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Monitoring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel

Opening remark by Permanent Representative Mona Juul on "Monitoring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel", 17 March 2021. This was the first meeting in the discussion series on “Ensuring the protection, safety, and security of humanitarian workers and medical personnel in armed conflicts”, organised by the European Union, together with France, Germany, Mexico, Niger, Norway and Switzerland.

Excellencies, colleagues, and my dear friend Olof; thanks so much to you and your team for hosting this discussion series. We are very happy to co-host, and to present our perspective on today’s discussion on: “Monitoring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel”.

As we know, how civilians are protected in conflict has a great impact on the prospects for peace and reconciliation, return and reconstruction, and to prevent conflicts from recurring.

This is why the protection of civilians is a priority for Norway. Our approach is based on the recognition that the right to safe access to health care is the most basic protection issue in armed conflict. It is also the foundation for development, and key to be achieving SDGs 3 and 16.

Attacks on health care deeply affects civilian populations, and strikes at the core of communities. These attacks often lead to institutions closing, staff leaving, and systems breaking down. The lack of health care services has both immediate and long-term effects; it can drive displacement and destabilise communities. 

Excellencies, colleagues,

This year marks the 5th anniversary of SC resolution 2286, which is more relevant than ever. It is clear that we must step up our efforts to protect health care - but to do so, we must better understand the driving forces behind attacks, and the reasons for the current lack of protection.

This is where the importance of monitoring comes into focus. Documenting attacks, and identifying trends is key to developing this understanding. We have therefore supported the WHO’s monitoring system since its inception in 2017 to develop a tool for better understanding the dynamics of attacks and the different context in which they occur. With the WHO’s body of evidence, we the international community, are in a better position to advocate for the implementation of resolution 2286.

For Norway, the main purpose of monitoring has been humanitarian; to improve prevention and response efforts. We have also focused on increased protection for NGOs, including through the International NGO Safety Organisation’s “Conflict & Humanitarian Data Centre project”. 

It is a common global incident database enabling unprecedented levels of data sharing between NGOs in the field on humanitarian safety, security, and access.

Colleagues,

The continuing military attacks against hospitals, medical personnel, and other health care facilities shows the need to strengthen accountability for violations of international humanitarian law. These attacks are devastating both for individuals and communities.

Clearly, monitoring with the aim of ensuring accountability for international law violations requires special attention. Documentation gathered must be of a quality to serve as evidence in criminal proceedings in national or international courts that have- or may in the future have- jurisdiction. The purpose and roles of the different monitoring mechanisms must also be clear. In this, best practice and complementarity is key; and the operational capacity and independence of humanitarian organizations must be safeguarded.

Colleagues, 

As a final thought, I would like to underline the need to promote digital dignity and the protection of personal data of affected people. We must ensure that personal data, collected for humanitarian purposes, is not shared without consent, or used for other purposes.

Colleagues,

I hope this provides some ‘food for thought’ for our discussions today. I look forward to hearing more from our expert briefers, and all of you on this important issue.