RENEWED COMMITMENT TO DECISIVE ACTION FOR PROTECTING CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
RENEWED COMMITMENT TO DECISIVE ACTION FOR PROTECTING CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
4990th Meeting (AM & PM)
renewed commitment to decisive action for protecting civilians in armed conflict
needed now more than ever, Security Council told
Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland Urges New Council
Resolution Supporting Further Measures to Improve Civilian Protection
The Security Council’s renewed commitment to act decisively to protect civilians in armed conflict was needed now more than ever Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told the Council this morning, as he presented the Secretary-General’s fourth report on the issue.
The Council should consider adopting a new resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, he said. As long as civilians continued to constitute the majority of victims in situations of armed conflict, progress made in the protection of civilians in armed conflict would remain insufficient and the establishment of a culture of protection a distant goal.
The new text, said Mr. Egeland, should reflect the important developments witnessed in the four years since the adoption of the Council’s first resolution and support further measures to improve the protection afforded to civilians in times of armed conflict. To that end, the Secretary-General’s present report set forth a number of recommendations, including measures to enable the humanitarian community to assist in the Council’s response through more systematic information provision on key protection issues and earlier reporting on situations of concern.
The report also highlighted key areas for further action to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including the need to ensure sustained humanitarian access to civilians in need, to safeguard the security of humanitarian personnel and to better protect women and children in armed conflict, as well as issues related to the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), to compliance and impunity in the face of human rights violations and to the phenomenon of “forgotten emergencies”.
In confronting challenges of such magnitude, concluded the Under-Secretary-General, it was important to recognize that progress depended on incremental change. In the years since the Council adopted its first resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, peacekeeping mandates had been broadened and had assumed a stronger protection focus. Those mandates had also been complemented by swifter deployments of peacekeeping troops to avert immediate crises of protection and to restore order. There had also been real efforts at the regional level to address the protection of displaced persons and other civilians, particularly in Africa, where such problems were grave.
In the ensuing debate, speakers welcomed the advances made in the protection of civilians in armed conflict –- especially with regard to swifter deployment of peacekeeping forces and entrusting greater responsibility for the protection of civilians to regional organizations –- but cautioned that continued impunity and increased attacks against humanitarian personnel, as well as phenomena such as terrorism, the widespread use of sexual violence as a tool of war and the emergence of non-State actors as perpetrators of violence against civilians, posed challenges that must be addressed. Moreover, all parties –- including United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel –- must demonstrate respect for human dignity and uphold the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Among specific points made by speakers, emphasis was laid upon the significant role the International Criminal Court could play in the international community’s fight against impunity, with the United Kingdom’s representative noting the potential for the Council to make referrals to the Court’s Prosecutor for investigation.
Furthermore, the representative of Romania stressed that the emergence of non-State actors made it crucial for the United Nations to open channels of dialogue to engage such armed groups in humanitarian negotiations, while Germany’s representative cautioned that such constructive engagement required flexibility and realism, but should not come at the expense of the need to address impunity. National sovereignty could not and should not be an excuse when thousands of vulnerable civilians were threatened, he concluded.
However, the representative of Colombia warned that negotiating with terrorist organizations, traffickers of illicit drugs and criminals in order to obtain access to specific populations not only legitimized such organizations, but also strengthened their operations. Such political negotiations between humanitarian organizations and illegal armed groups violated the basic principles of neutrality, impartiality and transparency of humanitarian work.
Also expressing concern about the prospect of negotiating with non-State actors was the representative of the Philippines, who noted that many non-State armed groups had been tagged as terrorist groups, subject to the laws of concerned States. The neutrality and impartiality of United Nations humanitarian operations might neither give adequate safeguard against manipulation by non-State groups nor guarantee that the legal status of those groups, as determined by the State, remained unaffected.
Overall, the key to protecting civilians in armed conflict effectively lay in bringing conflict to an end, as the representative of China noted, while mitigating the difficult situations faced by civilians required the international community to adopt an integrated strategy to address the root causes, as well as the symptoms, of conflict and to ensure adequate provision of resources to such efforts.
The representatives of Chile, United States, Algeria, Spain, Angola, Pakistan, Benin, France, Brazil, Russian Federation, Syria, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Fiji, Switzerland, Uganda, Ukraine, Mexico, Egypt, Argentina, Japan, Canada (on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Liechtenstein, South Africa, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Ecuador and Côte d’Ivoire also spoke today.
The meeting started at 10:20 a.m., was suspended at 1:17 p.m., resumed at 3:14 p.m., and was adjourned at 5:41 p.m.
The Security Council met today to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, for which it had before it the Secretary-General’s report (S/2004/431). The report states that civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts, and sexual violence –- especially against women and girls –- is increasingly used as a weapon of war.
In order to protect civilians in armed conflict, a presidential statement of 15 March 2002 (S/PRST/2002/6) containing an aide-memoire on the subject 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.
The report cites the wars in the Sudan’s Darfur region, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq and Nepal as some of the worst examples where civilians have been suffering. Since the Secretary-General’s last report 18 months ago, “the very fundamentals of international humanitarian law and human rights have been under great pressure, and there are concerns that counter-terrorism measures have not always complied with human rights obligations”.
The report also examines some positive developments, including the improved treatment of civilians in countries recently emerging from conflict, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia. It notes, however, that any significant progress in those countries has depended on the continuing presence and involvement of the international community.
There is “stark and disturbing evidence” of how much civilians are still suffering because of war, with “too many instances” of civilians being subjected to extreme violence or being denied humanitarian aid, the report states. In Darfur, for example, more than 1 million people have been displaced from their homes by the conflict there, while many others have been killed or raped and numerous villages have been destroyed.
In Côte d’Ivoire, there have been widespread cases of sexual violence, torture and murder, with ethnic communities often the target of campaigns of forced displacement. Noting that rape is used as a weapon itself, or as a means to spread HIV/AIDS, the report notes that the violence has been sustained by “a prevailing culture of impunity” for the perpetrators.
The report stresses the importance of having a regional dimension to any measures to protect civilians, saying they are the most effective way to deal with cross-border issues such as human trafficking and the illegal flow of arms. The Secretary-General urges the Council, and the rest of the United Nations family, to take a more systematic and empirical approach to studying the problem, so that it can be better monitored and tackled. It is vital that the Organization sets out clear standards for the protection of civilians to make sure that they can be enforced and to help prevent countries that are undertaking peace processes from sliding back into conflict.
Briefing by Under-Secretary-General
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, presenting the fourth report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, said that the tenth anniversary of the collective failure to protect 800,000 defenceless men, women and children from brutal death in Rwanda provided a chilling impetus for the Council to reflect on ways to better protect vulnerable civilian populations at the height of crises and in their immediate aftermath.
