was the main actor when it came to determining which actions to take to secure civilians in war situations. No mandate for peace missions should be drafted without the protection of civilians in mind. Education was an important factor in gaining the widest possible support for a culture of peace, and that culture should be incorporated early in educational curricula.
He said governments needed to be motivated to make every effort to protect their civilians from combat. If governments were unable to do so, they must not impede those who legitimately helped in accordance with international law. Creation of safe havens and zones of temporary security were often essential when combat activities forced people from their homes. Combatants taking civilian populations hostage and denying humanitarian access must realize that they were acting against fundamental principles of humanity. Acts directed against humanitarian personnel must also be considered as being directed against the civilian population in need. Combatants who violated principles of humanitarian laws needed to know that their actions would come under judicial scrutiny, be it from national or regional tribunals or from the International Criminal Court.
Council President STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), speaking in his national capacity and associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said protection of civilians in armed conflict was one of the most important provisions of the United Nations Charter. One of the new problems, and a most disturbing one, faced nowadays was security of United Nations staff and staff of humanitarian organizations. After 19 August, in Baghdad, the United Nations had lost its innocence and had become a target of terrorist acts. Africa was the continent most affected by the problems, he noted.
His delegation was coordinating the work on a presidential statement that would allow the Council to endorse the updated Aide-Memoire. In that regard, he said it was important to insure consistency and synergy between the revised Aide-Memoire and the platform of recommendations. It was important for the Council to put its weight behind the actions of the Secretariat.
ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), on behalf of the European Union, said the Union deeply appreciated the Council’s commitment to have a regular dialogue on the protection of civilians. Indeed, the impact of armed conflict on civilians was a grave problem in many parts of the world, and especially in some African countries. In addition to the immediate human suffering, it was having long-term consequences for lasting peace, security and development. Awareness must be raised about the tragic repercussions of conflicts on civilian populations.
He said that the Union supported the United Nations’ increasing focus in recent years on the conditions of civilians affected by armed conflict and commended the approach adopted by the Council, the Secretary-General, and others. Issues related to civilian protection must remain at the top of the agenda. The Union, therefore, welcomed the proposed revised Aide-Memoire, to be endorsed by the Council and the updated road map. It also welcomed the inclusion of some new elements, such as the prevention and remedy of sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking of women and girls and the strengthened emphasis on internally displaced persons.
The Union also fully subscribed to the key issues identified by the United Nations and was committed to supporting those, he said. It called on all States and parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, as well as to respect the neutrality, independence and impartiality of humanitarian operations. It was concerned about the increased risks to United Nations and associated personnel on the ground and reiterated the great importance it attached to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel and to the expansion of the scope of the legal protection under that Convention.
Furthermore, perpetrators of international humanitarian and human rights law must be brought to justice, for which the primary responsibility lay with each State, he said. The Union, therefore, urged all States to ratify and implement all relevant international agreements. While increasing its own capability in crisis management, the Union was firmly committed to ensuring that protection, rights and assistance needs of civilians were fully addressed in all “EU-led” crisis-management operations. For its part, the Union was in the process of finalizing overarching guidelines to assist in ensuring that its policy in that area was fully consistent and coherent.
VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said progress had been made in recent years in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Aide-Memoire had become a practical tool that provided a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key civilian protection issues. He hoped the improved Aide-Memoire would further facilitate full realization of the United Nations’ potential and welcomed the road map. In humanitarian access to vulnerable populations, cooperation between the Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) must be strengthened. The ECOSOC’s cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector provided great potential for mobilizing key players. He also called for coordinated action between the Council, the General Assembly, the Secretariat and other United Nations bodies, as well as regional organizations and international financial institutions.
He said individuals should be protected from crimes against humanity. In that regard, a fair chance must be given to the International Criminal Court to reach its potential in countering the impunity of persons responsible for committing such crimes. Quick restoration of security and law and order in situations of armed conflict was of the foremost concern. Safeguarding the security of humanitarian personnel remained a key challenge to the United Nations. Drawing attention to another concern, he said, despite the fact that journalists should be protected under the Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Convention, they continued to be exposed to attacks, killings, torture or kidnapping. The issue of the protection of journalists should, therefore, also be reflected in the road map.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said attacks on civilians destroyed the basic fabric of society, generated enmity and mutual distrust, and irreparably harmed any opportunity for rehabilitating post-conflict communities. Every attack on civilians must be strongly condemned and the perpetrator brought to justice. Human security should be placed on the security agenda and humanitarian action should be strengthened. The Aide-Memoire was an important tool in guiding consideration of protection issues. There had been an increase in conflicts between governments and non-State parties, with a large number of civilians falling victims. In such cases, protection of civilians was only possible for neutral players, such as a special representative or an Emergency Relief Coordinator. That was not a challenge to national sovereignty, but rather a complement to it.
