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UN Security Council Ministerial-Level Open Debate (Indonesia): “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

Thursday, 23 May 2019
Minister Ariel Rodelas Peñaranda Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Security Council Chamber, UNHQ


The Philippines associates itself with the statement to be delivered by Vietnam on behalf of ASEAN. 

Mr. President, 

The protection of civilians is front and center of the dialogue in peacekeeping operations. 

It has been 20 years since an explicit mandate on the “protection of civilians” or POC was established for the peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a ‘culture of protection’ to permeate the UN system and the mindsets of those in the field. In 2015, what is now the Departments of Peace Operations and Operational Support defined POC around three tiers of protection: protection through dialogue and engagement, provision of physical protection, and establishment of a protective environment.  

In theory and practice, POC gained traction among Member States and has become the priority in nine UN peacekeeping missions where 95% of peacekeepers are deployed. However, the implementation of the POC mandate is beset by three key challenges: (1) Missions tend to implement the POC in a process-oriented way or based on activities; (2) there is a disconnect between POC and political strategy; and (3) how to apply the whole-of-mission strategy (that is, political, military/police, civilian) to pursue the POC mandate. 

We are sanguine that these challenges will be clearly addressed by the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations under the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping or A4P initiative adopted by 151 Member States last September. 

We commend Indonesia under its Presidency of the Security Council for today’s Ministerial-level Open Debate on this subject—an appropriate follow-up to the Open Debate on “Investing in Peace” held two weeks ago.

Madame President, 

Much is expected of the mandate giving first priority to the protection of civilians in peacekeeping—with emphasis on the protection of children and combating sexual exploitation and abuse. It is as it should be the standard by which the performance of UN peacekeeping is measured, affecting its legitimacy and credibility. 

The Philippines reiterates its support for UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that underscore the principal concern of conflict prevention and the protection of civilians when it breaks out. 

The Philippines submits the following suggestions: 

·       First, pre-deployment training (PDT) should be incentivized to draw on existing policy, guidance, and training resources to explain what POC means in a given operational context; defining the responsibilities, opportunities and constraints faced by peacekeepers deployed in that context. The Philippines encourages Member States to host “Centers of Excellence” by region to deliver training packages to troop- and police-contributing countries consistent with UN standards. 

·       Second, the Philippines encourages the deployment of more women in UN peacekeeping operations, including for positions of command. Women do not prey on children and their own sex. The Philippines has an all-female Relations Company from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to assist in the rehabilitation and recovery of Internally-Displaced Persons from the Marawi Crisis. They complement peacekeeping operations by helping internally displaced persons, conducting peace education, and extending psycho-social debriefing among the traumatized, particularly women, children and youth. 

·       Finally, the Philippines calls on the Secretary-General and Member States to promote unarmed strategies or unarmed civilian protection as a key complement to the POC “toolkit.” No arms, no mistaken intentions, and so no excuses.  

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) acknowledges civil society’s active role in bringing peace to Mindanao; such as Ceasefire Watch, Spaces for Peace, Mothers for Peace and Tiyakap Kalilintad (Care for Peace) which partner with government agencies. In 2009, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to expand the mandate of the International Monitoring Team to include civilian protection.  

This civilian-based ceasefire monitoring and response is a model for other countries in conflict. Grassroots leaders from various countries such as those from ASEAN and some troubled Eastern Europe countries have travelled to Mindanao to learn more about this model on the ground. 

In May 2017, the GPH and MILF established the “Peace Corridor” to: (1) provide a safe and secure corridor for the rescue of trapped individuals in conflict areas; and (2) provide a secure space for humanitarian assistance to pass through the province most affected by the Marawi Crisis. At the end of the operations in Marawi, a total of 255 civilians were rescued, and safe passage of aid was provided to many government and humanitarian organizations. 

I wish to conclude by noting that an effective POC mandate must be anchored on human rights and international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to vulnerable groups and on the adherence to the principles of accountability, conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding.  

Thank you Mr. President.