|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6216th Meeting (AM & PM)
Security Council, Expressing Deep Regret Over Toll on Civilians in Armed Conflict,
Reaffirms Readiness to Respond to Their Deliberate Targeting
Adopted Unanimously, Resolution 1894 (2009) Demands
Strict Compliance with International Humanitarian, Human Rights, Refugee Law
Expressing deep regret that civilians continued to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts, the Security Council reaffirmed today its readiness to respond to the targeting of civilians and the blocking of humanitarian aid, as it opened a day-long debate on the matter.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1894 (2009) –- and thereby marking the tenth anniversary of its systematic work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict -- the Council demanded that parties to conflict comply strictly with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, as well as to Council resolutions calling for the protection of civilians and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid.
Noting that the deliberate targeting of civilians, in addition to systematic, flagrant and widespread violations of international law, might constitute a threat to international peace and security, the Council reaffirmed its readiness to consider appropriate measures against violators, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. It called on all parties to conflicts to strengthen the protection of civilians through heightened awareness at all levels, particularly through the training, orders and instructions issued to armed forces.
Also by the text, the Council recognized the need to consider the need for protection early in the formulation of peacekeeping mandates, as well as for comprehensive guidance in carrying out protection mandates. It requested the Secretary-General to develop, in consultation with relevant actors, an operational concept for that purpose.
By other terms of the wide-ranging text, the Council emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to implementing protection mandates -- through attention to economic growth, good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, among other considerations.
Opening the discussion this morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the prominent place that the protection of civilians had assumed on the Council’s agenda over the past 10 years, noting, however, that much remained to be done to effectively protect civilians in all conflicts.
“In old and new alike we see appalling levels of human suffering and a fundamental failure of the parties involved to respect their obligations to protect civilians,” he said, adding that such a failure demanded a reinvigorated commitment to the principles of international law on the part of the Security Council, Member States and the United Nations.
Speaking on behalf of Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Deputy High Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang affirmed the importance of maintaining the focus on human rights law in order to protect civilians. Where conflict entailed abuse of human rights, the international community must act to identify the facts and then apply international law, she said.
“Law without enforcement is of little moment to would-be perpetrators,” she added, urging the Council to work consistently to ensure accountability for perpetrators of war crimes. Progress had been made by the creation of tribunals, but the corrosive effects of impunity continued to wreak havoc.
John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, also deplored “the widening gap between the rules of international humanitarian law and their application”, as well as the gap between the protection mandates of some peacekeeping missions and the subsequent reality. It was crucial to develop operational guidance for that purpose, based on the understanding that protection involved a broad range of activities, from the return of refugees to strengthening the host State’s ability to protect its own population.
He stressed that the Council must follow a consistent and comprehensive approach to accountability issues, encouraging States to give top priority to their obligations under international law and calling them to account when they did not, on the basis of the facts rather than political convenience.
In the discussion that followed, most speakers welcomed the progress made in legal and policy frameworks in the 10 years since the adoption of the first thematic resolution on civilian protection, but voiced regret at the lack of accountability under those norms, which had allowed a high toll to be taken among civilians.
Most speakers also called for bolstering the protection of civilians in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations, which should be provided with adequate resources and clear guidelines to carry out that task. However, the representative of China, among others, stressed that protection mandates should be decided on a case-by-case basis to ensure they were necessary, realistic and consistent with the United Nations Charter.
While speakers addressed the protection of civilians in a variety of conflicts around the world, the situation in the Middle East was highlighted in many statements, with the Observer of Palestine and other speakers urging implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission that found evidence of breaches of international law in Gaza. Israel’s representative stressed the care that her country had taken to protect civilians while defending itself against terrorists who deliberately attacked civilians and used them as human shields.
In his statement, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger of Austria, which holds the Council Presidency for November, said that the many challenges to the protection of civilians showed the enormity of the task before the Council, which must integrate the matter into its daily work so as to be able effectively to accomplish it.
Also speaking today were the Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia, the Minister for International Defence and Security of the United Kingdom and the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica.
Other speakers were representatives of France, Russian Federation, Japan, Libya, United States, Viet Nam, Burkina Faso, Turkey, Uganda, Mexico, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Italy, Liechtenstein, Norway, Brazil, Australia, Finland, Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Guatemala, Germany, Qatar, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Denmark, Ireland, Argentina, Colombia, Ghana, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, United Republic of Tanzania, Canada, Morocco, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Indonesia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Zambia (on behalf of the African Group), Azerbaijan, Benin, Armenia, Iran and Rwanda.
Also addressing the Council were the Permanent Observer of Palestine and the Minister for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m., suspended at 1:03 p.m., resumed at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 8:34 p.m.
The Security Council today considered its thematic item of “Protection of civilians in armed conflict” 10 years after of its initial consideration of the matter, resulting in adoption on 17 September 1999 of resolution 1265. Since then, the Council has adopted four resolutions and several presidential statements and held regular debates on the issue. Consideration of protection issues has been included in an increasing number of country-specific resolutions and the mandates of peacekeeping missions.
According to a background paper issued by the Permanent Mission of Austria, which holds the Presidency for the month of November, the measures taken by the Council and the development of international norms and standards for the protection of civilians have not been fully matched by the requisite actions on the ground.
As underlined by the Secretary-General in his report on the issue (document S/2009/277) and during the Council’s last meeting on the subject on 26 June this year (see Press Release SC/9692), one of the main challenges faced was the failure of parties to conflict, including non-State armed groups, to respect fully, and to ensure the respect of, their obligations under international law.
The Council has a key role to play in enhancing compliance and promoting accountability for violations and international humanitarian and human rights law. The absence of accountability allows violations to thrive. The means at the Council’s disposal range from consistently condemning violations to applying targeted measures and requesting monitoring, reporting and fact-finding.
Regarding the implementation of protection mandates by peacekeeping mission, the paper notes that the disparity between mandated tasks and allocated resources and capabilities, as well as the information gap between the field and Headquarters -- including the Council -- are important challenges that need to be tackled. Effective implementation of protection tasks requires close consultations between the Council, the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries prior to the establishment of peacekeeping missions, as well as during their lifecycle.
Comprehensive, accurate and detailed reporting on the protection of civilians, including on constraints on safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors, is a prerequisite for the Council and other stakeholders to be able to take timely and informed action. It would also allow the Council to adjust mandates to reflect changes on the ground.
The Council had before it a draft resolution (document S/2009/582, co-sponsored by Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States, which reads, as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Reaffirming its commitment to the continuing and full implementation, in a mutually-reinforcing manner, of resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1325 (2000), 1612 (2005), 1674 (2006), 1738 (2006), 1820 (2008), 1882 (2009), 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009), and all relevant statements of its President,
“Reaffirming its commitment to the Purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as set out in Article 1 (1-4) of the Charter, and to the Principles of the Charter as set out in Article 2 (1-7) of the Charter, including its commitment to the principles of the political independence, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of all States, and respect for the sovereignty of all States,
“Noting that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the progressive consideration by the Security Council of the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a thematic issue; and acknowledging the enduring need for the Security Council and Member States to strengthen further the protection of civilians in armed conflict,
“Noting further that this year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which together with their Additional Protocols constitute the basis for the legal framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflict,
“Recognizing that States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as all individuals within their territory as provided for by relevant international law,
“Reaffirming that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians,
“Reaffirming the relevant provisions of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including paragraphs 138 and 139 thereof regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,
“Reiterating its deep regret that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict,
“Stressing the particular impact that armed conflict has on women and children, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as on other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities including persons with disabilities and older persons, and stressing the protection and assistance needs of all affected civilian populations,
“Noting the adoption of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (2009),
“Noting with grave concern the severity and prevalence of constraints on humanitarian access, as well as the frequency and gravity of attacks against humanitarian personnel and objects and the significant implications of such attacks for humanitarian operations,
“Recognizing the need for States in or emerging from armed conflict to restore or build accountable security institutions and independent national judicial systems,
“Recalling the inclusion of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the statutes of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and emphasizing in this regard the principle of complementarity,
“Recognizing the importance of reparations programmes in response to serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations,
“Recognizing the importance of empowering vulnerable civilians through education and training as a means to support efforts to halt and prevent abuses committed against civilians in situations of armed conflict,
“Recognizing the valuable contribution to the protection of children in armed conflict by the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict and the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, including its conclusions and recommendations issued in line with resolution 1612 (2005), and recalling resolution 1882 (2009), which aims to strengthen the protection of children in situations of armed conflict,
“Recalling its decision in resolution 1888 (2009) to address violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict by requesting the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative and to identify and take the appropriate measures to deploy rapidly a team of experts to situations of particular concern with respect to sexual violence in armed conflict,
“Noting the practice of briefings to Security Council members by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on behalf of the United Nations’ humanitarian community, both through formal and informal channels;
“Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians of 29 May 2009 (S/2009/277) and its annex on constraints on humanitarian access, which identify the core challenges to the effective protection of civilians, namely enhancing compliance with international law; enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups with their obligations under international law; enhancing protection through more effective and better resourced United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions; enhancing humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability for violations,
“Welcoming the proposals, conclusions and recommendations on the protection of civilians included in the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Working Group (A/63/19) and the important work conducted by the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, including its efforts aimed at enhancing the implementation of protection mandates;
“Recalling the statement of its President of 5 August 2009 (S/PRST/2009/24) and welcoming ongoing efforts to strengthen UN peacekeeping;
“Noting that United Nations peacekeeping missions constitute one of several means at the United Nations’ disposal to protect civilians in situations of armed conflict;
“1. Demands that parties to armed conflict comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, as well as to implement all relevant decisions of the Security Council and in this regard, urges them to take all required measures to respect and protect the civilian population and meet its basic needs;
“2. Reiterates its condemnation in the strongest terms of attacks in situations of armed conflict directed against civilians as such and other protected persons or objects as well as indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks and the utilization of the presence of civilians to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, as flagrant violations of international humanitarian law, and demands that all parties immediately put an end to such practices;
“3. Notes that the deliberate targeting of civilians as such and other protected persons, and the commission of systematic, flagrant and widespread violations of applicable international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict may constitute a threat to international peace and security, and reaffirms in this regard its readiness to consider such situations and, where necessary, to adopt appropriate steps;
“4. Reiterates its willingness to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians are being targeted or humanitarian assistance to civilians is being deliberately obstructed, including through the consideration of appropriate measures at the Security Council’s disposal in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
“5. Reiterates its call on States that have not already done so to consider signing, ratifying or acceding to the relevant instruments of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, and to take appropriate legislative, judicial and administrative measures to implement their obligations under these instruments;
“6. Demands that all States and parties to armed conflict fully implement all relevant decisions of the Security Council and in this regard cooperate fully with United Nations peacekeeping missions and Country Teams in the follow-up and implementation of these resolutions;
“7. Calls upon all parties concerned,
(a) to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information about international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law;
(b) to provide training for public officials, members of armed forces and armed groups, personnel associated to armed forces, civilian police and law enforcement personnel, and members of the judicial and legal professions; and to raise awareness among civil society and the civilian population on relevant international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, as well as on the protection, special needs and human rights of women and children in conflict situations, to achieve full and effective compliance;
(c) to ensure that orders and instructions issued to armed forces and other relevant actors are in compliance with applicable international law, and that they are observed, inter alia, by establishing effective disciplinary procedures, central to which must be the strict adherence to the principle of command responsibility to support compliance with international humanitarian law;
(d) to seek, where appropriate, support from United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions, as well as United Nations Country Teams and the International Committee of the Red Cross and, where appropriate, other members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, on training and awareness raising on international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law;
“8. Emphasizes the importance of addressing in its country specific deliberations the compliance of parties to armed conflict with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law; notes the range of existing methods used, on a case by case basis, for gathering information on alleged violations of applicable international law relating to the protection of civilians and underlines the importance in this regard of receiving information that is timely, objective, accurate and reliable;
