My Delegation wishes to thank you for convening this open debate on the subject of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We are grateful to the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on this important topic and for the concrete recommendations he has put forward. I also express my appreciation to Under-Secretary-General Jan Egeland for his presentation today and to his whole team in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for their dedicated work.
The Council has been discussing this thematic item on a regular basis over the last five years. With civilians accounting for the vast majority of victims in armed conflicts in many regions of the world, we need to persevere in our efforts to push forward this vital agenda.
My comments today will focus on a few issues arising from the Secretary-General’s report, starting with a certain level of progress that has been achieved.
Indeed, we have made efforts to ensure that prominent provisions regarding protection of civilians take part of our regular discussions and deliberations. As a result, peacekeeping mandates have been broadened to include humanitarian access, safety of UN and associated personnel and protection of refugees and returnees, among other relevant protection themes. Taking into account that these important measures have increased the profile of UN peace operations, we are advancing in practical terms towards the strengthening of the protection of civilians on the ground. On a case by case basis, we are managing to integrate what has been agreed at the thematic level.
Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti are two recent examples of the Council’s willingness to allow UN troops to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, without prejudice to the responsibility of the host Governments.
In this respect, the Aide Mémoire on the protection of civilians has been an important tool for the design of peacekeeping mandates. Although its application requires a more systematic approach, one could perfectly argue that the Aide Mémoire has been adequately employed according to the specific challenges in each concrete situation. We are glad to see the Council moving in the right direction also with regard to other provisions of resolutions 1265 (1999) and 1296 (2000).
In spite of the progress, the Secretary-General rightly asserts that further action is required in a number of areas.
It is essential that the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children and others, including refugees and internally displaced persons, be effectively protected. The recruitment and use of children as soldiers is appalling, let alone the extensiveness of sexual and gender based violence. While discussing peacekeeping mandates, the Council needs to be steadfast in promoting the rights and specific protection needs of the most vulnerable. The inclusion of child protection and gender advisers in peace operations has been an important step in this regard. At the same time, the use of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by an increasing number of Member States is positive and should continue to be encouraged.
The Secretary-General points out the fact that humanitarian access is, in a number of cases, either denied or obstructed, affecting over 10 million people in need, which is a matter of serious concern. States have the primary responsibility in the delivery of assistance to their population in need. But if they are unable to do so, they must comply with their international obligations and ensure safe and unhindered access of the humanitarian personnel in order to allow them to undertake efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population. We find it particularly worrisome that most of the people in need of assistance and protection in the Darfur region of Sudan have remained beyond the reach of the humanitarian relief organizations.
It is also imperative to “protect the protectors”. Indeed, the issue of safety and security of humanitarian personnel must continue to be a matter of high priority in the UN system. It is most regretful that humanitarian workers have been broadly targeted while trying to provide some hope for the underprivileged. They have increasingly become victims of deliberate violence. Attacks against humanitarian personnel thwart international measures to bring assistance and have a clear impact and connection to the issue of assuring access.
The report also addresses that the lack of support for the so-called forgotten emergencies. In fact, it is distressing that humanitarian assistance is not always provided on the basis of need. If funds are poured into relief assistance in cases of highly visible emergencies that mobilize public opinion, resources dwindle when it comes to laying the foundations for future recovery and development. We would like to underline the worrisome trend that DDRR programmes remain continuously under-resourced, especially in the rehabilitation and reintegration phases, compromising disarmament and demobilization efforts.
Referring to situations of transition, Under-Secretary-General Egeland noted during a recent debate in the Council that “progress on security and political development need to be accompanied by corresponding progress on the humanitarian, social and economic fronts if the peace is to take hold”.
Hence, without addressing this funding gap between relief and development, we risk treating only the symptoms of the disease while its root causes remain untouched. An illustrative case is the challenge for the promotion of Haiti’s social and economic development.
In many cases, nations ravaged by conflict have been also severely hit by HIV/AIDS, a condition that has been appropriately described as “double humanitarian challenge”. Given the HIV/AIDS devastating human, social and economic impacts, we need to ensure that the longer-term development implications of the pandemic are properly addressed.
Needless to say, all parties to armed conflict must comply fully with the provisions of international law, especially humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. The role that the International Criminal Court can play in bringing to justice those who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious violations is of fundamental importance. The Court is therefore an essential element to address the problems of impunity.
We need to reaffirm the importance of the widest possible dissemination of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and principles during armed conflict. The regional workshops organized by OCHA, including the recent one in Mexico for the Latin America and Caribbean region, have contributed to disseminate information related to the issue. The involvement of regional players is an important factor to improve opportunities to address protection of civilians issues at the regional level, especially when conflicts cannot be handled within the confines of the States and regional organizations are in a more favorable position to deal with the matter. In this respect, we welcome the progress that has been made in West Africa to address the challenges related to cross-border flows of refugees.
Furthermore, in order to look for more complementarity, the Security Council can work in close coordination with the General Assembly and the ECOSOC in the field of protection of civilians. The Council should not be exclusive. For instance, the critical issue of funding for humanitarian missions is beyond the Council’s purview. At the same time, it is precisely because the efforts of the international community to address this problem still fall short of what is needed to end the suffering of civilians in armed conflict that the Council must continue to be fully engaged. We should then try to find the best approach to share responsibilities.
In this regard, we recall that General Assembly resolution 46/182 continues to provide the framework to ensure strengthened humanitarian coordination, also with regard to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and humanity for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Brazil has long understood that protection of civilians in armed conflict must be afforded priority consideration on the UN agenda. The suffering inflicted upon civilians by distinct patterns of conflict is truly a matter of fundamental concern. The Council will be able to provide political guidance to the system if it adopts a victim-centered approach. Once the victims are placed at the center-stage not only as recipients of aid but also as bearers of rights, our debates can produce concrete measures to improve the situation on the ground.
Thank you, Mr. President.