Adopting Resolution 2417 (2018), Security Council Strongly Condemns Starving of Civilians, Unlawfully Denying Humanitarian Access as Warfare Tactics
The Security Council today adopted a resolution condemning the starving of civilians as a method of warfare — as well as the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to civilian populations — with members welcoming it as a landmark expression of unity on those critical issues.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2417 (2018), the Council drew attention to the link between armed conflict and conflict‑induced food insecurity and the threat of famine. It called on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians and on taking care to spare civilian objects, stressing that armed conflicts, violations of international law and related food insecurity could be drivers of forced displacement. Underlining the importance of safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in armed conflicts, it also strongly condemned the unlawful denial of such access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival — including wilfully impeding relief supply and access for responses to conflict‑induced food insecurity.
Urging those with influence over parties to conflict to remind the latter of their international obligations, the Council also recalled that it could consider adopting sanctions, where appropriate and in line with existing practices, that would apply to individuals or entities obstructing the delivery or distribution of humanitarian assistance to civilians in need.
Lise Gregoire Van Haaren (Netherlands), speaking after the adoption on behalf of the resolution’s co‑penholders — Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Sweden and her own country — said this week’s open debate on the protection of civilians had provided ample evidence of the urgent need to adopt such a text. “For the first time, this Council unequivocally condemns starvation as a method of warfare,” she said, noting that the landmark resolution recognized the need to break the vicious cycle of conflict and food insecurity. Importantly, it placed the world’s most vulnerable people firmly at the centre of its agenda. Among other things, she said the resolution would help ensure full respect for international law, support early warning efforts and compel parties to conflict to ensure full humanitarian access, while also allowing the Council to consider its full range of tools — including sanctions — to achieve those ends.
Stephen Hickey (United Kingdom) said millions of civilians trapped in armed conflict situations continued to suffer from starvation that was used against them as a weapon of war. Today’s resolution showed that the Council was not unable to address that issue. In South Sudan, for example, 1 million people had been declared food insecure as of 1 January 2018 — a 40 per cent increase since the same time the previous year. The country had suffered from famine conditions and overall more than 7 million people would require food assistance during the upcoming lean season. While humanitarian aid was crucial, political solutions were the only way to resolve such crises, he stressed, calling for more regular reporting to the Council on country‑specific situations. For its part, the organ had today taken a major step forward by unanimously condemning starvation as a tool of war.
Elaine Marie French (United States), noting that the resolution underscored the Council’s ability to address the clear connection between war and hunger, said the body had today demanded unanimously that parties to conflict comply with their obligations under international law. It had laid out clear expectations that those parties refrain from impeding humanitarian assistance, she said, encouraging the Secretary‑General to proactively alert the Council on situations of concern in that regard. “We have shown here today that we have the will to address conflict‑related hunger,” she emphasized.
Mr. Pronin (Russian Federation), welcoming the drafters’ constructive and sensitive negotiation efforts — which had resulted in a well‑balanced text — said armed conflicts were only one factor impacting a population’s food security. Imbalances in the global distribution of food, climate change, fluctuations in food prices and the imposition of sanctions could all make it difficult to ensure food security. In that regard, he said, finding solutions to those challenges went beyond the Council’s scope. Efforts were also needed to liberalize trade, address the impacts of climate change and refrain from imposing unilateral restrictive measures. Challenges related to food security could not be resolved without comprehensive international efforts to develop a fairer economic system.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:19 a.m.
The full text of resolution 2417 (2018) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 1296 (2000), 1894 (2009), 2175 (2014) and 2286 (2016) and its presidential statement of 9 August 2017 (S/PRST/2017/14),
“Deeply concerned about the level of global humanitarian needs and the threat of famine presently facing millions of people in armed conflicts, as well as about the number of undernourished people in the world which, after decades of decreasing, increased over the last two years, with the majority of food insecure people and 75 per cent of all stunted children under the age of 5 living in countries affected by armed conflict, amounting to 74 million people facing crisis food insecurity or worse in situations of armed conflict,
“Noting the devastating impact on civilians of ongoing armed conflict and related violence, and emphasizing with deep concern that ongoing armed conflicts and violence have devastating humanitarian consequences, often hindering an effective humanitarian response, and are therefore a major cause of the current risk of famine,
“Expressing concern over the growing number of armed conflicts in different geographic areas all over the globe, and underlining the urgent need for redoubled efforts for their prevention and resolution, addressing where pertinent the regional dimensions of armed conflicts with specific emphasis on regional diplomacy and arrangements,
“Reiterating its commitment to pursue all possible avenues to prevent and end armed conflicts, including through addressing their underlying root causes in an inclusive, integrated and sustainable manner,
“Recognizing the need to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict and food insecurity,
“Reiterating its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and, in this connection, its commitment to address conflict‑induced food insecurity, including famine, in situations of armed conflict,
“Reaffirming the full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,
“Recognizing that armed conflict impacts on food security can be direct, such as displacement from land, livestock grazing areas and fishing grounds or destruction of food stocks and agricultural assets, or indirect, such as disruptions to food systems and markets, leading to increased food prices or decreased household purchasing power, or decreased access to supplies that are necessary for food preparation, including water and fuel,
“Noting with deep concern the serious humanitarian threat, posed to civilians by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices in affected countries, which has serious and lasting social and economic consequences for the populations of such countries and their agricultural activities, as well as of personnel participating in law enforcement, humanitarian, peacekeeping, rehabilitation and clearance programmes and operations,
“Stressing the particular impact that armed conflict has on women, children, including as refugees and internally displaced persons, and other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities including persons with disabilities and older persons, and stressing the protection and assistance needs of all affected civilian populations,
“Reaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision‑making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution,
“Recalling the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, and the obligation of High Contracting Parties and parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances,
“Underlining that using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare may constitute a war crime,
“Stressing that responding effectively to humanitarian needs in armed conflict, including the threat of conflict‑induced famine and food insecurity in situations of armed conflict, requires respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to conflict, underlining the parties’ obligations related to protecting civilians and civilian objects, meeting the basic needs of the civilian population within their territory or under their effective control, and allowing and facilitating the rapid and unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief to all those in need,
“Recalling its intention to mandate United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions, where appropriate, to assist in creating conditions conducive to safe, timely and unimpeded humanitarian assistance,
“Demanding that all parties to armed conflicts fully comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law, as applicable, and international humanitarian law, in particular their obligations under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the obligations applicable to them under the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977 and 2005, to ensure the respect and protection of all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities,
“Reaffirming the obligation of all parties to an armed conflict to comply with international humanitarian law, in particular their obligations under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the obligations applicable to them under the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977, to ensure the respect and protection of all humanitarian personnel and United Nations and associated personnel, as well as with the rules and principles of international human rights law and refugee law,
“Reaffirming the need for all parties to armed conflict to respect the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence in the provision of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, and reaffirming also the need for all actors engaged in the provision of such assistance in situations of armed conflict to promote and fully adhere to these principles,
“Stressing that the fight against impunity and to ensure accountability for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes has been strengthened through the work on and prosecution of these crimes in the national and international criminal justice system, ad hoc and mixed tribunals as well as specialized chambers in national tribunals,
“Reaffirming the primary responsibility of States to protect the population throughout their whole territory,
“1. Recalls the link between armed conflict and violence and conflict‑induced food insecurity and the threat of famine, and calls on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding respecting and protecting civilians and taking constant care to spare civilian objects, including objects necessary for food production and distribution such as farms, markets, water systems, mills, food processing and storage sites, and hubs and means for food transportation, and refraining from attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects that are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, agricultural assets, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, and respecting and protecting humanitarian personnel and consignments used for humanitarian relief operations;
“2. Stresses in this regard that armed conflict, violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and food insecurity can be drivers of forced displacement, and, conversely, forced displacement in countries in armed conflict can have a devastating impact on agricultural production and livelihoods, recalls the relevant prohibition on the forced displacement of civilians in armed conflict, and stresses the importance of fully complying with international humanitarian law and other applicable international law in this context;
“3. Stresses the need for humanitarian assistance to be gender- and age‑sensitive, and to remain responsive to the different needs of the population, ensuring that these needs are integrated in the humanitarian response;
“4. Calls on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and underlines the importance of safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in armed conflicts, calls upon all parties concerned, including neighbouring States, to cooperate fully with the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations agencies in providing such access, invites States and the Secretary‑General to bring to its attention information regarding the unlawful denial of such access in violation of international law, where such denial may constitute a threat to international peace and security, and, in this regard, expresses its willingness to consider such information and, when necessary, to adopt appropriate steps;
“5. Strongly condemns the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in a number of conflict situations and prohibited by international humanitarian law;
“6. Strongly condemns the unlawful denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supply and access for responses to conflict‑induced food insecurity in situations of armed conflict, which may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law;
“7. Urges all parties to protect civilian infrastructure which is critical to the delivery of humanitarian aid and to ensure the proper functioning of food systems and markets in situations of armed conflict;
“8. Urges those with influence over parties to armed conflict to remind the latter of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law;
“9. Recalls that the Council has adopted and can consider to adopt sanction measures, where appropriate and in line with existing practice, that can be applied to individuals or entities obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance, or access to, or distribution of, humanitarian assistance;
“10. Strongly urges States to conduct, in an independent manner, full, prompt, impartial and effective investigations within their jurisdiction into violations of international humanitarian law related to the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, including the unlawful denial of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in armed conflict, and, where appropriate, to take action against those responsible in accordance with domestic and international law, with a view to reinforcing preventive measures, ensuring accountability and addressing the grievances of victims;
“11. Requests the Secretary‑General to continue to provide information on the humanitarian situation and response, including on the risk of famine and food insecurity in countries with armed conflict, as part of his regular reporting on country‑specific situations;
“12. Further requests the Secretary‑General to report swiftly to the Council when the risk of conflict‑induced famine and widespread food insecurity in armed conflict contexts occurs, and expresses its intention to give its full attention to such information provided by the Secretary‑General when those situations are brought to its attention;
“13. Further requests the Secretary‑General to brief the Security Council every 12 months on the implementation of this resolution within his annual briefing on the protection of civilians.”