In the years since the Rwanda genocide, civilians had continued to be the victims of conflict, he noted, more often than not deliberately targeted by parties to conflicts and subjected to extreme violence and other grave human rights abuse, including in West Africa, the Middle East and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Secretary-General’s report was the product of extensive consultations with United Nations departments, agencies and programmes and reflected the outcomes of two round tables held earlier this year on the “Ten-Point Platform on the Protection of Civilians”. That Platform embodied many of the key issues set out in the broader protection framework provided by the aide-memoire on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, contained in the 15 March 2002 presidential statement (S/PRST/2002/6).
Among the elements highlighted in the report, and to which the Under-Secretary-General wished to draw attention, was the need to ensure sustained humanitarian access to civilians in need. In 20 conflicts around the world, humanitarian access had been either denied or obstructed. The humanitarian community had no access to at least 10 million people worldwide in need of food, water, shelter, medical care and the basic means of survival. In the Darfur region of Sudan, in particular, the situation was currently a desperate race against time to save more than 1 million civilians threatened with starvation and disease. Having been prevented from entering Darfur until the last few weeks, the international community was late in responding to that crisis and might need the Council’s help, especially in getting water equipment, sanitation and key non-food relief supplies into the region. Continued attacks on civilians in the region, despite the commitment to the N’djamena humanitarian ceasefire, were also of deep concern.
The second concern was safeguarding the security of humanitarian personnel, which remained a key challenge to the United Nations and its humanitarian partners, he said. The past 18 months had witnessed ongoing threats and horrific attacks against humanitarian personnel in many conflict situations, including Afghanistan, Chechnya, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory and the Sudan. Humanitarian workers had also been specifically targeted in Somalia, where five staff from international non-governmental organizations had been killed in the past six months. A sustained humanitarian presence to provide protection and assistance wherever needs existed was fundamental to the humanitarian mandate. For humanitarian agencies to continue to work effectively, reinforced collective approaches to protection and security coordination were needed. Perpetrators of attacks on humanitarian personnel must be held accountable, as affirmed by Security Council resolution 1502 (2003).
The third concern was the need to better protect women and children in armed conflict, he said. Sexual violence and other particularly abhorrent human rights abuses against women and children had been perpetrated on a horrifying scale in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, northern Uganda and other conflict situations. A particularly terrifying consequence faced by many was the spectre of HIV/AIDS. Beyond the devastating physical, psychological, emotional and social trauma suffered by women and children thus brutally attacked, such egregious crimes undermined cultural values and community relationships and destroyed the very ties that bound society together.
In such violent and distressing circumstances, he added, peacekeepers and United Nations staff must demonstrate exemplary personal conduct and behaviour. The issue of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children in armed conflict by United Nations-affiliated personnel demanded urgent attention. While prevention and protection measures at the field level had begun to be implemented following the Secretary-General’s Bulletin last October, those efforts must be reinforced by demonstrated action on the part of personnel-contributing countries, including punitive measures against offending personnel.
A fourth concern was the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Civilians living in refugee and IDP camps were vulnerable to attack by armed groups. Only last week, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) mounted another brutal attack on civilians in an IDP camp in northern Uganda, the fourth such attack on IDP camps in as many weeks. The Government of Uganda was called upon to redouble its efforts to protect IDPs and other civilians and to do more to seek reconciliation and dialogue to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers. Furthermore, in several countries, armed elements infiltrated refugee and IDP camps to recruit or abduct men, women and children for military and other purposes and to steal food and other goods. Such infiltration blurred the civilian character of camps and exposed civilian populations to the increased likelihood of attack by opposing forces. That problem must be redressed through the identification, separation, disarmament and internment of combatants.
The fifth issue of concern related to compliance and impunity, he said. In too many conflicts around the world, violations of international humanitarian and human rights law continued to be committed with total impunity. Thus, he wished to reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the central role of the rule of law in international relations and to the protection of civilians by using the occasion of the “Focus 2004” treaties event to sign, ratify or accede to multilateral treaties relevant to the protection of civilians.
The sixth –- and final –- concern was the phenomenon of “forgotten emergencies”, he added. It was in such situations that risks to civilians were greatest. For example, Somalia had been off the international community’s radar for some time, yet protection concerns in that country were grave as continued factional fighting caused daily civilian casualties and access to populations in need was increasingly restricted, while increased flows of illegal arms further exacerbated the suffering of civilians. Moreover, in the Central African Republic, restrictions on access and lack of resources continued to deny life-saving assistance to some 2.2 million, while in Guinea, lack of funding had prevented effective humanitarian assistance to displaced people, returnees and host communities.
When confronted with challenges of such magnitude, he concluded, it was important to recognize that progress depended on incremental change. In the five years since the Council adopted its first resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, some progress had been made: peacekeeping mandates had been broadened and had a stronger protection focus and mandates had been complemented by swifter deployments of peacekeeping troops to avert immediate crises of protection and to restore order. There had also been real efforts at the regional level to address the protection of displaced persons and other civilians, particularly in Africa, where such problems were grave.
However, he stressed, as long as civilians continued to constitute the majority of victims in situations of armed conflict, that progress remained insufficient, and the establishment of the culture of protection remained a distant goal. The humanitarian community felt that the time was right for the Council to consider adopting a new resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict to reflect important developments that had taken place over the past four years and to support further measures to improve the protection afforded to civilians in times of armed conflict. The present report set forth a number of recommendations to that end, including measures to enable the humanitarian community to assist in the Council’s response through more systematic information on key protection issues and earlier reporting on situations of concern, so that humanitarian and protection support could be provided as efficiently as possible.
MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the Council had made important commitments to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, but was forced to adjust the ways of addressing the problem by the ever-changing landscape of conflicts. The emergence of non-State actors made it crucial for the United Nations to open up channels of dialogue to engage those armed groups in humanitarian negotiations. Civilians were no longer incidental victims of armed conflicts, but had become targets. Terrorism and sexual violence shocked the collective conscience. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations had also become targets. The Council must ensure that the security of humanitarian personnel was guaranteed.
He said the Council must make sure that parties in conflict were pressured to comply fully with the provisions of the United Nations Charter and with the rules and principles of international law. The Council must also take action so that United Nations humanitarian personnel were not inflicting further harm on civilians. In its mandates for peacekeeping missions, the Council must incorporate the minimum standards of behaviour set out by the Secretary-General.
The Council must also intervene when governments were unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the protection of civilians, he said. His country had always strongly supported the United Nations entrusting regional organizations with the mandate to take up that agenda. He would like to see better coordination between the United Nations and regional organizations in the safe return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons in Kosovo.
CRISTIÁN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said tangible progress had been made in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Among other things, deployment of peacekeeping forces had been faster, improving the speed and quality of response to crises. Progress also involved broader and deeper knowledge of the reality of the situation of civilians in armed conflict. The steps taken did not yet fit the need, however, which was a great challenge to the Council.
