|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5476th Meeting* (PM)
MORE PROGRESS NEEDED TO ENSURE BETTER PROTECTION FOR CIVILIANS
IN ARMED CONFLICT, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
In Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan , Democratic Republic of Congo
Civilians Continue To Bear Full Brunt of Conflict, Terror, Jan Egeland Says
Addressing the Security Council this afternoon, the top United Nations humanitarian official said that not enough progress had been made to ensure better protection for civilians in armed conflict, stressing that the numbers of innocent civilians who continued to be killed and lived with the constant threat of violence was unacceptable.
“There are too many times when we still do not come to the defence of civilian populations in need,” Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said at the outset of the Council’s open debate. “When our response is weak, we appear to wash our hands of our humanitarian responsibilities to protect lives. The world is a safer place for most of us, but it is still a death trap for too many defenceless civilians, men, women and children.”
In Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, civilians continued to bear the full brunt of armed conflict and terror. Despite all efforts, women were still raped and violated as a matter of course; children were still forcibly recruited; and defenceless civilians continued to be killed -- in violation of the most basic principles enshrined in centuries of international lawmaking.
However, he acknowledged that there were signs of progress in efforts to better protect civilians caught in conflict, thanks to the international community’s collective efforts. The Council’s recent adoption of resolution 1674, on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, had been crucial, as it detailed how peacekeeping missions could better provide physical protection for civilians. However, it still failed to ensure a predictable response to the massive suffering of vulnerable civilians.
What was important now was to make resolution 1674 a real platform for action, and to use the range of protection tools at the Council’s disposal more effectively, he continued. Peacekeeping missions must be equipped with better, more comprehensive mandates and the means to fulfil them. Also, new creative approaches to peacekeeping were required, and the composition of missions needed to be amended. Peacekeepers must be given tools, guidance and support, if they were to respond to threats and provide better protection.
One of the most important tools at the international community’s disposal was conflict mediation and the timely and effective use of good offices, he added. A number of violent crises had highlighted the grave cost in human lives of inadequate timely mediation. “We must activate, strengthen and resource the Secretary General’s good offices more often and earlier, seize every opportunity for mediation, and speak out when political solutions are needed.” Also, targeted sanctions should be employed at the earliest opportunity, where violations against civilians prevailed, to signal international concern and serve as a first step to protect.
In the discussion that followed, several speakers said the Council should act as early as possible in conflict situations to effectively protect civilians at risk. In doing so, stated some delegations, the Council must respect principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and not become involved in the internal disputes of States. Among the issues touched on were gender-based and sexual violence; the recruitment and use of child soldiers; forced displacement; and ensuring access by, and the safety of, United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel.
Speaking in her national capacity, Council President Ellen Margrethe Løj ( Denmark) said that, if States were unable or unwilling to provide protection for all, the international community must react to stop the pattern of violence. Efforts to protect civilians in conflict must be more predictable, timely and systematic. In emerging conflict situations, the Council should establish an effective peacekeeping presence as early as possible. The peacekeepers should be provided with a realistic, but also clear and robust mandate to protect civilians and provide a secure environment. The protection of civilians was a multifaceted challenge, and the Council only had the tools to solve parts of the problem.
“But we must put these tools to the best of their use and not shy away, even if the situation calls for more difficult measures such as sanctions, referral of violators to international courts or stronger enforcement of protection mandates,” she added.
Ghana’s representative agreed that, in the event of the failure by both Governments and armed groups to abide by their commitments under international humanitarian law, it behoved the United Nations to intervene and protect innocent populations against such crimes as genocide, ethnic cleansing and other gross human rights violations. Like a number of speakers, he believed the International Criminal Court could contribute immensely towards containing and combating crimes against innocent populations in conflict areas. Indicted persons seeking sanctuary in various countries must be apprehended and handed over to the Court for prosecution.
Many delegations expressed concern about the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and especially the impact of conflict on civilians in that area. Continuing insecurity, stated the representative of the United States, had a direct, detrimental impact on the international community’s ability to deliver assistance and provide basic services for the victims of conflict. The situation in Darfur illustrated the urgent role that States must play to safeguard civilians, including those who had been internally displaced.
Also addressing the Council were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Slovakia, China, Japan, United Republic of Tanzania, Qatar, Russian Federation, Congo, Argentina, Peru, Greece, France, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Colombia, Slovenia (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Liechtenstein, Canada, Iraq, Uganda and Guatemala.
The meeting began at 3:12 p.m. and ended at 6:15 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said there were signs of progress in efforts to better protect civilians caught in conflict. First, while there were over 20 million displaced persons of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worldwide, the High Commissioner had documented that the overall number of refugees had fallen to 8.4 million in 2005, the lowest figure since the 1960s, half the number of a decade ago. Second, in a number of countries, the prospects for return for the displaced were improving -- a positive development. Third, with a reduction in the number of armed conflicts, according to the Human Security Report, most people were living in a safer world. Conflicts had been resolved and displacement had been brought to an end in, for example, Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The international community’s collective efforts were having an impact: more systematic engagement by the Security Council in more crisis areas; more comprehensive peacekeeping; enhanced humanitarian response; and more mediation and effective judicial recourse, offered in more places, had contributed to stronger protection and the reduction of conflict related civilian deaths, he stated. “Where there is concerted, coherent and systematic international action, and strong positive political engagement from the parties to conflicts, we can, and we will, make significant progress.”
The recent adoption of Security Council resolution 1674, on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, was fundamental to that progress. Together with resolutions 1265 and 1296, it provided a principled framework to ensure better protection for all civilians in situations of conflict. That new resolution detailed how peacekeeping missions could better provide physical protection for civilians. However, it still failed to ensure a predictable response to the massive suffering of vulnerable civilians.
