Protection of civilians in armed conflict – USG for Humanitarian Affairs briefs SecCo, debate – Verbatim record (excerpts)

Security Council
Sixty-third year

5898th meeting
Tuesday, 27 May 2008, 10 a.m.
New York



Sir John Sawers  

(United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) 






Mr. Belle 


Burkina Faso  

Mr. Kafando 



Mr. Liu Zhenmin 


Costa Rica  

Mr. Urbina 



Mr. Jurica 



Mr. Ripert 



Mr. Natalegawa 



Mr. Spatafora 


Libyan Arab Jamahiriya  

Mr. Ettalhi 



Mr. Arias 


Russian Federation  

Mr. Churkin 


South Africa  

Mr. Kumalo 


United States of America  

Mr. Wolff 


Viet Nam  

Mr. Bui The Giang 



Protection of civilians in armed conflict



The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.



Adoption of the agenda


 The agenda was adopted.


Protection of civilians in armed conflict


 The President : I should like to inform the Council that I have received letters from the representatives of Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Qatar, Slovenia, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic and United Arab Emirates, in which they request to be invited to participate in the consideration of the item on the Council’s agenda. In conformity with the usual practice, I propose, with the consent of the Council to invite those representatives to participate in the consideration of the item, without the right to vote, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter and rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

  There being no objection, it is so decided.

  At the invitation of the President, the representatives of the aforementioned countries took the seats reserved for them at the side of the Council Chamber.

  The President : I should like to inform the Council that I have received a letter dated 21 May 2008 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, which will be issued as document S/2008/335 and which reads as follows:

  “I have the honour to request that, in accordance with its previous practice, the Security Council invite the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations to participate in the meeting of the Security Council regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict”.

  I propose, with the consent of the Council, to invite the Permanent Observer of Palestine to participate in the meeting in accordance with the rules of procedure and the previous practice in this regard.

  There being no objection, it is so decided.

  At the invitation of the President, Mr. Mansour (Palestine) took the seat reserved for him at the side of the Council Chamber .

  The President : In accordance with the understanding reached in the Council’s prior consultations, I shall take it that the Security Council agrees to extend an invitation under rule 39 of its provisional rules of procedure to Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

  It is so decided.

  The Security Council will now begin its consideration of the item on its agenda. The Council is meeting in accordance with the understanding reached in its prior consultations. At this meeting, we shall hear a briefing by Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. I welcome him to the Council and now give him the floor.

 Mr. Holmes : Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity to brief the Security Council again on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.


  Israeli civilians remain subject to physical and psychological suffering caused by indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks launched from the occupied Palestinian territory. In Gaza, Israeli air attacks and ground incursions continue to result in unacceptable Palestinian civilian casualties.


 Mr. Kumalo (South Africa): …


  In the case of the occupied Palestinian territories, the blockade should be lifted so that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs can have contact and dialogue with all parties, particularly in Gaza, and provide the necessary humanitarian assistance. Therefore, it is important that humanitarian assistance continues to be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.


 Mr. Urbina (Costa Rica) (spoke in Spanish ): …


  As Mr. Holmes has told us today, there are many and very diverse obstacles to protecting civilians. My delegation wishes to highlight limitations on humanitarian access, as we have seen in Myanmar in recent weeks, as well as other obstacles that prevent the deployment of peacekeeping missions, as we see in Sudan, where the Government raises obstacles to the full implementation of the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Violations of international law in the conduct of hostilities are also a source of concern to us, such as the use of human shields by terrorist groups and the indiscriminate use of force by private security companies and the multinational force in Iraq, or deliberate attacks against civilians in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. There, civilians, particularly children and women, are direct victims of the escalation of violence through rocket attacks, military incursions or the obstruction of a continuous supply of humanitarian assistance. …


Mr. Wolff (United States of America): …


  The hardships facing the Israeli population in southern Israel and the Palestinian people in Gaza also rightly merit the continued concern of the international community. Recent terrorist attacks by Hamas only exacerbate the plight of the Palestinian people, by making it more difficult for the international community to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance and goods to the people of Gaza. While Israel has an unquestionable right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, we urge the Government of Israel, when responding to attacks, to take all appropriate steps to avoid civilian casualties and to minimize the impact on innocent civilians.


 Mr. Ettalhi (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (spoke in Arabic ): …


  In addition to what we have said, I regret to say that action is needed in a number of areas in Africa, particularly in Somalia, and in Asia, especially in Palestine. I remind members of what was in the UNICEF documents and in those of the Secretary-General in his briefing concerning the tragic situation existing up to today in the Gaza Strip. Actions include the deliberate and arbitrary military attacks against vulnerable civilian populations, the continuous humanitarian impact of mines and cluster bombs, which have been spread in civilian areas, administrative detention, internal and external displacement, collective punishment, measures to eradicate cultural identity, bulldozing of land and the demolition of property, including refugee camps.


  Mr. Natalegawa (Indonesia): …


  Ending the cycle of violence on the ground is key to the full achievement of any peace process. That can be attained only when all parties concerned on the ground exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that could undermine those efforts. Thus, we are particularly concerned over the continued civilian casualties among Palestinians, including children and women, caused by the indiscriminate and excessive use of force in Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. That must immediately come to an end.


  Mr. Al-Nasser (Qatar) (spoke in Arabic ): …


  It is, indeed, easy to call for establishing mechanisms for protection within the multidimensional United Nations missions. Yet, the real challenge remains in how to implement the principle of protection in cases where the suffering of millions of civilians and their right to protection and security is being ignored, for political reasons, as with the civilians in Palestine, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan, who under the yoke of occupation are in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection from killing and murder. This is an issue that demands genuine, sincere and noble intentions, and we ask ourselves when there will be the necessary political will to enable the United Nations organs, especially


The meeting was suspended at 1.05 p.m.


This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A.  


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