He said the approach of the United Nations to protection of civilians had strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths was combating impunity by establishing special courts, in particular the International Criminal Court (ICC). The timely utilization of such tools might be important in combating impunity. Non-State actors disavowed their responsibilities under international law and committed serious violations of human rights. Those were complex situations. The Council did consistently include specific demands directed at such groups. But, at the same time, the interaction with such actors had yielded mixed results. Another important topic was the transition of civilians in a conflict into actors in a conflict. That area required greater analysis.
JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) noted that the safeguarding of civilians was a fundamental precept of the United Nations Charter, but that much remained to be done to achieve that goal, although the international community had improved its efforts. The Secretary-General’s report provided an assessment of the status of protection efforts, as well as guidance to the way forward. Yet, much progress would continue to depend upon the primary responsibility of governments to protect their citizens.
Reflecting that the Darfur crisis had rightly been called the greatest humanitarian disaster today, he said that situation illustrated the importance of several focus areas highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report. Among others, there had been serious problems related to access of humanitarian aid and workers to the civilian population of the Darfur region. Although the Government’s recent waiving of visa requirements had begun to ameliorate the situation, the delay of food shipments out of Port Sudan meant that the aid community must imperatively consider stockpiling food and supplies.
He also cautioned that, while more opportunities for peacekeeping operations could improve the international community’s efforts to protect civilians, they could also further strain the Organization’s budget. Regardless of budgetary constraints, all humanitarian personnel must live up to the highest standards of behaviour. Among other points of concern, the United States believed that solutions to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons must be effective and focus upon the restriction of illegal imports and observance of regulations on end users. The destruction of excess weapons and the need to ensure the security of arms stockpiles were also important issues, and Member States bore responsibility for ensuring that legal arms imports were not detoured.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that the present debate provided a good opportunity to review progress made in the past five years in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. In that regard, there had been much progress, including through the progressive implementation of the Brahimi report and in the reform of the Organization. Among other important developments, the more rapid deployment of peacekeeping forces had given concrete content to the idea of preventive deployment, and increased efforts at the regional level for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts had been witnessed. However, that certain progress should not conceal the many gaps in protection. Far from going down, the number of people eligible for protection had risen from 30 to 50 million in the past five years.
The amount of resources necessary to respond to increased protection needs had risen, he noted, due to the higher number of those needing protection, as well as the complexity of the crises and their aggravating factors, such as arms trafficking, exploitation of natural resources and mercenary activities, among others. And while the international community had shown its determination to react quickly to emerging crises by providing robust peacekeeping mandates, it must show similar commitment to respond when resource needs for those mandates experienced predictable increases. Among other issues requiring urgent attention were the facts that the burden of protection continued to be borne by neighbouring States in conflict regions, as well as the increasingly compromised integrity of United Nations staff and peacekeeping personnel.
Finally, he concluded, the major gap in the Secretary-General’s report concerned the issue of protection of civilians in territories under occupation. In the specific case of occupied Palestine, massive, frequent and deliberate violations of the rights of the Palestinian populations living under occupation had reached unequalled levels. Israel did not deny its violations, which included targeted killings of humanitarian personnel. The integrity of the international community’s efforts to strengthen the protection of civilians was undermined by the dual yardstick measure applied to the situation in the occupied territories.
INIGO DE PALACIO (Spain), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said progress in protection of civilians had been made in the institutional sphere and in coordination. However, the increased number of conflicts constituted a huge challenge. Protection of civilians must be cross-cutting throughout the United Nations activities, not only in improving coordination. There must also be an effort to make protection of civilians a component of humanitarian assistance and to ensure that they fully enjoy their human rights.
There was also a need to focus on protecting the most vulnerable among the vulnerable: women, girls and boys. Efforts under way to protect women and girls had not had the desired effect, he said. Many children under 18 years of age were directly involved in armed conflict. Experts in peacekeeping operations were necessary to protect the rights of women, girls and boys and those groups must have priority. Disarmament was also very important, as reintegration and reinsertion without disarmament was not possible. In post-conflict situations, a speedy restoration of services, such as police and justice were necessary, in order to put an end to impunity. He fully supported the appeal for ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court and other human rights treaties.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said, despite progress achieved, implementation of recommendations regarding protection of civilians had not been satisfactory. Too often, especially in Africa, the principal victims of armed conflict were women and children. The responsibility to prevent conflict implied the need to address the root causes and direct causes of armed conflict, and the responsibility for reconstruction and long-term reconciliation. The protection of civilians demanded a more coherent and comprehensive response from the Council, the international community and the parties involved in armed conflict. In 2003, humanitarian appeals in 13 African crises had required $2.2 billion, but less than half that amount had been received, in contrast to other crises, perceived as more strategic. The link between maintenance of peace and inadequate funding in certain crises should, therefore, be addressed.
Existing armed conflicts were no longer national or local, as several conflicts in Africa had shown. Closer cooperation between regional and subregional organization and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other United Nations bodies should, therefore, be considered. Recommendations by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict, reconciliation, the widespread use of small arms, the illicit exploitation of resources, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should also be considered in that context. Effective use of sanctions and international prosecution should also be taken into account. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) provided an important platform for improving a framework for conflict prevention and protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council should consider a new resolution to reflect new developments in different regions and strengthen needed measures for better protection of civilians in armed conflict, he said.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said that the present debate provided a grim reminder of the international community’s failure to act effectively to protect hundreds of thousands of innocent victims caught in the vortex of the Rwandan genocide. Despite the panoply of humanitarian and human rights laws, civilians remained the least protected individuals in armed conflicts. Almost all conflict situations erupted in poorer regions of the world and were exacerbated by the emergence of conflict economies. They were characterized by human rights violations and hindered humanitarian access to civilian populations. Emerging conflicts and new dimensions of old conflicts posed immense challenges to the international community.
Conflict prevention remained the single most important dimension of protection, he noted. Yet, conflict prevention was only possible by directly addressing the root causes of conflict, which, while they were multi-fold, most often included poverty and inequality. As highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, impunity and compliance must be urgently addressed. Systematic and gross violations of human rights must not be allowed to go unchallenged and unpunished. There must also be a stronger focus on protection in peacekeeping missions. As a major troop-contributing country, Pakistan agreed that swift deployment was needed to avert immediate crises of protection.
Noting that the protection of civilians became more complex in situations where regular armies confronted non-State actors, he said that non-State actors could not be allowed to remain in non-compliance with international standards. Regional approaches to protection efforts were also essential and must rely on regional partnership. In that regard, the recent development of protection initiatives demonstrated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was instructive. Such concepts must be further solidified and used in other regions. Finally, he said justice and the rule of law played a crucial role in the return to normalcy and appropriate levels of financing and the contribution of expertise by donor countries were urgently necessary.
