9634th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling on States to Respect, Protect United Nations, Humanitarian Personnel in Accordance with International Law

In the wake of a day-long open debate on protecting civilians in armed conflict that it held on 21 May, the Security Council today adopted a resolution calling on States to respect and protect United Nations and humanitarian personnel in accordance with their obligations under international law, recalling those established 75 years ago in the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Introducing the text, the representative of Switzerland emphasized that its goal “is to step up the protection of people that protect” — namely, UN and humanitarian personnel.  “Our work was driven by a very simple — but very concerning — observation,” she said, underscoring that increased attacks against these individuals not only imperil their lives, but also jeopardize their engagement with those in need.  Noting that today’s text builds on resolution 2175 (2014), she said that it lends additional emphasis to protecting locally recruited personnel, who are “the very backbone” of humanitarian work and represent more than 90 per cent of those affected by violence.

The resolution demands that parties to conflict uphold their obligations under international law, she said, also pointing out that it urges all States to immediately undertake comprehensive, impartial investigations into violations perpetrated against UN and humanitarian personnel. Further, it addresses new challenges facing such personnel — including disinformation — and calls on the Secretary-General to issue, within six months, recommendations for better protecting persons concerned and responding to violence by holding perpetrators accountable.  Spotlighting the “vast number of co-sponsors”, she called on all Council members to support the draft “with one voice”.

The Council then adopted resolution 2730 (2024) (to be issued as document S/RES/2730(2024)) by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation).

By terms additional to those outlined by the penholder, the Council called on all parties to armed conflict to “immediately and definitively” end the use of explosive devices in violation of international humanitarian law and condemned the unlawful denial of humanitarian access. The Council also called on States to ensure the full, equal, safe and meaningful participation of female UN and humanitarian personnel in humanitarian activities and to “mainstream a gender perspective” into humanitarian crises and post-conflict reconstruction.  Further, the 15-member organ requested the Secretary-General to report to it “swiftly” when widespread issues regarding the safety and security of UN and humanitarian personnel arise.

Joining others in marking the imminent seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the representative of Japan, speaking after the vote, said that today’s resolution is “a vital step toward securing the safety of those who risk their lives to help others in conflict zones”.  Stressing that it is unacceptable that the Council has passed 10 resolutions urging States to ensure accountability for the killing of aid workers — which has continued with few consequences — Sierra Leone’s representative stressed:  “This resolution sends a strong message of solidarity to humanitarian aid workers worldwide.”

“This is of particular significance at this juncture, when humanitarians are facing increasing risks,” said the representative of Guyana, commending those who have paid the “ultimate price” to save the lives of others.  The representative of Mozambique, Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity to agree:  “This resolution is also a recognition of the mounting threats and violence faced by humanitarian workers and UN personnel.”  Today’s text — which now forms part of the normative framework for the protection of civilians — will contribute to strengthening the protection of humanitarian personnel, premises and assets, observed Ecuador’s representative. 

Algeria’s representative was among those who highlighted “the deadliest conflict for humanitarian personnel in modern history”, noting that 262 aid workers have been killed so far in Gaza.  “Accountability and zero impunity are key words,” he underscored.  Pointing out that the resolution establishes a crucial mechanism for the Secretary-General to alert the Council when widespread, targeted attacks against UN and humanitarian personnel occur, the representative of Malta said that the text is a step in the direction of realizing “a world where the safety and dignity of every human being trapped in armed conflict is upheld”.

Some members also noted the resolution’s acknowledgement of the changing nature of such conflict, such as the representatives of the United Kingdom and Slovenia, who welcomed its recognition of new challenges such as disinformation and misinformation campaigns.  These increasingly appear as means and methods of warfare and “pose a real risk of harm to civilians and to humanitarian organizations”, said the latter. The representative of the Republic of Korea, echoing that, added that the text also “duly updates the past decade” by seeking to enhance women’s participation in humanitarian activities and leverage new technology to support humanitarian personnel.

Others, however, took issue with several provisions in the draft.  The representative of the United States — while voting in favour — pointed out that most States do not recognize the principle of precaution and said that language regarding the prosecution of violations should be refined in light of State practice and nuanced legal obligations in this area, which allow for the appropriate exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation — the lone abstention — expressed regret that, due to “pressure from a number of Western delegations”, several concerns were “left on the margins”. These relate, she said, to holding those who violate international humanitarian law accountable “in connection with a certain international court and tribunal”, proposed parameters for ensuring humanitarian access, “as well as the hackneyed gender language”.

Welcoming the adoption as a “strong message of hope”, Switzerland’s representative spotlighted, however, several people for whom the resolution “is arriving too late”.  Among them are Lorena Enebral Perez of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who died in Afghanistan; Sérgio Vieira de Mello, former High Commissioner for Human Rights, killed 20 years ago in Iraq alongside 22 of his colleagues; and Komon Dioma of Médecins Sans Frontières, killed in Burkina Faso earlier in 2024. Stating that today’s resolution is dedicated to all those working in fragile, complex contexts, she added: “This resolution pays tribute to all of these people.”

For information media. Not an official record.