In Presidential Statement, Security Council Reaffirms Commitment to Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Adopts Updated Aide Memoire on Issue
In Presidential Statement, Security Council Reaffirms Commitment to Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Adopts Updated Aide Memoire on Issue
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6427th Meeting (AM & PM)
In Presidential Statement, Security Council Reaffirms Commitment to Protection
of Civilians in Armed Conflict, Adopts Updated Aide Memoire on Issue
Senior Humanitarian Affairs, Peacekeeping, Human Rights Officials Brief
Delegations Say Conflict Parties Must Respect International Humanitarian Law
Expressing deep regret that civilians continued to account for the vast majority of casualties in conflict situations, including as a result of deliberate targeting, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks and sexual and gender-based violence, the Security Council today demanded that all relevant parties immediately end such practices, and reaffirmed its readiness to adopt appropriate measures.
Against that backdrop, the Council adopted a presidential statement (document PRST/2010/25) recognizing that States bore the primary responsibility to protect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territories, and reaffirming its own commitment to addressing the impacts of armed conflict on civilians.
Recalling that on 15 March 2002 it had adopted a landmark aide memoire setting out core objectives for providing protection and assistance to conflict-affected civilians and other vulnerable populations as a practical tool for the improved analysis and diagnosis of key protection issues, the Council also adopted an updated aide memoire, annexed to its presidential statement, and stressed the need to “continue its use on a more consistent basis”.
By other terms, the Council noted with concern the humanitarian impact of conflict in or near densely populated areas and called on parties to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law. It strongly condemned all violations of applicable international law, emphasizing in that context States’ responsibility to comply with obligations to end impunity. It also condemned and called for the end of all violence and other forms of intimidation deliberately directed at humanitarian personnel. The importance of systematic monitoring of constraints on humanitarian access was also underlined.
Further, the Council stressed the importance of engagement of senior mission leadership in ensuring that all levels of the chain of command were informed of and involved in the mission’s protection mandate. Missions must communicate effectively with local communities, and with that in mind, the Council underlined the need to take into account gender sensitivities and make full use of community liaison interpreters. It also took note of the “Montreux Document” on the international legal obligations of States related to the operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict.
In her first briefing to the Council, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said any positive developments in the broader effort to protect civilians had been heavily outweighed by the frequent failures of conflict parties to abide by their international legal obligations to protect individuals within their territory.
“Where we are unable to promote and encourage compliance with the law, the Council must do more to enforce it,” she said, including by following through on the willingness to respond to conflicts in which civilians were being targeted or humanitarian assistance was being deliberately obstructed, asexpressed in resolution 1894 (2009). She appealed for greater sustained efforts to address challenges that inhibited more effective protection for civilians. “The work of this Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict is of prime importance,” she said. “We face a sobering reality and yet progress has been made.”
As for compliance by non-State armed groups with international humanitarian and human rights law, she said experience from Colombia, Liberia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia showed that lives could be saved by engaging such groups, notably in gaining safe access for humanitarian operations.
Similarly, ensuring respect for international humanitarian law was at the heart of the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said its Director-General, Yves Daccord. ICRC was engaged in confidential dialogue with State and non-State actors to uphold the rights of people affected, aiming as much as possible to prevent violations. Its work included supporting authorities to incorporate international humanitarian law into national legislation and into army training manuals. The agency also addressed victims’ needs — be they food, water, shelter or medical care — tracing missing family members and ensuring that people in detention were well treated. “Protection can facilitate assistance, and vice versa,” he said.
When the floor opened for discussion, many of the day’s nearly 55 speakers focused squarely on the five core challenges to ensuring more effective civilian protection outlined by the Secretary-General in his previous report. One, which urged enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups to international humanitarian law, presented a particular quandary, with some speakers stressing the importance of eliminating obstacles to delivering humanitarian assistance to affected populations, and others saying that such interaction could confer unintended legitimacy to violent perpetrators of terrorism.
Sri Lanka’s delegate said encouraging non-State actors to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law presented a double-edged sword. “This might pose a political dilemma for legitimate Governments fighting terrorist groups to protect their sovereignty, territorial integrity and, in many cases, their cherished democratic way of life,” he said. Uganda’s delegate, however, reiterating the call of several speakers, urged strengthened international resolve to deal effectively with non-State actors, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which was active in the Central African region.
Debate also centred on the impacts of armed conflict on displacement — and the magnitude of that problem, with more than 27 million internally displaced persons and 15 million refugees worldwide. Unhindered access for humanitarian assistance was particularly important for those vulnerable groups. For their part, host States were obliged to ensure refugees fully enjoyed their rights and ensure armed elements did not compromise the safety of camps.
Building civilian protection into peacekeeping mandates was also important, speakers said, urging efforts to improve predeployment and in-mission training, including for senior leadership, on the protection of civilians. Mandates must be tailored to specific challenges on the ground by laying out a clear hierarchy of tasks for peacekeepers to follow. Others stressed the need for more awareness by those creating the mandates for those implementing them. For its part, the Council should consider a less selective approach to protection, notably through direct, transparent cooperation with national and international stakeholders.
Also briefing the Council today were Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Representatives of Austria, Russian Federation, United States, Nigeria, France, Brazil, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, China, Lebanon, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, Israel, Afghanistan, Australia, Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Republic of Korea, Chile, Norway, Argentina, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Portugal, Germany, Georgia, Peru, Pakistan, Slovenia, Syria, Bangladesh, Ghana, Azerbaijan, Armenia, India, Philippines, Sudan, Uruguay, Venezuela, Morocco, Colombia and Botswana also spoke.
The Deputy Head of the delegation of the European Union also delivered remarks.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., was suspended at 1:17 p.m., reconvened at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:59 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2010/25 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, to the continuing and full implementation, in a mutually reinforcing manner of all previous relevant resolutions and statements of its President, including resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1325 (2000), 1612 (2005), 1674(2006), 1738 (2006), 1820 (2008), 1882 (2009) 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1894 (2009), noting in particular that resolution 1894 (2009) marked a significant step in providing guidance to ensure the effective protection of civilians on the ground.
“The Security Council takes note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians of 11 November 2010 (S/2010/579) and the recommendations contained therein.
“The Security Council recalls that on 15 March 2002 an aide memoire was adopted, as a practical tool that provides a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key protection issues. The Security Council adopts the updated aide memoire contained in the annex to this statement of its President and stresses the need to continue its use on a more systematic and consistent basis. [Annex not included in the Press Release]
“The Security Council recognizes that States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction as provided for by relevant international law.
“The Security Council reaffirms that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians and urges parties to armed conflict to meet their basic needs, and give attention to the specific needs of women and children, refugees, internally displaced persons, as well as other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities, including persons with disabilities and older persons.
“The Security Council emphasizes that the promotion of peace processes and the achievement of sustainable peace and development as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law are of utmost importance for the long term protection of civilians.
“The Security Council remains committed to addressing the impact of armed conflict on civilians, in particular women and children. The Council expresses its deep regret that civilians continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict, including as a result of deliberate targeting, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks and sexual and gender-based violence, as well as other acts that violate applicable international law. The Council demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and reaffirms its readiness to adopt appropriate measures.
“The Security Council notes with concern the humanitarian impact of conflict, in or near densely populated areas, and calls on parties to armed conflict to give protection to the civilian population in accordance with applicable international humanitarian law.
“The Security Council reiterates its strong condemnation of all violations of applicable international law and 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. The Security Council emphasizes in this context the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to end impunity and notes that the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern has been strengthened through prosecution of these crimes in national, international and “mixed” criminal courts and tribunals, commissions of inquiry, as well as specialized chambers in national tribunals. The Council takes note of the stocktaking of international criminal justice undertaken by the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute, held in Kampala, Uganda from 31 May to 11 June 2010. The Security Council also draws attention to the full range of justice and reconciliation mechanisms, including truth and reconciliation commissions, national reparation programmes and institutional reforms.
“The Security Council recognizes the needs of civilians under foreign occupation and stresses further, in this regard, the responsibilities of the occupying Power in full compliance with international humanitarian law.
“The Council reiterates the importance for all, within the framework of humanitarian assistance, of upholding and respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The Security Council condemns and calls for the cessation of all acts of violence and other forms of intimidation deliberately directed at humanitarian personnel as such, and calls on all parties to conflict to comply with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law to respect and protect humanitarian personnel and relief consignments. The Council underlines in this respect the importance to continue the systematic monitoring and analysis of constraints on humanitarian access.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of achieving durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons, in particular their voluntary, safe and dignified return, or local integration or resettlement.
“The Security Council welcomes the proposals, conclusions and recommendations on the protection of civilians included in the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (A/64/19). The Council stresses the importance of ensuring engagement by senior mission leadership on the protection of civilians, with a view to ensuring that all mission components and all levels of the chain of command are properly informed of and involved in the mission’s protection mandate and their relevant responsibilities. The Council welcomes progress made by the Secretary-General in elaborating a conceptual framework, outlining resource and capability requirements and developing operational tools for the implementation of protection of civilians mandates. The Council emphasises the importance of improving predeployment training for peacekeeping personnel on the protection of civilians. The Council encourages troop- and police-contributing countries to make full use of and provide feedback on these important materials.
“The Security Council underlines that, in order to carry out their mandate, missions must communicate effectively with local communities and have the capacity to do so. The Council underlines, in this context, the importance of taking into account gender sensitivities and of making full use of all the tools available to the mission, in particular its public information and civil affairs components, such as civil affairs officers, community liaison interpreters and radio.
“The Security Council reaffirms its practice of requiring benchmarks to measure and review progress made in the implementation of peacekeeping mandates, underlines the importance of clear benchmarks in the context of drawdown in peacekeeping missions and stresses the importance of including indicators of progress regarding the protection of civilians in such benchmarks for relevant missions.
“The Security Council recognizes the need for systematic monitoring and reporting on progress to protect civilians in armed conflict. The Security Council further reiterates its request to the Secretary-General to develop guidance for peacekeeping and other relevant missions on the reporting of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Security Council reiterates its request to the Secretary-General to include in his reports on country-specific situations more comprehensive and detailed information relating to protection of civilians in armed conflict.
“The Security Council notes 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.
“The Security Council takes note of the Montreux Document on pertinent international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict.
“The Security Council emphasizes that all civilians affected by armed conflict, including those suffering losses as a result of lawful acts under international law, deserve assistance and recognition in respect of their inherent dignity as human beings.
“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to submit his next report on the protection of civilians by May 2012.”
The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s eighth report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (document S/2010/579), which states that civilians, whether as the intended targets of attack or incidental victims of the use of force, continued to account for the majority of casualties in conflict, an issue requiring the Council’s “unstinting and rigorous” attention.