“We as the UN, and you as the Security Council, now have the responsibility to protect, as reaffirmed in Resolution 1674,” he continued. “There are too many times when we still do not come to the defence of civilian populations in need. When our response is weak, we appear to wash our hands of our humanitarian responsibilities to protect lives. The world is a safer place for most of us, but it is still a death trap for too many defenceless civilians, men, women and children.”
In Iraq, the Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said civilians continued to bear the full brunt of armed conflict and terror. Despite all efforts, women were still raped and violated as a matter of course, children were still forcibly recruited, and defenceless civilians continued to be killed -- in violation of the most basic principles enshrined in centuries of international lawmaking. “In the time that we will take today to debate how best to protect civilians, dozens will have died from the direct, blunt and brutal violence of conflict in only the six crisis situations I have just mentioned.”
At the end of June, President Karzai had stated that up to 600 civilians had been killed in Afghanistan in recent weeks, he noted. Indicators suggested that, with central authorities being unable to provide security in 80 per cent of Afghan territory, the security situation might worsen further. In Somalia, the prognosis was equally bleak. In the last four months, 500 people had been killed, 2,000 injured and an estimated 18,000 displaced, as a result of the fighting in Mogadishu alone. Urgent political action was required to stop that country, already ravaged by war, from spiralling back into even further chaos. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, figures were worse still, with daily reports of massacres, rapes and scores of children dying from disease and neglect associated with the conflict.
In Darfur, he said, the African Union had reported that 69 people had been killed in the month immediately after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. “We know that the real figures are much higher, and that general mortality is once again on the rise among the hundreds and thousands of people in Darfur, to whom there is limited or no humanitarian access.”
However, he stated, it was in Iraq that the greatest numbers of civilians were being killed by indiscriminate acts of terror, and sectarian and conflict violence. The figures varied and were controversial, but those quoted by Iraqi Government sources were staggering. Official Iraqi Health Ministry figures from the main mortuary in Baghdad revealed that it had received over 6,000 bodies of Iraqis killed, since the beginning of the year. Those figures represented a worsening trend since President Bush had delivered his address to the World Affairs Council in December 2005, and estimated that over 30,000 civilians had been killed between March 2003 and the end of 2005. “Whatever caveats are applied to these figures, the undeniable truth is shocking: scores of defenceless civilians are continuing to be intentionally and brutally killed on a daily basis, mostly in indiscriminate sectarian violence and terror, but also as victims of combat operations.” Neither the national authorities nor the massive international involvement had so been far able to effectively protect the civilian population.
Currently, there was no humanitarian crisis in Iraq, as had been predicted by many, he noted. For the most part, provincial health structures, water and sanitation, food supply and social services were functioning. However, in the last six months alone, 110,000 people had been displaced by violence, with the numbers continuing to rise. Failure to address that displacement would result in growing humanitarian needs.
In certain countries in Africa, the humanitarian situation was far more precarious. Conflict had decimated whatever fragile infrastructure had been in place, and people had become infinitely more vulnerable. As a result, civilians died in exponentially larger numbers from associated disease and malnutrition, than from the violence itself. Mortality studies undertaken by the United Nations and the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Northern Uganda exemplified that toll. It was estimated that up to 1,200 people were dying in silence every day in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a mortality rate of 1.54 per 10,000 people per day in Northern Uganda not only exceeded emergency thresholds, but was greater even than that for Darfur in 2005.
In Darfur and eastern Chad, attacks against civilians continued to be undertaken by the Janjaweed, other militia groups, elements of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and by Government forces. In late May, militia attacks around Mukjar in West Darfur had killed over 25 civilians, displacing scores more. In North Darfur, intra-rebel fighting prior to and after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement had displaced thousands, and included horrific acts of violence. Janjaweed incursions moving further into Chad had brought fear and significantly threatened the civilian nature of refugee camps. Between 12 and 14 April, 118 people had been shot or brutally hacked to death in a massacre in Djawara and three other villages, 70 kilometres east of the Sudanese border. Recent analysis from the United Nations Mission indicated that that might have been the beginning of a new phase of violence, in which armed groups, militias, rebel groups and the army were intensifying their targeting of civilian populations.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he continued, serious attempts were being made to stem the violence and address impunity. But, in a context where hundreds of thousands of civilians continued to suffer from ongoing violence in areas such as Katanga, Ituri and the Kivus, the impact of efforts was limited. Nearly all serious violations committed against the civilian population by all parties still go unchecked.
“A key question is how we can we make the recently adopted Security Council resolution 1674 on the protection of civilians offer a real platform for action,” he said. Protection had been placed as a central responsibility of peacekeeping mandates. That commitment acknowledged that it was by how well the United Nations protected that its missions would be judged. The range of protection tools at the Council’s disposal must be used more effectively. The Council’s presidential statement of June 2005 rightly expressed grave concern over the limited progress to ensure the effective protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict. It stressed the urgent need to provide better physical protection and underscored that the establishment of a secure environment for all vulnerable populations should be a key objective of peacekeeping operations.
States had the primary responsibility for the protection of their own people, he noted. But, in the case of armed conflict within their own territories, they all too often lacked the capacity and will to do so. The humanitarian community helped create an environment where the will and the capacity could be re-established or recreated. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue had shown that a humanitarian presence could have some beneficial effect, deterring violence. “However, let’s be honest -- humanitarian presence has limitations.” In many situations, like in today’s eastern Chad, security was so precarious that civilians and, often, humanitarian staff needed physical protection, which today was virtually non-existent. “This is where your role as the Security Council, in defining and facilitating the role and capacity of peacekeepers, is so crucial.”