JOËL ADECHI (Benin) said that the protection of human dignity constituted a cardinal point of the United Nations Charter, but had, in reality, often been flouted. To improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict, steps ranging from political and diplomatic initiatives to monitoring measures for the respect of international standards had been proposed by the Secretary-General in his report, for which his country expressed its appreciation. Benin also held that improved access and quality of assistance in terms of emergency humanitarian assistance were necessary to continue progress in regard of the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Welcoming recent missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti, as well as ECOWAS’ activities in Western Africa and the Darfur region of the Sudan, he said that the international community’s focus must be to find a balance between the concepts of sovereignty and principles of international humanitarian law. The international community must also reconcile international humanitarian law with the nature and development of conflicts. States bore primary responsibility in situations of crisis, but it was also important to note that in the absence of effective State structures, armed groups could have real power over civilian populations, with the ability to protect or target them.
There should also be a review of peacekeeping operations’ mandates for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, he said, as it often seemed that the protection of soldiers took precedence over the protection of civilians. Attacks on humanitarian staff must be condemned and perpetrators of such acts should be challenged by the international community and brought to justice. Among the lessons that could be taken away from the recent ECOWAS meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict were the need for increased coordination among humanitarian organizations at the regional level; awareness that government forces often experienced conditions of food deprivation similar to those faced by civilian populations and which made those civilian populations even more vulnerable; as well as the need to retain the civilian nature of refugee camps.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said in the Council, the prism of protection for civilians was growing and included the political, moral and strategic point of view. Four crises had been mentioned which were of particular interest to him: the crisis in protection in West Africa; the crisis in humanitarian access, as illustrated by the Darfur situation; the crisis in insuring respect of humanitarian law, as shown by terrorist acts in the Middle East, which were followed by illegal or disproportionate reprisals; and the crisis in security of humanitarian staff. He agreed that a new Council resolution should highlight some positive elements and define new measures.
There were two areas where additional work by the Council could be done. Interaction among the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees and the Council, should be developed, as had been done in the Darfur situation. Regarding humanitarian access, however, he could not agree with all suggestions made. The idea of including financing of humanitarian aspects in peacekeeping operations must be considered with caution. He hoped the Council could continue to refine its approach to the subject of impunity. Some selective attacks against humanitarian law could have dramatic consequences in a given crises, as some recent examples had shown.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said Mr. Egeland’s proposal for a 10-point platform provided an excellent start to promote a “culture of protection”. Regarding access, he believed that regional organizations had a particularly important role to play in time-critical settings. On the issue of rapid response, such as repairing critical infrastructure for humanitarian access, there was scope for greater cooperation with regional organizations, such as with the OSCE in Europe.
The protection needs of women and children must be reflected in the planning and implementation of peace support operations, he continued. Compliance of peacekeepers with the Code of Conduct must be insisted upon. Regarding security of humanitarian personnel, the scope of the protection under the relevant Convention must be expanded. The Council must also be more readily disposed towards issuing a declaration of exceptional risk. Regarding impunity, his country strongly supported the work of the International Criminal Court and agreed that there was potential for the Council to consider referrals to its Prosecutor for investigation. He also supported the transfer controls initiative on small arms and light weapons and for arms embargoes to include military services, as well as the “marking and tracing” initiative.
The Council needed to continue to mainstream protection concerns into the Council’s country-specific considerations, and effective feedback was crucial, he said. The Council must also consider how to address protection concerns in countries that were not formally on its agenda, such as the situations in northern Uganda and Darfur. It must be recognized that, if no clear priorities were set in the matter of protection of civilians, there was a risk that Council actions would be too widely dispersed, making only limited impact. He hoped a strategic approach could be developed through the adoption of a consensus resolution.
HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said as a result of Council efforts, peacekeeping mandates had been broadened to include humanitarian access, safety of United Nations and associated personnel and protection of refugees and returnees. The United Nations was advancing in practical terms towards the strengthening of the protection of civilians. Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti were two recent examples of allowing United Nations troops to protect civilians under imminent threat.
In spite of progress made, further action was required in a number of areas, including the recruitment of child soldiers, the extensiveness of sexual violence, humanitarian access, and protection of “the protectors”. There was also lack of support for the so-called “forgotten emergencies” that did not mobilize public opinion. Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes remained continuously under-resourced. Also, the root causes of conflict needed to be address. In many cases, nations ravaged by conflict had been severely hit by HIV/AIDS.
He said the International Criminal Court could play a role in bringing to justice those who committed war crimes and was an important element in addressing the problems of impunity. The involvement of regional players was an important factor in improving protection of civilians, especially when conflict could not be handled within the confines of the States. Furthermore, the Council could work in close coordination with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The root causes of armed conflict needed to be addressed in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance the protection of civilians on a long-term basis. The Council would be able to provide political guidance to the system if it adopted a victim-centred approach.
SERGEY KAREV (Russian Federation) said that innocent civilians continued to suffer in armed conflicts, despite the arsenal of international agreements for their protection. Thus, the protection of civilian populations required effective and coordinated action at the international level and humanitarian work must be based on norms of the United Nations Charter and international principles. Expressing his country’s appreciation for the Secretary-General’s comprehensive report, which contained a thorough analysis of conflicts in which the protection of civilians remained at issue, as well as of the causes of violations of humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict, he noted that the advent of the International Criminal Court would also help to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Furthermore, increased focus on regional approaches to protecting civilians in armed conflict was welcomed.
However, the Russian Federation felt that it had been incorrect to lump together in one section of the report situations in countries and regions in which the nature of conflicts were distinct, he said. For example, there was no basis for including in the report’s list situations that did not qualify as instances of armed conflict according to international legal definitions. Such a situation only caused confusion.
Among areas for further improvement for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, he cited the need for progress on preventive deployment. United Nations Member States should more efficiently provide relevant information to the Council in situations where international peace and security were threatened, including in instances of refusal of access to civilians.
CHENG JINGYE (China) acknowledged that, due to continued conflict in some regions, including Africa, the Middle East and Iraq, much remained to be accomplished in pursuit of the goal of protecting civilians in armed conflict. To mitigate the difficult situations faced by civilians, the international community should adopt an integrated strategy addressing the root causes, as well as the symptoms of conflict. Humanitarian activities must abide strictly by international humanitarian law, and effectively fulfil the need to protect women and children. Those perpetrating serous crimes must be brought to justice. Moreover, there must be efforts to facilitate humanitarian organizations access to civilian populations.