The Council has established a comprehensive framework through which to pursue more effective protection on the ground, the report says, and to that end, the aide memoire on the protection of civilians must be systematically applied and the informal expert group on the protection of civilians used to inform the revision of peacekeeping and other mandates. For United Nations country teams and other missions, more effective coordination and strategy setting, along with regular monitoring and candid reporting to the Council, were needed.
In his conclusions, the Secretary-General recommends moving away from the current selective approach to civilian protection, and considering extending the willingness to respond to civilian targeting or deliberate obstruction of humanitarian assistance, as expressed in Security Council resolution 1894 (2009), to conflicts of which the Council was not already seized, as they often raised many of the same — sometimes more acute — protection concerns. They might equally demand Council action. The Council might also find new and innovative ways to address conflicts not on its agenda but in which civilian protection concerns existed.
A consistent approach must be ensured, he recommends, especially in the manner and extent to which the Council addressed protection in contexts of which it was actually seized. Other ways should be devised for the expert group to inform Council deliberations, including through briefings on thematic protection concerns and on progress made in addressing country-specific protection concerns.
Finally, progress must be tracked, including in implementing resolutions, identifying areas of concern and ensuring an approach in which those involved were held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. The Secretary-General intends to ask the Emergency Relief Coordinator to develop, with others, indicators to systematically monitor and report on civilian protection in armed conflict.
It must be a priority to ensure actions — operationally and politically — reflected the spirit of the United Nations Charter. “[O]ur focus, more than 10 years after the Security Council first considered this issue, must shift from describing shortcomings and urging normative change, to clearly improving our tools on the ground and monitoring progress,” he stresses. “This is the task that now lies before the Council and indeed us all.”
The report also covers work to be done to meet the five core challenges to ensuring more effective civilian protection, as identified in the previous report: enhancing compliance by parties to conflict with international law; enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups; enhancing protection by United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions; enhancing humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability for violations of the law.
In the area of enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups, the report notes that, whether engagement was sought with armed groups in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the occupied Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Yemen or elsewhere, “experience shows that lives can be saved by engaging armed groups in order to seek compliance with international humanitarian law”.
The report cites research that identifies incentives for such groups to comply with international norms to protect civilians, the primary of which is the group’s own self-interest, which has military, political and legal aspects. “Engagement with armed groups for humanitarian ends is clearly possible and, indeed, necessary in order to negotiate safe humanitarian access to those in need,” the report says.
Yet, the Council’s ongoing discussions on the issue has yet to translate into broad acceptance of such engagement or, moreover, into a willingness to refrain from adopting measures that impede or criminalize engagement with non-State armed groups. Situations in Somalia and Gaza are cited in that regard, as is domestic legislation in the United States criminalizing various forms of material support to prohibited groups.
In sum, the Secretary-General stresses the need for a comprehensive approach towards improving compliance with the law by non-State armed groups, which would involve an increased understanding of the motivations of specific groups. More immediately, he urges States to consider the potential humanitarian consequences of their legal and policy initiatives and avoid measures that inhibit humanitarian actors.
VALERIE AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the Secretary-General’s report “paints a very bleak picture of the state of the protection of civilians”, noting that any positive developments were heavily outweighed by continued and frequent failure of conflict parties to observe their international legal obligations to protect civilians. Along with that was the failure of national authorities and the international community to ensure accountability in any meaningful sense.
As the report made clear, more must be done to tackle the five core challenges inhibiting more effective protection: enhancing compliance by parties to conflict with international law; enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups; enhancing protection by United Nations peacekeeping and other missions; enhancing humanitarian access; and enhancing accountability for violations.
Improving compliance by conflict parties with international humanitarian and human rights law was notably important, she said. In Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan, civilians were frequently targeted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had carried out over 200 attacks on villages in the north-east of the country since January. Clashes in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia continued to result in high civilian casualties, with deaths between July and September numbering 300 people and over 500 wounded by fighting between Government and insurgent groups.
“Where we are unable to promote and encourage compliance with the law, the Council must do more to enforce it,” she said, including following through on the willingness expressed in resolution 1894 (2009). She also urged States, United Nations actors, and international and non-governmental organizations to consider the issue of explosive weapons closely, including by supporting more systematic data collection and analysis of the human costs of such weapons use.
Turning to compliance by non-State armed groups with international humanitarian and human rights law, she said experience from Colombia, Liberia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia showed that lives could be saved by engaging such groups, notably in gaining safe access for humanitarian operations.
States also must consider the possible humanitarian consequences of national legal and policy initiatives that could inhibit relief agencies from engaging armed groups for humanitarian purposes. She expressed concern at the growing body of national legislation and policies relating to humanitarian funding which limited humanitarian engagement with non-State armed groups that had been designated as terrorist organizations, notably in the United States. Across donor States, the threshold of what constituted direct or indirect material support to designated terrorist groups varied, as did the manner in which those were formulated in humanitarian funding policies. The result was a complex web of bureaucratic restrictions demanding extensive vetting of partner organizations, or in some cases, prohibitions on contacts with designated terrorist groups as a condition of funding.
On improved implementation of protection mandates by peacekeeping operations, she said important measures were being introduced, based on recommendations of the November 2009 independent study by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping Operations. United Nations peacekeepers had started to withdraw from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and were to withdraw fully from the Central African Republic and Chad by year-end. It was essential that drawdown be based on the achievement of clear, context-specific benchmarks, including on civilian protection.
Continuing, she said that, ahead of drawdown, the Council should insist on the articulation of civilian protection benchmarks and on a way to monitor progress against them. Also, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers alike had distinct roles and duties in civilian protection that must be brought together in a strategic manner. Approaches to protection also must involve participation of affected communities.
Regarding humanitarian access, she said bureaucratic constraints, deliberate attacks against relief workers and economically motivated theft of humanitarian supplies undermined efforts to protect those in need. More precision was needed in specifying the nature of the constraints and actions to be taken to counter those. The Council must ensure enhanced accountability for grave instances of deliberate delays or denials of access for humanitarian operations and attacks against humanitarian workers. That could be achieved by encouraging domestic prosecutions.
States had primary responsibility for ensuring accountability for violations of humanitarian and human rights law, she said, underscoring the need for disseminating information about such legal norms, training combatants and ensuring that orders to comply with international law were observed. “Regrettably, instances of disciplinary action and national prosecutions are in short supply,” she said, urging States to provide technical and financial support to national efforts. In some cases, the fault lay in the absence of political will.
To enhance collective efforts for more effective civilian protection, she urged ensuring a comprehensive approach. She urged the Council to extend the willingness to respond to conflicts of which it was not already seized. A consistent approach must also be ensured, especially in the manner and extent to which the Council addressed protection in contexts of which it was seized. The systematic application of the aide memoire — an updated version of which was to be adopted today — was crucial in that regard, as was the continued use of the informal expert group and consideration of ways it could further inform the Council’s deliberations.
Finally, an accountable approach was needed, she said, underscoring that systematic reporting on the impact of efforts to improve civilian protection was essential. “The work of this Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict is of prime importance,” she said. “We face a sobering reality and yet progress has been made.” She expressed hope that the Council would keep protection at the centre of its mandate.
ALAIN LE ROY, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that recent tragic incidents, notably in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which the lives and safety of civilians had been “grossly disregarded” by armed militias were a tragic reminder of both the importance of civilian protection and the immense complexities that entailed. Peacekeeping missions must exert every effort to protect civilians. It must be recognized, however, that peacekeeping operations could not protect all civilians at all times. Both the international community and those in need of protection must understand that those operations could not be regarded as a substitute for State authority. In the final analysis, civilian protection depended on “stable and legitimate State institutions”.
He said that, during the past year, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support had undertaken a detailed examination on how performance in protecting civilians could be improved. The operational concept had focused on five principal tasks, including a strategic framework providing guidance for missions; predeployment and in-mission training modules; an evaluation of the resource and capability requirements for implementation of protection mandates; a thorough examination of protection planning processes; and capability development efforts addressing standards for military units.
Efforts in those areas had already had an impact on the ground, he said. In addition to the three missions with protection strategies, four missions were doing so now based on the draft general guidance. One of the most prominent examples of implementation of such strategies was the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Recent protection efforts had focused on further enhancing the situational awareness of MONUSCO troops and on improving communication between them and the population. Such measures must be accompanied by the ability to respond when and as necessary. That was where capacity shortages, especially in terms of aviation, were felt most severely.
In the crucial period leading up to the forthcoming referendums, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) had finalized a strategy for protection of civilians that strengthened the coordination between the Mission’s civilian and military components and which envisaged joint mapping of protection needs, actors and potential emergencies. Describing protection strategies in Darfur, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, he said it was clear that efforts undertaken so far constituted only the beginning of a continuous process. More detailed articulation was required of how key functions within the missions could more effectively protect civilians in their day-to-day work. That operational guidance would be a critical part of the protection toolkit the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was developing.
He reiterated that efforts to improve implementation of civilian protection mandates in United Nations peacekeeping operations was not a job for the Organization’s peacekeeping architecture alone. “It is critical that our key partners, particularly the troop and police contributors that ultimately deploy to protect civilians in the mission area, are fully engaged,” he said. That was a shared task that would require a strong and focused partnership moving forward. The engagement of the Council was also critical, particularly in ensuring that missions with protection mandates were fully resourced for that task and in bringing political leverage to bear on the parties to conflict.
NAVANETHEM PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said human rights were thoroughly integrated in the world body’s peace missions: there were currently 17 human rights components in those operations, established at the behest of the Council. Her Office and human rights officers on the ground were directly engaged in four of the five core challenges. They worked to enhance compliance with international law, compliance by non-State armed groups, protection in the context of peacekeeping and accountability for violations.
“Our approach is first and foremost to prevent the commission of human rights violations.” Where that failed, they also contributed to mitigating the effects of conflict on populations at risk and to ensuring proper accountability for violations. “Establishing accountability in turn can help serve the longer-term goal of prevention, by making a recurrence of violations less likely,” she said.
Effective prevention began with the facts established through human rights monitoring and reporting on the ground. “Time and again, human rights reports and their recommendations have provided the basis for decision-making by heads of missions, whether in relation to responses to immediate threats, longer-term preventive measures, or follow-up with relevant national authorities and international actors,” she said, giving examples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.
“Effective monitoring and reporting of human rights violations and encouraging greater compliance with international human rights law required opportunities to engage directly with both State and non-State actors. It also required access by human rights officers to populations at risk, she said. It was a matter of great concern that human rights officers still could not access large parts of Darfur and Somalia. It was essential that the Council gave missions the requisite mandate and resources, including prioritization of logistical support and access of human rights monitoring and investigation. “Unfortunately, in the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], insufficient access to vulnerable populations by human rights officers, due in part to limited air assets or military escorts, has impeded our ability to adequately identify threats, plan accordingly and ultimately protect civilians from violations.”