First, peacekeeping missions must be equipped with better, more comprehensive mandates and the means to fulfil them, he stated. In two round table consultations the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had organized with Council members, other Member States, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and agency colleagues, participants had examined the implementation of protection mandates of the peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Côte d’Ivoire. From those consultations, it was clear that workers on the ground were too often ill equipped to fulfil their duty to protect. Realistic, well-designed mandates for missions and practical support for their implementation were fundamental to the effectiveness of their efforts. It was now time for the Aide Memoire adopted in 2002 to assist in the process of formulating peacekeeping mandates to properly address protection needs to be reviewed, updated and put to better use. His office stood ready to support that process.
Second, he continued, new creative approaches to peacekeeping were required, and the composition of missions amended. Instead of being adapted to allow a flexible response to emerging threats, new tasks were often simply added on to old ones. Peacekeepers must be given tools, guidance and support, if they were to respond to threats and provide better protection.
Humanitarian access was the first stepping stone to the protection of civilians, he said. The Security Council must make every effort to ensure that access was granted and respected. By not responding more forcefully in cases where that access had been unreasonably denied, humanitarian personnel risked being placed in jeopardy, further exposing them to possible attack. Humanitarian workers remained at considerable risk to violence. In Afghanistan alone, 24 humanitarian workers had been killed since the beginning of the year, including four humanitarian colleagues working with Action Aid, who had been summarily shot in the head by the roadside in Jawzjan less than a month ago. On the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, restrictions on access for humanitarian goods and supplies, coupled with limitations on the movement of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, continued to pose severe problems for humanitarian agencies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
One of the most important tools at the international community’s disposal was conflict mediation and the timely and effective use of good offices, he said. A number of violent crises highlighted the grave cost in human lives of inadequate timely mediation. It also underscored that conflict could only ever be resolved at the political level. International protection, whether by peacekeepers or humanitarians, could only ever be an interim response, a band aid. Without political solutions, tragically, civilians continued to suffer and the humanitarians were left to deal with intractable conflict and open ended displacement.
“We must activate, strengthen and resource the Secretary General’s good offices more often and earlier, seize every opportunity for mediation and speak out when political solutions are needed,” he said. The appropriate space and channels for that to work needed to be created, and better individual training provided. Targeted sanctions and embargoes were also yet to be used optimally, despite efforts to develop guidance for their effective use. Targeted sanctions should be employed at the earliest opportunity, where violations against civilians prevailed, to signal international concern and serve as a first step to protect.
“I would have hoped that the Sanctions Committee had been more consistent in the case of Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere, where we have seen deliberate attacks on civilians, as well as UN personnel and assets,” he stated. In Côte d’Ivoire, individual sanctions levied against three members of the Jeunes Patriotes and the Force Nouvelles had had an immediate ameliorative effect. “But why did we stop there? Why, for example, has no action been taken by the Security Council, or by the national authorities, against those publicly and loudly responsible for Radio Guiglo, which inspired and directed mob violence against civilians and humanitarian organizations in January? And why are we not using sanctions strategically in other crises? And where embargoes are in place, but are violated, why is stronger action not being taken?”
Protection, he stated, was a collective responsibility. To strengthen the protection response, the Secretariat had its own responsibilities to fulfil. It needed to work with the Council to ensure better provision of information, strengthened analysis and comprehensive planning of the protection response. The mechanism that had been established through Council resolution 1612 to monitor and report on the impact of children in armed conflict was already showing some results. Work was in progress to ensure that a reporting mechanism on broader protection concerns was dovetailed with that initiative. Agency colleagues were working together to build on the methodologies and practice already developed and pilot protection monitoring mechanisms had been established in Darfur, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Better methods of analysis were also needed to ensure that local populations were included as a crucial element in the decision-making processes. The perceptions of the local population were critical to understanding where risks lay.
Joint planning was also essential, he said. In the mission planning for Darfur, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other key United Nations actors had worked in close collaboration to ensure better provision for the protection of civilians. That should set the standard. In general, integration was most effective where it was formulated around a common objective, such as protection. But, such efforts would have limited impact if the international community failed to address the need to uphold and respect the universal values enshrined in the tenets and rules of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. The new Human Rights Council was a welcome addition to the international architecture to safeguard the rule of law. “But, if we are unable to fulfil our responsibilities or enforce the legal frameworks that we have created, and impunity prevails unchallenged, we will consistently fail to protect civilians caught in conflict.”
Such protection must be provided consistently and without prejudice, he said. “We grapple, in particular, with how to meet the specific protection and assistance needs of indigenous groups and ethnic minorities who are among those at greatest risk.” The situation faced by ethnic minorities in Colombia was one case of many that illustrated that challenge. Among other things, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians were increasingly under pressure from illegal armed groups; minority leaders were victims of forced abduction, torture and assassination; children were forcibly recruited by the armed groups; and women and young girls raped. “We cannot stand by as passive witnesses to the loss of life and the loss of cultures.”
In conclusion, he said he sincerely believed that progress to ensure better protection for civilians had been made -- just not enough. The numbers of innocent civilians who continued to be killed and lived with the constant threat of violence was unacceptable. “We must work together, at all levels and using every tool at our disposal to provide adequate protection for those living in the midst of conflict around the world. There is much at stake. In these dangerous and polarized times, it could not be more important to reaffirm the rule of law, which lies at the heart of the protection agenda. Where we fail, countries emerging from crisis are at serious risk of spiralling back into conflict, as the current situations in Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka make clear.” Together with his humanitarian colleagues, he stood ready to continue to work with the Council and Member States towards the creation of a real culture of protection, and a safer world for all.
