Security Council Issues Presidential Statement Reaffirming Commitment to Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
7109th Meeting (AM)
Security Council Issues Presidential Statement Reaffirming Commitment
to Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Member States Hear from Human Rights,
Humanitarian, Peacekeeping Chiefs, as Well as Head of International Red Cross
The Security Council punctuated its open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict today by reaffirming its commitment to the range of relevant measures it had adopted since 1999 to address that topic.
In a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2014/3), the Council reaffirmed that parties to armed conflict bore the primary responsibility to take “all feasible steps” to ensure the protection of affected civilians, urging them to meet the basic needs of affected civilians, especially women and children, refugees, internally displaced persons and others who might have specific vulnerabilities.
Also by the text, the Council recalled that States bore the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as of all individuals within their territory. It reaffirmed the responsibility of each State to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Reiterating its strong condemnation of all violations of applicable international law, the Council demanded that parties to armed conflict comply strictly with obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. Stressing the need to end impunity for human rights abuses, it reaffirmed that those responsible for such acts must be brought to justice. In that context, it recalled its determination to upgrade the strategic oversight of peacekeeping operations, mindful of their important role in the protection of civilians, reaffirming support to the Secretary-General’s efforts to review those operations and provide enhanced planning.
The Council stressed the importance of further engagement by senior mission leadership, with a view to ensuring that all levels of the chain of command were involved in the protection mandate. It also encouraged coordination between the United Nations and regional and subregional institutions, as appropriate, on issues relating to the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations. Finally, it recognized the contribution of the updated Aide-Memoire for the consideration of issues pertaining to civilian protection.
Addressing the Council via video link from Geneva, Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that in South Sudan — beyond the physical protection of more than 80,000 civilians sheltering in United Nations bases — it was clear that human rights investigations, monitoring, advocacy and reporting were more important than ever. In the Central African Republic, her Office had focused on much-needed fact-finding, public reporting and promotion of accountability. However, a clearer understanding of “protection of civilians” was needed in peacekeeping operations, as was greater support for humanitarian access.
Adding to those remarks, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said it was essential to ensure effective coordination between missions and humanitarian actors. The United Nations and other humanitarian actors must be seen as neutral, impartial and independent — not always easy in volatile, fast-moving conflict situations. Civilian contributions to the implementation of protection mandates should not be overshadowed by the military’s role in that regard.
Yves Daccord, Director-General, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the overt politicization of aid and the polarization of States around humanitarian issues was a huge challenge. The widening gap between humanitarian needs and the ability to deliver effective responses, as well as the decreasing proximity of many humanitarian actors from the people they were trying to help, raised additional hurdles. The single most pressing issue was gaining greater humanitarian access to people directly affected by violence. Access by neutral, impartial and independent organizations could not be interpreted as a challenge to State sovereignty, he emphasized.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said supporting host Government efforts to meet protection responsibilities was at the heart of modern peacekeeping. However, peacekeeping’s limitations were real. Within their capacities, missions must do their utmost to protect, and beyond those limits, other means must be found. No peacekeeping operation could physically protect all civilians, or even most, where serious conflict broke out. The Council should articulate its expectations for the protective capacities of peacekeepers, which would form the basis for clear standards for action.
In the debate that followed, 62 speakers explored how to improve the common understanding of protection mandates, with some urging that the experiences of troop- and police-contributing countries should be more intimately incorporated into their creation. Mandates should remain clear, credible and achievable, and based on realistic threat assessments, many speakers said, underlining the need for better intelligence, quick-reaction capabilities and critical enablers.
In that context, some speakers favoured the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other such technologies to enhance early warning of civilian threats. Others, however, cautioned against their deployment, raising concerns about deaths arising from the indiscriminate application of force. Civilians continued to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts, several said, and the current state of their protection left “little room for optimism”.
Also speaking in the debate today was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia.
Statements were also made by representatives of United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Russian Federation, Luxembourg, China, Chile, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Chad, France, Jordan, Nigeria, Lithuania, Guatemala, Sweden (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), Croatia, India, Mexico, Israel, Switzerland (also on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict), Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Egypt, Greece, Austria, Pakistan, Syria, Germany, Thailand, Slovakia, Italy, New Zealand, Uruguay, Georgia, Indonesia, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Brazil, Botswana, Turkey, Ireland, Ethiopia, Belgium, Kuwait, Canada, Morocco, Slovenia (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Colombia, Afghanistan, Armenia, Japan, Uganda, Sudan, Ukraine, Spain and Azerbaijan.
A representative of the European Union also spoke, as did an observer for the State of Palestine.
Taking the floor a second time were representatives of the Russian Federation, Israel, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 6:20 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2014/3 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to the continuing and full implementation of all its previous relevant resolutions including 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1674 (2006), 1738 (2006), 1894 (2009), as well as all of its resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, Children and Armed Conflict and Peacekeeping, and all relevant statements of its President.
“The Security Council notes that this year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the progressive consideration by the Security Council of the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a thematic issue and acknowledges the enduring need for the Security Council and Member States to strengthen further the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Security Council remains committed to addressing the impact of armed conflict on civilians.
“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security and its commitment and readiness to strive for sustainable peace in all situations under its consideration.
“The Security Council recalls that States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as all individuals within their territory as provided for by relevant international law and reaffirms the responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
“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 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 stresses the need to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirms that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses must be brought to justice.
“The Security Council recalls its determination to upgrade the strategic oversight of peacekeeping operations mindful of the important role peacekeeping operations play for the protection of civilians and reaffirms its support to the efforts made by the Secretary-General to review peacekeeping operations and to provide enhanced planning and support and renews its encouragement to deepen these efforts, in partnership with troop- and police-contributing countries and other relevant stakeholders.
“The Security Council reaffirms the need for peacekeeping missions with protection of civilian mandates to ensure their implementation, and stresses the importance of continued and further engagement by senior mission leadership, with a view to ensuring that all mission components and all levels of the chain of command are properly informed of and are involved in the mission’s protection mandate and their relevant responsibilities. The Security Council reiterates the need for strong leadership in peacekeeping missions, and also encourages further coordination between UN and regional and subregional institutions, as appropriate, on issues relating to the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations.
“The Security Council notes the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians of 22 November 2013 (S/2013/689) and the recommendations made therein.
“The Security Council recognizes the contribution of the updated Aide-Memoire for the consideration of issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict*, contained in the Annex to this statement, to the protection of civilians, and as a practical tool that provides a basis for improved analysis and diagnosis of key protection issues, and stresses the need to continue its use on a more systematic and consistent basis.”