Accountability was one of the core elements of protection of civilians, she continued. “Accountability is not only required to fulfil international legal obligations, it is also our best tool to prevent the recurrence of violations.” Her Office had recently concluded a mapping report for the most serious violations of human rights committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1993 and 2003, which provided a road map for engaging the Government, the population and the international community in a constructive dialogue on how to ensure accountability and offer remedy to victims.
Human rights officers worked closely with national authorities and civil society to support national judicial institutions and other accountability mechanisms. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Joint Human Rights Office provided direct support to military prosecutors to investigate cases of violations. She said a recent example of such efforts had been the arrest of General Jerome Kakwavu, who was accused of rape and whose file was being transmitted to the High Military Court of Kinshasa. In some cases, the longer-term challenge was also to build up the capacity of non-United Nations security forces, including national forces and institutions, to take on the task of protection once the international presence had been withdrawn. Training and technical advice in that regard was being provided to police and military officers.
She said her Office had increasingly been called upon to conduct commissions of inquiry in the context of political crises where there was no peace mission, but where the lack of protection and the accountability for violations of civilians’ rights represented a threat to peace, such as in Conakry, Guinea. In that instance, as in many other cases, establishing the facts was a first step on the road to remedy and eventual reconciliation.
In conclusion, she encouraged the Council to ensure that mandates provided the necessary elements for the work to continue as effectively as possible. “Robust and well-resourced mandates that ensure that human rights officers are present throughout areas affected or threatened by conflict, including remote areas; that allow such violations as do occur to be properly documented and reported; and that provide for support to national authorities to restore and strengthen the rule of law.”
YVES DACCORD, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said progress on protection of civilians in armed conflict had been impressive. “Never before have there been so many policy statements and resolutions, so much global information and advocacy, and such proliferation of actors professing to carry out protection work,” he said, adding that “sadly, these fine words and good intentions are rarely matched by the reality on the ground.” The reality facing the Red Cross when there was no protection was faced in far too many armed conflicts. “The reality in some places is men, women and children being killed or raped, being forced out of their homes and losing all their possessions, living in a state of fear.”
He said that among the various factors compounding the protection challenge was the increase of non-State armed groups. Another factor was the constant evolution in the means and methods of warfare. Yet, despite the flagrant violations committed by parties to conflict, the relevance and importance of international humanitarian law was reaffirmed, not weakened, as echoed in the five core challenges. Working to ensure respect for international humanitarian law was at the heart of the ICRC mission. Its presence on the ground ensured proximity to the victims.
He said ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with State and non-State actors to uphold the rights of people affected, aiming as much as possible to prevent violations. The work of ICRC included supporting authorities to incorporate international humanitarian law into national legislation and into army training manuals as well as in clarifying or develop international humanitarian law. ICRC also worked to address victims’ needs — be they food, water, shelter or medical care — tracing missing family members and ensuring that people in detention were well treated. “Protection can facilitate assistance, and vice versa,” he said.
True consensus on the meaning of “protection” might be hard to achieve, he said, but it was essential to have clarity and transparency on the objectives of different actors in the area of protection, be they civilian or military, and a clear distinction between them. It was important to distinguish between physical protection and protection by promoting compliance with the law. In any event, women, men and children in need of protection must truly be at the centre of any action. “The challenge of turning words and intentions into concrete, meaningful action is one we all face,” he said. That challenge ultimately rested with States and non-State actors — both bound by international humanitarian law. He pled with them and with the Council to show the necessary political will and good faith to turn legal provisions into reality.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) said the debate was an important opportunity for his delegation to take stock of common efforts to advance civilian protection over the past two years and to set priorities for the years ahead. While Austria shared the Secretary-General’s assessment that more needed to be done to meet the five core challenges, it was also encouraged by the progress made over the past year in implementing resolution 1894 (2009) with a view to strengthening protection on the ground. Austria particularly welcomed the draft operational concept on the protection of civilians, as well as the envisaged strategic framework for mission-specific protection strategies as important steps to enhance the understanding of civilians among all relevant actors.
He said Austria also supported the Secretariat in its endeavour to further improve predeployment and in-mission training, including senior leadership training, on the protection of civilians. As that initiative needed to be accompanied by national and international efforts to better prepare peacekeeping personnel for effectively carrying out protection tasks, Austria was currently engaged in the development and implementation of a pilot training course in cooperation with African centres working in the same area. To preserve the gains in establishing a favourable protection environment, decisions to draw down missions or adapt mandates needed to be conditioned upon the achievement of clear benchmarks, and the establishment of a mechanism to measure and report on progress would be a useful step towards increasing the Council’s effectiveness.
Austria shared the Secretary-General’s concern over the threat posed to civilians by explosive weapons, and in that regard, together with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, on 16 September had hosted a panel discussion on that topic demonstrating the need for more systematic data and analysis of the human costs of explosive weapons use. In light of the consequences of armed conflicts on displacement and the magnitude of that problem — more than 27 million internally displaced persons and 15 million refugees — Austria welcomed the reference contained in the presidential statement regarding the need to find durable solutions. He said his delegation was encouraged by the fact that the Secretary-General’s report noted a change in the way protection was addressed in Council resolutions, and that it believed the Council needed to show more flexibility and willingness to address all situations adversely affecting the civilian population in a more consistent manner.
SERGEY N. KAREV (Russian Federation) favoured peaceful dispute resolution, but despite efforts, armed conflicts persisted. Indeed, civilians needed protection, notably children, women and the elderly, as well as humanitarian workers. Correcting the situation required strict compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law and human rights standards. The Russian Federation condemned attacks on civilians and especially deaths caused by the disproportionate use of force, which violated international humanitarian law. There was no justification for the attack on civilians and the taking of hostages by armed groups. All parties to conflict, as well as private military and security companies, must comply with international law. He welcomed the decision to establish, in the framework of the Human Rights Council, an open-ended working group to prepare a draft of a legally binding document for those companies.
He said that civilian protection was a priority for States involved in conflict. All parties responsible for ensuring civilian protection, as well as the international community, should assist national efforts in that regard. There was no doubt about the need for the Council to develop realistic mandates to protect civilians, taking into account available resources. Protection was only one element of peacekeeping mandates. Peacekeepers’ main task was to facilitate the peace process. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes were important and needed the support of the missions. Humanitarian agencies’ activities should be based on the United Nations Charter. Their success depended on how well they fit into international efforts, and in that regard, he cited the importance of the principle to respect State sovereignty.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) commended peacekeepers for risking their lives to protect civilians and said that the United Nations impact had been seen in Burundi, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, among other areas shaken by armed conflict. The United Nations had played a preventive role in Guinea and Kenya. Resolution 1894 (2009) was a landmark in efforts to protect civilians, which called for mission-wide planning. She applauded mission-wide protection strategies in Sudan, among other places, and urged that they be implemented. However, she expressed concern at the targeting of civilians, including women, humanitarian workers and journalists, as well as the recruitment of children as soldiers, underscoring also that the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons had grown over the year. Humanitarian workers were often the target of attacks, which was “appalling and unacceptable”. The United States called for more actions to hold accountable those attacking humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel.
She said that those groups hiding among civilians also must be held accountable, as they inflicted “unspeakable” crimes against innocents by using hospitals and neighbourhoods to launch mortar attacks. Efforts must centre on tailoring mandates to address specific challenges on the ground, including through laying out a clear hierarchy of tasks for peacekeepers to follow. Better policies were needed to reduce the vulnerabilities of innocents. Peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations must be provided with training to fulfil their protection mandates. Efforts must ensure that the Council was not being selective in the application of protection principles, and she called for the working group to consider cross-cutting protection concerns. She also welcomed the updated aide memoire. Those that violated the laws of war must be held accountable, including those who used rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. Action must be taken against those violating international humanitarian law, including sanctions. Governments must be assisted in maintaining credible courts to end impunity. “We still have far more to do to save lives of civilians in conflict zones,” she said, all of whom should be sheltered by the rule of law.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict was an important but daunting global challenge which required effort to build consensus. At the regional level, his country underlined the importance of the African Union Kampala Convention, which, among other things, imposed obligations on States parties to protect and assist internally displaced persons. While welcoming the updated aide memoire, he said that recent events in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Western Sahara underlined the importance of protection of civilians. The referendums in Sudan represented serious protection challenges for which one had to be prepared, he added.
Continuing, he said protection required early interventional and deployment of humanitarian assistance, pooling together of agencies and parties involved, and adequate resources. There were however, acute resource constraints that limited the abilities to protect civilians and more efforts should be made to address those constraints. He called for an effective, consistent and accountable approach to civilian protection in which the Council should avoid a selective approach. In those areas not on the Council’s agenda where protection was required, support should be given to those regional and subregional organizations addressing the issue. Underlining the importance of conflict prevention, he said it cost less to prevent than to control conflicts. Protection strategies should also lay the foundation for long-term development.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France), noting that among progress made was the fact that all peacekeeping mandates now contained sections on protection of civilians, said the updated aide memoire would also be a valuable tool to implement protection. The challenges, however, were numerous. Serious breaches had been committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violations occurred even where peacekeeping forces were present. There were also situations, such as in Sudan’s Darfur region, where peacekeeping forces did not have the necessary corporation from national authorities. Among other things, the Secretariat must create a framework on protection and specific training modules. Further, peacekeeping operations must cooperate closer with local populations, and the Council must receive regular reports on civilian protection, including on human rights violations, he said, adding that a systematic reporting mechanism in that regard must be set up.
As for humanitarian assistance, he said synergies should be developed between peacekeeping operations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the humanitarian community. Regarding the fight against impunity, he welcomed the publication of reports on crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the intention of the Congolese Government to prosecute those crimes. He welcomed the intention of the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed in Guinea and its procedures regarding recruitment of child soldiers. Those actions could contribute to better protection of civilians. In supporting the International Criminal Court in carrying out its arrest warrants, “we are protecting civilians today and tomorrow”, he said.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the periodic reports on protection of civilians could not provide detailed enough information on protection aspects of all items of concern. She would welcome more information on protection issues in the country-specific reports. Broadening and deepening the treatment of protection issues in country-specific reports would also allow for protection information to be disseminated to the wider membership. Protection of civilians by peacekeepers was a multidimensional task that must be pursued by all mission components in the field. Every effort must be made to ensure that peacekeeping missions had the capabilities and resources they needed to discharge their protection responsibilities.