The representative of the United Kingdom, aligning himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that efforts to protect civilians must be placed at the heart of the Council’s work. In doing so, closer attention must be paid to efforts to prevent conflict; bringing those responsible for crimes against civilians to justice; and bolstering the role of peacekeeping missions in providing protection for civilians. Underpinning all these, in turn, was effective coordination.
He said the Outcome Document contained provisions discussing the United Nations role as a protector of civilians, while stressing the primary responsibility of States to protect their own citizens. For its part, the Security Council endorsed that, with the understanding that its own role was to help bring about a clear analysis, to identify flashpoints of potential conflict at early stages, and to identify instances of lawlessness and violence that might be taking place. To that end, the humanitarian briefings of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs were crucial.
He added that it was necessary to bring perpetrators of crimes against civilians to justice, thereby ending the culture of impunity; this was true not just for reasons of natural justice, but because it was an indispensable part of helping communities to rebuild themselves after conflict. To that end, the United Nations should provide the political and practical support to end impunity, and the Council should look into properly equipping and training mission personnel to investigate crimes of that nature. There was “little point, in my view, of deploying a mission in Darfur”, without enabling that mission, within resource, to provide protection for civilians, he said. That was for crimes of a sexual nature as well, given that 60 to 70 per cent of women in camps for the internally displaced in Darfur had suffered instances of gender-based violence.
PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) highlighted the situation in Darfur, where the civilian population had been subjected to forced displacement and widespread physical and sexual violence. He welcomed the progress made by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who had continued his investigation, despite the region’s lasting insecurity. Appreciation was also expressed for the International Court’s work with regard to the protection of children, in particular with regard to the arrest of alleged war criminal Thomas Lubana Dyilo, a Congolese national and leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais.
He noted the importance of establishing a deterrent effect, through national, international and “mixed” criminal courts, tribunals, and truth and reconciliation commissions. Existing legal provisions regulating the protection of civilians in armed conflicts provided a comprehensive framework for the complex range of issues to ensure respect for civilian status. He urged all States that had not yet done so to consider ratification of existing instruments of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
He went on to say that serious gaps remained in the implementation of legal documents binding on States. Out of 26 countries, in which a total of 30 armed conflicts had occurred in 2004, only 13 were parties to the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, which regulated internal armed conflicts. Further, to improve the protection capacity of peacekeeping operations, focus should be given to long-term security sector reform and reform of the judiciary, which should be a priority of United Nations country teams, host Governments and donors.
LIU CHENMIN ( China) said that, in recent years, the Council was paying increasing attention to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and a legal framework had been established. The recently adopted resolution 1674 specified the latest provisions guiding work in that field. Against the backdrop of harsh realities, such achievements on paper were not enough; they must be implemented. Efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict must not deviate from the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. The primary responsibility to protect lay with the Governments concerned. The international community, while providing assistance and support, should not undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries concerned. It should abide by the principles of justice, neutrality and impartiality, and avoid getting involved in the internal disputes of States.
Also, he continued, the Council, when carrying out its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, should strengthen efforts to prevent and solve conflicts, as well as to deal with the root causes of conflicts. Dealing with the roots causes of armed conflicts could help create better living conditions for civilians. The newly established Peacebuilding Commission could play a special role in that regard. In addition, resolution 1674 reaffirmed an expression from the Outcome Document of the World Summit, namely the “responsibility to protect”. Discussions on that concept should continue in the General Assembly, to clarify any doubts about what was meant exactly by that expression. The Council should not, and could not, replace the role of the Assembly. He hoped work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict could centre around resolutions such as 1674, take into account the specificities of individual countries, and achieve fruitful results in the implementation of that resolution on the ground.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said he applauded Canada for taking the initiative to help the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in organizing a series of round tables focusing on how to protect civilians on the ground. Indeed, a round table event had been held with Council members in November 2005, which had reviewed the implementation of protection mandates of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). The second in the series, hosted by Japan, had taken place in May 2006, to review protection elements of the peacekeeping mandate of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI).
He highlighted three findings from the second round table: first, the national Government, civil society, the peacekeeping mission and humanitarian actors must have a clear understanding of the division of labour on one hand, and closer collaboration on the other; second, an effective information-gathering system involving humanitarian actors and non-governmental organizations was needed to provide timely and accurate information about situations in which civilians needed protection; and third, the Security Council must ensure that it gave a clear mandate to peacekeeping operations and minimized differences in interpretation of those mandates by individual battalions. For example, Council resolutions sometimes authorized protection mandates for civilians under “imminent threat”, but there might be lack of clarity regarding what constituted an imminent threat.
Practical guidance on day-to-day activities of peacekeeping troops would be worth developing in the Secretariat, based on best practices, he said. Such a guideline would be helpful for the Security Council in discussing the mandates of peacekeeping missions.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said that, despite the Council’s commitment to the issue, the gross violation of fundamental rights of civilians in armed conflict had not abated, as evidenced by the atrocities they continued to suffer. Regrettably, the majority of the victims were women and children, whose contributions to nation-building were crucial. The fundamental question was how to ensure that both Governments and armed groups upheld the provisions enshrined in international humanitarian law, regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict. In the event of the failure by both Governments and armed groups to abide by their commitments under international humanitarian law, it behoved the United Nations to intervene and protect innocent populations against such crimes as genocide, ethnic cleansing and other gross human rights violations. In that connection, he welcomed recent measures by the Council to strengthen the role of the United Nations to that end.