[*The initial Aide-Memoire was adopted on 15 March 2002 in S/PRST/2002/6.]
The Security Council met this morning for an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. For consideration by members were the relevant report of the Secretary-General (document S/2013/689), and a 3 February letter from the Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the Secretary-General (document S/2014/74).
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that, with nine peacekeeping operations currently carrying explicit civilian protection mandates, her Office was working with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop relevant policies, guidance and training. Experiences in the field confirmed that timely and well-resourced human rights monitoring, advocacy and reporting were essential for the effective implementation of protection mandates. In South Sudan, beyond the physical protection of more than 80,000 civilians sheltering in United Nations bases, it was clear that human rights investigations, monitoring, advocacy and reporting were more important than ever. In the Central African Republic, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had focused on much-needed fact-finding, public reporting and promotion of accountability, among other objectives.
United Nations efforts had been strengthened, thanks to the Secretary-General’s “Rights up front” action plan, which placed human rights at the centre of responses to potential or emerging crises, she continued. However, greater support from the Security Council and Member States would be welcome in a number of areas. A clearer understanding of the meaning of “protection of civilians” was needed in peacekeeping operations, and greater support was needed for humanitarian access, because sound and compelling human rights information and analysis must be at the core of civilian protection strategies. Greater support from the Council was also needed in particularly difficult situations when protecting civilians required bold action and swift decisions, she said, adding that States must do more to ensure that violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law were investigated and perpetrators held accountable. Armed conflicts in which civilians suffered greatly but where no peacekeeping operations were deployed must also be addressed, including the one in Syria, where at least 240,000 civilians, including women and children, remained trapped and struggling to survive.
VALERIE AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, expressed regret that, despite the existence of extensive norms and standards under human rights law and humanitarian law, and the widespread availability of social media now used to track violations, civilians in conflict situations continued to be killed, injured and maimed on a regular basis. In Syria, they have been subjected to brutal violence for almost three years, including the deliberate denial of humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need. Atrocities also continued in the Central African Republic, where 100,000 people had sought refuge at the airport and thousands had fled into the bush. In South Sudan, nearly 75,000 people were still receiving protection and assistance in United Nations bases, crowded into unsustainable conditions. Mandating peacekeeping missions to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence remained among the most significant actions taken by the Security Council to save lives, she said.
However, it was essential to ensure effective coordination between missions and humanitarian actors, she emphasized. It was also important that United Nations and other humanitarian actors were seen to be neutral, impartial and independent, not always easy in volatile, fast-moving conflict situations. Of additional importance was ensuring that civilian contributions to the implementation of protection mandates were not overshadowed by a focus on the military’s role and the physical protection of civilians. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas was also extremely concerning, she said, noting that an estimated 38,000 people around the world had been killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2012, 78 per cent of them civilians. They were also displaced, often for long periods. Explosive weapons caused horrific injuries requiring emergency and specialist medical treatment, rehabilitation and psychosocial support services, which were often unavailable because health facilities were damaged or destroyed. Livelihoods were also devastated, as land and other means of production were rendered unusable due to explosive remnants of war, she said.
HERVE LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that supporting the efforts of host Governments to meet protection responsibilities lay at the heart of modern peacekeeping. While peacekeepers may need to stand up against rogue Government elements to protect civilians, peacekeeping could only be viable with the consent of the host Government. The protection of civilians by United Nations peacekeepers should, therefore, never be confused with non-consensual intervention under Pillar III of the Responsibility to Protect framework. With the increasing complexity of field situations, peacekeepers were vital actors in improving the protection of civilians in armed conflict and played a central role in the Secretary-General’s “Rights up front” framework. They supported accountability for human rights violations and promoted compliance with international human rights law and humanitarian law, he said, adding that peacekeepers were also important in facilitating humanitarian assistance while also ensuring respect for humanitarian space.
However, the limits of peacekeeping were real, he cautioned. Within their capacities, missions must do their utmost to protect, but beyond those limits, other means must be found. No peacekeeping operation could physically protect all civilians, or even most, where serious conflict broke out, but missions were often judged by journalists seeking headlines or analysts who emphasized the use of force too strongly. The Security Council had an important role in articulating its expectations for the protective capacities of peacekeepers — expectations that would form the basis for clear standards for action. Today, in many respects, the world was more dangerous than it had been in 1994, he warned, stressing that such an environment called for greater flexibility, learning and adaptation as an organization. Exploring new capabilities and adopting new technologies would not be optional in future peacekeeping, he cautioned, underlining the crucial need to improve early warning and rapid-reaction capacities. In that regard, he thanked the Council for having approved the use of unarmed aerial systems, with the consent of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Please don’t mistake me,” he said, emphasizing that, although much had been put in place, challenges remained. There was a great deal farther to go, he added.
YVES DACCORD, Director-General, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), underlined the need for decisive action, rather than mere words, as a critical matter of life or death. The ICRC’s role in helping to alleviate the consequences of fighting was becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil in many of the most complex and violent crises. The overt politicization of aid and the polarization of States around humanitarian issues was a huge challenge. The widening gap between humanitarian needs and the ability to deliver effective responses, in addition to the decreasing proximity of many humanitarian actors from the people they were trying to help, raised additional hurdles. Adding to the problem were parties to armed conflict that did not respect or accept impartial humanitarian actors, as well as administrative hurdles, unjustified or arbitrary restrictions and other delays.
The single most pressing issue facing ICRC was gaining greater humanitarian access to people directly affected by violence, he said. The question of access by neutral, impartial and independent organizations could not be interpreted as a challenge to State sovereignty, he emphasized. One of the most widespread and daunting problems arising from violations of international humanitarian law was internal displacement, which affected not only those displaced, but countless host families and communities. The internally displaced were often exposed to further abuses and had wide-ranging subsistence needs, while, in some cases, people were sometimes forcibly prevented from fleeing when they wished to do so. The prevalent use of wide-impact explosive weapons in densely populated areas further fuelled displacement and inhibited returns, he said.