However, the key to protecting civilians in armed conflict effectively, he said, lay in curbing conflict and facilitating peace. The international community must actively promote ways of reaching political solutions to conflicts, including through peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction operations. Furthermore, the protection of international humanitarian personnel and other international personnel were also of key importance. It was a source of grave concern that the instance of violent terrorist action against humanitarian personnel had increased in recent years. Such acts must be unanimously condemned. All sides were urged to implement the relevant Security Council resolution on protecting international humanitarian personnel.
WOLFGANG TRAUTWEIN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the interdependence between peace, democracy, justice and development had become common wisdom. It was appalling to observe that the determination to transform that wisdom into practical action was lacking. “All too often, efforts to strengthen the international rule of law are on the defensive, and international law is ignored, or even declared obsolete, at the national level.” The International Criminal Court had the potential to address one of the worst root causes of violating the integrity of civilians: impunity.
He said various crises in recent years had shown that humanitarian access and the security of humanitarian personnel were linked. He supported, in that regard, the efforts to enlarge the scope of protection of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associate Personnel. Measures taken to ensure sufficient security of humanitarian personnel would lead to better humanitarian access and, thus, to a better protection of civilians. The role that neighbouring States and regional organizations had in helping to establish humanitarian access might be further explored. Regarding protection of refugees, more must be done to avoid forced military recruitment.
A new Council resolution must take into account recent developments and the changing character of conflicts he said. He proposed that the Council extended the mandate of the Emergency Relief Coordinator by giving him the possibility to report on an ad hoc basis if a significant threat to civilians in armed conflict existed. There was also a need for a constructive engagement with non-State armed groups. Such engagement required flexibility and realism, but should not come at the expense of dealing with impunity. National sovereignty could not and should not be an excuse when thousands of vulnerable civilians were threatened. Imposing targeted sanctions and travel restrictions were possible measures against non-State armed groups and those who backed them.
Speaking in his national capacity, Council President LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines), said protection of civilians was a matter of policy in less complicated conflicts. Today, that was not the case anymore. The Council had consistently dwelt on the issue since the first resolution adopted in 1999. While welcoming progress achieved, he noted it seemed unclear how much the Council had contributed in implementing appropriate preventive measures to resolve conflicts and how much needed support to States had been provided in improving their capacities to protect civilians. He asked how useful the 2002 aide-memoire and the road map for the protection of civilians had been to peacekeeping missions in improving their orientation in protecting civilians.
He said the Council had constantly endorsed the view that peacekeeping mandates incorporate a protection orientation. He asked to what extent and scale that protection orientation had been integrated in Council mandates and how successful their implementation had been. As many non-State armed groups had been tagged as terrorist groups subject to the laws of concerned States, he was cautious about the suggestion of engagement with non-State armed groups by the international community. The neutrality and impartiality of United Nations humanitarian operations might neither give adequate safeguard against manipulation by non-State groups nor guaranteed that the legal status of those groups, as determined by the State, would remain unaffected.
Protecting civilians required the broadest involvement of bodies and agencies of the United Nations in a comprehensive, integrated, coordinated and sustainable manner, he said. The theme of “Protecting the Vulnerable” had been identified as a priority in the Millennium Declaration. There was a need to recommit to the road map, which identified the responsibilities of the various entities within the United Nations system. The stark reality of the unabated victimization of innocent civilians should prod all to seriously embark on the system-wide approach, as envisioned in the road map, to solve the problem.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) noted that civilians constituted the majority of victims of armed conflicts, which generated massive flows of refugees and IDPs. An estimated 50 million people worldwide had been displaced by conflict. Among those displaced, a large number of Palestinian civilians had been displaced by the actions of the Government of Israel, which had acted outside the provision of international humanitarian law. In that regard, it must be recalled that combating terrorism did not justify the non-respect for international humanitarian law and that the root causes of conflict must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. The current situation in the Middle East constituted a glaring example of the suffering of Palestinian and other civilians. Thus, the report’s attention to the issue of restricted humanitarian assistance due to the construction of the separation wall was welcomed.
Civilians everywhere must be protected from crimes committed against them, he added. The Security Council had recognized that need and adopted a recent resolution condemning Israeli practices and calling for cessation of housing seizures for the wall’s construction, as well as of extrajudicial killings. Syria also wished to draw attention to the suffering of civilians on the African continent, and to welcome the progress in protection that had been witnessed. Also welcoming the ten-point programme, to which the Under-Secretary-General had drawn attention, he said that programme should receive meticulous discussion and be followed up by practical implementation, to allow the international community to emphasize norms of international law in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Syria attached great importance to the issue of access to vulnerable groups in conflict zones and hoped that the United Nations would promulgate legal measures to ensure such access.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was fully committed to enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict and particularly welcomed the Security Council’s attention to the situation of children affected by armed conflict, an issue on which the Union had recently adopted specific policy guidelines. Regular dialogue on the protection of civilians in such circumstances was only one element of that process.
The Union further welcomed the stronger protection focus in more recent peacekeeping mandates as a tangible show of the importance the Council attached to that issue. The swifter deployment of peacekeeping troops was, additionally, a highly welcome development. He commended the initiative of ECOWAS to deploy rapidly a mission in Liberia last August. For its part, the Union was pleased to be able to deploy forces to Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last May, which facilitated the stabilization of the situation on the ground. Saying the Union was concerned at increased risks the United Nations and associated civilian personnel faced on the ground, he also called on States and parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law, as well as to respect the neutrality, independence and impartiality of humanitarian operations.
On the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children in armed, conflict, Mr. Ryan noted that the Union had a particular concern regarding the matter and noted that, in spite of efforts to address that abhorrent practice, reports indicated that it continued unabated in certain countries. He condemned the recruitment of children and their use as soldiers in many conflicts around the world. The impact of armed conflict on children affected by it, whether or not they were combatants, was a source of great concern. He added that the continuance of conflict situations due to the unhindered proliferation of small arms and light weapons was similarly a real preoccupation, in particular given the disproportionate impact that that proliferation had on innocent civilian lives.
WEGGER CHRISTIAN STRØMMEN (Norway) said among the issues of greatest importance to his country was the need to ensure safe and unimpeded access to vulnerable groups. The denial of access was completely unacceptable. Moreover, the increased targeting of humanitarian personnel in situations of armed conflict was of deep concern. In rethinking the approach to security for United Nations and other personnel in humanitarian crises, it might be necessary to rely increasingly on armed guards and other protective measures in extreme cases. However, that could not be the only recourse, as such measures could prove counter-productive. The situation in which strengthened security measures prevented the United Nations from acting effectively on the ground must be avoided.
To avoid compromising security, he continued, there must be a clear division of labour between political, military and humanitarian action in conflict areas. Policy-makers, military commanders and military and civilian personnel all needed to become more aware of the necessity of safeguarding the integrity and independence of humanitarian action, based on international humanitarian law. There should also be universal ratification of the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. However, that document suffered from limitations and inadequacies and should be strengthened through an expanded scope of protection.