“9. Considers the possibility, to this end, of using the International Fact-Finding Commission established by Article 90 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions;
“10. Affirms its strong opposition to impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law and emphasizes in this context the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to end impunity and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of international humanitarian law in order to prevent violations, avoid their recurrence and seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation;
“11. Recalls that accountability for such serious crimes must be ensured by taking measures at the national level, and by enhancing international cooperation in support of national mechanisms, draws attention to the full range of justice and reconciliation mechanisms to be considered, including national, international and “mixed” criminal courts and tribunals, and truth and reconciliation commissions, as well as national reparation programs for victims and institutional reforms; and underlines the Security Council’s role in ending impunity;
“12. Reaffirms the Security Council’s role in promoting an environment that is conducive to the facilitation of humanitarian access to those in need;
“13. Stresses the importance for all, within the framework of humanitarian assistance, of upholding and respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence;
“14. Stresses the importance for all parties to armed conflict to cooperate with humanitarian personnel in order to allow and facilitate access to civilian populations affected by armed conflict;
“15. Expresses its intention to:
(a) Call on parties to armed conflict to comply with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law to take all required steps to protect civilians and to facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of relief consignments, equipment and personnel,
(b) Mandate UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions, where appropriate, to assist in creating conditions conducive to safe, timely and unimpeded humanitarian assistance,
“16. Further expresses its intention to:
(a) Consistently condemn and call for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence and other forms of intimidation deliberately directed against humanitarian personnel,
(b) Call on parties to armed conflict to comply with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and consignments used for humanitarian relief operations,
(c) Take appropriate steps in response to deliberate attacks against humanitarian personnel;
“17. Invites the Secretary-General to continue the systematic monitoring and analysis of constraints on humanitarian access, to include as appropriate observations and recommendations in his briefings and country-specific reports to the Council;
“18. Recalls its determination to upgrade the strategic oversight of peacekeeping operations mindful of the important role peacekeeping operations play for the protection of civilians and reaffirms its support to the efforts made by the Secretary-General to review peacekeeping operations and to provide enhanced planning and support and renews its encouragement to deepen these efforts, in partnership with troop and police contributing countries and other relevant stakeholders;
“19. Reaffirms its practice of ensuring that mandates of UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions include, where appropriate and on a case-by-case basis, provisions regarding the protection of civilians, stresses that mandated protection activities must be given priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources, including information and intelligence resources, in the implementation of mandates; and recognizes, that the protection of civilians when and as mandated requires a coordinated response from all relevant mission components;
“20. Reaffirms also the importance of entrusting peacekeeping and other relevant missions that are tasked with the protection of civilians with clear, credible and achievable mandates, based on accurate and reliable information on the situation on the ground, and a realistic assessment of threats against civilians and missions, made in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and further reaffirms the importance of a greater awareness in the Security Council of the resource and field support implications of its decisions and stresses the necessity to ensure the execution of the afore-mentioned mandates to protect civilians in the field;
“21. Recognizes the necessity to take into account the protection needs of civilians in situations of armed conflict, in particular women and children, in the early phase of mandate drafting and throughout the lifecycle of United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions and in this regard underlines the importance of engagement with the countries concerned and of close consultation with the Secretariat, troop- and police-contributing countries, and other relevant actors;
“22. Recognizes also the need for comprehensive operational guidance on peacekeeping missions’ tasks and responsibilities in the implementation of protection of civilians mandates and requests the Secretary-General to develop in close consultation with Member States including troop and police contributing countries and other relevant actors, an operational concept for the protection of civilians, and to report back on progress made;
“23. Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with relevant actors, to ensure that peacekeeping missions with protection of civilians’ mandates, in keeping with the strategic plans that guide their deployment, conduct mission-wide planning, pre-deployment training, and senior leadership training on the protection of civilians and requests troop- and police-contributing countries to ensure the provision of appropriate training of their personnel participating in UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions to heighten the awareness and responsiveness to protection concerns, including training on HIV/AIDS and zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping missions;
“24. Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that all relevant peacekeeping missions with protection mandates incorporate comprehensive protection strategies into the overall mission implementation plans and contingency plans which include assessments of potential threats and options for crisis response and risk mitigation and establish priorities, actions and clear roles and responsibilities under the leadership and coordination of the SRSG, with the full involvement of all relevant actors and in consultation with United Nations Country Teams;
“25. Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that United Nations missions provide local communities with adequate information with regard to the role of the mission and in this regard ensure coordination between a United Nations mission and relevant humanitarian agencies;
“26. Takes note of practical measures taken by ongoing peacekeeping missions and United Nations Country Teams to enhance the protection of civilians in the field, and requests the Secretary-General to include best practice in his next report on protection of civilians to the Council;
“27. Reaffirms its practice of requiring benchmarks, as and where appropriate, to measure and review progress made in the implementation of peacekeeping mandates and stresses the importance of including indicators of progress regarding the protection of civilians in such benchmarks for relevant missions;
“28. Emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to facilitate the implementation of protection mandates through promoting economic growth, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for, and protection of human rights, and in this regard, urges the cooperation of Member States and underlines the importance of a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach by the principal organs of the United Nations, cooperating with one another and within their respective mandates;
“29. Notes that the excessive accumulation and destabilizing effect of small arms and light weapons pose a considerable impediment to the provision of humanitarian assistance and have a potential to exacerbate and prolong conflicts, endanger civilians and undermine security and the confidence required for a return to peace and stability, calls on parties to armed conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population, including children, from the effects of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, and in this regard, encourages the international community to support country efforts in clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war and to provide assistance for the care, rehabilitation and economic and social reintegration of victims, including persons with disabilities;
“30. Reiterates the importance of the Aide Memoire on the protection of civilians (S/PRST/2009) as a practical tool that provides a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key protection issues, particularly during deliberations on peacekeeping mandates and stresses the need to implement the approaches set out therein on a more regular and consistent basis, taking into account the particular circumstances of each conflict situation;
“31. Recognizes the important role of the Secretary-General in providing timely information to the Security Council on protection of civilians in armed conflict in particular through thematic and country specific reports and through briefings;
“32. Requests the Secretary-General to include in his reports to the Council on country-specific situations more comprehensive and detailed information relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including on protection-related incidents and actions taken by parties to armed conflict to implement their obligations to respect and protect the civilian population, including information specific to the protection needs of refugees, internally displaced persons, women, children and other vulnerable groups;
“33. Requests the Secretary-General to develop guidance for UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions on the reporting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict with a view to streamlining reporting and enhancing the Council’s monitoring and oversight of the implementation of protection mandates of UN peacekeeping and other missions;
“34. Stresses the importance of consultation and cooperation between the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relevant organisations, including regional organisations, to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict;
“35. Requests the Secretary-General to submit his next report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict by November 2010;
“36. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”
MICHAEL SPINDELEGGER, Foreign Minister of Austria and President of the Security Council, said that, 10 years ago, the Security Council had decided to start considering the protection of civilians in armed conflict in a systematic manner. Today, challenges were still being faced for civilians who had to flee their homes and became victims of violence and rape. United Nations peacekeeping missions and humanitarians were doing their best to alleviate their suffering, but more must be done to protect civilians on the ground. For Austria, protection of civilians was a priority. The draft resolution aimed to address existing gaps in the protection work and laid out measures to improve the situation.
He said the international community had to do better. There was a need to live up to the responsibility to respond to situations where civilians were in danger. No conflict justified the refusal of access for humanitarian workers or justified impunity for those who had committed serious crimes against civilians. The Council had a broad range of tools to ensure compliance of all parties with their obligation to protect violations and ensure access for humanitarian aid. The protection of civilians was at the core of United Nations peacekeeping.
The presence of United Nations peacekeepers generated expectations that vulnerable populations would enjoy protection. There was, however, still no common understanding of the protection mandates. Operational concepts and protection strategies would help to close the gap between Council mandates and their implementation. That would also contribute to the credibility of peacekeeping missions. There was a need for better information on the situation on the ground and an ongoing dialogue with troop- and police-contributing countries.
The Council than unanimously adopted the draft resolution as Security Council resolution 1894 (2009).
United Nations Secretary-General BAN-KI MOON said the protection of civilians had increasingly been a focus in the Council’s country-specific deliberations, which had advanced a key part of the Organization’s mission: to save and protect people from the horrors of armed conflict.
Not long ago, Member States had questioned whether internal armed conflict posed a threat to international peace, he said. Today, however, the destabilizing effects of such conflicts had been firmly recognized, and the Council had readily shown its willingness to address civilian protection situations. While that was a welcome evolution, even those conflicts not perceived to have implications for international peace and security could also dramatically impact civilians, and they, therefore, warranted the Council’s attention.
The past 10 years had seen some major conflicts come to an end, he said, but others had persisted and new ones had broken out. “In old and new alike, we see appalling levels of human suffering and a fundamental failure of the parties involved to respect their obligations to protect civilians”, he said.
That failure, he said, demanded renewed commitment by the entire Organization and, specifically, the Council, to the principles of international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, to guard against the perception that only some situations were of concern. Five challenges had to be met, the first of which was to strengthen compliance to international law by all parties to conflict, which meant access to conflict zones and reporting on the way conflicts were conducted.
The Council might also consider how to improve “what we do and how widely we do it”. He encouraged the Council to examine how to apply lessons learned from its reporting on the impact of armed conflict on children -- which had not faced an additional procedural hurdle -– to the broader task of protecting civilians.
Next, more consistent engagement with non-State armed groups was needed, and States had to accept the necessity of such engagement, he said. Further, peacekeeping missions must be enabled to discharge their protection mandates more effectively, which required improved operational guidance, training, equipment and resources. In that context, he welcomed the independent study on the implementation of peacekeeping mandates, commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He urged the Council and States, including troop- and police-contributing countries, to consider its recommendations.
Continuing, he said humanitarian actors must have better and safer access to civilians in need of assistance, and the Council must be prepared to respond when such access was not forthcoming. Finally, accountability had to be improved for those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious violations of international human rights law. Through criminal prosecutions and resolute action, “we must hold to account those who violate the laws that we have worked so hard to put in place”, he declared.
In marking the tenth anniversary of the Council’s consideration of civilian protection, he urged not dwelling too long on what had been achieved. The focus must be on the future and how to ensure more effective protection.
JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the first presidential statement on the issue, on 12 February 1999, had spoken of the Council’s distress that civilians accounted for the vast majority of casualties in conflict and its concern over “the widening gap between the rules of international humanitarian law and their application”. Although significant progress had been made since, the question was whether the gap between the rules of international humanitarian and human rights law and their application, between rhetoric and reality, had been narrowed. “Even an optimistic assessment suggests we still have far to go”, he said.
He said the lack of compliance with the law by parties to conflict, both State and non-State, resulted in thousands of civilians killed and injured every month and thousands more forced from their homes and facing yet further violations, including rape. Access for humanitarians was vital to the protection of civilians. To enhance that access, engagement with non-State armed groups was vital. Although some Member States remained concerned that engagement afforded those groups an unwelcome degree of recognition, the reality was that armed groups accounted for one or more of the parties in virtually every conflict. There must be flexibility to engage them.
Much had still to be done to close the gap between the mandates of peacekeeping missions, which included the protection of civilians, and the reality of the shortcomings identified in the independent study, jointly commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which had been released last Friday. He said the uncertainty as to what missions, and actors within missions, should do to protect civilians and how they should do it must be addressed. In that regard, it should be clear that United Nations peacekeeping operations were guided by the basic principles of peacekeeping and that they were not peace-enforcement operations.
He said the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in consultation with troop and police contributors and other stakeholders, was developing an operational concept to clarify the meaning of protection. That would provide the basis for further guidance. Also, all missions should develop protection of civilians strategies, based on realistic assessments of the threats and risks to the population. Such strategies must be based on the understanding that protection mandates were not limited to the protection of civilians “under imminent threat of physical violence”, but also involved a broad range of activities, including humanitarian access, return of refugees and displaced persons, human rights monitoring, child protection, and addressing sexual violence.
Because leadership was crucial, he said, special representatives and the senior mission leadership must ensure protection as a priority, and must be accountable for developing and implementing protection strategies. Better analysis and reporting must also be ensured, alongside political commitment to the mission by the Council and the parties on the ground. The need to strengthen the host State’s capacity to protect its population must also be taken into account.