PETER WILSON ( United Kingdom) recalled the Council’s formal commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict in the wake of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Yet, today, from Syria to South Sudan to the Central African Republic, “it is vital we step up efforts to prevent and respond to such atrocities”, he emphasized. “The Council can and must play a key role in alleviating the impact on civilians in crisis.” Voicing support for a humanitarian resolution on Syria, he said no country could stand in the way of a resolution designed to allow civilians access to food and other assistance. Early action to prevent conflict and human rights abuses was vital, and priority should be given to protecting civilians during mission planning, he stressed. Encouraging all mandated peacekeeping operations to develop protection strategies, he urged mission leadership to seek coordination mechanisms to enhance data collection and improve rapid response.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) recalled that, in the past year, the Council had taken important decisions to equip peacekeeping missions with robust protection mandates, with positive results in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. Central to those efforts was the “peacekeeping partnership” among the Council, the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries, he said. Australia strongly supported briefings to the Council by United Nations police commissioners in order to help build consensus around protection challenges, he said, adding that, in order to effectively protect civilians, peacekeepers needed appropriate training, equipment and critical enablers. The international community should be prepared to use new technologies, such as unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles, to enhance early warnings of threats to civilians, deter armed groups and bolster the safety of peacekeeping personnel.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) noted that the international community was still learning the highly complicated task of protecting civilians in armed conflict. Adopting a mandate was relatively simple, but implementing it was complex, entailing three key elements : prioritization, planning and prevention. Civilians must be identified at an early stage of conflict, he said, emphasizing that the Security Council must begin planning as soon as it received evidence of violations so that peacekeeping operations could be designed with civilian protection in mind. A case in point was the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), he said. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations had an important duty to share best practices, while the Council had a duty to ask questions and articulate mandates. Cautioning that nothing was more predictable than that the unpredictable would happen, he stressed the importance of prevention and learning from past experiences.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) expressed regret over reports of civilian deaths despite the steps taken in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, emphasizing that his delegation was particularly concerned about deaths arising from indiscriminate application of force, such as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. While the protection of civilians was a priority for warring parties, it was not the only task for peacekeepers. The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may not work in other parts of the world, he said, cautioning against a one-size-fits-all approach to the inclusion of civilian protection in peacekeeping mandates. National authorities bore primary responsibility, and it was important that peacekeepers support them in a neutral manner. Action on the ground must be based on a clear Security Council mandate, he stressed, condemning any action by peacekeepers based on geopolitical ambitions.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) welcomed the actions taken by MONUSCO, noting that its civilian protection mandate had been strengthened since the adoption of resolution 2098 (2013). The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) was also protecting thousands of people sheltering within its facilities throughout the country, which showed how difficult it was for a mission to exercise its civilian protection mandate without sufficient capacity, intelligence or surveillance. Calling attention to places where no United Nations peacekeeping mission had been deployed, she cited the Central African Republic, where the Organization had identified the fight against impunity as a way to protect civilians. The Council had also called on the parties in Syria to adhere to international humanitarian law, yet its presidential statement on that matter had not been respected, notably by Syrian authorities.
LIU JIEYI ( China) said all parties to armed conflict must comply with their obligation to protect civilians. Noting that primary responsibility lay with Governments, he said that in addressing human rights violations, the first priority should be accorded to the role of national judicial institutions. While conflicts must be prevented and their root causes addressed, the protection of civilians must be part of the political processes involved in conflict resolution he emphasized. For its part, the Council must carry out preventive diplomacy to prevent and contain conflicts, and peacekeeping operations must comply with their mandates, maintain impartiality and avoid taking sides. Protection mandates must consider the situation on the ground and be “clear, realistic and feasible”, he said, stressing that humanitarian aid operations must comply with the guiding principles of the United Nations and fully respect State sovereignty.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) said that when States could not act to protect civilians, the international community must do so, as outlined in the 2005 World Summit outcome document. “We have a comprehensive legal framework shared by majority of States to protect civilians and other vulnerable groups,” he emphasized, while pointing out that, in many cases, there was no willingness to act or to allow humanitarian aid. Some Governments lacked the will to understand that humanitarian organizations must establish contacts with non-State actors within the State concerned. Better civilian protection called for greater cooperation among the Council, troop- and police-contributors and the Secretariat, with a view to achieving clear and realistic mandates. Resources and capacities must be granted to missions in a timely manner, he said, also urging better early warning efforts and coordination on the ground. Chile also called for the creation of a registry of civilian casualties and accountability for war crimes.
MARIO OYARZÁBAL ( Argentina), recalling that the Council had authorized offensive operations against armed groups though the deployment of an intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said it was important to recall that protecting civilians was of fundamental importance. Mandates must be designed carefully and adequate resources provided in a timely manner, and there was a need for structures to protect women and children from sexual, gender-based violence. Peacekeepers must also respect international humanitarian law, he emphasized, noting that Argentina had created a manual for its troops on that matter.
JOON OH ( Republic of Korea) said that a peacekeeping mission with a protection mandate was one of the most effective instruments. The protection activities of United Nations missions in such places as Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were noteworthy. However, it was regrettable that civilians still accounted for a vast majority of causalities in armed conflict, in particular the grave situation in Syria. The Council needed to enhance its ability to create achievable protection mandates and provide them with necessary resources. Protection mandates must be implemented effectively, with all stakeholders fulfilling their responsibilities. Emphasizing that the protection of civilians must be given priority in resource allocation, he said there was also a need to intensify discussions on the impact on civilians of illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons. Accountability was also a key factor in civilian protection, he said, adding that perpetrators must be held accountable, and relevant cases referred to the International Criminal Court.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said the normative framework and mission-wide strategies had both improved the ability of the United Nations to implement effective protection mandates. The challenges, however, could be seen in the case of South Sudan, where the relapse into conflict had cost thousands of innocent lives. Violence against civilians also persisted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, perpetrated by the army, as well as armed groups, including those who had carried out the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In Syria, more than 130,000 people had been killed while the Council had failed to speak with one voice on humanitarian access. All such situations demonstrated the gaps in protection mandates, he said. Peacekeeping operations required better coordination among the Council and other United Nations bodies, and more critically, with the host State. The best way to protect civilians was to prevent conflicts, he stressed, urging the Council’s five permanent members to agree on a “moral pact of conduct”, whereby they would refrain from wielding the veto in cases of genocide and other mass-atrocity crimes.