He said it was not sufficient to protect civilians from physical harm; their human dignity must also be protected. Dignity could not be recovered if vulnerable civilians were left in extremely poor conditions. They needed to engage in their livelihoods free from fear of extreme poverty or deadly disease. Regarding access for humanitarian workers, he said it was vital that a direct dialogue with armed groups be held. The expansion of the scope of protection, under a clear definition of the existing Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, also needed to be discussed.
As civilians often continued to be in danger after major battles had ended, collecting and destroying firearms widely circulated throughout society and demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants were of the utmost importance, he said. Ending impunity was also important. He suggested that the Council and the ECOSOC convene a joint meeting to address the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said that the new Aide-Memoire took into greater account the specific needs of women and children, and internally displaced persons. The new version of the road map facilitated the implementation of recommendations, thanks to the addition of a list of measures already taken, as well as of opportunities for action. It was now a question of assuring implementation and “fleshing out” those instruments, for example by integrating the relevant provision of Security Council resolution 1502 (2003) on the protection of United Nations and associated staff and humanitarian personnel in conflict areas.
He noted that, at the twenty-eighth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, which had just ended, States and the Movement of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent discussed the many aspects of protecting civilians in armed conflict. The concept of human security created a link between the overall security needs of individuals and their humanitarian needs. Switzerland, as a member of the Human Security Network, encouraged the Council to adopt that comprehensive and promising concept for the protection of human dignity and the improvement of the well-being of vulnerable populations. He called on the Council to take note of the outcome of that Conference -– the declaration and the agenda for humanitarian action.
Respect for international humanitarian law and the rule of law, as well as the proper functioning of national and international justice systems, were crucial to the increased protection of civilians, he said. Also important was strengthening the legal framework governing that protection. In that regard, he invited all parties to the Geneva Convention to ratify its Protocols and consider lifting their reservations. He also welcomed the recent conclusion at the meeting of the States parties to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of the new Protocol V, concerning post-conflict measures on explosive remnants of war. That gave rise to the hope that those explosives would be removed and eliminated as quickly as possible after the end of hostilities and, in so doing, would permanently improve the protection of civilians.
SYLVESTER E. ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that, as long as conflicts continued incessantly to take their toll on innocent people around the world, and as long as some parties to conflicts continued to ignore basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, the Council must continue to undertake periodic reviews and in-depth assessments of measures that have been devised to ensure effective civilian protection. It was well known that the tactics of deliberate acts of violence against civilians were changing. Also, as the Secretary-General reminded everyone recently, many of the political and legal instruments for the protection of civilians in armed conflict were outdated.
He said that the periodic assessments by the Council should serve as a reminder of the need to adapt and update the appropriate instruments and guidelines to meet the new challenges posed by both State and non-State actors in areas of armed conflict. The Sierra Leone experience, covering more than a decade of rebel atrocities, was a chapter by itself in what had become a “voluminous” record of lessons learned in that area. The Aide-Memoire was applied to his country, and the authors also learned from the experience there. Indeed, the machinery established to address impunity, namely the Special Court, was itself unique in the annals of current and emerging international humanitarian law. Whether or not that hybrid court could be applied in other situations was debatable, but its effectiveness as an “instrument of protection” would be realized in due course.
Emphasis should be placed not merely on obligations or responsibility to protect, but also on the capacity to provide protection, he said. That applied to virtually all cross-border armed conflicts that had been raging in the West African subregion, where often the capacity of governments, including his own, to comply with obligations of protection under relevant international humanitarian law in the face of rebel activities supported by external elements was severely limited. Imagine the number of innocent civilians that could have been saved if the democratically elected Government of Sierra Leone had had the capacity to respond, or in the beleaguered city of Monrovia a few months ago if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had had the capacity to respond rapidly to the serious humanitarian crisis that was evolving there. Most legal instruments were reactive, but the most effective and lasting means of protection lay in the prevention of armed conflict, he said.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the Council had been able, in recent years, to determine the elements and requirements of dealing with the issue under discussion. However, armed conflicts and alarming crimes against unarmed civilians, the increased numbers of civilian victims, as well as the plundering of natural resources and cultural heritage indicated that the international community was unable to deal with the issue. The number of victims on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and the number of houses destroyed in the occupied Palestinian territories, was irrefutable proof of that. The world lacked the political will to deal with the issue.
Although the mandates of peacekeeping operations now included protection of civilians and unhindered access for humanitarian personnel, he said it must be recognized that, in many cases, the Council often provided protection of civilians in remote areas and assistance to them when it was too late. The serious humanitarian situations reflected in United Nations agency reports in the occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, and Guinea-Bissau, among others, were examples of an imbalance in the international community’s vision of dealing with international security.