There was also a gap between rhetoric and reality as it related to the consistency with which the Council pursued its stated commitment to the protection of civilians. Targeted sanctions, for instance, were a critical tool for seeking compliance with the law. But in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only those committing violations “involving the targeting of children and women” and “obstructing the access to or distribution of humanitarian assistance” were subject to such measures. In Somalia, only those obstructing humanitarian assistance were targeted. The Council needed a consistent and comprehensive approach to those accountability issues.
Others had characterized the gap between rhetoric and reality as between “idealism and realism”, he said, continuing, “But the effective application of international humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence and human rights law is not some ideal notion. On the contrary, it is an achievable reality.” It required, above all else, that States and other parties to conflict would give top priority to protection of civilians and promote, implement and enforce the practical steps required to apply the law, and that the Council not only encouraged them to do that, but also called them to account when they failed to do so, on the basis of the facts, not political convenience.
KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, maintained that what was meant by protection of civilians was really the protection of the human rights of individuals as contained in international law. Where conflict entailed abuse of human rights, the international community must act to identify the facts and then to apply the law, she said.
She said law without enforcement was of little concern to would-be perpetrators. The Council shared consistently work to ensure accountability for perpetrators of war crimes. Progress had been made by the creation of tribunals, but the corrosive effect of continuing impunity, on both human rights and peace, was evident in the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza, which laid out in detail violations of international law on the part of combatants. She urged the Council to embrace the recommendations in the report so as to secure accountability for all perpetrators, and to fully integrate human rights guarantees into peacemaking efforts.
The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was a horrifying reminder of the depths to which inhumanity could spiral if left unchecked, she said, and referred to massive displacement and killing, as well as the drastic increase in sexual violence. Support to the Congolese Army by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) must be reviewed whenever there was a risk of violations of international law, she stressed, adding that the situation was compounded by concerns that well-known human rights violators continued to occupy high-level positions within the Congolese forces.
She also drew attention to the “long-suffering people of Darfur”, noting that her Office had supported the 2005 International Commission of Inquiry there, as well as subsequent investigations of serious and widespread human rights violations. Darfur, she said, illustrated that even with robust mandates there were political, structural, operational and resource issues that limited the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping missions. The situation required the employment of a broader human rights approach with a focus on the entire spectrum of rights beyond physical protection.
She further noted the mounting civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and the disastrous impact of the conflict on the basic rights to health, food, shelter, livelihood and education. In addition, there continued to be an urgent need to improve overall accountability, by all who took and held detainees, as well as to institute a credible transitional justice strategy.
In general, she said, the Council should mandate arrangements on the ground to ensure coherence, rather than fragmentation in protection strategies, and to make full use of civilian capacities. The early deployment of human rights officers, the rapid fielding of human rights investigations, and the organization of human rights assessments had proved to be valuable interventions.
At the same time, she said, the disparity between mandated responsibilities, on the one hand, and inadequate resources, on the other, must be addressed as a priority. To close what she called the most important gap, between policy and practice, she urged a greater commitment by all to the explicit application of international law, its enforcement under a single standard, and a more rapid deployment of enhanced resources to ensure accountability for perpetrators, redress for victims and protection for the vulnerable.
Aligning his country with the upcoming European Union’s statement, GORDAN JANDROKOVIC, Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia, said the protection of civilians in armed conflict frequently struck at the core of the Council’s primary mandate regarding threats to international peace and security. The nature of contemporary conflict had changed in the modern era and the defining moment for the international community, when it decided that a more decisive and comprehensive approach was required, came in the mid-1990s with the genocides committed in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was important to note that the majority of atrocities committed during the war in Croatia had occurred before the arrival of international peacekeeping forces. Croatia hoped that the resolution just adopted would strengthen the international community’s resolve to act quickly and decisively to minimize actual threats to civilians.
The Council had, in 1999, added to the mandate of the peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone a direct reference to the protection of civilians, he said. The introduction of provisions to protect civilians had become increasingly important for later peacekeeping mandates. Yet, he noted that, while a peacekeeping mission could help stop violations of international humanitarian law on the ground, there needed to be solid cooperation between peacekeeping and other international personnel with the authorities and people of the host country, for any long-term and sustainable improvement in a conflict situation.
Referring to Croatia’s war of independence in the early 1990s, he said the country was nearly overwhelmed with more than 850,000 displaced persons and refugees, more than half from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those terrible loses sparked its leader to seek new avenues of internationally binding redress for such crimes committed. The Council turned a new chapter in international law, such as with the creation of the ad hoc criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC), he said.
The Council had acted in many other ways to enhance the protection of civilians, he said. Yet, Croatia remained extremely concerned about the severity and prevalence of constraints on humanitarian access in the field and attacks against humanitarian personnel. The Council had a responsibility to respond to situations of armed conflict where humanitarian assistance was being deliberately obstructed. The concept of the responsibility to protect, as reflected in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, was an integral part of the agenda for protecting civilians. Individual States had this responsibility, and the international community had the responsibility to protect populations and take collective action through the Council, if and when national authorities failed to do so. Croatia firmly believed the Council’s new resolution offered a valuable opportunity to improve the situation for all civilians caught in armed conflict.
ANN TAYLOR, Minister for International Defence and Security of the United Kingdom, said that, given the perilous situation in which many civilian populations still found themselves today, it was imperative that their protection remain at the core of the Council’s work. While welcoming the prominence given in the resolution to the issue of humanitarian access, more could be done to minimize violations of international humanitarian law. The Council should be ready to address flagrant and widespread violations committed against civilians, even when they took place in situations of internal armed conflict. “Protecting civilians requires a holistic approach that will sometimes stray into areas that are sensitive for some Governments”, she said.
She said the Council should also show “genuine” readiness to engage in conflict prevention, because the Council had rarely been able to achieve consensus on preventative action. For that to change, there was a need to increase the ability to receive and digest information, as well as Members’ willingness to address threatening situations at a sufficiently early stage.
Protecting civilians was an important measure of the credibility of peacekeeping operations and went to the very heart of what people admired and respected about the United Nations in action, she said. It must, therefore, be ensured that realistic demands were made of peacekeeping missions, matched against sufficient resources, training and structures. She fully supported renewed efforts to improve the dialogue between the Secretariat, the Council and troop- and police-contributing countries. There was much good field practice on which the Council could build. The example of MONUC proved the importance of a systematic and integrated approach to protection, and underlined the need for comprehensive United Nations guidance to be made available to all who needed it. In that regard, she looked forward to the recommendations of the independent study on mandate implementation.
EDGAR UGALDE ALVAREZ, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, stressing the importance of the issue to his country, said that despite progress made in the protection of civilians, considerable problems remained, particularly in the areas of accountability and compliance with international law. He stressed that the Council must strongly and decisively respond to grave violations by using all available resources and applying the same standards in all parts of the world, regardless of any political considerations.
In addition, he said, the Council had the responsibility to closely monitor situations where international law was repeatedly violated, obtaining timely information, promoting investigations when necessary and ensuring assistance to victims. Agreements must be made to guarantee victims’ access to justice through, when necessary, the ICC. The Council must also implement actions to strengthen the security sector and transitional justice.
He said protection of civilians required a strategic partnership among the international community at all levels, adding that it was necessary to mainstream the matter in the work of peacekeeping operations and to coordinate the efforts of political, military and humanitarian actors, providing adequate resources for robust protection mandates. In addition, he called on the Secretariat to systematically include, in country specific reports, information on constraints to humanitarian access, as well as relevant data and recommendations to protect the civilian population, including assessments of risks and threats. Stronger leadership was required for those purposes.
He ended with a statement on behalf of the Human Security Network, comprising Austria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand, with South Africa as an observer. He said the Network commanded progress in the area of protection of civilians, and called for work towards a more comprehensive and strategic approach in the five key challenges outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. It stressed the importance of protecting the dignity of persons, as well as their physical safety.
GERARD ARAUD ( France) said that respect for international humanitarian law was non–negotiable and that human rights must be ensured everywhere. The increasing probability that conflicts might break out in densely populated areas raised new questions about the implementation of the Geneva Conventions. The implementation of the protection of civilians was not restricted to military tasks or protecting against threats of immediate violations, but included a broad range of activities that should fall under integrated directives within a framework of global strategic planning. Those in the field must have a common and unambiguous idea of their tasks.
He said that MONUC was an illustration of the challenges faced. The mandate spelled out in resolution 1856 (2008) included new initiatives, such as joint operations and an early warning system. However, atrocities and massacres continued. When MONUC’s mandate comes up for renewal, the Council must find the resolve to implement the just-adopted resolution.
Combating impunity must also be addressed, he said. States must sanction perpetrators of serious and widespread violations, but when that did not happen nationally, international jurisdiction, such as the ICC, should be applied. The Council should examine what violations of international humanitarian law would be subjected to sanctions. He welcomed the recent General Assembly statement affirming the responsibility to protect. That responsibility not only included intervention when a crisis occurred, but also prevention of such crises and boosting early warning systems in situations of risk.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that, although his country was in favour of the peaceful settlement of disputes, in the real world, armed conflicts took the lives of many people, most of them civilians. Parties to armed conflict must strictly apply with human rights standards and Council resolutions. He unequivocally condemned deliberate attacks against civilians and the loss of lives, owing to the indiscriminate and disproportional use of force, an aspect that had not been included in the resolution. He was in favour of a thorough investigation and punishment of serious violations, including those committed by private security companies.
He said protection of civilians was primarily the responsibilities of States involved in conflict, and the actions of the international community should be aimed at assisting national efforts. The international community could take appropriate steps only under the auspices of the Council and in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The issue of protection of civilians during peacekeeping operations required detailed analysis, to be carried out in close conjunction with steps to enhance the effectiveness of those operations.
Close consultations were necessary on all aspects of peacekeeping operations, between the Council, Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries, and clear and realistic mandates to protect civilians should be developed, he said. Protection of civilians was only one aspect of peacekeeping. The main goal of peacekeeping operations was to assist the peace process. The process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration played an important role in protection of civilians and should be supported.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said the most pressing task of the moment was to determine how to put into practice the normative framework that had been developed for the protection of civilians. For that to happen, he stressed, all States must accede to and abide by international humanitarian and human rights law. States involved in armed conflict must strengthen law enforcement institutions and establish the rule of law, with the support of the international community. He pledged the assistance of his country in that effort.
In addition, he said, the Council must address serious violations of international law wherever they occurred, including when committed by non-State groups, and, when necessary, take measures to verify facts and establish accountability. Targeted sanctions could ensure the compliance, when appropriate. He stressed that, in addition, peacekeeping mandates must be feasible, well resourced, carefully explained to the host country and must take innovative approaches to translate the will of the Council into an operational plan. For that reason, he underlined the importance of the formulation of operational guidelines as requested of the Secretariat in today’s resolution.
He also underlined the importance of a comprehensive strategy that included the empowerment of vulnerable people, effective training of personnel and timely and accurate information from the ground. He said that today’s resolution should be used as a basis to measure further progress, and pledged his country’s commitment to enhancing the security of vulnerable people caught in conflict.
IBRAHIM DABBASHI ( Libya) said that, despite major progress achieved in the codification of international humanitarian law and principles of protection of civilian, results were “off-target”. The numbers of victims of armed conflict, including foreign occupation, had increased. States and groups still wilfully and wantonly targeted civilians. Many were victims of wars against terrorism, particularly those of Israel against Lebanon and those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many others suffer in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other areas.
The Palestinian people, he said, continued to suffer the most inhuman treatment from the occupying Power, Israel. He referred to casualties that had resulted from the tactics of the Gaza operation, including the use of proscribed weapons and the obstruction of humanitarian assistance. He hoped the support by certain Council members for Israel would not prevent the Council from carrying out its responsibilities in holding Israel to account, so that the body could regain its credibility.