She said that communication between peacekeepers and local populations was critical. In that regard, resources such as United Nations radio stations and town-hall meetings must be used more consistently. The production of intelligence to inform protection strategies was also vital. One of the main challenges was balancing the imperatives of immediate protection — defending civilians from physical violence and ensuring humanitarian access — with attention to long-term protection. That required combining traditional peacekeeping with political and economic tools to address the root causes of conflicts. She welcomed in that regard the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the role of housing, land and property issues in conflicts. Although they were not specific security issues, the international community must be prepared to give political, material and technical support to their resolution in conflict and post-conflict situations.
EMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) said armed conflicts were accompanied by “barbarous” acts against civilians, especially women and children. Progress had been made insofar as integrating a civilian element into peacekeeping mandates. Still, challenges remained, and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) symbolized those. Resolution 1856 (2008) had been unable to end abuses against civilians. MONUC’s reconfiguration into MONUSCO incorporated measures outlined in resolution 1894 (2009), and today, it attached importance to civilian protection. Armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Mission had organized activities to protect civilians. However, massacres against civilians between 30 July and 3 August not far from a MONUSCO base were intolerable, he said, noting that women continued to be subjected to abuse.
He said LRA still attacked refugees and recruited children, and there was reason to question MONUSCO’s ability to protect civilians, as the area it covered was vast, larger than Afghanistan. The Council should reflect on peacekeepers’ ability to adapt to their environment and ensure that resources matched mandates. Fighting impunity also had seen shortcomings. Governments should not give legitimacy to crimes committed. Perpetrators must be held accountable and ad hoc and mixed tribunals were essential in that regard. States must be assisted in reforming their security and defence sectors, and in undertaking large programmes against poverty and corruption. He hoped an evaluation mechanism would be set up to improve civilian protection.
KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to promote the three approaches, saying that the first of those — the comprehensive approach — could be achieved when the actors involved engaged in greater cooperation with each other. States had the primary duty to protect civilians and, to that end, the rule of law should be established by promoting security sector reform and strengthening the judicial system and law enforcement. Japan also was pleased to see that United Nations missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan had developed strategies for civilian protection and training modules that would soon be completed for all peacekeeping personnel. Control of weapons, including explosive weapons like landmines and cluster bombs, should be strengthened by promoting regional cooperation and creating a legal framework. Protecting women and children was also a priority.
As for the consistent approach, he welcomed the development of the operational concept by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, saying that cooperation between the military and civilians should be strengthened to further ensure humanitarian access. Also, lessons must be learned from the mass rapes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year. The early warning system must be strengthened and communication between locals and peacekeeping missions should be developed. The Council should obtain the most accurate and objective information and make use of it on the ground in a timely manner. On the accountable approach, he stressed that to fight impunity, the affected country should build its capacity to establish the rule of law as a means of enhancing civilian protection. Cooperation between the country and the United Nations should also be pursued in that regard. He also emphasized the relevance of the human security approach, which could serve as a conceptual basis for protecting the most vulnerable.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda), concerned that civilians still accounted for the vast majority of casualties, said it was essential to put in place safeguards for protection of vulnerable populations, something for which the updated aide memoire would be a valuable tool. It should be used on a more systematic and consistent basis than the previous one. Noting attacks by armed groups, such as LRA, in the Central African area, he reiterated the call on the international community to strengthen its resolve to deal effectively with such with such non-State actors. It was essential that peacekeeping mandates were realistic and robust, and that peacekeepers had the necessary tools to implement their protection mandate. More attention should be focused on returnees and internally displaced persons.
Underlining the importance of working with regional organizations to find durable solutions to protection issues, he drew attention to the destabilizing effect of small arms and light weapons, and landmines, urging for an arms treaty to combat the illicit trade in such weapons. He urged all parties to armed conflict to meet the basic needs of civilians affected by conflict and States to comply with their responsibility to end impunity. He also encouraged all parties to conflict to provide meaningful amends to affected individuals and communities. Compassion went a long way to regaining the trust of affected civilians, he said, while emphasizing that making appropriate amends never created an excuse for violations of international law or replaced reparations. Nor did it excuse the prosecution of the perpetrators of human rights violations.
GUILLERMO PUENTE ORDORICA (Mexico) said the proliferation of increasingly complex conflicts, lack of respect for international humanitarian law norms and the use of more sophisticated weapons had increased the challenges to the Council. Condemning attacks against humanitarian workers, he said that, under international humanitarian law, the parties to conflict had a clear obligation to allow access for humanitarian assistance. As for the use of certain weapons, such as explosives, in densely populated areas, he said that absent a ban on the use of some of those weapons did not mean that their use was permitted. As the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons had a great impact on the safety of civilians, he urged for greater compliance with arms embargoes.
He said the impact of such weapons as cluster munitions, landmines and improvised explosive devices should be analysed further. As violations of international humanitarian and human rights law could constitute war crimes, he pointed out that if States were not able to or chose not to prosecute, the International Criminal Court had the mandate to do so. Respect for humanitarian international law not only meant using instruments available, but also promoting a robust culture for respect for such laws. Respect for international humanitarian law in rule of law concepts was an essential component of protecting civilians in armed conflict. In conclusion, he expressed the hope that the Council would adopt more forceful measures on the use of explosives in densely populated areas.
WANG MIN (China) expressed grave concern at civilian casualties in armed conflict, saying that protection must be strengthened, in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention and the principles of State sovereignty and territorial integrity, as outlined in the United Nations Charter. National Governments had the main responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict. The international community could assist; however, such support could not substitute for the obligations of the concerned Government. Attention also must be paid to tackling the root causes of conflict. Deployment of United Nations peacekeepers alone could not provide lasting solutions.
As such, he said, the Council should focus more on preventive diplomacy, and push for a strong political process to achieve stability at an early date. The Council also must help countries reform the security sector and build the police force. To ensure improved protection of civilians, United Nations bodies and agencies must have synergetic division of labour. Indeed, civilian protection involved the development of international humanitarian law, which itself required in-depth discussions. Peacekeeping priorities must be tailored to local specificities. The “one-size-fits-all” approach would not work.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) said compliance with existing protection standards was “far from satisfactory”. The primary responsibility for protection rested with the concerned Government, which, through national institutions, had the duty to provide physical security for their citizens. Occupying Powers were obliged to protect populations under foreign occupation and, in that regard, she underlined the implications of sustained violations of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the “appalling” humanitarian situation of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Protection was most successful when part of a larger strategy, and she called the development, by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, of an operational concept and framework to guide preparation of protection strategies as a “good step in the right direction”.
A mission that protected civilians under imminent threat, but did not address the underlying causes of conflict, would not lead to sustainable peace, she said, adding that the United Nations should help countries advance the peace process through dialogue and reconciliation. While efforts should aim to perfect prevention, rather than recovery and containment, the truth remained that human rights violations would not disappear overnight. Nonetheless, the Council should consider a more comprehensive, less selective approach to protection, notably through direct, transparent cooperation with national and international stakeholders. She reiterated the demand that Israel pay due compensation for the human, environmental and material losses caused by its 2006 war against her country. Lebanon had submitted this month the ratification instruments of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and urged States that had not yet done so to ratify it.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey), welcoming the Council’s increased attention to protection issues as a significant step, said that undoubtedly, the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lay with States. However, the international community had a shared obligation to help protect civilians in situations where States failed to do so. In that regard, there was need to build a collective awareness of the importance of that responsibility, as well as be able to agree on the fundamental guidelines.
Stressing protection of civilians during peacekeeping operations as one of the key challenges, he emphasised the incorporation of that task into the peacekeeping mandates, as well as its effective implementation. Regional ownership and cooperation were also worth mentioning. Moreover, it was important to improve predeployment training for peacekeeping personnel on civilian protection, including taking into account cultural differences and sensitivities, he said. In some instances, many civilians became victims in spite of the fact that conflict parties fully complied with the applicable law. Turkey thus called upon parties to armed conflict to make amends to the civilians they harmed with a view to respecting their inherent dignity as human beings. He added that the issue of protecting civilians in armed conflict was one the international community needed to pursue with unwavering determination. In order to ensure a long-term and lasting protection of civilians, human rights, the rule of law, democracy and good governance needed to be strengthened.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), recalling that the primary responsibility for civilian protection was with States and parties to armed conflict, urged the United Nations to spare no effort in that respect, especially in peacekeeping operations. It was unacceptable that the high number of casualties in conflicts continued to be civilians, and he condemned all deliberate attacks against them. Women and children suffered extreme violence during conflicts, and recent events in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo showed failures both in both prevention and response. The struggle against impunity was essential and those responsible for serious crimes must be prosecuted. Constant care must be taken by parties to spare civilians from the impacts of hostilities. Sanctions by the Council should be applied.
He said positive developments included enhanced communications between the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the sanctions committees, as well as situation-specific resolutions urging priority for civilian protection in peacekeeping mandates. Enhancing accountability must be supported, with emphasis given to measures to enhance access to justice for victims. Durable solutions must be supported for internally displaced persons and refugees, and he emphasized the importance of unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to that vulnerable group. He also urged the cooperation of all parties to a conflict to create areas of security. Bosnia and Herzegovina supported more detailed information on civilian protection in country-specific situations, as well as on measuring progress in implementing peacekeeping mandates on protection issues. Tracking progress in implementing Council resolutions was essential.
Council President MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, said civilian protection should be at the forefront of the Council’s work. In Sudan, protection was central to peacekeeping operations, especially in Darfur, where more than 10 per cent of the civilian population was living in camps. Poor security in that area had caused great suffering to civilians and had damaged humanitarian agencies’ ability to conduct their work. On “Burma”, he expressed concern at the lack of progress made in national reconciliation. In border regions, civilians were targeted by the military. He also was troubled by attacks against vulnerable populations, including women and children, the destruction of homes, and forcible relocations. He urged meaningful dialogue with ethnic groups.
On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the mass rapes highlighted the need for more protection in the eastern part of that country. While Government authorities had the main responsibility, MONUSCO also played an important role in supporting the Government. He was pleased that the presidential statement recognized the role of the informal expert working group on the protection of civilians. Unfortunately, he noted a lack of progress in enhancing humanitarian access and he condemned the violent attacks against humanitarian workers. He called for ensuring that all civilians could access aid, without discrimination. “We need to see progress on this before the next debate” on protecting civilians, he stressed.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy) said his delegation was committed to combating impunity for international crimes. The Council had a crucial role to play in that regard, and it must be ready to take prompt action against those who continuously undermined the credibility of such commitment. Every measure should be taken to prevent violence, starting with implementation of national laws. In situations where civilian populations were the target of attacks, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was an essential instrument that provided the legal basis for holding the culprits accountable when a State was unwilling or unable to do so.