ADOUM KOULBOU MAHAMAT ( Chad) said women should be protected from rape and discriminatory or degrading acts related to their gender during armed conflict. Regrettably, such obligations were rarely observed, and in fact, they were systematically violated. Nonetheless, Chad welcomed the Council’s tireless efforts to end humanitarian tragedies, he said. Regardless of the obstacles, primary responsibility for protecting civilians in armed conflict lay with the parties concerned, and the State must apply sanctions when ratified instruments were violated, including through civilian tribunals. The International Criminal Court was a vital instrument that should be promoted, he added.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) recalled that in Mali, where French forces were deployed, a robust civilian protection mandate had allowed the country to regain a certain level of stability and hold elections. In the Central African Republic, protection activities were taking place in affected areas, such as the airport, where civilians had sought shelter. However, the protection of civilians must be strengthened to prevent the country from turning into a hotbed for atrocities, he said, emphasizing also the importance of linguistic factors when the United Nations recruited liaison points among local populations. Expressing grave concern over the situation in Syria, he said the Council could not accept the conflict there, urging both sides to ensure immediate humanitarian access President [Bashar al-]Assad and other perpetrators must be brought to justice and the Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, he added.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD ( Jordan) welcomed the adoption of the presidential statement, saying it provided guidelines for promoting political commitment to civilian protection. Recalling that the world had witnessed grave violence that human conscience could not accept, he said the use of explosives in populated areas was devastating to civilians. The international community must act decisively, otherwise today’s debate would remain “conceptual”. There was a need to spread a culture of protection that would not be confined to legislation at the national or international levels. Another critical factor was the need for better coordination among the Security Council, troop- and police-contributing countries and the Secretariat. Training was also key, he said, adding that Jordan provided civilian protection training to its forces, including those deployed in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said the protection of civilians in armed conflict posed enormous challenges and required more than “a conceptual shift in policy”, while the challenges that peacekeepers faced were often not appreciated. They often protected civilians in harsh conditions, with inadequate resources; operated with partners who lacked the capacity or will to play their part; faced unrealistic expectations that they would be able to protect all civilians at all times; and often operated in dynamic environments. A clear understanding of peacekeeping mandates was fundamental to efficient coordination, she emphasized. Calling for strategies that would empower populations by ensuring the mitigation of threats, she said there was also a need for strong national institutions that would enhance security and the rule of law. Pre-deployment and in-mission training for peacekeepers and civilian staff was also important, she added.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), associating herself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that, although primary responsibility to protect civilians rested with national Governments, recent conflicts in places like the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Mali demonstrated instances when the State was too weak to carry out its responsibility to protect. In the case of Syria, the State itself was the perpetrator, she noted. Effective implementation of protection mandates required improved situational awareness and analysis, as well as adequate resources, structures and training. Mission leadership was crucial, as was the sharing of best practices across missions. Ensuring accountability was a strong deterrent in itself, while international justice mechanisms also had an important role to play, she said.
URMAS PAET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said that, while States bore the biggest responsibility for guaranteeing civilian safety, the international community, with the Council at its helm, must act when conflicts escalated despite preventive efforts. It had various tools to promote compliance with the obligation to protect civilians, including targeted measures, mandating commissions of inquiry or referring situations to the International Criminal Court. Since it was the Council that mandated peacekeeping operations, it was up to the 15-member body to set realistic margins for them. Assessments of situations on the ground must be in line with the allocation of resources and operational capabilities. To strengthen the means for protecting civilians, the Council should also remain involved in the implementation process, he said, adding that it should include provisions for human rights monitoring in peacekeeping mandates. He also urged the timely deployment of gender and child protection advisers within peacekeeping missions. Urging the Council to remind all parties in armed conflict of their obligations, he declared: “We have to strive for a deterrence-centred approach.” By ensuring that mechanisms were in place to investigate and prosecute crimes, the Council would strengthen accountability and reduce the chances of such injustices recurring.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) recalled that, over the past two years, his country had contributed to the development of the international framework for the protection of civilians, a fundamental responsibility of the parties to conflict and a legal obligation to be met by all. However, it was up to individual States to protect civilians in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, such as those recently seen in the Central African Republic and Syria. He cautioned that new technologies, such as drones and other remote-controlled weapons, made it difficult to determine responsibility and could increase the prevalence of impunity and violations of human rights. The International Criminal Court had an important role to play in determining responsibility for human rights violations, he said.
MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ ( Sweden), speaking also for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, said peacekeeping operations were increasingly granted robust mandates and deployed to places suffering high levels of violence. As such, efforts to protect civilians should begin at the very earliest stages of mission planning, he said, encouraging strengthened implementation of civilian protection mandates. Ensuring that missions had strong human rights monitoring mandates and adequate resources should be part of those efforts. Describing attacks against humanitarian workers as war crimes that should not go unpunished, he also expressed concern over the denial of food and health care, and over attacks on hospitals and schools, which inflicted harm on civilians in violation of the most fundamental principles of humanity. The tragedy in Syria was a case in point, he said, expressing support for the adoption of a resolution to address that urgent matter. Efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence in conflict must be strengthened, he added, welcoming the deployment of women protection advisers in five ongoing missions and urging the Secretariat to carry out an early evaluation of their work.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK ( Croatia) strongly condemned the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria, including targeted killings. It was of utmost importance to recognize rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict as war crimes and crimes against humanity, falling under the purview of the International Criminal Court, he said, adding that the responsibility to protect was a vital part of the efforts required to protect civilians. Croatia strongly urged all parties in conflict to respect their international obligations, bearing in mind that the State bore primary responsibility for implementing international humanitarian law, as well as human rights law.
ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI ( India) said that the dispatch of foreign troops did not automatically protect civilians, and questioned whether a robust peacekeeping mandate translated into civilian protection. In December, he recalled, some 2,000 armed youth had attacked the UNMISS base providing protection to internally displaced Dinka people. The 40 Indian peacekeepers there had been heavily outnumbered. Had they opened fire, hundreds of people would have been killed, he said, asking whether such casualties would have been described as “civilians” or “combatants”. Troop-contributing countries understood situations on the ground better than most and their advice could serve the Council well, he said.
JORGE MONTAÑO ( Mexico) said it was crucial to guarantee that the resources deployed to peacekeeping operations were aligned with the expectations of the mandates assigned to them. In parallel, the capacity of national Governments must be strengthened as they bore primary responsibility for protecting civilians. The Security Council had the necessary civilian protection tools, but effective protection must include respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law by all players, including the United Nations itself. The trafficking of small arms and light weapons impeded peacekeeping, and Member States should, therefore, ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, he said. Mexico supported the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, although they must be deployed in accordance with international humanitarian law.