He asserted that there were countries that took the high moral ground when they preached in the Council, but did nothing to stop Israel’s violations and even provided the weaponry that Israel used to kill and maim Palestinians. He stressed the Council must do more to prevent the outbreak of conflict, must act in a balanced and transparent manner, and must act urgently to realize the importance of the matter, which had to do with the very dignity of man, he said.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) said the resolution just adopted consolidated a decade of efforts to better protect civilians in armed conflict. As a result, millions of civilians had been saved in, among other countries, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste. However, in many places, innocents bore the brunt of conflict, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Sudan and Somalia. She said the Palestinians and Israelis continued to suffer, as well.
Far too many civilians were still victimized by violence, she said. Perpetrators, often terrorist and non-state actors, were unmoved by international law. State security forces, which lacked training or had been integrated with former rebel groups, could themselves threaten civilians. United Nations peacekeeping missions were mandated to protect civilians, but sometimes lacked the means to do so. Better combat and enforcement capability was important.
She said United States forces were committed to comply with the laws of war, even when facing enemies that routinely violated those laws. The situations in which civilians were imperilled differed radically. Means must be developed by which the Council had prompt access to threats and violations of international humanitarian and refugee law. Those who flouted the laws of war should be prosecuted. Reconciliation and accountability were central to end impunity. There was a need to support the countries emerging from conflict to rebuild their structures and capacities, including those to protect civilians.
She said the Security Council, the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries should consult more, and a system-wide strategy for the protection of civilians was critical. Peacekeepers should be trained and equipped to combat violations when they occurred. The tools and mechanisms were available, but considerable work had to be done to use them consistently, concurrently with efforts to halt conflicts themselves. In conclusion, she expressed regret that some speakers had used today’s opportunity to promote other objectives.
LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that he remained deeply concerned about indiscriminate and excessive use of force against civilians, widespread attacks against schools and other civilian targets, and other violations. It was alarming that the number of refugees and displaced persons as a result of conflicts now totalled nearly 40 million; that in many cases, humanitarian access had been virtually totally hindered; and that humanitarian personnel continued to be attacked or prevented from delivering assistance to civilians. He condemned all inhumane acts against civilians, and called on all parties to conflicts to strictly comply with their obligations to protect civilians. He also emphasized the need for strict observance of the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
He said that States bore the primary responsibility within their respective jurisdictions to protect their own populations. The United Nations, regional organizations and the international community had an important role to play in supporting and assisting Member States, particularly through political mediation and humanitarian assistance. Engagement and cooperation with national Governments was vital in that respect. It was also necessary to further strengthen coordination and cooperation among the United Nations entities, particularly among the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations missions and country teams.
Protection of civilians in armed conflict should be approached from a holistic perspective, he added. Measures to protect civilians, including refugees and internally displaced persons, were only viable if their practical needs, such as for subsistence, education and health care, were adequately addressed. In designing the necessary measures, it was important to carefully consider the methodologies used to collect accurate, timely and reliable information from the field. The Council and other United Nations bodies should adhere to their lines of responsibility and make the best use of existing mechanisms to avoid duplication. The Council’s resolution constituted another milestone in the international community’s humanitarian cause of protecting civilians in armed conflict.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) noted that protection of civilians had become much more complex in recent times because of the cruel nature of warfare nowadays and, although the legal instruments had grown, much remained to be done. Civilian populations continued to be the first target of atrocities.
He said that all parties must be reminded of their obligations, including States, which must establish legal machinery open to victims and calculated to end impunity. There should be stronger military and transitional justice, and other institution-building and development. There also must be dialogue among non-State groups to increase awareness of international human rights law.
He asked all parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and the access of humanitarian aid, and stressed the importance of realistic peacekeeping mandates that included protection of civilians. In addition, all partners on the ground must be well coordinated and the Council must ensure that its resolutions, as well as international law, were observed and that violators were held to account, through referral to judicial mechanisms and other means, when appropriate.
ZHANG YESUI ( China) said that the international community still faced an uphill battle in the matter of the protection of civilians. He urged all parties involved in conflicts to confront the issue, and he supported strengthening the Council’s means to do so, as well, maintaining that the body should do its part by helping to prevent and end conflicts and providing appropriate peacekeeping mandates.
He said, however, that the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians lay with States concerned. In addition, dialogue with non-State groups on the issue should take place with the cooperation of the Governments of the countries in question. Peacekeeping mandates should include protection of civilians, but only when feasible and necessary, and should be decided on a case-by-case basis, with full respect for the United Nations Charter.
The United Nations should also mobilize resources to help to extricate countries from poverty and, in that way, to lessen the possibility for conflict, through the cooperation of all parts of the United Nations system, as well as the international financial institutions, he said.
ERTUGRUL APAKAN (Turkey), recalling that during Council debates on Gaza the protection of civilians had been held at the margins of the developments there, said that that proved the need for all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Gaza, however, was not the only case of the dangers faced by civilians during armed conflicts. Recent developments had brought hope, however, such as adoption of Council resolutions on children and armed conflict and on women, peace and security. The just-adopted resolution represented a balanced approach and did not change the fact that there were issues of a very sensitive nature. Those issues, if not addressed carefully, carried the risk of undermining or weakening the Council’s efforts.
He said one should be extremely careful in dealing with non-State armed groups, given the inevitable ambiguity of that term and the many different kinds of entities that fell under that category. International organizations and non-governmental organizations, in particular, should be vigilant in conducting their work in conflict areas and not allow themselves to be exploited by terrorist groups and organizations. Cultural differences and sensitivities should be taken into consideration in predeployment training for peacekeeping operations by all States, he added.
The imbalance between well-funded peacekeeping operations in some areas where armed conflict had ended and other operations that needed urgent strengthening should also be immediately addressed, he said, and stressed that only through strengthening the rule of law, human rights, democracy and good governance the long-term and lasting protection of civilians could be secured. Moreover, perpetrators of violence against civilians must be held fully accountable.
BENEDICT LUKWIYA ( Uganda) expressed concern that civilians still accounted for the vast majority of casualties during armed conflict, and continued to be targeted and subjected to violations. Proliferation of non-State groups contributed to the complex nature of most conflicts. Those groups did not subscribe to or even realize their obligations under international law to protect civilians. Of even more concern was that most civilians caught between parties, for the most part, remained ignorant of their rights.
He said that today’s resolution reaffirmed those obligations and called upon States emerging from armed conflict to prioritize security sector reforms and independent national judicial systems and to take feasible steps to empower their populations. However, States could not rebuild national institutions on their own, but required support from the international community. The draft also recognized the need for safeguards for vulnerable persons, and addressed the important component of refugees and internally displaced persons. Uganda was encouraged by the attention the resolution gave to the proliferation and destabilizing effects of small arms and light weapons, as well as to the impact of landmines and explosives. Uganda called on all subregional and regional organizations, civil society and Member States to assist the victims and undertake initiatives, to remove unexploded ordnance and educate civilian populations about their risks.
The draft also noted the recent adoption of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, which was an important milestone, he continued. His delegation also welcomed the recognition by the Council of the need to address the issue of HIV and AIDS as an important component of national predeployment training for peacekeepers and related personnel. It was imperative to point out that HIV and AIDS presented an ever-present risk for populations, not just during peacetime, but even more so, during times of conflict. Soldiers were a high-risk group and could unknowingly spread the infection.
He added that the draft also called for national reparation programmes for victims, as well as institutional reforms. However, his delegation would like to go a step further and also recognize the need for all parties to armed conflict to emphasize the dignity of civilians by recognizing losses that resulted from lawful combat operations, as well as providing meaningful amends to affected individuals and communities, such as financial assistance and funding for humanitarian aid programmes. His delegation encouraged all Member States to embrace the concept of making amends, not because there was any legal obligation to do so, but simply in the interest of mitigating suffering and promoting humanity. That had been the policy of Uganda’s defence forces and it continued to be implemented by Ugandan troops serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said there was no doubt that progress had been achieved in protection of civilians in armed conflict through international legislation and norms, but in spite of that progress, largely in the realm of theory, the situation on the ground remained difficult. More coherence between theory and practice was necessary. It was important to have a comprehensive strategy based on compliance with international humanitarian law, and on the strengthening both of the work of humanitarian organizations and of accountability to end impunity.
He said the Geneva Conventions, their Protocol and other instruments formed a solid foundation of standards that protected the life and dignity of non-participants in hostilities. All States which had not done so should accede to all instruments relating to international humanitarian and human rights law, and to transpose obligations under those instruments to national law.
To block humanitarian assistance aggravated the situation of civilians in armed conflict, he said. In that regard, he disagreed with a restrictive interpretation of human dignity in complex situations that made human dignity subordinate to sovereignty. Impunity of alleged violators and those giving orders to carry out such violations should be put to an end. The ICC should act where national judicial structures could not act as a consequence of conflict.
He said narrow political interest that often prevented full compliance with international law had to be overcome. There should be timely follow-up to recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s reports; full implementation of decisions of the Council and other bodies of the United Nations must be ensured. If that did not occur, robust measures should be adopted to guarantee peace, justice and international security.
The President of the Council, MICHAEL SPINDELEGGER, Foreign Minister of Austria, speaking in his national capacity and aligning his delegation with the statement to be made by Sweden for the European Union, said that the numerous challenges in the protection of civilians which had been outlined today gave a picture of tasks ahead for the Council. To be effective, the Council must address the protection of civilians in its daily work.
He said all parties to armed conflict must strictly comply with international humanitarian and human rights law, no matter where the conflicts lay. Action at the national and international level must be taken to end impunity in that regard. He expressed concern over the effects of illicit small arms and light weapons and land mines, and stressed the need for attention to be given to the protection of persons with disabilities during conflicts.
The primary responsibility to protect civilians lay with national Governments, he noted, adding that the Council had an important role to play in saving lives with actions taken at all levels. He underscored Austria’s full commitment to work with the international community to implement the important resolution adopted today.
ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the resolution to be adopted, in particular its emphasis on clarifying the role of peacekeeping missions in protection of civilians. In the past 10 years, the protection of civilians in armed conflict had assumed a prominent place on the Council’s agenda. That had been manifested in regular open debates and by its increased inclusion in country-specific deliberations and decisions. The reality on the ground had not kept pace, however, and “lip service” to principles was no substitute for real action. The European Union called for much greater efforts to turn rhetoric into reality.
He said that the lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law had led to the death and injury of thousands of civilians every year and to the displacement of many more. It was necessary to enhance respect for those standards by all parties to armed conflicts, with particular attention to the protection of civilians. The Council should systematically promote compliance with international law in situations on its agenda, and also in situations not formally on its agenda, but that had dramatic impact on the protection of civilians. The Council should also consider imposing targeted and graduated measures against parties to armed conflict that were violating applicable international law. It was also necessary to enable relevant actors to seek compliance by all parties to conflict, including non-State armed groups.
Regrettably, impunity prevailed in many conflicts, owing to the lack of political will and action, he said. The culture of impunity in many conflicts allowed violations to thrive. Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must have consequences for the perpetrators, and all measures should be used to prevent violence and bring perpetrators of serious violations to justice, including strengthened national legislation. In that regard, the Union called for the ratification of the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute and full cooperation with the Court by all States. In addition, mission-specific protection strategies should be developed on a systematic basis, and capacity and resources should be genuinely appropriate for the task of protecting civilians.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI ( Italy) said the Council had shown great leadership over the past year and a half in ending sexual violence in situations of armed conflict as a key element in protection of civilians. The adoptions of resolution 1820 (2008) on sexual violence as a tactic of war and of resolution 1888 (2009) relating to peacekeeping were two effective new tools for the Council to use in ending impunity and holding accountable the perpetrators of heinous crimes. The Council must now use the tools by implementing the resolutions in full and without delay. The early appointment of a Special Representative for women, peace and security would provide much-needed leadership, coordination and advocacy in the field.
With regard to peacekeeping, he said there were three elements to be considered in relation to protection of civilians by Blue Helmets. The Secretariat must continue to formulate guidelines towards a policy shared by all Members so as to inform peacekeeper actions on the ground. The guidelines should serve as a basis for training in a standardized manner, including on crisis management. His country participated in that sector through Centres of Excellence in financing of police projects. Finally, the guidelines and training should be backed by resources to enable peacekeepers to protect effectively and securely.