Italy shared concerns over the severity and prevalence of constraints on humanitarian access, as well as the frequency and gravity of attacks on humanitarian personnel. Active hostilities, bureaucratic constraints and economically motivated attacks on humanitarian supplies were major obstacles on the path to protecting those in need. Therefore, acceptance of independent, neutral and impartial humanitarian action must be broadened. Under international law, primary responsibility for the security and protection of humanitarian personnel lay with the Government hosting a United Nations operation. He said that effective measures to enable relief activities during active fighting, or calling on parties to allow safe passage for civilians trying to escape from conflict zones could represent a concrete and tangible set of actions that could be implemented.
Further, he said that when a Government lacked the resources to assure compliance, civilian protection was a moral obligation inherent to peacekeeping, and efforts should therefore be made to assure that operation mandates included explicit reference to such protection, clear strategies for pursuing it and careful monitoring of the implementation and impacts of those mandates. Additionally, the security of civilians in post-conflict environments was also critical to the legitimacy and credibility of United Nations peacekeeping missions, the peace agreements they were deployed to protect and the United Nations itself. Threats to civilians must be considered at the earliest stages of planning and peacekeeping missions must be properly tasked with clear, credible and achievable mandates to be implemented by appropriately trained personnel.
GILLES RIVARD (Canada) said the link between civilian protection and maintenance of international peace and security was firmly established. Also, Council resolutions had demonstrated that body’s resolve to better protect civilians in armed conflict. Yet, civilian populations were still deliberately targeted, and ongoing violence in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan were an important reminder of work left to be done. It was important for the Council to consider comprehensive approaches to better protect civilians — greater consistency addressing protection issues was needed. The relevant aide memoire and the informal expert group on protection of civilians could be more effectively used to inform Council decisions. “While recognizing that context will always matter, the Council would benefit from clearer trigger mechanisms that complement the aide memoire, which can assist the Council in determining when and how to engage,” he said.
Above all, comprehensive protection strategies needed to be fully integrated into the day-to-day work of United Nations country teams and peacekeeping missions, and be well coordinated with local, national and international actors to be concrete and measurable, drawing on clear indicators and benchmarks. States also needed to fulfil obligations to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of targeting civilian populations and, where appropriate, cooperate with international judicial institutions to bring perpetrators to justice. Violations of human rights and humanitarian law needed to be better documented and reported to the Council, he said, applauding efforts to establish an effective monitoring system to provide early warnings that could lead to effective protective measures, as well as build crucial evidence against perpetrators of violence. “Full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need is vital,” he added. “We strongly encourage the Council to act on such information when it is received and take appropriate steps to address violent attacks against humanitarian personnel as well as bureaucratic constraints that deliberately hamper efforts to access those in need of life-saving assistance.”
PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), recalling progress made at the normative level, urged the Council, and in particular its informal group of experts on the protection of civilians, to incorporate that progress into its work. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s analysis regarding the need for respect for the law by non-State armed groups and stressed the importance of avoiding obstacles to the efforts of humanitarian organizations in that regard. It was important to gain a better understanding of the motivations of such groups and identify strategies to ensure that they fully respected the law. Humanitarian access was crucial for every action to protect civilians affected by armed conflict, and he expressed concern at increased restrictions on access for humanitarian actors in conflict zones.
He reiterated that States had the primary responsibility to provide people with protection and aid. The Council must pursue its monitoring of constraints and, where necessary, take measures to eliminate obstacles. On the normative framework, he said that, with private security companies playing a more important role in conflict situations, those also must abide by and respect international norms. He welcomed the recent signature of an international code of conduct by some 60 such companies. That code should be regarded as integral to a series of initiatives. The “Montreux Document” reminded States of the relevant international obligations and good practices relating to private military and security companies in conflict situations.
MERON REUBEN (Israel) expressed his Government’s deep commitment to protecting civilians. The international community continued to face difficult operational, humanitarian and moral dilemmas in ensuring civilians’ protection in armed conflict. Foremost among those was the new phenomenon of asymmetric warfare, which blurred the distinction between combatants and civilians under the laws of armed conflict. In the Middle East, regular armies were fighting terrorists or guerrilla organizations that deliberately operated within, and in the vicinity of, civilian populations. That had produced a “horrific” transformation of the civilian landscape, with religious institutions becoming rocket launch pads and hospitals being used as weapons storage facilities. He urged the Council to seriously consider the nature of such warfare.
In the Gaza Strip, he continued, Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns from densely populated areas, as had been seen last week. In Lebanon, Hizbullah deployed weapons and built military infrastructure within the fabric of civilian life, endangering the Lebanese population. Israel, fully in conformity with its international obligations, sought to protect civilians while it pursued terrorists hiding among them. Israel employed many independent oversight mechanisms and placed a humanitarian affairs officer in every combat unit above the battalion level to minimize civilian casualties. Any candid assessment of the challenges involved in protection must balance several key principles, such as distinction and proportionality, military necessity and humanity. Israel’s efforts to facilitate humanitarian assistance in Gaza included relaxing restrictions imposed on the passage of civilian goods into that area.
ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said that, over the last two years, violence and insecurity had largely affected the security of the Afghan people. Thousands of civilians had lost their lives. “The increase in the number of civilian casualties has negatively affected the people’s trust in the prospect of peace, security and development in the country.” Although terrorists and extremists continued to conduct attacks from densely populated areas and use civilians as human shields, there had also been a number of “unfortunate, unintended casualties” resulting from the military operations and activities of international forces, as well as joint military operations. During the fist half of 2010, civilian casualties as a result of armed conflict had averaged 18 a day, a 31 per cent increase over the same period last year. 76 per cent of the incidents had been the result of the activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorist groups.
He said protection of civilians during military operations was a shared responsibility and an international obligation. Increased coordination between international and Afghan forces during military operations and a greater cooperation between the international community and the Government was necessary for ensuring security of civilian populations. That had been a crucial point of discussion with Afghanistan’s international partners. Welcoming efforts by commanders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), he hoped that further necessary steps would be taken to safeguard the lives and rights of Afghan civilians. His country was committed to working with the international community to achieve lasting peace and stability in the country. The protection of civilians must be placed in the context of the emerging transition, by which Afghan national forces would begin to assume full responsibility by 2014.
Civilian protection was not confined to preventing civilian casualties, he said, but also required establishing lasting peace and stability. Afghanistan had completed 89 per cent of planned activities in the area of security and exceeded expectations in the growth of the national army and national police. In addition, his Government was engaged in a comprehensive outreach initiative. The Afghan-led peace process called upon the Taliban to lay down their arms and join the peace and reconciliation efforts. Engaging the armed opposition in peace talks and the creation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council were significant steps towards strengthening peace and reconciliation efforts. “Our national reconciliation efforts are based on our growing responsibility to promote human rights, build trust and continue outreach to the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia), underlining the need to ensure greater compliance with international humanitarian law, said he was concerned with the increased indiscriminate targeting of civilians by explosive weapons, including improvised explosive devices, and he supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for further systematic data collection and analysis regarding such matters. He welcomed the entry into force of the Cluster Munitions Convention. He also supported the Secretary-General’s call to move away from a selective approach. Peacekeeping was but one tool; the most effective way to protect civilians was to prevent conflict.
Uniformed components of peacekeeping missions needed guidelines to implement civilian protection mandates, he said. Such guidelines would contribute to understanding their responsibility and assist them with engagement with the local population, their anticipation of threats and the assessment of the use of force and deterrence permissible under the mandate. Guidelines would also assist in determining the necessary resources and capabilities. Public information strategies were needed to manage international and local expectations regarding the ability of a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, he said, noting that peacekeepers could not protect everyone, everywhere, all of the time. He encouraged United Nations missions to develop risk-mitigation strategies where insufficient resources were available to physically protect all civilians. Benchmarks on protection of civilians needed to be included from the mission’s outset, he said.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said due priority should be given to promoting knowledge of, and respect for, State obligations assumed under the United Nations Charter and international law. He called on conflict parties to redouble efforts to comply with legal obligations, including by prohibiting the targeting of civilians and civilian property. He also called for ensuring general protection against dangers arising from military operations for hospitals, among other facilities. He condemned attacks on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, but emphasized that relief agencies should respect international humanitarian law and the laws of the countries in which they operated. He stressed States’ primary responsibility to protect civilians, and that peacekeeping missions conduct their work without prejudice to that responsibility of the host Government.
Consent of the host State, as a founding principle of peacekeeping, must be fully respected, which required open political discussions between mission leadership and national authorities. The Non-Aligned Movement had doubts about recommendations in the 2009 independent study entitled Protecting Civilians in the Context of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, jointly commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he said, and stressed the need for United Nations entities to take into account the need to provide all necessary capabilities and resources for implementing protection mandates in a timely, efficient manner. They should also refrain from using the concept of civilian protection as a pretext for military interventions by the United Nations. The role of peacekeeping missions required clarity. Also, the report unjustifiably expanded the definition and scope of “armed conflict” to include situations not considered as such under international law, while it ignored other incidents like the humanitarian flotilla attacked on the high seas. The Council should attach priority to civilian protection at an early stage, separating such consideration from discussions relating to the controversial political dimensions of a conflict.
HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), associating with statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled the persistence of violations, such as the deliberate targeting of civilians, excessive use of force and sexual and gender-based violence, saying that human life must be at the forefront of the Council’s consideration. The Council’s framework required a comprehensive approach embodying the three pillars of human rights, development and security. The Secretary-General’s report made a strong case regarding the link among human rights, humanitarian relief and security efforts, but there had been little mention of development. While it could be argued that development was not within the Council’s purview, the same could be said for human rights and humanitarian issues. Thus, he wished to see consistency in applying the three pillars. He supported the report’s recommendation to increase funding for humanitarian and development actors in the context of peacekeeping drawdown.
Also, peacekeepers must be provided with resources required to fulfil their mandates, he said, underscoring that a well-defined benchmark for the ratio of peacekeepers to civilians should be provided by the United Nations in the assigned areas of deployment. Indonesia, in collaboration with Norway, had recently organized a regional workshop on international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, with two others planned for 2011. In other areas, he said the Secretary-General’s report referred to cases where humanitarian relief was impeded, which had led to mounting demands that States be held accountable. While noting that approach, he said accountability would fail to bear fruit without ensuring that States had the capacity to deliver on their responsibility. Such capacity could be delivered through international cooperation. In the absence of peace, the Council must remain vigilant as to the impacts of conflict on civilians and do its best to minimize human suffering.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein) urged the Emergency Relief Coordinator to develop indicators for systematic monitoring and reporting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, as a continued gap between the normative advances regarding protection and the realities on the ground had been revealed. Among other things, there was a need to urgently enhance compliance with international law by State and non-State actors; continue to empower United Nations peacekeeping operations to better implement their protection mandates; improve humanitarian access; and enhance accountability for violations of international humanitarian law. Among the core principles of international humanitarian law that should be ensured were the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, proportionality of the use of force and the imperative to take all feasible measures to minimize civilian casualties.