RON PROSOR ( Israel) said the international community would soon mark the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict, which had reached catastrophic proportions. Endless meetings and good intentions were not good enough, as they did not change the outcome on the ground. The Council had often been divided over Syria, but time was running out as the wheels of diplomacy continued to spin in the mud of debate and dialogue. When conflict had erupted in the Central African Republic, the African Union had acted quickly to avoid a genocide, while France had quickly stepped in when violence had broken out in Mali. Now, each country must do its part with regard to Syria, he said, emphasizing that when Governments were unable or unwilling to protect its civilians, the United Nations was often the last line of defence. Because of “petty politics”, only a trickle of assistance had reached those in Syria who needed it most. The men, women and children of Syria should not stand alone, he declared. Rather, the international community should be standing at their side to ensure a safer and more secure future. It was time to stop talking and take decisive action because no nation was free from responsibility.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends, noted the Secretary-General’s intention to examine the issue of arbitrary withholding of consent to relief operations. Several drafting seminars for legal experts had taken place, and the Group was ready to discuss their findings. It also noted that civilian casualty tracking, where practicable, played an important role in efforts to reduce harm to civilians, he said, inviting parties to conflict, as well as United Nations peacekeeping missions, to recognize the potential value of such a capability. He also noted the continuing efforts to ensure effective and credible casualty recording mechanisms. Further discussions were needed on the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems, he added.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said the Council must respond decisively when massive violations of international humanitarian law escalated, as in Syria. It was high time it adopted a resolution urging all parties to conflict to ensure that civilians in need could be reached and that humanitarian and medical personnel were protected. The prospect of accountability provided an incentive for warring parties to comply with their legal obligations. Furthermore, the Council had a crucial role in triggering the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, and thereby realizing its full deterrent effect. Accountability must be pursued through a range of measures, beyond criminal proceedings, he said, emphasizing that efforts must be made to preserve the rights of victims, fight impunity on a larger scale, establish a common historical narrative and lay the foundations for long-term reconciliation.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said the practice of civilian protection did not match the international community’s vision of advancing it. “Our expectations are unreachable, while our efforts remain rudimentary,” he said. The idea of establishing a registry of civilian casualties warranted attention. The leaders of United Nations peacekeeping missions should brief the Council more often, thereby enabling it to keep abreast of developments in the field. In addition, missions should consider implementing civilian protection mandates in an integrated manner since military and police units could not work in “silos”. Prior to deployment, peacekeepers, as well as civilian personnel, should be trained through a common module on the protection of civilians, he said.
MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL ( Egypt) said a comprehensive framework for future peacekeeping mandates was essential to ensuring the protection of civilians and accountability for any violations occurring during their implementation. Missions should respect the sovereignty and cultural specificities of host countries, which bore primary responsibility for protecting civilians under imminent threat. All parties must comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality in armed conflict, refrain from targeting medical facilities, and grant access to humanitarian aid. Egypt called on the Council to ensure rapid and effective accountability for violations against civilians in armed conflict.
MICHEL SPINELLIS ( Greece), describing the use of new weapons technologies as a threat to civilians, questioned their compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law. The same technologies could, however, track and record civilian casualties, while helping to bring perpetrators to justice, he noted. He said attacks against journalists continued to rise, particularly as their role expanded and became increasingly dependent on their ability to provide independent and fair coverage of all sides of a conflict. Journalists were becoming more vulnerable, and combating impunity would undoubtedly reduce the number of civilian deaths, including those of journalists, he said, emphasizing that civilian protection must include elements that took the need also to protect journalists into account.
MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the European Union, called on the Council to ensure a more coherent use of sanctions regimes, with criteria linked to violations of international humanitarian law and human rights laws. Austria had developed an interdisciplinary training course on the protection of civilians that was open to national and international participants, including senior decision makers within national armed forces, police services, civilian administrations and other stakeholders and experts. He welcomed calls for an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and for practical measures and guidelines for reducing their humanitarian impact. Austria also supported the Secretary-General’s call to ensure that attacks by armed drones complied fully with international humanitarian law and human rights laws.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, European Union Delegation, expressing concern about heavy civilian casualties in the Central African Republic, said he looked forward to working with the United Nations, African Union and others to ensure the complementarities of ongoing efforts there. A more robust response to the crisis was urgently needed to protect civilians. The Union had responded through a combination of humanitarian, stabilization and development support, having also increased its allocation up to €39 million. On the situation in Syria, the Union was gravely concerned about the indiscriminate bloodshed among civilians and called for an end to all violence. Conflict parties must uphold their obligation to protect civilians, facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access and guarantee the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. Carrying out protection mandates required better planning and support to missions and improving the understanding of how to support host States.
MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) said that civilian protection was an integral part of 95 per cent of peacekeeping missions around the world, and, by now, that mandate was widely recognized. Civilians disproportionately bore the brunt of war and conflict, with women and children the hardest-hit victims. The international community had done better where the United Nations invested its resources and maintained peacekeeping missions. Peacekeepers were mandated to do more without adequate resources, which resulted in unmet needs and unsafe security conditions. Since there was a limit to what peacekeepers could do, it was important to incorporate lessons learned into mission planning. Participation of troop-contributing countries in the planning stage was crucial. Peacekeepers could not remain passive bystanders, nor could they become the national defence force of the host country. The Council should also make a clear distinction between civilian protection and the responsibility to protect. Pakistan was of the view that the use of armed drones had been counterproductive, having killed hundreds in his country alone.
MAZEN ADI (Syria), noting that this year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, said the subsequent establishment of the United Nations had given new hope to maintaining international peace and security. Although the Organization had succeeded in preventing a third world war, it had not succeeded in addressing human sufferings. The main responsibility to protect civilians lay with the State, and he urged Member States to respect the principle of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, as set out in the United Nations Charter. The Council should not take up that topic in a selective and opportunistic manner. He also cautioned against unilateral coercive measures used by some powerful States. The Syrian Government was more concerned about its own people than was any other State, he said, urging the Council to condemn terrorists operating in Syria and their supporting countries. Such States must withdraw mercenaries from Arab land. It was bizarre that the Israeli representative spoke of civilian protection in Syria, as Israel occupied Arab territories illegally.
PETER WITTIG (Germany), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians, said it was appalling to see that terrorizing civilian populations had become an integral part of the military strategies of many conflict parties. The international community should do its utmost to improve civilian protection in all situations. Women and children were particularly affected. The risk and exposure to sexual violence in conflict must be countered, as many communities faced a generation of “lost children” without an education. They would bear the trauma of war. Illegal and irresponsible weapons transfers contributed to increased instability, exacerbated conflicts, atrocities, human rights and international humanitarian law violations. The international community should to ensure that those responsible for grave breaches of international humanitarian law, in particular war crimes, were held accountable. In that connection, it was crucial that the International Criminal Court was strengthened, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians through the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas was stopped.