Reiterating his commitment to end impunity, he said international criminal jurisdiction should be increasingly viewed as a complementary instrument in repressing international crimes. States should adapt laws to be first responders to serious breaches of law committed in their territories. They should also cooperate in raising awareness about the basic principles and the importance of international humanitarian law, especially in the armed forces. Finally, the important principle of the responsibility to protect should not be perceived in a confrontational manner, but as an instrument for overcoming crises within the defined conditions. The July review of the matter had been welcome, as would be the follow-up in the current session.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said that thinking of new ways to enhance the Council’s role in protecting civilians would be most appropriate for commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Council’s adoption of the first resolution on the protection of civilians. Noting that 2009 also marked the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, the centrepiece of the “protection of civilians” regime, he said that where there ought to have been steady progress towards full compliance, there was, instead, an erosion of respect for international humanitarian law.
Another element worth considering was the consistency with which the Council treated that issue, he said. Also, to improve accountability, the Council should consider a much broader role for itself beyond referring situations to the International Criminal Court. It should demand accountability from States, while making clear that it was the responsibility of the State to investigate and prosecute such crimes. The Council must also ensure accountability in situations where there was no willingness on the part of States to do so.
In future, the Council’s approach to the protection agenda must be consistent, especially in cases where that might seem difficult or inconvenient, he stressed. Liechtenstein welcomed the joint study by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as parts of the resolution dealing with peacekeeping. However, the study revealed breaks in the chain of events in support of civilian protection, from the planning stages to the practical application in the field. It was essential that the Council provide clear guidelines in mandates, as well as in strategies involving country teams and host States.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said it was evident that civilian-protection mandates had yet to be matched by political resolve and resources, doctrine and clear operational guidance for peacekeeping personnel. Troop- and police-contributing countries must internalize that issue in their national policies. Not one national army had developed operational guidance to combat sexual violence in conflict, and the overall lack of tailored training in that regard was worrisome. The international community must also deploy more uniformed female personnel.
She said her country was funding the development of a strategic doctrinal framework for international police peacekeeping which should provide a consistent model for policing. There was a need for stronger political will and leadership in order to demand responses to sexual violence in conflict which should be manifested in strong and specific mandates with timely delivery of resources. Norway called on the Secretary-General to expedite the appointment of the Special Representative for sexual violence in armed conflict.
Impunity served as an incentive for continued violence for soldier and citizen alike, she continued, emphasizing that the certainty of investigation, prosecution and punishment was vital to preventing abuse and protecting civilians from it. The protection of civilians required not only a mission-wide or United Nations-wide strategy, but also a partnership involving all those present in the field, including the host Government. Ultimately, it required a culture of respect for human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said the greatest crisis of legitimacy in the history of peacekeeping occurred when the United Nations failed to protect civilians in their hour of direst need. In the 10 years since resolution 1265 (1999) was adopted, a consensus had been built around the central aspects of the protection of civilians and the considerable normative guidance already developed in this area must now be translated into concrete improvements. To this end, mandates must be clear enough so that peacekeepers on the ground, especially commanders, understood precisely what was expected of them without hampering the autonomy they needed to do their jobs properly. In protecting civilians, the assignment of vague tasks led to underperformance and loss of lives that could be saved, or to excessive ambition and inevitable disappointment.
Stressing that mandates must also be realistic, she underscored the difficult choices the Council had to make in deciding what was feasible and what was not. Two opposite and grave errors should be avoided in that process. First, protection mandates requiring resources that were unlikely to be made available should not be set. Second, budgetary considerations should not be placed above moral and political imperatives. Thus, Member States that set mandates in the Council must be ready to face the financial decisions in the General Assembly. They must also cooperate in the Assembly to secure the means to allow the Council to properly discharge its responsibilities.
She went on to say that clear and realistic mandates were important in managing expectations. The United Nations could not protect all people from every danger all the time. Suggesting it could was a recipe for disorientation among blue helmets, disappointment among victims and damaging criticism of the Organization. Further, protection mandates must address a situation’s particularities. The protection of civilians also had to be seen as a cross-cutting activity, not a discrete set of military tasks, and to make the activity sustainable, it must aim to “protect societies” by laying the foundations for justice, security and opportunity for all.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) recalled that 11 November 1918 had marked the end of the First World War, in which 7 million civilians had died. That war had bred the Second World War, during which at least 50 million civilians had died. The protection of civilians was a broad topic embracing many different issues and involving myriad different actors. He said there was still a significant gap between what the Council mandated and what peacekeepers were capable of doing. To address that gap, military and police personnel tasked with protecting civilians needed appropriate guidance, which would assist in identifying the resources and training required, aid the formulation of more effective and clearer mission mandates, and provide a framework against which success could be measured.
Ensuring that peacekeepers had the necessary resources to fulfil civilian-protection mandates was critical, he said. Without those resources, the safety and security of deployed peacekeepers and civilians were put at risk. The development of guidelines on protecting civilians would provide a framework for determining the resources and level of training required. Lessons learned in the field must be captured and utilized. The recently released study on protection of civilians in United Nations peacekeeping operations was an important step in that regard. Australia and Uruguay would host a workshop on civilian provincial reconstruction teams in peacekeeping operations on 8 December. In order for United Nations peacekeeping to better protect civilians, a common understanding must be developed of what was expected of peacekeepers.
JARMO VIINANEN ( Finland) stressed the importance of striving to achieve universal compliance with the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols, including through the establishment of strong accountability mechanisms. As a staunch supporter of the International Criminal Court, Finland called on all Member States to ratify the Rome Statute. It also called on the Council to use all means at its disposal, including sanctions, to compel compliance by all parties with their obligations. The Council should also make better use of available information in order to take timely and informed action in specific situations. Children and women required special protection measures, and the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be a guide when it came to protecting children in armed conflict.
It was also important to appoint, in a timely manner, a special representative for sexual violence in armed conflict, he said. Peacekeeping operations were one of the most important United Nations tools for protecting civilians in armed conflict. However, there was a need for a shared view of what protection of civilians really meant. Effective protection required a comprehensive approach, including troops and police units that could be called upon in critical situations, long-term monitoring and protection of human rights, activities aimed at building the rule of law, and support for security-sector reform. It was also important to ensure that humanitarian actors could carry on their work on the basis of the principles of neutrality and impartiality.
MAGED ABDEL FATAH ABDEL AZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, in order to lessen the suffering of civilians around the world, priority should continue to be given to promoting observance of obligations under international humanitarian law. Reiterating the Movement’s condemnation of increasing attacks on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, he urged Member States to respect international law in that regard and reaffirmed that humanitarian agencies should also respect international law, as well as the laws of the countries in which they operated. Additionally, they should refrain from interfering in the cultural, religious and other values of host populations.
Underscoring the Non-Aligned Movement’s concern over the threat to humanity posed by weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, he called for more to be done on the disarmament and non-proliferation fronts. In addition, the Movement deplored the continued use of anti-personnel landmines, and urged support for landmine clearance and for victims.
Turning to the persistence of violations of international law by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he called upon the Council to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the Geneva Conventions in that situation. It was important for the General Assembly, as well as the Security Council, to both protect civilians and investigate violations of international law, without discrimination. Discussions on those issues should be separated from political discussions at an early stage in order to save as many lives as possible.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed Guatemala’s interest in today’s topic as a troop-contributing country, and noted that, on 23 January 2006, eight Guatemalan troops had lost their lives protecting civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like other troop contributors, Guatemala struggled with limiting its presence in any country to peacekeeping, on the one hand, and assisting humanitarian efforts to protect civilians as part of a broader mandate to restore stability, on the other. Welcoming the Council’s willingness to address civilian needs in situations of armed conflict, he said that, despite the various reports and resolutions of the past decade, civilians still accounted for the vast majority of casualties.
Indeed, he said, it was growing more difficult to distinguish between civilians and combatants, due in part to the increase in non-State armed groups and the expansion of conflict zones, which exposed more civilians to more attacks. Conventional measures could not address those challenges. While Guatemala recognized the update of the aide-memoire on the protection of civilians, States appeared to fall short in the observance of international humanitarian law and accountability for violations. As such, it was time to adjust various norms of that law to fully comply with distinction and proportionality requirements.
As to how the Council handled such issues, he said civilian protection could not be treated uniformly -– the situation would vary depending on whether there was a mandate under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter. As the United Nations had limitations within its mandates, measures should only aim at protecting those civilians facing imminent danger. Also, carrying out mandates should be done on the basis of a realistic assessment of events on the ground, and in close consultation with both troop-contributing countries and the host country. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations should elaborate a “concept of operations” to serve as the legal framework for the rules of engagement. International humanitarian law must be respected and observed without selectivity. Establishing secure environments, reinstating the rule of law and providing troop contributors with resources, equipment and training prior to deployment should also be a focus.
MARTIN NEY ( Germany) said that the protection of civilians in armed conflict was fundamental to the United Nations’ mandate. Although international law specifically prohibited attacks directed against civilians, as well as indiscriminate attacks in situations of armed conflict, the phenomenon was still common today. He noted landmark achievements, such as resolution 1265 (1999), from 10 years ago. At that time, the Council engaged in a thematic approach to the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict. Since then, the Council had adopted a number of resolutions and presidential statements instrumental for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, especially in terms of children, women and girls, in relation to sexual violence. He looked forward to the speedy creation of the new United Nations gender entity and hoped that actors in peacekeeping, such as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and troop contributors, would cooperate closely.
However, despite institutional progress of the last years, substantive challenges remained. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of armed conflict, and a growing number of conflicts of a non-international character had increased the vulnerability of civilians. Many conflict parties, including non-State armed groups, failed to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. The fight against impunity was key, which meant that the Security Council needed to make greater use of tools at its disposal, including sanctions against perpetrators. Fundamental to the credibility of United Nations peacekeeping was civilian protection. Such measures included, among others, ensuring missions received clear mandates for protection of civilians, clear rules of engagement to avoid misunderstandings in the field, clearly defined tasks and planning, and a comprehensive approach involving humanitarian assistance.
SALEM AL-SHAFI ( Qatar) said the protection of civilians was not a purely humanitarian concern, but rather one requiring the enforcement of international law without discrimination or selectivity. In that regard, the most important situation in the Middle East was that of the Palestinians, who were increasingly vulnerable as a result of the growing disregard for their protection on the part of the Israeli occupation authorities. Qatar urged the Council to pay due attention to the recommendations of the Goldstone Commission on the recent Gaza conflict.
He went on to state that the targeting of civilians by a regular army, equipped with the latest and most accurate weapons in the world, in full view of the Security Council and without any reaction by it, undermined that body’s credibility in addressing the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Qatar had been among the first nations to call for a cessation of hostilities in Gaza and for an investigation of Israeli practices. It had also been one of the first to help mobilize international financial support to assist the affected population. Qatar called on the Council to shoulder its responsibilities in supporting international law regarding the protection of civilians.
GABRIELA SHALEV ( Israel) said that clarity in protection mandates, accurate understanding of the threat to civilians, and guidance on operations could help peacekeeping forces and the Security Council to increase their effectiveness in the area of protection of civilians. However, she added, the debate must not ignore the reality of terrorism, in which civilians were deliberately drawn into armed conflict. In that reality, she said, terrorists used civilians as shields while they stored weapons, launched attacks and built military infrastructure in densely populated areas while they targeted civilians. In that same reality, one week ago, Hamas fired a rocket with a 60-kilometre range that threatened Israel’s major population centres, while Iran supplied weapons to such terrorists and stood in manifest violation of the Council’s resolutions.
In light of that threatening reality, she said that Israel, as a democratic State in full conformity with its international obligations, sought to protect civilians while it pursued terrorists who hid amongst them as it did in Gaza, where Israel took extraordinary measures to protect all civilians, including placing more than 165,000 phone calls to warn them of pending attacks and dropping millions of leaflets to ask them to avoid areas used by Hamas terrorists. She said that many such measures, as well as investigations into the Israeli operation, were described in a report produced by the Israeli Government that she showed to the Council. In addition, she pointed to the statement of a military expert, Richard Kemp, who had stated that Israel did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any army in the history of warfare.
