Protection of civilians in armed conflict – SecCo meeting/Briefing by USG for Humanitarian Affairs, debate – Verbatim record (excerpts)



Security Council
Sixty-second year
5781st  meeting
Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 10 a.m.
New York



Mr. Natalegawa  







Mr. Verbeke 



Mr. Liu Zhenmin 



Mr. Okio 



Mr. Ripert 



Mr. Tachie-Menson 



Mr. Spatafora 



Mr. Arias 



Mr. Voto-Bernales 



Mr. Al-Nasser 


Russian Federation  

Mr. Churkin 



Mr. Matulay 


South Africa  

Mr. Kumalo 


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland  

Sir John Sawers 


United States of America  

Ms. Wolcott 






Protection of civilians in armed conflict

  Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2007/643)


    The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.



Adoption of the agenda


 The agenda was adopted. 


Protection of civilians in armed conflict


    Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2007/643)



  The President: I thank the Secretary-General for his statement. 

  At this meeting, we will hear a briefing by Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. I now give the floor to Mr. Holmes.

 Mr. Holmes : I am grateful for this opportunity to brief the Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and, more specifically, on the report of the Secretary-General (S/2007/643) before the Council today. I believe the specific recommendations for action in the report will be critical to more systematic consideration by the Council of protection of civilian concerns and the implementation of the Council’s landmark resolution 1674 (2006).

  A leap of imagination is not always easy to make, sitting in this warm and comfortable Chamber, but let us remember the essential background. Throughout the world’s conflict zones, people live under almost constant threat of being attacked in their homes, of having their lives, or those of their families, wrecked as they travel to work or to school, to visit the market or to worship. They risk random killing, violence and abduction, harassment and discrimination. They risk being forced to take up arms, sometimes even against their own families and communities, in the most brutal ways. They risk torture, rape and abuse. They risk, above all, being forced from their homes and their land, forced into a downward spiral of opportunities lost forever, lasting dependency and destitution in temporary and inadequate shelters that often become urban slums.


  Likewise, in a different but similarly worrying context, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Gaza, is reaching the limits of what is bearable for any community. The combination of access restrictions even for humanitarian deliveries, economic deprivation, Israeli military incursions and aerial attacks and intra-Palestinian violence is driving the civilian population into a situation where the risk of provoking even more violence and tragedy is only too evident.


Mr. Kumalo (South Africa):  …


  The sixth report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, contained in document S/2007/643, is a stark reminder that the protection of civilians in armed conflict has become even more urgent since the Security Council first addressed this issue eight years ago. According to the report, the nature of contemporary armed conflicts presents new and unique challenges for protecting civilians and has raised issues that require further study by the Security Council before it responds appropriately.

  However, while exploring the response to these new challenges for the protection of civilians, it is important that on the question of the conduct of hostilities there is an accurate and factual account of conditions on the ground. For example, one of the most objectionable forms of attack on civilians, which needs to be utterly condemned, is the use of suicide attacks. When suicide attacks were used against civilians in Israel, they were roundly condemned by everyone, including Palestinians. Suicide attacks have since decreased in Israel and have not taken place in a long time, and it is for this reason that we regret that the report did not make that clear.

  In his letter to the Security Council, dated 19 November 2007, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine, confirms the decrease in suicide attacks. He also points out that

  “[t]he perpetuation of reporting, including certain language usage that overlooks the existence of this occupation, is unacceptable. Of course, this in no way implies that the occupied people are absolved from respecting international law, which should have primacy in all circumstances; but rather, the point is to stress that any examination of the situation and developments in this regard must be considered within the overall context of the occupation, which unquestionably impacts all aspects of the situation on the ground and remains the root cause of this conflict”.


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


  Ensuring access to humanitarian assistance is the greatest challenge facing us today. As expressed by the Secretary-General in his report, such access is a prerequisite for action and protection in the humanitarian field and is a means of escape for civilians in areas of armed conflict, including areas under foreign occupation. Despite the fact that international humanitarian law requires the parties to the conflict to authorize the rapid passage of humanitarian assistance and facilitate its access to civilians in need, a clear breach of those international obligations is taking place today.

  Our world today bears witness to the arbitrary denial of access to humanitarian assistance. This can take multiple forms, such as the internal checkpoints set up in the occupied Palestinian territories that restrict access to vital humanitarian assistance, in addition to other examples that we see daily.


  The meeting was suspended at 1 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.

Document symbol: S/PV.5781
Document Type: Meeting record, Provisional verbatim record, Verbatim Record
Document Sources: Security Council
Subject: Assistance, Gaza Strip, Protection
Publication Date: 20/11/2007
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