NORACHIT SINHASENI ( Thailand), associating himself with the Human Security Network, said the number of civilian causalities in armed conflicts, including women and children, was alarming. Leaders of peacekeeping missions must fully understand their roles, per their Security Council mandates, and communicate those key elements to all components of the Mission. Clear guidance codifying the civilian protection mandate must be developed by interested parties, as that would make more effective a mission’s planning and execution, as well as ability to protect civilians. Training was vital, including instruction on international humanitarian and human rights law, gender-based issues and cultural sensitivities. The informal expert group on the protection of civilians was a useful tool for providing critical information to the Council, and it should be utilized accordingly.
FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the question facing the international community was how to achieve substantial progress in both the prevention of war and the protection of civilians when conflict broke out. Once violence erupted, blue helmets were often the only safe haven available to civilians. Thus, by failing to take decisive action, the United Nations betrayed them. In current conflicts, the number of civilian causalities was extremely disturbing. Numerous challenges and shortcomings impeded the capacity of peacekeepers to effectively protect civilians on the ground, while the struggle continued over what it meant for peacekeeping operations to protect civilians, in both definition and practice.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, said that, sadly, the death of civilians in armed conflict had become the rule, rather than the exception. The first duty was to state loud and clear: there was no justification for such actions. The responsibility to protect remained primarily with the State, but there were far too many situations where that principle simply did not work. That was where the United Nations needed to step forward. The protection of civilians was a relatively new task for the United Nations and required unity among actors, particularly with regard to humanitarian issues. Italy encouraged the use of modern technologies for civilian protection, particularly when it facilitated aid delivery. Accountability was also crucial for the effective protection of civilians. The international community must also protect journalists, as protecting the press meant protecting free speech.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said he was convinced that protection worked best when combined with prevention. The Council must be better informed of emerging protection challenges. Early warning was one element. Regular briefings that focused on emerging civilian protection challenges should be treated as essential, and not just “nice to have”. But, sometimes, even early warning was not enough; finding the political will to act was equally critical. In that regard, the Council must be congratulated for its prompt December 2013 action on South Sudan. But, it was worth reflecting on how civilian protection in the Central African Republic and Mali might have been better achieved if the Council had sent missions to those countries much earlier in the evolution of their conflicts. Smaller, lower-level missions had sometimes been used to good effect for that purpose.
GONZALO KONCKE PIZZORNO ( Uruguay), associating himself with the Group of Friends, expressed regret that despite recent strides, civilians remained among the primary victims of war. Prevention was “the best remedy”, and the key question was whether more could be done. Early warning signals were fundamental in preventing civilian casualties, as were political dialogue and reconciliation. It was also urgent to facilitate access for humanitarian aid. Competent bodies must make consistent use of available instruments, such as the International Criminal Court and fact-finding missions. His delegation attached great importance to the need to consult with troop-contributing countries. The new mandate assigned to MONUSCO had gone beyond the traditional norm by authorizing an intervention brigade, but impartiality and legitimacy were vital when exercising such force. Also crucial was for information on the ground to be accurately transmitted to the competent bodies.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said that 20 per cent of his country’s territory remained under the Russian Federation’s illegal military operation, with refugees and displaced persons at more than 400,000. Despite serious concerns raised by the relevant United Nations agencies, hundreds of thousands of people continued to be denied their international right to return to their homes. The people residing in the occupied regions were being deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms. Much of that could have been averted if the international community had maintained its presence in the conflict area. Strengthening common efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict simply had no alternative.
DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said many challenges still needed to be tackled with regard to protecting people during conflicts, which was one of the most difficult tasks facing United Nations peacekeeping. Human life was most precious and human dignity must be safeguarded. It was crucial to understand local dynamics in order to develop strategies that could effectively address threats to civilians. Coherence between the actors tasked with protecting civilians was also essential. At the same time, it must be ensured that civilian protection efforts did not go beyond a mission’s mandate. While a holistic approach was required, protection mandates should be clear and achievable with explicit goals and guidance.
KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM ( Netherlands) noted that the responsibility to protect and protection of civilians were indeed distinct. Responsibility to protect was focused on four specific crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In conflict and non-conflict situations, protection of civilians was much broader in scope as it aimed to protect the general safety, dignity and integrity of all human beings in conflict situations. Yet, they were closely related as they shared a similar normative foundation, namely that protection of individuals was a primary responsibility of the State, and prevention and early warning were key to both cases. The best way to protect civilians in any situation was to prevent conflict. A range of methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes had been developed and it was encouraging to see those were being used more often. When it came to judicial settlement of conflicts, the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, both housed in the Peace Palace, were global icons of the pursuit of peace by means of law and conflict prevention.
KIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV ( Kazakhstan) said that adequate cooperation and operational clarity between the parties involved in peacekeeping efforts was not always possible. The multi-faceted nature of contemporary peacekeeping operations was welcome and led to positive synergies and the enhanced protection of civilians. However, that also ran the risk of blurring roles and responsibilities, especially between humanitarian work, judicial investigation and the provision of security through an armed presence. Civilian protection was complex and needed multidimensional provisions, with each mission bringing together many different actors from planning to execution. Those efforts should include women’s active participation at each stage of the process.
RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba) supported civilian protection in armed conflict, as nothing justified the killing of innocent people. States must act decisively to prevent conflicts, which was the least costly way to protect civilians. In the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, civilian deaths comprised more than 90 per cent of the casualties. Protection must be carried out without prejudice to the host State. Coordination with the host State, as well as with troop and police contributors, was also important. He voiced concern at the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous weapons systems. To protect civilians in armed conflict, the Council could not remain on the sidelines. The Secretary-General’s report ignored the danger of nuclear weapons, despite that had plans to use them in conventional conflicts.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil) expressed his delegation’s firm belief that conflict prevention was one of the most effective ways of protecting civilians. The international community must be guided, first and foremost, by the objective of avoiding armed conflict altogether and the human risks associated with it. A military-centred approach to peace and stability most often did not achieve satisfactory goals from either a security or moral perspective. In peacekeeping operations, the protection of civilians should be seen as a multidimensional task, with the efforts implemented in a universal and non-selective manner. Brazil believed the adoption of sanctions often had a profound negative impact on civilians; it created a punitive environment, rather than one which promoted dialogue and persuasion.
NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that States had the primary responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity The promotion of accountability for human rights violations and access to justice remained a key issue for his delegation. Botswana remained concerned that hundreds of human rights abusers still remained at large, thereby derailing the course of justice and endangering innocent women and children. He called for collaboration and coordination between the International Criminal Court and United Nations peacekeeping missions to hunt down, arrest and investigate perpetrators. The international community had a moral obligation and responsibility to intensify efforts to protect innocent civilians, especially women and children, who were often victims of torture, rape and sexual abuse.