HEIDI GRAU ( Switzerland) said she wished to focus on four issues: respect for international humanitarian law, including the fight against impunity; humanitarian access; reporting; and peacekeeping missions. Protection of civilians was reliant on the first of those concepts, she said, and she expressed support for the Secretary-General’s proposal for a meeting to identify new measures to improve the compliance of non-State actors with existing norms. Further, she said the Security Council must ensure that inquiries were carried out in all situations where allegations of serious violations of international law were made, and that the alleged perpetrators were brought to justice. The Council should impose targeted measures against individuals or parties who did not respect its resolutions.
Such sanctions, she added, should also be imposed more systematically when humanitarian access was denied. The Secretary-General should address the issue of protecting civilians more comprehensively in his country-specific reports, and the Security Council’s informal expert group on the subject should receive reports from the Secretariat more regularly. The Council might better determine whether its decisions were being respected and its mandates implemented. The informal expert group could also serve as an early warning instrument to draw the Council’s attention to conflict situations that were not on its agenda. Finally, on peacekeeping, she expressed the hope that the recommendations in the independent study commissioned by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would facilitate the development of clearer protection guidelines for both the military and civilian components of peacekeeping operations.
AHMED ABDULRAHMAN AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said that, despite measures taken by the Council over the last 10 years, civilians in armed conflict, especially women and children, continued to suffer because parties to conflict did not respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. The United Arab Emirates condemned all forms of deliberate attack on civilians and the disproportionate use of force. A study must be developed to examine all aspects of the problem, which could help to promote the supremacy of the rule of law and human rights in countries in conflict.
Welcoming the General Assembly resolution on the follow-up to the Goldstone Report, he said he hoped proper measures would be taken to implement it. The United Arab Emirates also supported measures undertaken in Afghanistan to guarantee the safety of humanitarian personnel in that country, and hoped technical assistance would be rendered to that country to develop its capacity to prosecute perpetrators and end impunity. While States had the primary responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict, regional and international cooperation was also crucial.
He said the creation of safe and neutral zones for the evacuation of victims and humanitarian access was also important, as was strengthening accountability. It was to be hoped that agreement would soon be reached on the role to be played by United Nations peacekeeping operations in protecting civilians and humanitarian personnel. Coordination among the Council, troop- and police-contributing countries and the Secretariat on approving mandates and assistance was necessary in order to protect civilians in a more coordinated fashion.
GUSTAVO ALVAREZ ( Uruguay) said the recently released independent study drew lessons about which stakeholders could build the broadest consensus on protecting civilians. United Nations peacekeeping operations were probably the most tangible tool for making protection effective. The protection of civilians was primarily carried out on the ground, and it would, therefore, not be easy to carry out that task without guidelines, training, resources and political commitment. All actors involved should have more or less the same idea of what was expected of a protection mandate, and guidelines, in that regard, must be developed with the participation of troop- and police-contributing countries.
Emphasizing the need for a balance between mandates and resources, he said that all actors, including the Council, Secretariat and contributing countries could improve that balance. Protection should be viewed as comprehensive task, including humanitarian work, rule of law, reconstruction, economic and social development, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. There was an urgent need to strengthen the norms of international humanitarian law in order to fight impunity, ensure access for humanitarian personnel and improve their security. He concluded by saying that his country would host a workshop, organized with Australia, on 8 December, in order to have an open discussion on the relevant issues.
CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) said that in order effectively to protect civilians it was important for the Council to help in the universal enforcement of international humanitarian law and to be ready to act with all the means at its disposal for that purpose. In that regard, the Council must help create better targeted, clearer, more feasible and adequately-resourced peacekeeping mandates. It was also crucial to protect humanitarian workers and to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations to account for their crimes.
ANNE ANDERSON (Ireland) said there was a need to move from analysis to action, and highlighted four areas of focus, that had been clearly set out in the Secretary-General’s report and the Council President’s concept paper, namely, enhancing compliance by State and non-State actors; protection of civilians by United Nations peacekeepers, safeguarding humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability.
With respect to enhancing accountability, she agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendations with respect to Sri Lanka, Gaza and Afghanistan. Although each situation presented a complex context, it was crucial that the international community did not sacrifice or erode the principles of protection and accountability, or succumb to selectivity. The same standards had to be applied universally. Concerning safeguarding humanitarian access, the statistics detailing the increase of attacks on humanitarian workers were “shocking”. Over the past three years, kidnapping of humanitarian workers has increased by 350 per cent, and last year saw the most humanitarian workers affected by violence in 12 years.
On the issue of how to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping, the task now was to bridge the gap between aspiration and reality. A joint study launched earlier this week from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs showed that the chain of events to support civilian protection -- from the earliest planning, to Security Council mandates to field-level implementation -- was broken, and she suggested that mandates had to be clear and specific. Finally, with regard to the responsibility to protect, Ireland assigned extreme importance to the principle, and hoped that an outcome of today’s debate would be renewed momentum to elaborate and apply this key concept.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the failure of States and parties to respect and ensure respect for their legal obligations was still rampant. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure that the protection of civilians in armed conflict was guaranteed for all civilians, without selectivity or inaction based on political considerations. Unfortunately, selectivity and inaction by the international community, including the Council, had allowed Israel, the occupying Power, to continue with its violations of international law, international humanitarian and human rights law against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its violations and war crimes had regrettably reinforced Israel’s impunity and lawlessness.
Calling the military aggression in Gaza an “appalling and fatal illustration of Israel’s complete disregard for the human rights and the right to protection of the Palestinian civilian population”, he said that Israel had continued its unlawful blockade in collective punishment of Gaza’s entire population. Humanitarian access, one of the key components to the protection of civilians, continued to be impeded and exports were totally prohibited. The Goldstone Report had stated that the absence of accountability and, worse, the lack of any expectation thereof, was what allowed violations to thrive. Israel had enjoyed that culture of impunity for more than four decades, which had undermined the credibility of international law and the international system as a whole.
The situation in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained volatile, he said, with continued Israeli raids in the West Bank, settlement campaigns and wall construction. Settler violence had also intensified. In East Jerusalem, evictions and demolitions had rendered hundreds of Palestinian civilians homeless. He asked the Council, “when will the rights of these civilians, including that of protection, be ensured”? A clear and firm message must be sent to the occupying Power that the international community would no longer tolerate its illegal actions, violations and crimes. That would help to break the cycle of impunity and truly ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians.
JORGE ARGUËLLO ( Argentina) said the Council must remain committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, to respect for humanitarian law and to international human rights laws, as well as the fight against impunity. While the Geneva Conventions had been a step forward, 60 years after their adoption, civilians were still targeted, children were still recruited as soldiers or subjected to abuse, sexual violence still occurred daily, and humanitarian access was still denied.
Protection activities must be included in the mandates of United Nations missions, he said, adding that interaction with the troops on the ground was essential in terms of clear and sufficiently resourced mandates. Troop contingents should also have the necessary structure to protect women from sexual violence and rehabilitate child soldiers, while protecting children from recruitment as soldiers. Where parties to a conflict did not fulfil their obligations under humanitarian law, they should at least do their best to guarantee that civilians had access to humanitarian shipments and material, as well as to first-aid support. Persons escaping from combat areas must also be allowed safe transit.
He went on to underscore that those responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity must be criminally accountable before the law. While the ICC was not a substitute for national justice, it must operate where such justice did not. Ensuring accountability for such serious crimes was more than a State obligation; it was in the international community’s interest since justice helped alleviate the wounds caused by conflict and prepared the ground for reconstruction and peace.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said that, through its democratic security policy, her country had reinforced the rule of law and created solid conditions for the protection of Colombians and their rights. As a result, criminality and violence had been reduced to levels not experienced in many years and more than 52,000 armed fighters had been demobilized. Colombia was guided in those efforts by the premise that the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rested with the State, which could, however, turn to the international community for assistance.
She said States also had the obligation of providing access to humanitarian aid, while humanitarian assistance must be carried out in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the principles of neutrality and sovereignty. Any international initiative must therefore bear in mind the central role of Governments and applicable national laws, while demanding as a priority that non-State actors cease their violence against civilians. In conclusion, she emphasized the importance, in the context of civilian protection, of the anti-landmine Convention, of which Colombia would soon host a review conference, as well as effective controls on the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons.
LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said that, in order to fill the gaps and weaknesses in existing international legal frameworks by strengthening regional and national measures, African States had adopted in Kampala last month the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. The States parties to the Convention were obligated not only to respect the right that the African Union Constitutive Act gives the African Union and its member States to intervene or request intervention in circumstances of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, they were also obligated to move to prevent additional violations of international humanitarian law against internally displaced persons.
States parties to that treaty were obligated to ensure the accountability of individual and non-State actors for acts of arbitrary displacement, in accordance with national and international criminal law. Ghana hoped that the Council and other United Nations agencies with the mandate to protect internally displaced persons would cooperate with African States to advance the objectives of the Kampala Convention.
The international community must work closely with regional organizations, such as the African Union, to strengthen regional mechanisms meant to protect civilians, as well as help prevent and intervene in violent conflicts or avert post-conflict relapses. To that end, he said the United Nations should heed the request for logistical and material support to implement the African Union Standby Forces Arrangement. That would give the African Union the practical means to intervene in circumstances of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In closing, Ghana urged that measures to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflicts included the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.
THOMAS LAMBERT (Belgium) said the adoption of today’s resolution was an important step forward in the process that the Council had begun 10 years ago, by placing the protection of civilians in armed conflict on its agenda. It was undeniable that the United Nations had made significant progress over the last 10 years, but civilians were still the main victims of conflict. Hopefully, today’s resolution would strengthen the protection of mission mandates, and mandates could be implemented on the ground. The recently published study in that regard was a valuable tool that could contribute to that goal.
He said his country accorded great importance to the issue of security and free movement of humanitarian personnel. Another indispensable requirement in the protection of civilians was fighting impunity, a challenge that must be taken up both nationally and internationally. Belgium underlined the essential role of the International Criminal Court in that regard, as well as the importance of the principle of “responsibility to protect”, which the General Assembly had recently reconfirmed. That principle was designed to protect civilians against the most serious crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Aseil Al-Shahail (Saudi Arabia) welcomed Assembly resolution 64/10 on the adoption of the Goldstone Report, but noted a sense of frustration due to some countries’ positions on it, including some Council members. How could they stress the importance of protecting civilians during armed conflict and, at the same time, vote against a resolution that sought to protect civilians? Did that mean that civilians differed from one country to the next, and that moral and legal responsibility differed according to one’s ethnic group and nation? While some said that their aim was to protect civilians, they did not wish to discuss such issues in the Council. That was a clear example of double standards.
Many crises and sources of conflict dominated the international arena and the goals of those involved varied from region to region, she said. With that in mind, the policy response of the United Nations must change so as to ensure justice, an end to impunity and a culture of responsibility, as well as State sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. It must be based on non-interference in the internal affairs of States, which was a strong guarantee for protecting civilian life during conflict.
The debate on protecting civilians must not take place only in the Council, she said. It must also occur during policy discussions in the Department of Field Support, the Peacebuilding Commission and United Nations peacekeeping missions, among other bodies. The use of commissions of inquiry to examine violations of international human rights and law and to identify and prosecute perpetrators nationally and internationally sent a strong message that the protection of civilians was a United Nations priority. The Goldstone Report had revealed flagrant violations of international law and international humanitarian law, which had resulted in the killing of 1,420 Palestinians, 1,170 of them civilians.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the legal framework of the protection of civilians was still valid, but because of the changing nature of combat, protection remained a daunting challenge. It was true that parties to armed conflict should bear the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians, but international peacekeeping was often needed when those parties could not or would not shoulder those responsibilities.
He said his country was integrally involved in such efforts. The study of peacekeeping in which he had been involved showed that protection of civilians must be a concern that was threaded through all operations of a peacekeeping mission, when relevant. It was crucial that mandates be realistic and adequately resourced for those purposes. The study had found that physical protection language remained confusing for the personnel in the field and in the Secretariat, while simultaneously raising expectations among the population, for example.