A climate of impunity would lead to further violations of international humanitarian law, he said. In line with the Rome Statute, accountability mechanisms should first and foremost be established at the national level. The Council could establish commissions of inquiry or use its competence to refer situations to the International Criminal Court. He said it was also essential for the Council to develop innovative ways to address protection concerns in situations that were not on its agenda, and to enhance its preventive and early-warning capacities.
KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said that armed conflict often made it extremely difficult for States and conflict parties to provide adequate protection for civilians. There had also been many occasions whereby armed groups resorted to violence against civilians, particularly women and children, as means of combat. Peacekeepers must have more responsibility to provide security to civilians at risk through tangible protection strategies. The Council needed to establish clear, credible and achievable mandates to ensure effective protection prior to deployment. Ensuring compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law was essential for civilian protection. The international community should therefore stand firm against impunity. Compliance should also be applied to non-State armed groups.
He said access to civilians affected by armed conflict for humanitarian assistance must also be guaranteed. Those involved in acts that prevented humanitarian personnel and supplies from reaching populations in urgent need must be held accountable. Stressing the need for further implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) regarding ending impunity for serious crimes against women and girls in armed conflict, he hoped for increased coordination between the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other concerned entities or bodies dealing with that matter. Security for civilians in post-conflict situations must also be ensured in order to prevent the risk of areas falling into a spiral of recurrent violence. Due consideration must also be given to civilian protection in the peacebuilding process.
EDUARDO GÁLVEZ (Chile) said peacekeeping operations were multidimensional and had components linked to civilian protection, including human rights, restoring infrastructure and security sector reform. A comprehensive approach was therefore the most effective way to address threats to human security. Despite greater attention paid by the Council, the prevalence of civilian casualties continued to be overwhelming, however. He condemned recurring attacks against refugee camps and humanitarian staff and rejected the use of sexual violence and enforced displacement as a tool of war. While welcoming the creation of the informal expert group on protection of civilians, he recognized the importance of including the matter in peacekeeping mission mandates.
He said increased interaction between the host country, the Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat could help reduce the gap between decisions and their implementation. Respect for international humanitarian law was linked with the fight against impunity. Concerted efforts were required to cooperate with national judicial mechanisms to guarantee that perpetrators would be brought to justice. Restoration of the rule of law and reform of the security sector and judicial systems were key areas where the international community should support national capacity-building. He went on to say that the International Criminal Court played an important supplementary role in fighting impunity and that civilians affected by armed conflict had the right to reparations and compensations. In that regard, the value of symbolic reparations should not be underestimated as a way of healing in post-conflict societies.
KNUT LANGELAND (Norway) said full compliance with international humanitarian law was essential for safeguarding civilians in armed conflicts. States, as well as the military, ICRC, non-governmental organizations and non-State armed groups must engage in renewed efforts to reclaim civilian protection. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, including the need for further analysis and research on that issue. He also supported the recommendation that specific benchmarks should be developed for measuring progress in the implementation of the protection mandates given to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice, he stressed, underlining the need to enhance the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms. In that regard, he welcomed the Council’s commitment to establish a stronger framework for children in armed conflict, most recently through resolution 1882 (2009). He encouraged the Council and invited all relevant actors to take part in a debate on how to enhance the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms, including through the use of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions.
DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina) said his country was convinced of the need to include civilian protection procedures within the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping missions. Interaction with the troops on the ground was essential for those mandates to be clear and appropriate to each mission. Regarding the composition of contingents, a structure for the protection of women from sexual violence and the rehabilitation of child soldiers was important. It was vital to protect children, particularly from being recruited as child soldiers. Another critical aspect of protecting civilians was ensuring their access to humanitarian assistance and letting people fleeing combat areas travel safely to non-hostile areas.
To detect serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, he said Argentina believed that impartial fact-finding was essential. One vehicle for such an exercise was the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established by Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Argentina welcomed the fact that through resolution 1894 (2009), the Council had recognized the possibility of using that Commission for timely, objective, accurate and reliable information. Stressing the role of justice, he said perpetrators of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity must be held accountable. Ensuring justice was more than an obligation of States; it was a commitment of the international community, as represented in the United Nations.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica), speaking as Chair of the Human Security Network, said that 23 of the 65 resolutions that the Council had approved last year involved the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Yet, even with the Council’s increased attention, the prevalence of civilian casualties and the number of people affected by armed conflict was still appalling. Pointing to the growing role played by private security companies in armed conflict situations, he said the Human Security Network also noted that 60 such entities had recently signed an international code of conduct by which they would try to respect human rights and humanitarian law in their operations. That pact followed up on the 2008 “Montreux Document”, which reminded States of their relevant international obligations and good practices relating to operations of private military and security companies in situations of armed conflict.
As the principal organ to address threats to international peace and security, the Council should strongly, systematically, consistently and promptly respond to prevent violations of international law and protect civilian populations in all situations of armed conflict without distinction. That would include helping create conditions conducive to the rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance while ensuring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. He said the Human Security Network also recognized the importance of protecting civilians as a component of peacekeeping mandates, as well as clear guidelines and rules of engagement, without prejudice to the host Government’s primary responsibility to protect their civilians. Stronger interaction between the Council, Secretariat, host country and the troop-contributing countries could also help bridge the gap between the decision-making process and the implementation on the ground.
The Human Security Network valued the independent study, commissioned by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and released in November 2009, on protecting civilians in the context of United Nations peacekeeping operations. He said some of the study’s main recommendations included the need to consider, during early planning stages, any threats to civilians in situations of armed conflict and bring those to the Council’s attention before its discussions on peacekeeping mandates. The Human Security Network welcomed the Secretariat’s efforts to set out clear guidelines as well as a stronger partnership with the countries sending troops and police. Prevention was also a key and the Human Security Network emphasized that a comprehensive approach was needed to address the root causes of conflict, including the lack of development.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) shared the views of the European Union, but underlined some aspects of particular significance to his country. Conscious that the changes in the nature of present conflicts — where armed groups roamed unchallenged — added to the complexity of the tasks of peacekeepers, he said his country strongly supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the enhanced protection of civilians. There were three important issues: impunity and the lack of accountability; the need to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping operations and missions; and the need for an increasingly integrated approach to peacekeeping. Believing the lack of accountability encouraged perpetrators and made the tasks of peacekeepers more difficult, Portugal felt that the United Nations and the Security Council must show resolve regarding impunity and address ways by which actions could be more effective to bring to justice those responsible for targeting civilians. In that, Portugal encouraged all efforts to strengthen the International Criminal Court and reinforce its credibility. A much more effective application of rules on the ground was also needed.
He said that strengthening United Nations peacekeeping operations required clear, specific situation- or country-oriented mandates, as well as training and resources. Peacekeepers should be well acquainted with the origins and reasons underlying the conflict, as well as the social, economic and cultural patterns of the country. Recent experiences showed the importance of engaging with local communities and benefiting from their knowledge, while bearing in mind that those communities might become objects of reprisal. Additionally, regarding an integrated approach to peacekeeping, there was a growing understanding of the concept of protection of civilians in armed conflict and the guidance given to United Nations missions on how to effectively do so, and that was particularly important. Training modules and the identification of resources and capacities required to perform the tasks were of the utmost importance, as were scenario-based exercises for senior mission leadership. In order to perform efficiently, adequate capacities should be deployed on the ground, with clearly defined and achievable tasks and objectives. Portugal remained fully committed to all efforts pertaining to strengthening the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
PETER SCHWAIGER, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, expressed alarm that civilians continued to account for the majority of casualties in conflict and that the numbers of persons displaced by such fighting had reached “historic highs”. As a key humanitarian donor worldwide, the European Union was deeply concerned by the frequency and gravity of attacks against humanitarian personnel, as well as by the severe challenges hampering safe and timely humanitarian access, particularly to vulnerable groups. The European Union was also concerned about the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons, particularly when used in densely populated areas, he said, adding that the excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons exacerbated many of those problems.
The European Union supported the systematic use of practical tools to protect civilians, including the aide memoire of 2002 and further commended the work of the expert group on civilian protection, which was now an important forum for addressing such concerns in the run-up to renewal of mission mandates. The European Union delegation believed that the systematic monitoring and reporting on protection of civilians in armed conflict was highly important, and that indicators could play a very useful role in that regard. Additionally, he supported the use of clear benchmarks for peacekeeping missions, in particular when it came to their drawdown, with a view to reducing the possible risk of increased levels of instability, violence and protection concerns.
The European Union supported the “strong call” to improve accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situation, and encouraged the Council to explore the Secretary-General’s recommendations further, including on referring some situations to the International Criminal Court, supporting national-level investigation and prosecution, as well as the increasing the use of commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions. Along with a stronger focus on prevention — including through early warning and assessment — the European Union welcomed the initiative of the current President of the Security Council to invite the Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs to provide a “horizon-scanning” briefing at the beginning of the month, and encouraged incoming Presidents to do likewise.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said more must be done to ensure the safety and physical integrity of civilian populations and to enhance full respect by all parties to conflict for applicable international law. The Council had made clear that the protection of civilians must be a priority for peacekeeping missions, but there was an implementation gap that must be addressed by the Council and United Nations missions, in order to make a tangible difference for civilians in the conflict zone. Challenges to effective protection, however, included resource constraints, difficult terrain and sometimes tenuous consent of the host country, as well as a lack of conceptual clarity and insufficient training. Military, as well as civilian components of United Nations missions must have clear guidelines on their respective roles and must work together. It was also imperative for United Nations missions to interact more with vulnerable communities in order to better understand their specific protection needs.
While agreeing with the recommendation to develop benchmarks on protection implementation and welcoming the development of training modules, he underlined the important role of the informal expert group on the protection issue, especially prior to the renewal of peacekeeping mandates, and he welcomed the updated aide memoire. Engaging with non-State parties was another practical way to enhance their compliance with applicable international law, he said, stressing that United Nations access to non-State parties to conflict was key. He therefore encouraged Member States to grant such access. Increased exchange of information on persistent perpetrators between the Council’s working group and relevant sanctions committees could be a step towards ensuring compliance with international law and accountability for its violations.
PALITHA T. B. KOHONA (Sri Lanka) said that encouraging non-State actors to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law might prove to be a “double-edged sword”, as it could also confer unintended legitimacy to the violent perpetrators of terrorism and to terrorist groups. “This might pose a political dilemma for legitimate Governments fighting terrorist groups to protect their sovereignty, territorial integrity and, in many cases, their cherished democratic way of life, and may add a further confusing element to ongoing conflicts.” Despite the 27-year long onslaught of a terrorist group, his country had taken determined action to establish a credible national human rights framework. It would continue to strengthen its human rights framework as security improved.
