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Deputy Secretary-General, at Istanbul Summit, Says Assault on Humanitarian Law Must Stop, Urging Action to Protect, Aid Civilians during Conflict

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the High-Level Leaders’ Round Table on “Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity” at the World Humanitarian Summit, in Istanbul today:

International humanitarian and human rights law are under assault around the world.  Civilians are being deliberately or indiscriminately killed.  Towns are pummelled by airstrikes which destroy vital infrastructure and trigger mass displacement.

Summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture are daily realities.  Sick and wounded people are denied access to lifesaving assistance.  Lives are shattered by sexual violence.  Violence against medical missions and hospitals has reached crisis levels.  Humanitarian workers are being targeted. 

More than 150 years of achievements to protect the most vulnerable during conflict are unravelling.  The Geneva Conventions seem to have been forgotten. 

Today, we must commit to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.  In particular, I call on you to: first, promote respect for international law, adhering to the treaties we have all signed up to.  Second, enhance the protection of civilians, including reducing the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas.  Third, make sure that populations receive assistance in conflicts.  Countries must allow unimpeded humanitarian access.  Fourth, condemn violations of international law, and take concrete steps to ensure accountability.

This round table is a commitment session.  Let me lead by example by concluding with commitments from the United Nations. 

We commit to continue to speak out on violations of international norms, strengthen our Human Rights up Front initiative and seek to ensure that perpetrators are held to account and victims are compensated.  We also recognize that safeguarding humanity requires safeguarding humanitarians. 

We commit to further enhance the duty of care as well as monitoring the health and safety of United Nations staff and associates serving in high-risk environments.  This is the least we can do for those who courageously stand up for humanitarian values and principles.

For information media. Not an official record.