He said that, with the support of the international community, the International Criminal Court could contribute immensely towards containing and combating crimes against innocent populations in conflict areas. Indicted persons seeking sanctuary in various countries must be apprehended and handed over to the Court for prosecution. Also, the Council should consider strengthening the role of United Nations peacekeepers to enable them to discharge their cardinal responsibility to ensure that humanitarian agencies could provide requisite assistance and services in a safe and secure environment.
BEGUM TAJ (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country condemned in the strongest terms all acts of violence or abuses committed against civilians, in particular torture and other prohibited treatment, gender-based and sexual violence, violence against children, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, trafficking in humans, forced displacement and the intentional denial of humanitarian assistance. She commended the Council for adopting a resolution stressing the protection and assistance needs of affected civilians, and reaffirming provisions of paragraphs in the Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
She urged Member States, international organizations, armed groups, the private sector and other non-State actors to live up to their responsibilities regarding the protection of civilians, without regard to gender, ethnicity, religion or political conviction. The Secretary-General’s recommendations of 17 February regarding the fight against small arms, as well as those on the fight against acts of sexual abuse and exploitation among peacekeepers, in the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, were welcomed.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said the suffering caused by armed conflicts had been terrible for humanity throughout its history. The past years had seen an increase in conflicts around the world, as well as a change in the nature of those conflicts, leading to an increased number of civilian victims, who were often deliberately targeted. Most actors in conflicts today were non-State actors who ignored international law and international humanitarian law.
He said it was not possible to ignore the fact that armed conflicts were caused by a variety of complex factors that could not be addressed from the same angle. The Council had so far adopted three resolutions and six presidential statements on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Despite that, the Middle East region remained a particular case that the international community had not dealt with appropriately. In June, more than 50 civilians had been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The civilian population was suffering attacks from occupation forces. The situation in Iraq was no better, he said, noting civilian suffering from acts of terrorism. Both cases “cast a shadow over the responsibility to protect”. Prevention was better than cure, he said, stressing the need to deal with the root causes of conflict.
IGOR SCERBAK ( Russian Federation) said that it was necessary to establish systematic and coordinated measures at national, regional and international levels for protecting civilians from instances of armed conflict, and added that such measures could play a decisive role in improving situations in conflict ridden areas. He went on to say that such measures would require an impartial approach of Security Council members.
He said the importance of preventing armed conflicts was a fundamental element in bringing about peace, and that all efforts should begin by bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes against civilians, including those involving the use of sexual violence. The International Criminal Court would play an important role in that regard.
He regretted the fact that intentional attacks on civilian populations continued to take place, and said that those acts deserved vehement condemnation by all nations, adding that torture was included in the list of acts to be condemned. However, in dealing with such acts, it was necessary to take into account the economic, social and historical background of the case at hand. It was also important to ensure equal participation of women in maintaining peace and security. Humanitarian work was a key component in pursuing all those aims, and achieving political settlements must be built on internationally agreed humanitarian principles.
Ms. ITOUA-APOYOLO ( Congo) said the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict had been on the Council’s agenda since 1999. Since then, the Council had travelled a long path and three resolutions had been adopted. She welcomed the Council’s commitment to the issue, and reiterated her support for the measures envisaged in the resolutions. Despite the efforts of the international community, the protection of civilians in armed conflict remained a concern. Each year, millions of people were victims of deliberate attacks, forced displacement, sexual violence, forced recruiting, killing and hunger. All of those together took a heavy toll on the victims of armed conflict.
In his last report, the Secretary-General deplored the absence of a monitoring and reporting mechanism for follow-up to help the Council identify priority areas, she said. The adoption of resolution 1674 had been an important step in that it envisaged the establishment of a framework for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. She stressed the need for the Council to move to the implementation of its decisions. Among other things, it was important that all States that had not yet done so ratified the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in times of war, and enforced relevant international legal instruments. So far, only half of the countries in conflict were parties to the Optional Protocol to the Geneva Convention. She called for the ratification by all States of the Optional Protocol on the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel.
In addition, she emphasized the need to create the necessary security conditions for humanitarian protection activities and stronger measures for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Also needed were greater support for peacekeeping activities, strengthened cooperation among regional and international organizations for the protection of displaced persons, and the setting up of a monitoring and follow-up mechanism. Recalling the idea of the responsibility to protect, which had been set out at the World Summit, she said the creation of a safe environment for those in danger must remain a fundamental objective of peacekeeping operations.
MARTIN GARCIA MORITÁN ( Argentina) said that the Outcome Document of the 2005 Summit had consolidated the debate of previous years, by adopting the concept of responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Furthermore, the unanimous approval of the Security Council resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts served to complete and update the legal framework that had been established by earlier resolutions relating to the subject.
Even with those advances, however, he said the Council could still do more. It should improve its review of progress in implementing those resolutions, and explore the creation of a specific mechanism that would allow for systematic follow-up of the protection of civilians in each situation found on its agenda, including the proposals formulated by Mr. Egeland. Indeed, a mechanism that provided for greater interaction with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would have special importance in the initial moments of crisis.
He added that such a mechanism would allow more integrated implementation of resolutions dealing with the protection of civilians, as well as allow for better protection of humanitarian personnel serving the affected populations. The consideration of a mechanism of that nature would be an initial step towards implementing a provision in the Outcome Document relating to the establishment of an early warning capability regarding the responsibility to protect.