He stressed the importance of recognizing that the concept of protection of civilians should not end with the end of hostilities, but extend to peace-building, including rehabilitation and reconstruction. Peace would remain vulnerable if not complemented with development. Focusing on providing protection to civilians should not prejudice the cornerstones of the Charter, represented in the reaffirmation in the political independence and sovereignty of State and their responsibilities to their citizens. The international community should be guided by the provisions of the United Nations Charter and international law, he said.
LUIS GUILLERMO GIRALDO (Colombia) said that criminal activities, such as the illegal financing of armed conflicts and terrorism through illicit drugs, kidnapping and extortion, targeted helpless civilians. That was why Colombia, in supporting the inclusion in the Aide-Memoire of a chapter on the illicit exploitation of, and trade in, natural resources, was convinced that the topic must be “rounded out” by giving due consideration to such criminal activities. His country’s democratic security policy had been designed not to give more power to the State for its own sake, but to prepare it to better protect civilians in all areas, particularly with respect to the dangers inherent in armed conflict and to secure their rights and freedoms throughout the national territory.
He said that that policy had sought to deter violent agents through the full respect for the rule of law by strengthening the State’s legitimate armed forces. That policy also had its doors open to dialogue with armed groups. During the President’s first year in office that policy began to bear fruit. There was now a police presence in every municipality, where once there had been none. The homicide rate had dropped, as had the numbers of massacres and kidnapping. Legal roadblocks had been reduced, and the number of internally displaced had declined significantly. Possible human rights violations were being investigated by the State and prosecuted, as required. Their number had dropped by 95 per cent.
Those meaningful advances had elicited the support of the Colombian people, he said, adding that continued efforts to overcome terrorism and violence required even greater powers. Thus, the Government was currently seeking a constitutional amendment to enable the public forces, in cases of terrorism, to bring specialized staff to bear to arrest, search and intercept suspects. The powers proposed were much less extensive than those in the democracies of some developed countries that were not confronting a terrorist threat of the magnitude being faced by Colombia. Indeed, the democratic security policy had filled certain gaps and made it possible to disarm certain groups. Additional efforts to reintegrate former combatants were required at both the national and international levels.
KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) said that from the increasing wave of civil conflicts in the 1990s to the critical surge of terrorism, today’s age had moved the protection of civilians to the top of the security agenda. Civilian or non-combatant casualties in armed conflict had dramatically risen in recent years, particularly owing to the changing nature of conflicts from inter-State to intra-State wars fought more often by militias and armed groups than by national armies. The statistics were grim. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 3 million deaths had been recorded. In the past year alone, the displacement of persons in Uganda had increased from 600,000 to 1.3 million and in Angola more than a third of the population had been displaced in two decades of conflict.
He said that, given its primary responsibility in maintaining international peace and security, the Council had a leading role to play in protecting civilians in conflicts. Alarmed by their deepening plight, his country brought the matter to the Council’s attention by conducting an open debate on “the protection of humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations” during its presidency in May 1997. While the Council had emphasized the need to protect civilians on a case-by-case basis, its Aide-Memoire of March 2002 had served as a practical guide for making a “culture of protection”. It should be updated regularly in keeping with developments.
The question of civilian protection was highly complex and intractable, but it was a matter of priority to the international community, he said. It must be ensured that humanitarian tragedies, such as in Rwanda and Srebrenica, never take place again. Given the lessons so painfully learned, the United Nations had succeeded in its interventions in the Balkans, East Timor and Sierra Leone. There was no time for complacency. The international community must play an important part in situations where sovereign States were unable or unwilling to protect their own people. In today’s world of interdependence, catastrophic humanitarian conditions in failed States could spread far beyond their borders. As the sole international institution to authorize ultimate use of force by States, the Council must not be discouraged from using all of the persuasive and coercive instruments at its disposal.
WEGGER CHRISTIAN STRØMMEN (Norway) said that protection of civilians must be made an overriding principle for international involvement in conflict areas. For the Council, that means that peacekeeping operations must be given strong mandates and adequate resources to protect civilians. It must also systematically apply the resolutions that had already been adopted on civilian protection when adopting new mandates and reviewing existing ones. The Aide-Memoire was a useful tool in that regard. By building on such texts, the Council could continue to spearhead formulation of United Nations policy and inspire the comprehensive response from the United Nations system, in order to provide efficient protection for civilians.
He stressed that respect for international law must be reinforced, as that was part of the bedrock of the international legal order. Governments could not interpret those binding rules as relative norms that could be set aside as new patterns of conflict developed. International humanitarian law also applied in present-day conflicts. In terms of the media coverage, once international focus was turned away from a humanitarian crisis, the sense of urgency declined and funding was less readily available. That must be counteracted through responsible “donorship”. Humanitarian assistance should be based on needs, not on media coverage or other political priorities. Access to internally displaced and other vulnerable populations was crucial.