In regard of the ongoing debate on integrated United Nations missions, the need to achieve a clear division of labour between humanitarian and political and military actors was of particular relevance. While striving for greater coherence, the United Nations must not compromise humanitarian integrity. The objective must be to create complementarity and to avoid confusion and duplication of efforts in United Nations operations.
FILIMONE KAU (Fiji) said he fully supported the Secretary-General’s assessment that having a regional dimension to protect civilians was the most effective way to deal with cross-border issues such as human trafficking and the illegal flow of arms. Regional efforts in security and peacekeeping had not only been an effective supplementary to United Nations programmes, but were an effective means of ensuring local participation on important security and development issues.
Concerned that more wars and conflicts were fought in poor and developing States, with women and children the main casualties, he said the impact on the sustainable development agenda for small developing States of such conflicts were enormous. Every effort must be made to mainstream civilian protection issues into United Nations programmes, peacekeeping mandates and operations and Member State policies, including provisions for reporting human rights abuses, together with disarmament and small arms proliferation and special measures to protect women and girls from rape and other violence.
PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said protection of the civilian population was based primarily on respect for international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law. Respecting those laws and ensuring that they were respected involved informing the different actors and making them aware and responsible. He stressed that, in all circumstances, the fundamental humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence applied. He invited the Council to strengthen its commitment to the fight against impunity and to make greater use of the instruments of monitoring and fact-finding missions for preventive purposes in crisis situations.
As everyone was aware of the disastrous effects of illicit trafficking in small arms on civilian populations, he invited all United Nations members to participate constructively in the open-ended working group on the identification and the tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons. That working group had started its first substantive session today, under the chairmanship of his country. It was necessary to develop further protective measures for women and girls, as the use of sexual violence as a military weapon deserved greater attention on the part of the international community. The role of women in the search for and implementation of peaceful solutions to conflicts must be strengthened. His country was convinced of the relevance of the concept of human security, which aimed at making human beings and their dignity the central focus of the international community.
FRANCIS BUTAGIRA (Uganda) called on the international community to hunt down terrorist groups and their leaders, saying such groups and crimes should not go unpunished and the international community should not be apologetic when dealing with the issue. To refrain from calling those “bandits” terrorists for fear that that would have an “adverse impact on opportunities for humanitarian negotiations” would be to give legitimacy to such groups.
He said: “Terrorists should be ostracised, denied sanctuary, and hunted down by the international community. All states should cooperate in this endeavour.” On the question of failed States or States unwilling to protect their citizens from the scourge of conflict, he said there should be an obligation on the part of the international community to intervene and protect those people. Likewise, there was need for the establishment of good rapport with governments wherever conflicts happened to be. In addition to cooperating with the governments, the relevant United Nations bodies should extend help to regional and subregional organizations dealing with conflicts, such as the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and others.
VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) welcomed the fact that, since adoption of resolution 1296 (2000), the mandates of major peacekeeping operations had been extended to include physical protection of civilians under imminent threat of violence. The inclusion in mandates of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, as well as of protection of refugees and returnees, was also an important step forward. Those concerns should be addressed on a systematic basis.
Humanitarian assistance did much to improve the protection of the civilian population, he said. As most of the conflicts had a transboundary character and impact, the role of regional organizations should not be underestimated. Council missions were an important tool in assisting in humanitarian access. Strengthening of cooperation between the Council and the ECOSOC was important in areas of peace-building.
He said individuals should be protected from crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Court was aimed to act in prevention and punishment of violations of humanitarian law and its potential should be given due consideration in countering impunity. Safeguarding the security of humanitarian personnel remained a key challenge for the United Nations and its partners. Women and children were often directly targeted and threatened by rape, sexual exploitation and trafficking. He, therefore, continued to advocate the deployment of child protection and gender advisers in peacekeeping missions.
ENRIQUE BERRUGA FILLOY (Mexico) noted with concern that civilians continued to be the most affected group in armed conflict and had been victims of torture and other grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It should be reaffirmed that: the Geneva Conventions were fully valid and must be complied with under all circumstances; civilians did not constitute a legitimate target; deliberate attacks against them could not be tolerated; and that parties to a conflict had to take all possible measures to limit the suffering and damage caused on civilians.
He said Latin America and the Caribbean were affected by non-international armed conflict, or by situations of violence that did not qualify as armed conflicts. In both situations, civilians were targets of indiscriminate attacks. That was why the capacity of the States to establish preventive mechanisms was fundamental. It was equally important to ensure that the Geneva Conventions applied to the protection of civilians in non-international armed conflicts.
States must bring to justice those responsible for grave violations of international law. The International Criminal Court had a fundamental role to play, always with full observance of the principle of complementarity that gave priority to national jurisdictions. States had the obligation to respond firmly to terrorist acts, but had to do so, based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. He was concerned by deliberate attacks on humanitarian workers. That was why his country had submitted resolution 1502 (2003) on the protection of humanitarian personnel. The Rome Statute had already stated that such attacks constituted a crime of war. All the same, States parties to the Geneva Convention and its additional protocols had to assume their responsibility to “respect and ensure respect” for international law.
AHMED ABDOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that successive developments in the nature of armed conflicts related to the targeting of civilians and the obstruction of humanitarian assistance had forced the international community to closely consider its efforts for the protection of civilians. Egypt felt that consideration of an internationally agreed approach to deal with such developments should be a priority. One important element in the increased suffering of civilians was non-compliance with international humanitarian law. As had been witnessed in the last 18 months, the basis of international humanitarian and human rights law had come under great pressure. The international community was called upon to redress the culture of impunity, which only encouraged the increase of violence and crime and contributed to the intensification of conflict.
In regard to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, he noted that 3.5 million people were almost daily subjected to military actions targeting civilians and denied essential humanitarian assistance. The needs of the civilian population had only become more acute with the construction of the separation wall. It must be admitted that, despite the United Nations’ past success in intervening effectively to protect civilians, the daily life of the Palestinian people stood as a glaring example of the international community’s incompetence and inability to provide protection for civilians under military occupation.
Finally, he said he wished to reaffirm his Government’s agreement with the Secretary-General on the need for the international community to recommit itself to principles of international law based on justice, peaceful settlement and respect for human dignity.
CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said there were no security issues that pre-empted the primary obligation of all States to comply with the norms of international humanitarian law. The obligation to respect the civilian population also extended to non-State actors that aspired to international legitimacy, whatever the justice of their claims. Moreover, the fight against terrorism must be carried out in full respect for international human rights law. Recent reports reflecting the opposite sense had prompted Argentina to support the Council’s cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to ensure that respect for those rights was not to be abrogated at any time.
