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SC: Protection of Civilians

Joint Nordic statement held by Ambassador Mona Juul on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, 27 May 2020.

| Security Council

This statement is delivered on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and my own country, Norway.

We thank the Secretary-General for the report, and Estonia for convening this open debate. Strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law and ensuring accountability for violations must regrettably continue to be of great concern to the Council.

The Covid-19 pandemic calls for solidarity. The Nordic countries support the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire. Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together.

The Nordic countries remain deeply troubled by the inadequate respect for international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law and humanitarian principles shown by parties to conflicts around the world. Not only do violations during armed conflict have immediate negative impacts on individuals and their communities; they also undermine longer-term prospects of reconciliation, reintegration, development and sustainable peace.

We welcome the practical measures and steps to increase the protection of civilians in armed conflict presented in the Secretary General’s report. We also find the resolution adopted at the 33rd international Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference in December a very useful tool for all states to ensure implementation of IHL.

We must continue the fight against impunity for IHL and human rights violations. First, it is necessary to support national efforts to strengthen the states' own capacity to ensure justice in the wake of armed conflict. Second, the International Criminal Court (the ICC) and other global and regional mechanisms are important tools in ensuring accountability. For instance, we have seen how the ICC has made important convictions for crimes related to rape and sexual violence in armed conflict. We also welcome the recent decision to include the war crime of the intentional use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare into the ICC Statutes, also in non-international armed conflicts. We call upon all States Parties to ratify or accept the amendment as soon as possible.

The obligation for states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions to clear contaminated areas and to destroy stockpiles are concrete and efficient contributions to protect civilians after conflict. We are deeply troubled at the effects the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas have had for the civilian population in many conflicts. We therefore support the development of a political declaration aiming to enhance the protection of civilians in urban warfare.

 

We need to increase the UN’s capacity to prevent and solve conflicts. We will continue to strengthen the UN´s mediation efforts and support the UN’s broader political and peacebuilding efforts. UN Peacekeeping and political missions must have protection of civilians firmly embedded in their mandates, and operationalised on the ground as a mission-wide responsibility, ranging from preventive measures to institutional reform and direct physical protection. This year, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1325, we renew our commitment to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates protection risks for people in conflict zones. Both the Secretary General’s report and ICRC, underline how respect for IHL is key to ensure essential services and the legal protection necessary to tackle this crisis. The attacks on healthcare must end. We call for the implementation of UNSCR 2286. We support the efforts of ICRC and WHO in particular to identify best practices to protect health care and to document attacks.

 

It is paramount that humanitarian organisations get safe, timely and unhindered access to populations in need everywhere. We need to ensure that sanctions or other restrictive measures, including national Covid-19-related restrictions, do not hinder the delivery of life-saving assistance. We urge the Security Council to renew UNSCR 2504 to ensure that people in need have access to humanitarian assistance and protection throughout the whole of Syria.

Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in conflict is widespread and devastating. We support the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary General, and call for the implementation of UNSCR 2467 focusing on justice, accountability and a survivor-centred approach in the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence. At the SGBV Conference in Oslo last year, both increased funding and action was pledged. We urge all states and organisations to follow through on their commitments.

Armed conflicts have disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities. We therefore emphasize the particular needs of persons with disabilities in humanitarian response. Member States should take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination and marginalization of persons based on disability in situations of armed conflict.

Children are particularly vulnerable in conflicts, and we support the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. The Secretary General’s report point to the Safe Schools Declaration as a concrete protection tool and calls on all states to endorse and implement it. As we mark the five year anniversary of the Declaration, we are encouraged that 104 states have endorsed it, the most recent being the current President of the Security Council, Estonia and Antigua and Barbuda. We are very pleased to see that endorsing states, international organizations and civil society led by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA,) demonstrate commitment to its implementation. We thank the Secretary General for highlighting the fate of the missing and their families, and the need for increased efforts on restoration of family links. We welcome the resolution from international Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference on restoring family links and data protection.

Armed conflicts also have significant negative consequences for the environment and for the livelihoods of conflict-affected civilian populations. The Nordic countries welcome the increased attention to the environmental impacts of armed conflicts as well as the initiatives to strengthen the legal protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts.

Dialogue with parties to conflict is key to enhance the protection of civilians. The work done by states that have an influence is important; leading by example is crucial. We would also like to highlight the work done in conflicts by ICRC, Geneva Call and others to engage armed forces and non-state armed groups, to change their practices, to understand their obligations and to act accordingly.

To conclude, we would like to give recognition to the practioners, humanitarian organisations and civil society that have taken the lead in some of the most successful practical initiatives and measures taken to increase compliance and protection of civilians in armed conflict.