Humanitarian organizations were too often left alone to negotiate access with the authorities or armed groups, which saw humanitarian aid not as impartial emergency relief, but as a strategic means to an end, he said. The international community should use its influence to secure access for humanitarian aid behind the lines of fire. In extreme cases, United Nations-mandated troops might be required. He had been outraged by instances where those had been deliberately targeted. Several questions should be addressed. First, international agencies should take a closer look at how they operated on the ground, in order to ensure legitimacy and local support. Second, the international humanitarian dialogue must be revitalized and broadened, and a more thorough analysis should be undertaken of how humanitarian agencies and military or peacekeeping forces could best interact, in order to increase security and access to vulnerable groups without compromising the integrity of humanitarian agencies.
ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) said he agreed with earlier observations that the primary concerns in situations of armed conflict stemmed from the limited possibilities to ensure timely and immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance, address the emergency needs of refugees and internally displaced persons in the field, and guarantee that the parties to the conflict complied with their obligations under international humanitarian law. Regrettably, those fundamental principles were not always respected and the world was witness to the infliction of irreparable damage on civilians. Rapid action must be taken to prevent further violence, but the settlement of an armed conflict was the best way to ensure that those who were systematically targeted would not be physically abused again.
He said that the issue was a multidimensional one and must be considered in combination with all possible interlinkages with the processes of prevention and resolution of armed conflict. Civilian populations in conflicts would be much better protected if the Council and its Member States, with determination and consistency, ensured the appropriate reaction of the international community to the civilian emergencies created as a result of hostilities and armed conflicts. It was with some disappointment that he sometimes witnessed a lack of political will on the part of the Council members, not only to implement their resolutions, but also to deal, on a case-by-case basis, with the reality of those armed conflicts and their impact on civilians. Nevertheless, the Council had a key role in ensuring civilian protection and implementation of its resolutions.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said that, if the Council was serious about protecting civilians, it must translate “rhetorical commitments” to international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law into action and make that meaningful at the country level. The Council must be proactive in monitoring implementation of its protection-related commitments in countries under its consideration. It should draw on lessons learned and be prepared to rethink its policy approaches when at cross-purposes with its protection responsibilities. “The Council must deliver”, he stressed.
He said he fully endorsed the 10-point platform. Given the current international environment, the Aide-Memoire and road map were essential in helping to guide Council efforts and those of other actors. A good framework existed, and, as much as Council resolutions might provide a framework for Council action, those equally provided a benchmark for holding the Council accountable for inaction. He welcomed the inclusion of protection components in recent peace support operations, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire. In the former country, the presence of child protection advisers had made a qualitative difference in the lives of children.
The Council must also continue to devote attention to civilian protection issues in its field mission, as it did recently in Afghanistan and West Africa, he said. In those contexts, it should seek to meet directly with affected populations to better understand their perspective. Council missions were an indispensable opportunity to urge parties to a conflict to allow safe and unimpeded access to those in need and to reinforce that there would be no impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They should also ensure that United Nations peace operations were vigilant in their efforts to protect civilians from gender-based violence and in implementing strategies for meeting the needs of displaced populations.
Further, he said that the Council’s efforts to protect civilians must not simply be restorative, but preventive as well. The Council should show a greater willingness to draw on the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms for early warning, promote preventive deployments and diplomatic initiatives, and urge adherence to, and respect for, international legal instruments. It must also be vigilant. In the immediate post-conflict environment, even where a peace agreement existed, civilians might remain at risk.
Concluding Remarks by Under-Secretary-General
Responding to comments made, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. EGELAND, was touched, he said, by the unanimous support in the Council for the road map and revised Aide-Memoire. He took note of concern voiced by speakers about the politicization of humanitarian access. Access was indispensable, if civilians were to be protected, he said.
He said speakers had also highlighted the need to create a culture of protection, as well as concrete machinery to protect women and children, and had emphasized the seriousness of sexual violence. He assured the Council that those issues were among his highest priorities. Efforts in those areas required continuous support from the Council. The need to consistently tackle demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and resettlement, as well as the trafficking of small weapons from a regional perspective, were other important issues.
He was grateful to those delegates who had focused on advocacy and said it must be addressed more systematically. It was important to convey the right message to all parties and to reinforce the perception of United Nations impartiality. He welcomed the call for robust action against those who attacked humanitarian personnel. He would give thought to a suggestion on developing a framework to establish indicators of compliance with international law and hoped to outline concrete elements of such reporting in the next meeting.
He thanked those speakers who had reminded the international community that it was governments, Member States and parties to conflict that bore the primary responsibility for protecting civilians in armed conflict.
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