The Secretary-General had highlighted progress in the application of Security Council resolutions on the protection of civilians, such as cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, he noted. Regional action could be effective in regard to questions related to refugees, illegal trade in natural resources, smuggling, disarmament and trafficking in small arms. Regional organizations could also play an important role, given their better knowledge of local difficulties and more realistic grasp of possible solutions to conflict.
The establishment of the International Criminal Court, and of the special tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, had propelled the fight against impunity forward, he said. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, sustainable peace required that past atrocities be punished, as impunity constituted a dangerous recipe for renewed conflict. However, the outlook on the security of United Nations and associated personnel continued to be gloomy. There was now a tendency to attack humanitarian personnel to prevent the provision of assistance to civilian populations, and so obtain political advantage.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that, rather than waste too much time trying to establish general, abstract rules that could be applicable to the protection of civilians under any type of armed conflict, he believed it would probably be more practical and appropriate to identify and collect best practices that had proved to be effective under specific armed conflicts. The Security Council should, thus, give due thought to such an approach and discuss the matter on the basis of the role it was supported to play and the capacity it had to do so.
While he had no wonder drug to offer to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel, it was necessary that the international community reaffirm its united support for humanitarian assistance activities and strongly condemn any attack that threatened the security of such personnel, he said. Such basic principles as impartiality and independence, which humanitarian personnel should observe in order not to be regarded as agents of a certain member of the international community, should be reaffirmed. Additionally, due to the uncontrolled circulation of small arms and light weapons, the harm done to civilians in armed conflict had become markedly harsher. Stricter controls were, therefore, needed. Also, the reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons was an important element in the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
JOSÉ NICOLÁS RIVAS (Colombia) said the international community had not found an effective manner to fight terrorism, drug trafficking, the trafficking of small arms and of people. The best way to fight those transnational crimes was through the strengthening of States and their democratic institutions, with the cooperation of the international community. Certain proposals in the report, if implemented, could backfire and weaken already weakened States and arm terrorist and drug trafficking organizations and networks involved in the trafficking of people. The Council had, therefore, the heavy responsibility of tackling those matters with caution and prudence.
He said innovations that did not respect the principles of humanitarian assistance, namely humanity, impartiality and neutrality, as well as innovations that politicized humanitarian assistance created vicious circles of suffering for the civilian population. Negotiations with terrorist organizations, traffickers of illicit drugs and criminals in order to obtain access to a specific population did not only legitimize such organizations, but also strengthened their operations. His Government had expressed concerns about dialogues that were not authorized by the Government of the receptorState. Commitments under international humanitarian law were to be complied with, but were never negotiable. Political negotiations by humanitarian organizations with illegal armed groups violated the basic principles of neutrality, impartiality and transparency of humanitarian work. The definite way of protecting the whole population was with the end of armed conflicts.
He said the report’s remarks concerning his country were inaccurate. His President had frequently stated the will to work with the United Nations in different scenarios. In Colombia, the illegal armed organizations had a presence on the ground, but did not have control, which reaffirmed the inconvenience of establishing a dialogue to achieve humanitarian access. Furthermore, according to the report, there was an adverse impact on humanitarian work when armed non-State actors were regarded as terrorist groups. However, the international community gave them such a denomination. It was not in the competence of the United Nations to certify “good conduct” of terrorist organizations, drug traffickers, or criminal organizations for the purpose of engaging in future peace negotiations. His country expected the decisive support of the United Nations in the legitimate efforts of democratic governments to eradicate terrorism, solve conflicts and establish peace.
ALLAN ROCK (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said regrettably there remained a significant gap between Council commitments and concrete action. The Council must publicly recognize that lack of access and security remained the greatest obstacles to effective humanitarian action. The Council and the General Assembly had the power to declare any country where United Nations and associated staff operated to be of exceptional risk, but even for Afghanistan such a declaration had not been made. The Council also used too infrequently monitoring mechanisms to enforce arms embargoes and failed to systematically condemn widespread instances of sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, the Council continued to resist responding to conflicts of which it was not formally seized, as exemplified by the situation in Darfur, Sudan.
He said the Council must demonstrate greater resolve in addressing sensitive and challenging situations. In urging more resolute action, he hoped also to prompt more creative efforts. Not all actions could be public, but there could be discreet Council fact-finding missions. He welcomed the attention of the report to regional dimensions. The creation of a culture of protection required that norms adopted by the Council be adapted to the regional perspective. He endorsed the call on the Council to commission a study on cross-border issues in crises and post-conflict situations. A key issue to be addressed was the presence of armed elements in refugee camps.
Establishing a culture of protection also required that attacks against civilians must be recognized as crimes and that perpetrators must be persecuted. The Council and the MemberStates had the responsibility to ensure that those who had committed crimes against civilians while employed in peacekeeping operations must be brought to justice. Canada, Australia and New Zealand urged the Council to respond quickly to those areas identified in the report for follow-up and called on the Council to consider adopting a new resolution on the matter that would be aimed at addressing gaps in the current agenda.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) described as alarming the security of international personnel with regard to recent past events, where the emblems of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), far from offering the protection they used to in what appeared to be a distant past, had been deliberately targeted by armed groups. Practical measures and thoughtful political decisions, which would constitute the core of the response to those developments, were accordingly necessary. At the same time, legal protection should also be adequate. It was, therefore, gratifying that the Secretary-General’s report included the need for supplementary legal measures to expand the scope of the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.
He said if the risks that civilians were exposed to in armed conflict had exponentially increased in the past few years due to their deliberate targeting, those risks were further compounded by a more recent phenomenon -- the active involvement of non-State actors in such conflicts. Such groups should not be allowed to operate in a legal vacuum and should be held to fundamental standards with regard to granting humanitarian access, as well as other international humanitarian and human rights law standards. That should apply not only to armed groups, but also to the private military industry whose impact and involvement had been growing dramatically over the past few years and would continue to do so, he said.
JEANETTE NDHLOVU (South Africa) welcomed the focus on strengthening regional capacities for the protection of civilians in the Secretary-General’s report and supported the establishment of a framework for United Nations engagement with regional organizations on a more systematic basis. Regional and subregional organizations should be closely involved, from the earliest stages, in efforts to address humanitarian needs of civilian populations in armed conflict, as well as efforts to provide early warning of potential conflicts, conflict resolution and mediation initiatives before conflict commenced.
The continued engagement of the international community for the protection of civilians in armed conflict was critical, she added, and should be provided in compliance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and should not be given due to geopolitical considerations. It was also essential that the international community address the disturbing trend of increased attacks against humanitarian personnel, including through prosecution of perpetrators and ensuring the participation of local communities when planning United Nations activities.