WILLIAM BRENCICK ( United States) said that the world continued to be plagued by violent conflicts. The primary responsibility for protecting civilians lay with Governments, and international efforts should only complement those efforts. “Protecting civilians from the devastating effects of armed conflict depends largely not on what we say or do here, but on what Governments do to protect their own people.” Focus must also continue to be placed on efforts to prevent conflict itself.
Touching on specific issues, he expressed continuing concern about the ongoing crisis in Darfur, and especially the impact of conflict on civilians in that region. Continuing insecurity had a direct, detrimental impact on the international community’s ability to deliver assistance and provide basic services for the victims of conflict. The situation in Darfur illustrated the urgent role that States must play to safeguard civilians, including those who were internally displaced. He also reiterated that internally displaced civilians living in camps were not always protected from serious human rights violations.
He was encouraged that the Council had been more consistent in addressing the regional dimensions of civilian protection, he said. Resolution 1674 and recent mandates had highlighted key issues that affected civilians in armed conflict, including the deliberate targeting of civilians; forced displacement; sexual exploitation and abuse; gender-based violence; the recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of international law; the need for unimpeded access by humanitarian personnel to civilians in need of assistance; and the need to promote the safety of United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO ( Peru) said that one of the most effective actions that the Security Council could undertake to protect civilians would be to include clear provisions in the mandates of peacekeeping operations to protect them. The Council should also request all peacekeeping operations to report every six months on the progress made on the implementation of resolutions on protection of civilians. The Security Council was not created to deal with issues in the abstract, he remarked, and discussions on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts required Council members to be precise and to refer to cases in a concrete way.
He noted that the persistent and flagrant violations of human rights and lack of protection of civilians in Darfur was a challenge that the Council had not been able to tackle, up to now. The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May 2005, had not made a difference to the treatment of refugees and displaced persons. Similarly, the presence of the African Union Mission in the Sudan had not been able to do enough to prevent attacks on civilians by small forces. There had also been problems for humanitarian access to those populations. Similar problems were faced by internally displaced people from Chad.
He said his Government believed the Security Council should maintain its decision to deploy the United Nations force in Darfur, and that high-level contacts in the African Union must be nurtured, in order to facilitate such a deployment. Effective protection of civilians in Darfur would demonstrate that the Security Council was able to overcome the gap between speeches and action. Support by the Council for the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should also continue, along with hopes that his investigations would put an end to the sense of impunity that existed in Darfur.
MARIA TELALIAN ( Greece) highlighted some issues which she felt deserved special attention. First, resolution 1674 underlined the obligation of all parties to conflict to comply with international law. She urged States which had not yet ratified all treaties relating to the protection of civilians, particularly the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their additional protocols of 1977, to do so. Second, the resolution emphasized the importance of ending impunity by the State concerned, and its obligation to prosecute those responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. States concerned should institute genuine criminal proceedings against those who committed such violations. In that regard, she underlined the crucial role of international justice and reconciliation mechanisms in the pursuit of peace and justice, particularly the International Criminal Court.
Third, she said, the resolution stressed the primary responsibility of States to maintain the security and civilian character of refugee and internally displaced persons camps. It also mandated peacekeeping missions with the task of protecting civilians within their zone of operation. She believed that, if States could not provide such protection, the Council should authorize the deployment of robust peacekeeping missions to protect civilians from targeted attacks. Fourth, the resolution urged all those concerned to allow full and unimpeded access by humanitarian personnel to civilians in need, and to promote the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel. Regular reassessment of the implementation of the protection mandates of peacekeeping operations, so as to reflect the changing needs and priorities on the ground, was important.
Fifth, she added, the resolution underscored the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council should ensure that current and future peacekeeping mandates included provisions for effective measures for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) said the success or failure of the Security Council to protect civilians had become an important element in how the Council was perceived, and the crisis in Darfur was prominent. The Council should take the opportunity presented by mandate reviews to consider possible adjustments to the work of peacekeeping forces in providing such protection. “There should never be a situation in which ‘Blue Helmets’ watch helplessly the massacre of civilians a few hundred yards from their headquarters,” he said.
He said that, while assets allocated to peacekeeping operations could not be extended at will, there should be no doubt over the resolve of the United Nations to protect all those who could be protected, in so far as resources permit. Indeed, that concern had been taken into greater account by the Council at present, as seen from the changes to the mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), for example.
It was necessary to create a “protective reflex for civilians”, he said, where the protection of civilians was integrated into the Council’s actions, as far ahead of time as possible. The sacrosanct nature of protecting civilians in military actions must be respected, and ceasefire agreements should take the lot of civilians into proper account. When draft mandates were being drawn up, they should spell out responsibilities towards civilians in a precise manner, and peacekeeping operations must be given the legal and military resources to discharge their mission to protect people.
Council President ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark), speaking in her national capacity, said that, if States were unable or unwilling to provide protection for all, the international community must react to stop the pattern of violence. Local authorities clearly had an obligation to provide their full cooperation to facilitate those efforts. Physical protection, the restoration of law and order, and the fight against impunity must be key priorities for bringing the violence to an end. Humanitarian access was essential, and assistance and protection activities must be provided as promptly as possible. The Council must take all steps to enable full, safe and unhindered access for United Nations and humanitarian personnel. Efforts to protect civilians in conflict must be more predictable, timely and systematic. In emerging conflict situations, the Council should establish an effective peacekeeping presence as early as possible. The peacekeepers should be provided with a realistic, but also clear and robust mandate to protect civilians and provide a secure environment.