Among other findings, the report said that the language of civilian protection must be gotten right and backed up with the necessary support. Mandates must take account of the real situation of civilians, particularly as operations were planned. He welcomed today’s resolution as a step forward in those efforts.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said the adoption of Security Council resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000) and 1674 (2006) had been a “game changer”, wherein the Council had acknowledged that the protection of civilians was an issue central, and not tangential, to its responsibilities for maintaining international peace and security. To maintain its legitimacy, the Council must address the horrifying reality that attacks against civilians were all too common. A normative framework for civilian protection had been established, buttressed by practical strategies that enabled the Council and United Nations missions to respond to situations where the safety of civilians was at risk.
However, he said, challenges remained, as Council responses were too often ad hoc, seldom timely and rarely proactive, particularly with respect to preventative diplomacy. Peacekeeping operations often lacked the means and capabilities to protect civilians, mission planning and training had been weak, and civilian-military cooperation had fallen short. Canada was pleased to financially support the independent study on the implementation of protection of civilian missions prepared for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which would provide critical guidance in the development of new strategies, tools and techniques. To strengthen the protection of civilians, it was necessary to more appropriately plan and adequately resource peacekeeping mandates; systematically train both civilian and military components of missions, as was the responsibility of Member States; and enhance dialogue and cooperation on overlapping issues, such as children in armed conflict and women, peace and security.
In conclusion, he emphasized the importance of having safe and unhindered access by humanitarian workers to populations in need, as well as the safety and security of the humanitarian actors. It was necessary to ensure that appropriate strategies and measures were in place to mitigate attacks, such as had recently been seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to ensure accountability for such crimes when they occurred.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that despite all efforts, civilian populations continued to be the victims and primary targets of armed conflict. Ensuring civilian protection should involve national, international, State and non-State stakeholders, but the Security Council’s role was pre-eminent under the United Nations Charter. Consideration by the Council of the subject should be part of a global approach to comprehensively solving conflicts, taking into account specificities of political environments. The majority of conflicts arose because of poverty, frustration and uneven distribution of wealth, exacerbated by illicit trafficking in arms, drugs and humans.
He said that given the urgency of the situation, the Council must not only make progress in solving conflicts but also in deploying preventive action to deal with potential crises. For that, States in the region should also assume also the responsibilities incumbent on neighbours. The intensification of peacebuilding efforts was the best way to protect civilians threatened by a further outbreak of violence. The trade in small arms and light weapons required energetic action by the international community to ensure its elimination, he added.
ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said there was a rising threat to civilians posed by modern asymmetrical warfare, noting that although the Geneva Conventions remained applicable, the Taliban and Al-Qaida in his country did not respect them. Some 5,000 people had been killed in Afghanistan in 2008 alone. The strength of the two armed groups relied on their brutality, their aim was to prevent the building of any State, and their attacks were increasing.
He said the people of Afghanistan had high expectations of their Government and the international community in regard to protection, and when that protection failed, those actors lost credibility. For that reason, Afghanistan fully supported the new strategy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) prioritizing the protection of civilians, and welcomed the Council’s unwavering support for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in the wake of recent attacks on United Nations personnel. The rules of war should be enforced and armed groups must be made to understand that targeting civilians would only push them further away from international acceptability.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said that the Government of Colombia had brought serious accusations against his Government to the Council. He noted in that regard the installation of seven foreign military bases in Colombia and its implications for peace and security in the region. Venezuela had received some 4 million refugees as a result of the 60 year old conflict in Colombia. Long lasting peace in the region had been interrupted when Colombian forces invaded the territory of Ecuador, something for which the Colombian President had apologized. The establishment of American bases disrupted the peaceful coexistence among the nations in the region and might provoke a conflict of large continental magnitude.
Denouncing the “expansionist and interventionist” plan of the United States Government to transform Colombia into an enclave for political, economic, cultural and military domination across the continent, he said his Government yearned for peace in Colombia and throughout the region. President Hugo Chavez had consistently offered help in establishing a peace process in the sisterly country. “Plan Colombia” had failed, he said, and drug trafficking had increased its influence in the country. The Government of Colombia had given up its sovereignty.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said thousands of civilians fell victim to armed conflict every year and it was the shared responsibility of Member States to alleviate the suffering, a principle enshrined in the United Nations Charter. One of the most difficult aspects of protecting civilians, however, was the increasingly blurred line separating armed groups, combatants and civilians. That lack of clarity cost civilian lives. Another crucial issue was the ever more asymmetric nature of armed conflict. Those hurdles all pointed to the need for reinvigorated commitment and determination in tackling the issue.
With regard to strengthening the rule of law, he said Member States could play a vital role in promoting compliance and accountability through domestic legislation. Indonesia looked forward to further developing those and other tools to prevent violations against civilians. As for the protection mandates of peacekeeping missions, more could be done in responding to situations in places where conflict broke out. The most effective measure for the protection of civilians was the prevention of the conflict itself.
SHALVA TSISKARASHVILI ( Georgia) said that recent developments in his country confirmed that when a State was in constant breach of the norms of international humanitarian law, human suffering and ethnic cleansing resulted. In an earlier debate, he had provided detailed information about civilians living under foreign occupation in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Unbiased and qualified international monitors would provide a clear assessment of the situation on the ground, but a veto of one permanent member had led to the absence of objective sources of information. Nothing had changed in five months. Ethnically-based violations and other gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law happened daily.
He said that during the eighth round of Geneva talks, the European Union, the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had tried to facilitate dialogue. Previous rounds had shown nothing but an unwillingness on the part of the northern neighbour to engage itself in a substantive dialogue. Drawing attention to the problem of humanitarian access, he said that in the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the occupying forces continued to block access of humanitarian aid and international humanitarian actors by requiring them to enter the region from the territory of the Russian Federation. That blockade turned the territory into a “black hole”, where people were deprived of their basic rights and humanitarian aid was simply not allowed.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said civilian protection could not be addressed solely in humanitarian terms -- it required examining various areas, from politics to human rights to disarmament. Progress had been made in establishing a normative framework, but politicization and selectivity had affected the Council’s credibility. Sri Lanka was deeply committed to protecting human rights and implementing international humanitarian law, and had engaged closely with States, United Nations agencies and others, notably to provide for the needs of displaced persons in the aftermath of conflict. The nature of contemporary conflict posed new challenges to States’ commitment to civilian protection and she focused her remarks on protecting civilians in the context Sri Lanka’s internal conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Describing that situation, she said that terrorist group had incorporated civilians into their military strategy, which created huge operational challenges for Sri Lanka’s military. Its tactics included using civilians as human shields and conscripting children as combatants and forced labour. For civilians being held hostage by the group, Sri Lanka had consistently applied a “zero casualty” policy, and its troops had been trained to distinguish between combatants and civilians. At no time did they use disproportionate force. In that context, she said the rules of military engagement might need evaluation, as terrorists disregarded the rules of war in waging asymmetric warfare.
She also urged the Council to examine the causes of escalation in armed conflict, explaining that without stemming the proliferation of illicit arms, civilian safety would remain at risk. Non-State actors like terrorists had relatively easy access to illicit weapons, as there was no international regime to monitor, let alone interdict, such arms. Further, external actors like diaspora communities openly funded such arms purchases and received support in their host countries. Legal frameworks designed to safeguard civilian rights were being exploited to carry out illicit activities. On engagement with non-State armed groups, she said terrorists paid lip service to humanitarian principles and often ruthlessly misused them to cover further violations. The military role in protecting civilians had to be recognized. The United Nations must assist Governments in that regard.
DHRUVA NARAYANA RANGASWAMY ( India) said the recently issued report had spelled out the operational reasons behind the United Nations inability to fully translate the Council’s intent to protect civilians. The greatest share of the blame lay with the Council itself, which had been unable to develop a clear understanding of the nature and extent of the problem. It had been unable to give clear directions to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and had not taken into account the experience of countries whose troops were actually on the ground. The primary gap in peacekeeping was one of resources. The responsibility did not end with the generation of mandates. Those who mandate should be held accountable if unachievable mandates were generated for political expediency or if adequate resources were not made available. Accountability frameworks should be accompanied by a willingness to enforce the norms.
He said that the Council must make up its mind on what it meant by protection of civilians. It must be able to differentiate between threats that required a military response or a “rule of law” response, and it should not ask Force Commanders or their soldiers to assume policing responsibilities. The concept that was developed must be able to quantify the problem and articulate actions to be taken. The Council also needed to get a clearer idea of operational realities, something which could not be addressed without meaningful consultations with troop and police contributing countries. Intelligence capabilities, such as databases on individuals and groups, and on their movements and weaponry, were key to increasing effectiveness.
National capacities should also be strengthened, he said. The protection of civilians was a national responsibility and required national capacities. Much more thought needed to go into the manner in which those capacities were developed. The experiences of developing countries, particularly of those that had gone through successful nation-building exercises, were of great significance in that regard, and the Council must find way to harness those capacities.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said that the United Nations ability to protect civilians was widely seen as a test of the Organization’s relevance and legitimacy in times of crises. All Member States had the responsibility to ensure that civilians were protected during armed conflict. His country had celebrated its 10 years of participation in peacekeeping within the southern region of the continent and in the world. Its own peace, security, stability and prosperity were inextricably linked to peace and security for all around the globe. Experience had shown that failure to protect civilians was the culmination of several factors, the most important being the limited resources available to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
He said the situation was compounded by vague Council mandates, lack of a clear political framework and of coordination and cooperation, and at times, competition of the international community in the areas of operation. Protection of civilians was not a military task alone; it was a complex effort requiring coordinated efforts from all parts of the United Nations system and the wider international community. The issue should also be addressed in partnership with regional organizations. Peacekeeping in Africa was increasingly shouldered by the African Union, but the ongoing capacity and resource limitation greatly challenged effective protection at all levels. Civilians in conflict needed and expected the same attention and assistance from the United Nations and the international community wherever they were. The people in conflict situations, such as Somalia and Palestine, also looked to the Council for assistance and protection.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, voiced hope that today’s discussion would crystallize into effective actions to protect civilians, including those addressing the underlying causes of conflict. The Council’s credibility was at stake in handling the extreme harm done to civilians in Gaza and it was to be hoped that today’s discussion could start a process to reverse that situation, following the General Assembly’s consideration of the Goldstone Report.
He stressed that when there was no peace on the ground to maintain, peacekeeping missions could not protect civilians. Peace was what protected civilians, and for that reason, peacemaking activities, including development assistance, must be a priority for the United Nations. The “responsibility to protect” was subject to interpretation in the context of the principles of the United Nations Charter, he said, adding that the protection of civilians must take place in an integrated framework that took into account underlying causes, including progress in sustainable development. It was indeed the responsibility of the State, which should therefore be helped in that effort rather than weakened by sanctions.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), noting that the gap between international law and action on the ground continued to widen in the area of civilian protection, recalled that during the Council’s last consideration of the issue, many speakers had condemned Israel’s flagrant violations against civilians, calling on that country to stop its illegal practices. Israel had not heeded those calls, and continued its repressive and arbitrary practices against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Golan Heights.
Also since that last meeting, the Goldstone Report had proved that Israel had violated international law in Gaza, he said, asking what commitments the country had honoured since the Council had placed the protection of civilians in armed conflict on its agenda. Israel’s practice of targeting the populations of occupied Arab territories had not changed and in that context, Syria hoped that the statements made during today’s debate and others would not remain mere words.
GÁBOR BRÓDI (Hungary) said the continued impact of armed conflicts on civilians was an indication of the need to continue strengthening the protection of civilians, enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and promote accountability. Ensuring the implementation of mandated protection activities was a major challenge in peacekeeping to be addressed as a priority. Mission-specific protection strategies should be developed and peacekeepers should be given clear operational guidance, based on reliable information gained through an effective reporting system. The needs of the vulnerable must be specifically defined and strengthened in protection mandates.