And while welcoming the commissioning of a study on improving modalities for monitoring and reporting cross-border issues in crisis and post-conflict situations, she warned that protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance should not lead to an abdication of responsibility by the United Nations system, but should be accomplished in partnership with regional mechanisms. Moreover, addressing the specific protection needs of women and children remained an important issue for the United Nations. The emergence of new challenges demanded that the international community actively and collectively address such issues in accordance with increased respect for the principles of international humanitarian law, human dignity and the legitimacy of the United Nations.
RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) noted that, in Iraq, increasingly serious threats to security and continued fighting had resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries, while civilian detainees had been subjected to torture and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. And in the occupied Palestinian territory, escalating violence and military attacks, as well as blatant disregard for international law by Israel, had caused civilian death and suffering. In such conflicts, women, children, the aged and infirmed continued to constitute 90 per cent of conflict casualties.
The protection of civilians in armed conflict must be all encompassing, he said. Affected civilians should not only be assured of their physical security, but also provided with legal protection under international law. The perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity must be held accountable for their actions and face the full penalty of law. The international community must collectively demonstrate its resolve to punish those responsible.
Also expressing concern over the continued obstruction of humanitarian access to those in need in conflict situations, he urged the Security Council to take effective measures to protect the Palestinian civilians who had long suffered under brutal Israeli occupation. The protection of civilians in armed conflicts required a comprehensive approach, including through regional organizations. There must be coordinated and concerted efforts on the part of all, including the parties to the conflict, peacekeepers and United Nations humanitarian workers and other international relief personnel.
U KYI TUN (Myanmar) said the restriction of humanitarian access to civilians in some conflict zones was one of the key issues confronting the humanitarian community today. Both governments and non-State actors must abide by international humanitarian laws and do their utmost to fulfil their obligations to protect civilians, as well as relief personnel. The Council should take a cooperative approach to secure their collaboration in gaining improved humanitarian access.
He said the best way to protect civilians in armed conflict was to resolve the root causes and bring armed conflict to an end. His own country had had to face numerous insurgencies for over 40 years. However, due to the national reconciliation efforts of the Government, 17 of the 18 insurgent groups had come back to the legal fold. A ceasefire agreement had been forged with the last remaining armed group. As a result, the armed conflict had ended and peace and stability now prevailed throughout the country. The armed groups were taking part in the National Convention that would lay down the principles for a new Constitution.
ARJUN BAHADUR THAPA (Nepal) said the situation in protection of civilians in armed conflict was compounded by the fact that non-State actors did not come under scrutiny. Civilians often had to support those groups at gun-point and were victims of rape and other atrocities in full view of the public. He was concerned by the impact illegal armed groups around the world had on the economic situation. The international community should engage in preventive diplomacy regarding poverty and exclusion, and the General Assembly and ECOSOC should play a greater role in the protection of civilians.
He subscribed to the view that security must be accorded to the most vulnerable, especially women and children. Any assistance by the international community to any country afflicted by disaster or conflict should only be given with the consent of the affected countries. He was concerned about increased attacks against United Nations personnel in the field and was, therefore, of the opinion that the scope of the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel should be broadened.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said until recently, conflicts usually took place among States. Nowadays, internal conflicts proliferated all over the world, but mainly in developing countries, with total disregard for international law. It was time that the international community assigned the highest priority and strong political will to face, mitigate and, whenever possible, eliminate all atrocities that every day drowned entire societies in pain and despair.
He welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to appoint a Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide in order to give the Organization a better early warning system. He also agreed with the Secretary-General that the need for reconciliation in post-conflict situations must go together with a clear commitment to put an end to impunity in cases of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights.
It was up to the Council to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. Otherwise, the whole international legal framework could be broken and violence and discrimination could spread all over the world, not only because of ethnic, racial, religious, cultural or political reasons but, above all, because of the hunger, poverty and despair of the population of three fourths of the world, he said.
PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, as a party to the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and other international instruments, and despite the vicissitudes of its recent history, his country had always sought to protect its citizens’ lives and property. The treacherous war imposed upon the country since September 2002 only served to strengthen the sense of obligation to do so. Moreover, the country had drawn some important lessons from the crisis and the concomitant assistance of United Nations Member States that followed.
Armed conflicts for the past several decades had been domestic in nature and had pitted rebel armed groups against the State. Yet, while States were bound to respect civilians in armed conflicts, that did not seem to be true for rebel groups. Such a situation necessitated prompt humanitarian interventions once conflict broke out, as well as the dogged implementation of the Council’s action plan contained in S/PRST/2003/27. Moreover, the situation called for the effective implementation and strengthening of conflict prevention measures called for by the Secretary-General. For even if international criminal tribunals eventually provided post-conflict restitution to those victims having survived a conflict, they could not bring back the dead, nor make whole the wounded. As the cliché followed, an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.
Additionally, the sustained protection of civilians must be incorporated into post-conflict reconstruction efforts and its progressive realization ensured by the international community. Furthermore, strategies of political, economic and social reconstruction must integrally incorporate cultural, civic and moral dimensions.
In closing remarks, Mr. EGELAND said he was grateful for the continued support expressed by members of the Security Council, and other States, throughout today’s debate as they had emphasized the need to continue mainstreaming the protection of civilians and clarifying the focus of protection activities.
Among the specific issues raised to which he wished to respond, he acknowledged that the issue of engagement with non-State armed groups was sensitive and complex. In situations of armed conflict, governments clearly bore primary responsibility to provide humanitarian access and to ensure the protection of civilians. However, it was equally clear that there were situations in which government alone did not have the capacity to ensure humanitarian access, yet civilian lives were at risk. Where non-State actors could ensure such access or where civilians had been targeted by the State, the humanitarian imperative could demand negotiation with non-State actors, as had been the case in Darfur. Yet, it was equally clear that any engagement must aim solely to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to civilians and be conducted transparently, neutrally and impartially, and without legitimizing the groups concerned.
In regard of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, he acknowledged that violence had been perpetrated against them and that the constraints posed by the separation barrier were of grave humanitarian concern. Moreover, the recent attacks in the Rafah camp had shocked the entire international community. International humanitarian law obviously applied in the occupied Palestinian territory and he was, thus, grateful to Pakistan for recalling that the Secretary-General had noted in his report that compliance with all aspects of international human rights and humanitarian law was necessary in all conflicts.
He also welcomed the unanimous concern expressed over sexual and gender-based violence against women and the need to do more to address such violence effectively, including for police and troop-contributing countries to do more to ensure that such violations were appropriately investigated.
Welcoming Germany’s suggestion that the Security Council receive ad hoc briefings when grave threats to the protection of civilians required, among other specific proposals, he also welcomed support for a new Council resolution on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Such a resolution should include a strategy to better and more effectively protect civilians. The renewed commitment of the Council to act decisively to protect civilians in armed conflict was needed now more than ever and he looked forward to cooperate closely in that endeavour.