To improve efforts to protect civilians, all actors must continue to deepen their cooperation, she noted. Also, engagement with non-State actors should be improved to make clear that all those involved in armed conflicts had an obligation to refrain from attacks on civilians. The protection of civilians was a multi-faceted challenge and the Council only had the tools to solve parts of the problem. “But, we must put these tools to the best of their use and not shy away, even if the situation calls for more difficult measures such as sanctions, referral of violators to international courts or stronger enforcement of protection mandates.”
HELFRIED CARL ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Council could and should act as early as possible in conflict situations to effectively protect civilians at risk. Timely briefings by the Secretary-General, his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and other relevant actors would be an important tool in that regard. In turn, building up the capacity to collate all necessary information concerning the protection of civilians, including that on incidents in countries of concern to the Council, was essential.
The European Union was concerned that humanitarian personnel were being denied, in some cases, access to civilians who were in need of assistance, as a political tool and weapon of war, he added. He called upon all States and parties to armed conflicts to respect and ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law, as well as to respect the neutrality, independence and impartiality of humanitarian actors. He commended the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for its efforts to promote full observance of the Geneva Conventions.
He said that sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children in armed conflict was an “abhorrent crime” and encouraged the Council to live up to its commitment “to undertake to ensure that all peace-support operations employ all feasible measures to prevent such violence and to address its impact”. Any cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel must be avoided, and the European Union welcomed the zero-tolerance policy introduced by the United Nations.
NICOLAS RIVAS, Director of Multilateral Political Affairs of Colombia, said his Government was aware of the complex situation of the Colombian people. The displacement situation was the product of illegal armed groups, together with the illicit drug problem. The Government worked tirelessly to find comprehensive solutions, as well as temporary ones, to assist the affected population. For the Government, the Colombian population could not be divided into groups and categories. It had created programmes that benefited the entirety of the affected population.
In recent years, he said, Colombia had invested significant resources to bring solutions to its affected population. It had also worked with the international community and the United Nations system, which had a wide presence in his country. It was important for the United Nations to work with the Government of Colombia, and not in parallel to it, as its work must complement national efforts aimed at putting an end to the situation of the people affected by violence. The Government also faced the tremendous challenge of reinserting more than 40,000 people demobilized from illegal armed groups. The Government had, in that regard, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for underage former combatants.
ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, expressed concern over the proliferation, illegal trafficking and misuse of small arms, light weapons and ammunitions, which increased armed violence, endangered the security of civilians and jeopardized development activities aimed at stabilizing post-conflict societies. He drew the Council’s attention to the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development of 7 June, containing recommendations on how to tackle armed violence. The Council was also encouraged to devise mechanisms to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, noting that the “responsibility to protect” was a continuum that included from prevention, protection and rebuilding.
He said that, in order for the Council to set realistic objectives for its missions to affected regions, it was important for it to be well informed. Briefings from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, for example, would be beneficial. The Council must also take care to base its decision-making on principles, norms and standards of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
The fight against impunity was also essential, he added. It was important that national and international criminal justice institutions received all necessary support on the ground. The pervasive nature of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict-ridden areas must be dealt with as well, as rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy had been included in the definition of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In some contexts, sexual violence of that kind had led to an increase in the transmission of HIV. Similar action must be taken against the practice of targeting children for abduction and recruitment into armed groups.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) commended the Council for having produced a text -- resolution 1674 -- that contained many crucial elements for improving the international protection regime for civilians in armed conflict. However, he would have expected that the resolution more specifically spelled out the role that the Council was willing to assume, concerning the implementation of the responsibility of the international community to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. While the Council acknowledged that there were a number of national and international justice and reconciliation mechanisms that could be instrumental in ending impunity, he was also disappointed that the resolution did not contain any reference to the vital role the International Criminal Court was playing in that respect.
He said important development had also taken place regarding the quality of the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilian populations affected by armed conflict. The modernization of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund and the establishment of clear leadership functions within the United Nations system for prompt and coordinated humanitarian action would significantly contribute to ensuring more predictable humanitarian financing and enhancing the overall response capacity. In order to have the intended impact on the ground, such improvements of the operational tools needed to be supported, however, by the recognition of the right of affected civilians to humanitarian assistance and the acceptance of secure and prompt access for humanitarian organizations and workers by all parties to a conflict, as well as by neighbouring countries.
He welcomed the efforts of the Secretariat to strengthen the United Nations good offices capacity, including in its mediation activities. It was clear that the effectiveness of the protection of civilians could be significantly enhanced if the mandates of peacekeeping operations were drafted in a clear manner that took into account the specific needs of civilians in a particular situation. There was also a continued need to give special attention to the situation of internally displaced persons.
ALLAN ROCK ( Canada) said that his Government would continue to monitor the implementation by the Council of its commitments, including country-specific contexts, and to support work that enhanced those efforts to respond appropriately when civilians were at risk. Hopefully, the Council would draw on envoys, monitoring missions and preventive deployments to act as a deterrence, and paying due regard to the need to address insecurity in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons. Support should also be given to humanitarian and human rights agencies, through consistent Council resolutions and advocacy, and by continuing to send missions to the field and directly raising civilian protection concerns. In that regard, Canada welcomed the emphasis placed by the Security Council mission to Sudan on the need for a robust United Nations mandate for Darfur to protect civilians in its discussions with the Government in Khartoum.
He said the Council should not tolerate impunity regarding the execution of its decisions, and be ready to apply penalties when actions were not taken. The strategic use of targeted sanctions could be used to deter civilian attacks. In cases where diplomatic efforts had not proven successful in preventing violations of human rights and humanitarian laws, the Council should continue developing criteria to guide the use of force.