Furthermore, he said, the year had shown an alarming increase in the frequency and gravity of attacks against humanitarian personnel, which had significantly impacted humanitarian operations. It was “extremely important” that all parties to armed conflict engage in facilitating the safe, timely and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance to those in need. With regard to the possible prevention of serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as genocide and mass atrocities, the progression of events towards the actual international crime was gradual. The period from initial threat to full violation offered ample warning time for the international community to take preventive action. The planned Budapest Centre for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities would be an information centre on early warning signals emanating from various sources. It would be an indispensable research mechanism for transforming the information into policy recommendations for the international community.
CHOI SU-YOUNG ( Republic of Korea) said that failure to address large-scale violence against civilians would seriously hurt the legitimacy and credibility of peacekeeping missions. Civilian protection should therefore be a vital priority and an integral part of peacekeeping operations. He emphasized the importance of clear, credible and achievable mandates with operational definition as a condition for ensuring the successful execution of civilian protection mandates. He strongly opposed impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, underlining in that regard the need to respect the role of the International Criminal Court when there was evident failure by States to prosecute criminals.
He said that preventing humanitarian access to civilians affected by armed conflict constituted a crime against humanity. Unfortunately, there were still cases where humanitarian personnel and supplies could not reach those who needed them because of deliberate interference by certain parties. Today’s resolution was an important step towards addressing that issue. Providing basic security for civilians was crucial to stabilizing countries emerging from conflict. Helping those countries set up transitional justice and rule-of-law mechanisms was fundamental in that regard. Successful peacebuilding was also an integral element in protecting civilians in armed conflict, and it was to be hoped that the Council would incorporate that element in future discussions on the issue.
ANTHONY ANDANJE ( Kenya) welcomed the adoption of today’s resolution and other progress on the protection of civilians over the past 10 years, but added that deeper reflection was warranted due to the complexity of the issue. It was important to address, in that context, the conduct of peacekeeping operations, as well as compliance with human rights, the rule of law, political security, development and disarmament.
He said that in order to deal with the challenges, all parties to a conflict, including non-State actors, must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, especially the principles of proportionality and distinction. The Council must ensure that investigations of alleged violations were carried out in a timely manner and with consequences commensurate to those violations.
Affirming the importance of unhindered humanitarian access during conflicts, he said the Council should address the problem of peacekeepers lacking sufficient capacity to reach entire at-risk populations in a particular conflict situation. In order to make possible the implementation civilian-protection mandates, the Council needed to offer clear guidelines within a comprehensive, well-supported approach.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE ( Zambia), speaking for the African Group and observing that many of the world’s conflicts occurred in Africa, called on the Council to strengthen early warning mechanisms so that potential conflicts could be detected before they happened. Peacekeeping missions needed to be given clear mandates, in which protection of civilians was a top priority. After assessing a situation, the Council should ensure missions had adequate logistic and material support to respond robustly to threats against civilians, including through airpower, air transport and general logistics.
He said preventing the outbreak of conflict was the best way to protect civilians, but for that to be successful root causes must be addressed. Conflict would always be present so long as poverty, underdevelopment, colonialism and foreign occupation continued to exist, and as long as women continued to be treated as second-class citizens. There would always be conflict if governance challenges were not met. In developed countries, conflicts might be seen as remote occurrences, but it must be recognized that, in a globalized world, the consequences of poverty and underdevelopment came in the form of uncontrolled migration, transnational crime, drug trafficking and even terrorism. Such issues affected everyone, and must be resolved by acting together as the United Nations. He said he agreed with points raised by the concept paper put forward by the Council President, adding that the rule of law and accountability were not enough to deter illiterate warlords or child soldiers. Lasting peace could be provided over through social, economic and political opportunities.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that aggression by neighbouring Armenia and the occupation of a large part of his country’s territory affected the most vulnerable part of Azerbaijan’s population. The country continued to have one of the highest proportions of refugees and displaced persons in the world. A number of serious transgressions had been committed in the course of the conflict, among them the capture of the town of Khojaly by Armenian troops and the killing of 613 civilians.
A defining characteristic of most, and perhaps all, conflicts was the failure of the warring parties to spare and protect civilians, he said. Although international norms and standards had been developed with regard to that issue, unfortunately they were not followed on the ground. Special consideration must be given to population displacement as a result of conflict as well as attempts to change the demographics in occupied territories. The right of return should be recognized, and accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law ensured. Those responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity should be prosecuted. Ending impunity was crucial, not just for the purpose of holding individuals accountable for their crimes, but also to sustain peace, justice, truth and reconciliation.
PAMPHILE GOUTONDJI ( Benin) said that systematic inclusion of protection of civilians in the mandate of peacekeeping operations, a step forward, was not always accompanied by the required resources. The population in conflict zones paid the price for that costly gap, as had been shown in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur and Afghanistan, among other areas. He welcomed the debate on the document New Horizon. The robust concept of operations proposed was logical, as it was necessary to ensure that a mission received the required resources. The presence on the ground of a robust mission could be a deterrent factor.
He said peacekeeping operations must be effective and needed political backing. The deterrence of human rights violations had advanced over recent years with the strengthening of the international community’s political will to combat impunity. The International Criminal Court and the international tribunals played a crucial role in that regard. Aside from measures emphasizing coercion, he welcomed measures to disseminate human rights law to parties in conflict. The best way to protect civilians in armed conflict was the use of preventive diplomacy.
GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia), aligning himself with the European Union, said the frequency with which the Council addressed the current issue signified its urgency. Armenia shared the call by Council members for more systematic attention to civilian protection. Increased efforts to fight impunity at the national and international levels were also essential. Noting the opportunity to highlight priority aspects for united, practical actions, he said the current debate should enable the Council to more effectively address specific concerns related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. It should also send a clear message to all parties to armed conflict, reminding them of their obligations and condemning violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Selective approaches to violations of international humanitarian law must be abandoned, he said, stressing the need for strict adherence to human rights standards. The peaceful resolution of a conflict required strong political will and painful compromises from both sides. The time had come to replace the “unchanged rhetoric of warmongering and hollow allegations” with constructive steps towards an environment more conducive to peaceful settlement. Armenia had welcomed a proposal by the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to remove snipers from the line of contact as part of suggested confidence-building measures. Regrettably, Azerbaijan had rejected that timely and constructive proposal, thus illustrating its true attitude toward its international obligations. Armenia remained committed to the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and believed strongly that a fundamental solution to the dispute must be achieved by peaceful means, based on the principles of international law.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said that, while the Council had identified measures to protect civilians in armed conflict, the reality on the ground had not changed as one would have expected with the adoption of various resolutions on the matter. There had been many failures, in large part due to the failure of some parties to respect -- and ensure respect for -- their obligation to protect civilians. Such a situation demanded that States do their utmost to protect civilians and promote respect for international humanitarian law, as the number of casualties in armed conflict had not declined.
By way of example, he said that in Palestine, especially in the Gaza Strip, more than 1.5 million people had been deprived of their basic needs and humanitarian assistance. Gaza was “the largest prison kept by the Israeli occupying authorities”, and various reports had noted violations of international humanitarian law and human rights during that regime’s military aggression in Gaza. The same cruelty had been carried out during that regime’s aggression against Lebanon in 2006. Those responsible for such violations -- whether in Palestine, Lebanon or elsewhere -- should be held accountable, as it was only through ensuring accountability, and justice for the victims, that efforts to protect civilians could translate into action.
He said more work was needed to ensure compliance with the law and accountability for those who failed to respect it. The Council would not be justified in remaining silent on the matter of war crimes by the Israeli regime, especially after independent investigative bodies had reaffirmed that such crimes had been committed. The Council was obliged to act if the parties concerned deliberately targeted civilians, and Iran awaited its reaction to the “Goldstone Report”. Also, Iran had noted the targeting of civilians in Afghanistan during air strikes, as well as criticism of the high number of civilian casualties as a result. He urged States to take all measures to protect civilians. To remain credible, the Council must understand that perpetrators of crimes against civilians must be prosecuted.
MOSES RUGEMA ( Rwanda), welcoming this morning’s adoption of the resolution, said that it had become increasingly clear, however, that resolutions did not automatically translate into clear mandates and operations on the ground. In his region, in particular, the consequences of such failures were deeply felt. He, therefore, welcomed the recently published study on protection of civilians by the United Nations humanitarian and peacekeeping branches. Representing a peacekeeping contributor, he hoped that the study would help bring clarity to protection mandates and bridge existing gaps.
Maintaining that the genocide in Rwanda and the consequent conflict in the Great Lakes region had been characterized by a culture of impunity, he encouraged MONUC to continue to support efforts to eliminate the threat to civilians by the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and other negative forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In conclusion, he said that the responsibility to protect was integral to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and he urged that the concept be operationalized soon.
ALBRECHT FREIHERR VON BOESELAGER, Minister for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said that largely due to its diplomatic status, the Sovereign Military Order was active in more than 120 countries, mostly in places where civilians had been suffering from the negative effects of armed conflicts. He cited its programme in South Sudan and Darfur, which worked with 1.2 million displaced people that had fled war after being caught up in north-south clashes and factions. He regretted the fact that since 2006 and despite a peace deal, the plight of civilians in that region had worsened, with more and more attacks on them and aid workers.
Turning to the Palestinian people, he said that the Order’s Holy Family Hospital had been providing Bethlehem and the vicinity with an exclusive, indiscriminate birthing, medical facility and maternity care. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where rape and sexual violence had become rampant war tactic, the Order had, since 2007, been working with victims in the country’s east. He said that the Order had identified how civilians caught up in armed conflicts had suffered from four sorts of violence: all forms of direct attacks; being used as human shields; incidental and collateral damage; and deliberate attacks on aid workers, which denied civilians the care, food and shelter they needed. Those undoubtedly violated the basic principles of international humanitarian law, which were universally binding and stipulated a certain level of human decency and civilization, he stressed.
It was just as important for those who had violated such laws to be held accountable, he added. He urged the Security Council to endorse such principles and to condemn violations against them, partly by pressing Member States to investigate and punish those. Failing that, the Council would have to refer gross violations to the International Criminal Court. To curb the dangers faced by civilians during armed conflict, the international community had to limit the use of weapons such as landmines and cluster munitions. The Sovereign Military Order also urged the Council to stem the small arms trade adding that the proliferation of small weapons was a major cause of death among civilians.
Responding to speakers’ comments, Mr. HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, welcomed the support expressed for the resolution and the participation of more than 60 delegations, which he hoped was an indication of their commitment to action. It was too easy to talk about things from the comfort of distance without appreciating the true horror of what one was talking about.
Noting that many speakers had expressed support for those parts of the resolution dealing with the role of peacekeeping missions in protecting civilians, and for the findings of the joint OCHA-DPKO study, he assured the Council that OCHA and DPKO were committed to working with members to take the recommendations forward. The findings of the study would also be shared with those regional organizations that had a role in peacekeeping.
Many speakers had underlined the importance of ensuring accountability for those who violated the law, and had referred in that regard to the importance of fact-finding missions, he said, urging the Council and Member States to give greater consideration to ways of employing such an accountability mechanism on a more frequent basis. He also hoped that the Council, upon the Secretary-General’s request, would convene an Arria Formula meeting to discuss the experiences of the United Nations and non-governmental actors in engaging non-State armed groups.
He reiterated that when it came to protecting civilians in armed conflict, the Council could not afford only to address protection concerns in situations on its agenda. Ways must be found to better address other alarming situations and to make better use of the unique protection tools at the Council’s disposal.
Some speakers had mentioned that contemporary conflict was often marked by asymmetric warfare and a struggle against non-State armed groups, he recalled. The suggestion seemed to be that fighting an enemy who was difficult to identify and who was committing flagrant violations of international humanitarian law somehow made application of the law by States parties less relevant. However, violations by one party did not permit violations by any other party. He said increasing concern had been noted over the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons when used in densely populated areas in terms of risks to civilians caught in the blast radius and of damage to infrastructure such as water and sanitation systems. There was scope for a new look at that crucial issue.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) took the floor to respond to the statement of Venezuela, who, he regretted, had focused on irrelevant and extraneous issues instead of the important matter at hand.
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