He said that broad civilian protection issues had been addressed during the conflict, and challenges of resettlement of internally displaced persons, rehabilitation of former combatants and child soldiers, reconstruction and accountability and reconciliation issues were being addressed with speed and efficacy. Action against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been clearly based on a well-defined distinction between the terrorists and the Tamil civilians who had been used as a human shield. Pivotal to civilian protection had been the partnership between United Nations agencies and other humanitarian actors on the ground. It was imperative, however, that humanitarian agencies carry out their work based on the principles of neutrality and impartiality, that they conform to national laws and that their activities match the identified policy priorities of host Governments. “A tendency to grandstand or be paternalistic will invariably have negative consequences,” he said.
The post-conflict needs were more complex and sensitive than the needs in the aftermath of the tsunami, he said. “Sri Lanka does not fancy being converted into a laboratory of a [non-governmental organization] industry, or a testing ground for post-conflict theories, or prime learning grounds for those seeking internships.” The protection of civilians must necessarily be seen as a cross-cutting endeavour. Protection concerns should be addressed through a linkage between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, as well as through preventive activities related to the root causes of conflict. In the long term, strong institutions, economic growth and social inclusion were indispensable pillars of protection.
SHALVA TSISKARASHVILI (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, recalled that the six resolutions and eight presidential statements on the issue passed over the years had not been sufficient, as civilians around the world continued to be impacted by armed conflicts. Every situation where civilians suffered violence due to conflict required more attention by the international community. Georgia had become party to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in doing so, reaffirmed its strong commitment towards consolidated efforts to protect children in armed conflict. In each debate, Georgia had provided detailed information on civilians living under foreign occupation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ethnic-based and other massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law had occurred there. The population suffered from, among other things, the threat of expulsion and loss of ethnic identity.
Moreover, the authorities in control had taken measures depriving people of their right to free movement across the border, he said, underscoring that such violence must be considered a violation of the right to life and development. Resolution 1894 (2009) reaffirmed the need to focus on humanitarian access, and that message had been reiterated in the Secretary-General’s report, with the suggestion that such access was the prerequisite to humanitarian action. He drew attention to the problem of humanitarian access in South Ossetia, where humanitarian actors had been blocked. Such policies were another clear infringement of international humanitarian law and the brokered ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008. The resolution showed the international will to stand up for those suffering from the impacts of armed conflict. Georgia supported United Nations efforts to alleviate civilian suffering and was ready to both address current challenges and ensure progress.
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ REINEL (Peru) said civilian protection had been discussed for more than 10 years, and he welcomed in particular resolution 1894 (2009) and last year’s presidential statement on the subject. Efforts must be guided by the Secretary-General’s five challenges, which remained valid, as seen in the latest report. The aide memoire annexed to last year’s presidential statement must also be taken as a basis for work. This year’s report made clear that the normative and legislative framework could guide protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations. But there was no time to lose, and he urged remembering the multidimensional nature of peacekeeping operations and police groups. The Council must live up to its main duty through the development of clear mandates. It had the capacity to adopt measures to promote systematic compliance with international law by all parties to a conflict, including non-State armed groups. Measures were important to punish non-compliance with international humanitarian law.
Also, he said, the role of regional organizations was important in planning and operational terms, as well as in national capacity-building. He supported the promotion of international humanitarian law by all parties to conflict, especially non-State armed groups. States not party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, related to civilian protection during war and the additional protocols, should become parties to those instruments. Peru, aiming to make known the framework for civilian protection, had implemented a policy of dissemination of international humanitarian law across the board. Noting the importance of developing the analytic preventive aspects of a mission before its deployment, he said it also was important to evaluate risks on the ground to civilians and peacekeepers alike. He suggested that the informal group of experts could learn from missions carried out to date. The United Nations credibility was of capital importance, he said, stressing the importance of clear mandates with adequate resources.
AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL (Pakistan), strongly condemning attacks on civilians under all circumstances, said his country had been a strong and active supporter of protection of civilians in armed conflict, as was demonstrated by its participation as top troop contributor in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Objective reporting was a basic prerequisite for consideration of that important issue. Systematic violations of the rights of civilians were most pervasive in situations of foreign occupation. The report should therefore have provided more objective information on parts of the world where innocent people suffered daily.
He said the report contained unwarranted and unacceptable references to Pakistan. His country was a vibrant democracy. “By no stretch of imagination can the situation in Pakistan be termed as that of an internal armed conflict,” he said. The nation had successfully confronted terrorism, which had roots in the conflict in Afghanistan ensuing from cold war dynamics. “It is the lethal nexus of drugs and organized criminal gangs, funded and supplied with weapons that pose threats to Afghanistan’s neighbours and the global community as a whole,” he said, adding that Pakistan would continue to do all it could to eliminate terrorism.
As the report might seek to build an argument for allowing contact with non‑State armed groups, he said that issue raised questions about applicability of international humanitarian law to countering terrorism. “Certainly no one would wish to advocate contacts with and would commiserate with Al-Qaida and hard-core criminal gangs.” He was “perplexed” to see that many countries facing situations of insurgency failed to find even a passing reference in the report. It was also a matter of grave concern that the report omitted any reference to the “grave and systematic” violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the Indian occupied Kashmir. He hoped that future reports would be balanced and more carefully drafted.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said resolution 1894 (2009) introduced new provisions focusing on humanitarian access, implementation of protection measures in peacekeeping operations, and monitoring and reporting. But the situation of civilians in armed conflicts around the world was alarming, and the Council must focus on conflict prevention, including through early warning. It must respond to situations where civilians were at risk of systematic and widespread violations of international humanitarian law, especially genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Those responsible should be accountable, as impunity was among the major obstacle to preventing such grave violations. The Council should be sensitive to the issue of accountability in country situations on its agenda.
Situation-specific resolutions had called for civilian protection to be prioritized in implementing peacekeeping mandates, she said, underscoring the importance of the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support in that regard. Lessons learned and best practices from regional organizations must be used. Challenges also concerned the implementation of the normative standards, and Slovenia supported the use of benchmarks to monitor such implementation. Slovenia was also deeply concerned at the tremendous challenges caused by mines and other unexploded ordnance, which hindered the return of refugees, humanitarian aid operations and restoration of normal social conditions. She noted Slovenia’s decision to incorporate the contents of international humanitarian law into relevant primary school programmes.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the important issue of protecting civilians in armed conflict could not be approached in a selective or biased way. The protection of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese civilians living under Israeli occupation was an essential part of the issue at a time when “grave violations” affecting those populations continued as result of “barbaric Israeli aggression”, continued settlement construction and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. The international community’s attempts to make progress in implementing humanitarian principles must not only be applied to the weak, but also to the strong. Indeed, the inability to put an end to the Israeli actions and the seeming “immunity” of that country had enabled Israel to continue to disregard international law.
Turning to the occupation of the Syrian Golan, he said Israel refused to accept international resolutions, including Council resolution 497 (1981), which considered Israel’s occupation of Syrian Golan “null and void”. When would the Council finally demand that Israel implement its resolutions? he asked, saying that question must be tackled when addressing the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict.
MOHAMMAD SARWAR MAHMOOD (Bangladesh) said civilian protection was a basic principle of humanitarian law, citing the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its 1977 Additional Protocols. While Council resolutions such as 1894 (2009) and others relating to children and armed conflict, and the aide memoire on civilian protection were important steps forward, the gap between those “words” and their actual implementation remained. As such, he emphasized the importance of the responsibility to protect, as endorsed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, in preventing harm to civilians in armed conflict. He condemned all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and stressed the need to combat impunity. Civilians in post-conflict societies required special attention, as they must be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities. Also, a female police force could play a critical role in a State’s ability to protect its citizens.
Discussing two themes for protecting civilians in armed conflict, he said the first related to prevention and building of a culture of peace. He urged that the United Nations preventive capacity be enhanced and that States take steps to inculcate the values of peace and tolerance. Also, civilian protection was the main justification for a United Nations presence in the field and he stressed that coordination be effective, especially among the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs. In closing, he said the total disregard for humanitarian and international laws committed by occupation forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a disgrace. The occupier State must comply with resolution 1860 (2009).
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said it was not unusual to find a State perpetrating crimes against civilians despite its responsibility to protect them, thus it was imperative for the Council to address impunity and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, while improving access for and safety of humanitarian personnel. “Ghana continues to advocate the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’, recognized and adopted by world leaders in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, which was a call to action that emphasized the need for preventative measure [and] international assistance to States to enhance their capacity to fulfil their primary responsibility to protect their own populations against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing,” he said.
His country, in September, had co-sponsored a ministerial meeting on how to fulfil that responsibility, where participating Member States had shown clear commitment to preventing and halting atrocities. “We, therefore, welcome ongoing discussions within the General Assembly with a view of clarifying and forging a consensus on the scope and modalities for the practical application of the responsibility to protect,” he said. Welcoming the Council’s intention to consider targeted sanctions and other measures against those who committed sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflicts, he noted with regret that the Council had yet to designate any such measures against perpetrators, in spite of widespread reports of abuse. Ghana was also concerned about reports of involvement of peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel in sexual and other violence against civilians, and urged the Council to ensure such perpetrators were appropriately brought to justice.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), aligning with the European Union, said a defining feature of most, if not all, conflicts, was the failure of parties to respect and ensure respect for their obligations to protect civilians. Particular consideration must be given to civilian protection in armed conflicts aggravated by population displacement and foreign military occupation. There was a growing recognition of the need to address the impact of conflict on housing, land and property, and notably regarding the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. More focused efforts were required to end illegal policies and practices in occupied territories, including forced demographic changes, destruction of historic and cultural heritage and economic activities affecting the property rights of inhabitants considering return to their places of origin. Recognition of the right to return and more attention to its practical implementation must be applied with more regularity by the international community.
Indeed, ensuring the right to return constituted a categorical rejection of ethnic cleansing, offering important measures of justice to displaced populations, he said. The lack of agreement on political issues should not be used as a pretext for ignoring the problems caused by continued disrespect for international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict and foreign military occupation. He reaffirmed the continued applicability of all relevant norms of such law, achieving the invalidation of activities aimed at consolidation of military occupation. As for enhancing accountability, ending impunity was essential, not only for prosecuting those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or other serious violations, but also for ensuring sustainable peace and justice. Any steps to advocate the culture of impunity, including by propagating wars of aggression and glorifying the perpetrators of the most serious international offences, further violated humanitarian law and human rights law.
GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia) said that since its last debate on the issue, the Security Council had further developed its work on civilian protection. It was important that the Council continued its practice of holding an annual open debate on the issue. Through the adoption of resolution 1894 (2009), the Council had introduced new provisions regarding civilian protection, and he welcomed also the fact that the 15-member body had made important decisions regarding protection of vulnerable groups, such as children and women. Areas where further focus was needed included enhancement of compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law and strengthening accountability. Those issues were key elements of the Council’s responsibility to maintain international peace and security.
He said that “as an urgent matter” the Council should send a clear message to all conflict parties condemning violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Stressing the need for the international community to fulfil its commitments, he called for more systematic attention to the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict. Ending impunity was essential in that regard, he said.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India) said that, notwithstanding the development of human rights law and Security Council resolutions, civilians bore the brunt of violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. Civilian protection was a complex problem and the Council must consider how to make sure that international instruments were honoured. Most human rights violations were committed by terrorist elements, irregular forces and warlords who were accountable to no one. However, when a country situation was under discussion, blame was ascribed to the Government, though it was not responsible for the outrages and was powerless to prevent them. Efforts to protect civilians might be hampered by the unwillingness of parties to a conflict to abide by international humanitarian law, and a lack of resources or understanding about what peacekeepers could do.
As such, innovative yet comprehensive approaches were required, he said, stressing that the elements of such approaches should include, among others, strict compliance with international humanitarian law, no impunity against serious violations, prosecution of the perpetrators of serious crimes and development of country-specific United Nations mandates. The primary gap, however, was one of resources, and India believed that the number of troops deployed for any peacekeeping mission should be able to provide meaningful support to national authorities. Similarly, those responsible for developing normative mission frameworks and guidelines should invariably include civilian protection as a necessary component. Mandates must be driven by national requirements, not by donor priorities. More serious thought must go into the development of national capacities. In that regard, developing countries’ experiences, especially those that had undergone nation-building exercises, would be of immense value.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines), associating with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, said today’s debate presented a good opportunity to take stock of progress on key issues regarding civilian protection and to come up with new approaches to resolve them. The Philippines had taken measures to integrate into its national policies recommendations on such protection in any conflict-resolution strategy, as well as on the improvement of humanitarian access. In peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People’s Army, the Government had taken every measure to make sure that, until lasting peace was achieved, civilians were properly protected and those who committed violence and wrongdoing against them were held accountable.
The Philippines had consistently called for a system-wide approach in which the work of United Nations bodies was effectively integrated with the work of other entities, specialized agencies and, in applicable cases, non-governmental organizations and civil society. He said the Philippines had also provided and advocated for protection for civilians, especially for women and children — the most vulnerable segment of society — during armed conflict. The Government had enacted a new law in December 2009 which mandated civilian protection and provided for criminal and administrative liability of commanders and other superiors, under the principle of command responsibility. Finally, he stressed that the Philippines strongly believed that a culture of civilian protection could truly be inculcated if there was genuine domestic ownership of such a culture.
DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN (Sudan) said paying due attention to eliminating the root causes of conflict would help guarantee civilian protection. In that context, he focused on the implementation of development programmes, recovery and reconstruction initiatives, and quick-impact service projects to ensure the speedy return of all persons displaced by conflict. While peacemaking must be the United Nations primary concern, he said, regional organizations — which had proven their ability to maintain peace — must be taken advantage of. In that regard, he cited the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ meetings on its role in civilian protection and in peacekeeping. He was concerned at attempts by some countries to use civilian protection to serve political objectives, citing the ongoing campaign regarding the “responsibility to protect” as an example. The impacts of implementing that principle were still the subject of diverging interpretations. Moreover, it was only a partial aspect of a system of rights and responsibilities confirmed by the General Assembly’s 2005 Summit.
Indeed, civilian protection must be carried out in a comprehensive integrated approach that dealt with the root causes of conflict at an early stage, with the Security Council playing an active role, he said. Also, the capacities of concerned States must be improved, not weakened, through the application of sanctions. The Secretary-General’s report indicated that humanitarian workers had been targeted in Darfur. While he shared the Council’s concern at that phenomenon, he drew attention to the fact that the perpetrators were most likely members of armed rebel movements, gangs affiliated with them and offshoot groups of those movements. Humanitarian organizations must coordinate with local authorities before going to areas in which they wished to deliver aid. Many relief workers did not do that, which put them at risk of such attacks. For example, Sudan had suggested that aid agencies lock their vehicles, but they had not done so, which only encouraged rebels. In sum, he affirmed the need for a comprehensive approach that dealt with the root causes of conflict without selectivity or bias.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay) said there was a wide gap between legal developments witnessed in recent years and the real situation for civilians affected by conflicts, including in parts of the world where the United Nations had peacekeepers. He agreed the focus should be on making a difference on the ground. On the one hand, he urged that the premature withdrawal of missions when security conditions had not been stabilized be dovetailed with the wishes of the host State. Also, there was a “world of difference” between the Council’s will and the actual carrying out of protection mandates, partly due to a lack of understanding between those issuing mandates and those implementing them. Uruguay had played a constructive role in the General Assembly, with the aim of bringing those two sides closer together.
In that regard, he urged recognizing progress made in the last two years in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. On 6 December, Uruguay and Australia would hold a third workshop on peacekeeping and civilians. In closing, he urged strengthening respect for the standards of international humanitarian law, with a view to ensuring the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, as well as humanitarian access and the security conditions for those actors to carry out their work. Engagement with armed non-State groups should be sought to bring about their compliance of international humanitarian law.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said the provisions of relevant instruments of international law regarding protection of civilians should be applied equally to all cases involving such persons under threat. That would ensure transparency in the implementation of the law and avoid impunity of those States that had had their aggression against unprotected civilian populations condoned for far too long. A successful strategy for the protection of civilians demanded that the root causes of conflict be addressed systematically. The State or the parties to a conflict had the primary responsibility for protecting civilians. Peacekeeping operations had the task, in certain and limited cases, of protecting the physical integrity of persons in situations of imminent danger to life.
He noted significant risks in any initiative that sought to “operationalize” protection of civilians, due to the existence of different conceptual approaches on the matter which were mutually exclusive, and due to the specificity of each armed conflict. He said that, first, answers should be found to questions such as how and who defined what was necessary to protect civilians and what was the body responsible for deciding who the players were that threatened the fulfilment of a mandate. The question as to what risks those issues posed to the impartiality of a peacekeeping operation must also be answered. It was up to Member States in the General Assembly to deliberate on such issues in order to reach a broad and true consensus.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that despite progress made, civilian populations continued to be the main victims of conflict. All parties must therefore abide by international law and refrain from any action that might harm civilians. The best way to save civilians was to find lasting solutions to and ensure prevention of conflicts. The Security Council and the international community must create conditions conducive to end conflicts. The effective implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security would enable a better protection of women. The fight against recruitment of child soldiers must continue, he added.
He said refugees were the first to suffer from conflict. Host States had the obligation to ensure that they fully enjoyed their rights, including the right to return and to ensure that armed elements did not compromise the safety of camps. There was a need to ensure that a census of refugees was carried out. He condemned all attacks on humanitarian activities, as well as the diversion by armed groups of relief aid. The proliferation of non-State armed groups had exacerbated that problem and all perpetrators should be brought to justice when they violated international law. He urged the international community to address the issue of excessive accumulation of small arms, as such weapons sometimes constituted a genuine threat to the peace and security of entire regions. The Council should use more systematically the tools of preventive diplomacy and early warning systems.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said respect for the life and integrity of all people was the foundation of democracy. His Government and Congress were working on three bills to facilitate social and economic prosperity: the law of victims and land restitution; the law on royalties or revenues from natural resources; and the anti-corruption act. Respecting the principle of States’ primary responsibility for civilian protection during armed conflict was essential to achieving long-term solutions. Actions adopted should respect the United Nations Charter, national and international law, and follow the framework principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence. Special attention should be paid to consulting with Governments of concerned countries and recognizing the specificities of each case.
Regarding recommendations about the possible engagement of humanitarian actors with illegal armed groups, he reaffirmed that such actions should have the explicit consent of the concerned State and comply with both national law and international humanitarian law. Misinformation and lack of knowledge about specific realities from part of the international community could negatively impact civilian protection. Stressing the need to establish effective controls on illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, he said a parliamentary forum on such weapons was taking place today in Bogota. He reaffirmed Colombia’s commitment to the Cartagena Plan of Action and support for the Secretary-General’s initiative on establishing indicators for assessing progress on the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations. That initiative should be developed, taking into account each operation’s mandate, and not be based on theoretical formulas looking for universal solutions.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said Council members and the Organization’s wider membership should ensure that the issue of civilian protection remained high on the United Nations agenda. Attacks on civilians in theatres of armed conflict were a violation of the Charter and international humanitarian and human rights law. Urgent measures should be taken to stem the tide of human rights violations on the ground. In that regard he called for an end to, among other things, the use of civilians as human shields, obstruction of humanitarian operations, theft of humanitarian supplies and plundering of other resources, the use of murder and maiming as instruments to terrify civilian populations and the use of rape as a weapon of war.
He said the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report were a useful framework for guiding the actions of concerned parties in addressing the five core challenges. Those recommendations should be assessed with a view to developing practical solutions for the work of the Council and for that of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. It was important that ideas generated during the debate would feed into the reassessment of practices regarding the protection issue.
Taking the floor to make a brief statement, ALI KARANOUH (Lebanon) said that some delegations had claimed to care for Lebanese civilians. One of them was from the party that occupied Lebanese territory and also perpetrated aggression against its neighbours and continued to violate international humanitarian law by attacking civilians.
Responding to questions and comments, Ms. AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said she was encouraged that a majority of speakers had referred to the need for conflict parties to comply with international humanitarian law, the need to enhance accountability and the need for timely and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance. Specifically on that issue, she said that in order to succeed, humanitarian actors must be able to engage with non-State armed groups. Some speakers had objected to that view, saying that such interaction would afford those groups legitimacy. Yet, only through engagement could safe and unhindered access to those in need be assured. She agreed with speakers that the absence of benchmarks were a key gap in making progress in protecting civilians.
Some speakers had expressed concern at inclusion in the Secretary-General’s report of some situations and at some characterizations, she noted, and said that whether a situation constituted armed conflict was determined by facts on the ground. Those inclusions did not equate parties in any way and should not be seen as condemning conduct of any of the parties.
She said that reference had also been made to the nature of contemporary conflict marked by non-State armed groups. International humanitarian law, however, was not less relevant in that context: all parties to a conflict must take all necessary steps to spare civilians, and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law did not justify breaches by any other party. In the context of contemporary conflict, respect for international law, in particular in densely populated settings, required more vigilance by the parties.
* *** *