LEVENT ELER ( Turkey) said peacekeepers played an essential role in civilian protection. Parties to conflict must take steps to ensure such protection, uphold humanitarian and human rights principles, and provide services to those suffering amid conflict, and the United Nations must assist them in such work. Monitoring and reporting were among peacekeepers’ most important contributions. Further, the United Nations could play a valuable role in coordinating the many actors, thereby aiding civilian protection, notably by making better use of their collective experience. Realization of protection mandates required unequivocal international support. The political differences with regard to Syria were a sad indicator of the importance of immediate joint action.
DAVID DONOGHUE (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said his delegation believed that, while the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians belonged to the parties to the conflict, the United Nations also had an important role to play. More than anything else, it was the United Nations’ credibility on the ground that determined how successful it would be in protecting civilians. Effective pre-deployment training and resources, such as air mobility assets and early warning systems, were critical in ensuring peacekeeping troops could effectively carry out their mandate. Ireland was concerned about the alarming increase in the incidence and scale of intra-State conflicts, which were responsible for rising civilian casualties. The increased targeting of peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel was also of grave concern.
TEKEDA ALEMU ( Ethiopia) said civilian protection was a treaty obligation that all “self-respecting” nations must observe. In that context, he stressed respect for the principles of international law governing inter-State relations, which was critical to enhancing trust between humanitarian agencies and concerned States. Another challenge was the need to enhance transparency in the way that facilitated civilian protection, as there were “adventurist types” who paid scant attention to the concerns of State authorities. On enhancing compliance by non-State armed groups with international law, he said the Secretary-General failed to distinguish between situations where States had collapsed and those where they were able to discharge their duties but faced difficulties in parts of their territories. He called for a frank assessment of civilian protection over the last 15 years.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET ( Belgium) said the concept of civilian protection was the heart of international humanitarian law. It was vital to respect the distinction between combatants and civilians, she said, warning against indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations. Special attention should be paid to health, as well as the protection of humanitarian workers, which was breached daily in Syria and Sudan. Last September, in an initiative spearheaded by her delegation, 27 States signed a petition calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to provide unhindered access for medical and humanitarian personnel. There would be no lasting peace without justice, and she urged States to create witness protection programmes so that perpetrators could be brought to justice. Belgium joined 56 other delegations in sending a letter urging the Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. Council members should be open to consider France’s initiative to forbid a veto by any permanent member when mass atrocities were involved. As for unmanned aerial vehicles, the United Nations should begin discussion of ethical and criminal responsibilities for the use of such systems before it became widespread.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI ( Kuwait) said the responsibility for civilian protection rested with States. In cases of massive violations of international humanitarian law, when a State could not or did not assist, the international community must do so. Civilian protection was linked to the supply of humanitarian aid. Noting the resurgence of United Nations activities in response to humanitarian crises around the world, he said the international community thus far had been unable to ensure civilian protection, and parties to conflict had prevented the supply of humanitarian assistance and hindered relief operations. International accountability mechanisms must be strengthened, so as to criminalize such violations. The Council must not turn a blind eye to major human rights violations in Syria. Kuwait would favour a draft resolution adopted under Chapter VII in that regard, as there had been no progress since the Council issued its October 2013 presidential statement.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said that in conflict situations, women and girls face increased risk of sexual violence, including rape and forced marriages. Canada remained at the forefront of efforts to prevent and address violence against those most vulnerable and believed that even in times of conflict, the promotion of accountability was important. Canada also remained committed to advocating for the rights of religious communities in situations of armed conflict, while drawing specific attention to the urgent need to address the impact of the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons. In Syria and far too many other conflicts, tens of thousands of civilians were targeted or subjected to indiscriminate attacks, and schools, teachers and students were a tactic of war. Canada called on all States that had not already done so, to take appropriate measures to restrict the use of schools for military operations.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said civilians were regularly targeted during attacks, with the tragic events in the Central African Republic a recent reminder of the heavy toll they paid, particularly women and children. The sophistication of the weapons used in conflict also affected humanitarian workers and journalists, and he condemned acts of aggression and intimidation against them. Protecting civilians depended on coordination with the host country, which bore the primary responsibility in that regard. Clear mandates must be given to the various stakeholders and should be effectively coordinated. Civilian protection must go hand in hand with combating weapons trafficking, he said, stressing that humanitarian action must be dissociated from political goals.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said that compliance by all the parties to conflict with international humanitarian and human rights law, including non-State armed groups was essential. Full, timely and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance was crucial for the relief and protection of affected populations. The Network called on all parties to armed conflict to refrain from using explosive weapons in densely populated areas. The role of peacekeeping and other missions should be enhanced, he said, adding that the mandate to protect civilians was among the most significant steps taken by the Council. At the same time, States were obligated to investigate and prosecute any serious crime committed within its borders, as impunity would incite perpetrators to carry on their atrocious acts.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO ( Colombia) considered it essential to pay special attention to the planning and development of mandates and adequate resources appropriation, as well as the training of troops with the necessary standards. The Council should strengthen its capacity to acquire accurate information about the situation of civilians and monitor progress in the field during implementation of the relevant mandates. It should also request reports on progress in civilian protection and use tools, such as the Arria Formula and interactive dialogues, for further analysis and sharing of lessons learned. The Organization’s effective implementation of civilian protection mandates must be strengthened by the political will of States and their ability to meet their responsibilities to the civilian population. The United Nations should promote compliance with international humanitarian law by non-State armed groups to protect civilians, determining carefully the mechanisms to accomplish that goal.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said that the Taliban were responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian causalities in his country, causing thousands of deaths in 2013 alone, a sharp increase from previous years. The Council had condemned Taliban attacks in the strongest terms six times last year, stressing that terrorism in all its forms was criminal and unjustifiable and underscoring the need to bring its perpetrators to justice. The Taliban showed flagrant disregard for international law, as well as for the basic tenets and principles of Islam. His country required the following three key components: international assistance throughout the next decade to support Afghan capacity to counter terrorist campaigns against the Afghan people; the elimination of terrorist sanctuaries that fuelled the cycle of violence; and vigorous pursuit of the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, intended to engage those ready to renounce violence and contribute responsibly to their homeland. Effective and international cooperation were key to the successful outcome of that process.
GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) shared the concerns about civilians, who were the overwhelming majority of victims in armed conflicts. State authorities must engage with the United Nations and other humanitarian actors, as the unimpeded access of humanitarian actors must be unconditionally guaranteed. As a country that had suffered from war, Armenia recognized that protecting people from mass atrocities was an overarching responsibility that must bring together the critical functions of the United Nations. He drew attention to the situation of civilians living near borders, saying he had previously raised concerns about the impact of snipers. The kidnapping of civilians must also stop, as lasting solutions to conflicts could only be achieved through peaceful means and within internationally agreed formats.
KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO (Japan), associating himself with the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, expressed concern that the lives of countless civilians were in danger in conflicts around the world. It was regrettable that Governments or non-governmental military groups frequently obstructed, delayed or even prevented humanitarian operations in an arbitrary manner. The serious impact of such actions required the Council’s urgent attention to act in a visible and concrete way. The Council also should give its immediate attention to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The 15-member body could and must take action to decrease the number of causalities.
RICHARD NDUHUURA ( Uganda) underlined the need to carry out quick, effective and concerted efforts to protect civilians, prevent atrocities, restore law and order and provide humanitarian assistance. “Today’s armed conflicts often take place in densely populated areas,” he said, stressing that in Africa, delayed action by State authorities, the region or the Council itself had led to the loss of life. In that context, he emphasized the importance of mediation and peaceful conflict settlement. Parties were required to seek political solutions through dialogue, conciliation and arbitration, and he pressed the Council to give top priority to conflict prevention and mediation, under the Charter’s Chapter VI. Early warning and response mechanisms were also needed.
HASSAN HAMID HASSAN ( Sudan) hoped that the Council’s regular deliberations on civilian protection would yield a holistic approach to that issue, one that avoided politicization and double standards. Recalling that peacekeeping operations could not impose peace, he said that if there was no peace to maintain, peacekeepers could not achieve their goals. He urged implementation of projects aimed at development, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as quick-impact projects to return internally displaced persons to their homes. He urged the Council to support the Sudanese Government in achieving peace in Darfur and to send a strong message to those refusing to sign Doha Document, as well as rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, to lay down their weapons and join the peace movement.
DMYTRO KUSHNERUK ( Ukraine) said protection of civilians was a mandated task that required coordinated actions in all spheres of peacekeeping operations, including the United Nations police component. While civilian protection was a core element of international policing, it also required a close alignment with the work of peacekeeping operations in terms of strategy. United Nations police provided operational support to the host State police for civilian protection under imminent threat. In addition, United Nations police assisted in planning and conducting operations and investigations, and training the host State police to perform crucial protection functions, included maintaining a secure environment in the camps for internally displaced persons. In South Sudan, thousands of civilians had been sheltered in the United Nations compounds. Police officers of the United Nations mission in that country were directly involved in the protection of civilians through maintaining public order and conducting physical checks. Ukraine, with the third largest contingent of police officers there, reaffirmed its commitment to support the United Nations Mission.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Observer for the State of Palestine, said that one clear example of the failure to respect the law was the case of the Palestinian civilian population living under Israel’s occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. For more than four decades, any and all legal safeguards of protection for civilians under international humanitarian law had been deliberately ignored by Israel, the occupying Power, leaving them devoid of protection of not only their physical body and lives, but of their well-being and human dignity. The international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its violations and crimes had regrettably reinforced its lawlessness, permitting it to continue using military force and collective punishment against the defenceless Palestinian people under its occupation. “To continue doing nothing in the face of such crimes is unacceptable and will only allow for the cycle of impunity to persist,” she said.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI ( Spain) said clear, realistic mandates were needed in order to evaluate ground conditions. Peacekeeping missions must have appropriate resources, bearing in mind the need to adapt to unforeseen situations. He drew attention to the use of cluster bombs in urban centres, the severe impacts of conflict on older persons, children and the disabled, as well as attacks on medical personnel, especially in Syria. He said he fully supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations, highlighting the importance of unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance and the need for true accountability. Noting that Spain was a member of the Group of Friends for Mediation, he said his Government would like to cooperate with the Council on such matters.
TOFIG F. MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said the increasing brutality of armed conflicts and the changing nature of warfare had increased the need for protection measures at national and international levels. Resolute and targeted measures were also required to end impunity for the most serious crimes. When national authorities failed to take steps to ensure accountability, the international community should play a more proactive role in order to ensure an appropriate response, including through the establishment of ad hoc tribunals and international commissions of inquiry. Strongly condemning all attacks against civilians, he urged the Council and regional organizations to ensure that peace efforts contributed to accountability by encouraging parties to envisage transitional justice and reparation clauses in peace agreements.
In response to a statement made by the Georgian delegation, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation’s position had been repeatedly stated in the Security Council and other chambers. Instead of repeating clichés, Georgian authorities should show readiness to talk directly with the Government of the Russian Federation.
Israel’s delegate said that her Palestinian counterpart was not constructive, but only trying to incite hostility against Israel. Palestinians used human beings as shields, and they launched rockets against innocent Israeli people, also putting their own civilian population at risk by firing from populated areas. She wondered why the Egyptian delegate was so passionate when discussing civilian protection in Israel. If published, “best practices” of human rights protection in Egypt would become an international best-seller.
Armenia’s delegate, rebutting a statement made by the representative of Azerbaijan, said there was no alternative to a peaceful solution. Azerbaijan’s authorities were going in the opposite direction. Instead of seeking peace, they were preparing to launch a new war, he said, stressing that Azerbaijan had increased its military budget and acquired sophisticated military equipment.
Also speaking a second time, Georgia’s representative said that 20 per cent of his country was under occupation. His Government had continuously shown its readiness for dialogue and cooperation, notably with the establishment of the special office under the Prime Minister for dialogue with the Russian Federation. It also was constructively involved in the Geneva international negotiations. He expected there would be positive steps ahead in that ongoing dialogue, and potentially bilaterally, which would lead the sides out of the current impasse.
Azerbaijan’s representative said attempts by Armenia’s delegate to assert innocence in crimes committed against Azerbaijani civilians were unlikely to be taken seriously, given the incontrovertible evidence. In 1993, the Council had adopted four resolutions condemning the use of force and occupation of its territory by Armenian forces, and demanding the unconditional withdrawal of those forces from those territories.
He said that those texts also referred to international humanitarian law violations, including bombardments of inhabited areas. While referring to groundless interpretations of the Khojaly massacre, Armenia’s delegate had refrained from expressing his views on the position of the European Court of Human Rights. Armenia’s policy of aggression had been reflected in comments made by the former Defence Minister, who was now the incumbent President. Asked if he had had regrets about the thousands of people killed, he had been quoted as saying: “I have absolutely no regrets since such upheavals are necessary, even if thousands have to die.”
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