Good data on what was occurring on the ground was key to the Council’s success in acting early on threats to civilians, he added. For its part, Canada was pleased to have contributed to the new standing protection deployment mechanism developed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Also, predeployment training for military and civilian police should include a specific focus on civilian protection, requiring cooperation between troop-contributing countries, the United Nations and regional organizations.
Mr. AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said that, while he appreciated the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report, the factors leading to armed conflict should get particular attention. Preventing the emergence of armed conflict lay in, among other things, the ability to eradicate poverty, enhance political dialogue and promote dialogue and national reconciliation. He hoped the new Peacebuilding Commission would play its role in that regard.
Highlighting the suffering of the Iraqi people, he noted that terrorist operations had targeted people in an attempt to provoke civil war in his country. The number of civilians who were victims of violence during the last five months had amounted to more than 6,000. Violence and terrorism had also targeted the country’s infrastructure, as well as international personnel. The brutality of the terrorist acts had led the Council to adopt resolution 1618 (2005), in which it strongly condemned terrorist operations in Iraq. It also strongly urged all Member States to prevent the transit of terrorists to and from Iraq, and assistance to terrorist groups.
It was not possible for a single State to tackle terrorism on its own, he noted. While recognizing the importance of international cooperation, he said that regional cooperation remained the cornerstone to eliminating that phenomenon. As a goodwill initiative, his Government had released 2,500 detainees for whom there was no proof of crimes. Among other things, it also had an amnesty plan for those not involved in terrorist acts, war crimes or crimes against humanity. Moreover, internally displaced persons were to return to their areas of origin and security forces would assume responsibility for their protection. The Government was also preparing to host a national reconciliation conference in August, under the auspices of the Arab League.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said the targeting of civilians in armed conflicts was unacceptable, regardless of the motivation, be it fighting for freedom or otherwise. The people of northern Uganda had been victims of vicious attacks perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army. “There is nothing ‘Lord’s’ about it. The apt description should have been ‘Satanic Army’,” he said. For some time, it had been regarded as a Ugandan affair, until they had begun committing the same atrocities in Southern Sudan. Because of military pressure by Ugandan armed forces, with cooperation of the Government of the Sudan, most had been flushed out of the Sudan and relocated to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thus becoming a regional threat.
He said that, in Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army had been defeated, with a few remnants on the run. But, unless they were arrested and disarmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they might regroup and again pose a threat. The United Nations, together with countries of the region, should act to arrest those who had already been indicted by the International Criminal Court. As for the remaining members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, they could be encouraged to take advantage of the amnesty in place.
JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIERREZ ( Guatemala) said that today’s debate was a good opportunity to review lessons learned and progress achieved. Particular attention should be given to the active role that could be played by the affected civilian population, especially in the phases immediately following the crisis. Their participation was essential to salvage what remained of the society. In that regard, it was important to promote dialogue among all interested parties, and to establish institutions that would enable them to interact. He also stressed improving coordination and cooperation among all actors. Resolution 1674 stressed the importance of continuing to incorporate into peacekeeping mandates the protection of civilians, and ensuring the implementation of those mandates. He emphasized the need to incorporate mandates that tackled protection and the specific needs of post-conflict environments. The establishment of a multisectoral mechanism with the capacity to compile data on the protection of civilians was likely to be an important tool.
He also highlighted the importance of recognizing the roles of women and children. Women were agents of change, capable of shaping opportunities for change, as well as peace processes. Likewise, children and young people were the future of society. Noting that the Small Arms Review Conference was taking place not far from the Council, he highlighted the need to take measures to strengthen control over the civilian acquisition and possession of weapons, in order to prevent the diversion of legally acquired weapons to the illicit market. Those weapons not only posed a danger to civilians, but also to humanitarian workers.
Mr. EGELAND thanked the Council members and others for their contributions and expressions of support, saying that they had done more than members of previous Councils in the effort to protect civilians in times of armed conflict. He was grateful for the echoes of agreement that he heard during the discussion to the ideas, as well as appeals, of humanitarian workers on the frontline. The rich selection of proposals from Council members would serve as an important resource for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, when it came time to draft further reports and proposals on the matter.
He acknowledged that more could be done to produce more “predictable” efforts. While progress was being made in some countries, there was a lack of progress in others, for instance in the treatment of women and children. The push to develop new and creative solutions had come at an opportune time -- presently, there were more force commanders to protect civilians. Indeed, help was owed them in protecting the civilians around them, in the form of tailor-made resources and guidance.
He thanked members for their recognition of the need for clear Security Council mandates that reflected protection needs on the ground, and looked forward to working more closely with Council Members to tailor specific responses for specific countries. Furthermore, the idea of reporting on the implementation of provisions, to be included in the Secretary-General’s future reports, would be an important reality check, he added. Indeed, it was in line with present thinking at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to create a matrix to clarify the roles and responsibilities of peacekeeping missions, which would act as a tool to ascertain what was done by whom and when, to increase accountability.
There were grave concerns in the international community over the failure to protect civilians in Darfur, Eastern Chad and elsewhere, he said, making it ever more urgent that significant breakthroughs happened soon. While humanitarian efforts had gone further than ever before in dangerous terrain, there would be a “paralysis of life-saving operations”, if that personnel were left to fend for themselves. For that reason, it was necessary to find creative ways to place the protection of civilians at the heart of the work of the United Nations, and to ensure effective political mediation everywhere. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict, which was a problem requiring much hard work to address.
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* The 5475th Meeting was closed.