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SC: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Statement delivered by Permanent Representative Ambassador Mona Juul in the Security Council meeting on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Preserving Humanitarian Space, 16 July 2021.

Thank you for organising this important meeting and thank you to the briefers. International Humanitarian Law is clear: humanitarian aid workers and facilities should never be targets. Yet, we see widespread and increasing violence directed against humanitarian workers - their activities, and their spaces. This is unacceptable.

Protecting civilians must be a priority for all parties to conflict - including the effective protection of humanitarian personnel and assets. Upholding the humanitarian principles are key, as humanitarian organisations negotiate and secure humanitarian access.

Access must not be unlawfully denied or withheld. As we know, denial of humanitarian access affects the most vulnerable caught in armed conflict, in particular children.

It is critical that humanitarian organisations can carry out their life-saving mandate safely, and without interference or politization. We have all seen the deadly consequences when this is not the case.

President,

This Council has just unanimously passed a resolution securing humanitarian access to some of the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict in Syria. Cross-border humanitarian assistance remains a life - line for millions of people.However, access is negotiated by humanitarian actors on a daily basis as they engage with local communities and authorities. Such frontline negotiations are complex, and done best by the humanitarian organisations themselves. While community acceptance is crucial, it alone is not sufficient to ensure the safety of aid workers. Humanitarians must be able to engage directly with parties to conflicts, including non-state armed groups.

Therefore, regular and consistent high-level access-diplomacy by donors and senior humanitarian representatives is required- and must be coordinated with organizations on the ground.

President,

Continuing attacks on healthcare and humanitarian personnel is a worrying trend we must address.One step is through effective data gathering, monitoring, and dissemination.

This is why we support the WHO’s monitoring system for attacks on health care as a way to better understand the context, and dynamics, of attacks. Norway also supports a focus on increased protection for NGOs, including through the International NGO Safety Organisation’s “Conflict & Humanitarian Data Centre project”, which enables vital, and yet unprecedented data sharing between NGOs.We must use such data to craft better responses, and we must cooperate and share best practices. To this end, we are also taking measures domestically.

Under the Norwegian Penal Code, all targeting of medical and health care personnel facilities, materiel, units, or vehicles constitute war crimes. And we encourage all actors to explore domestic and global measures that will strengthen compliance with IHL, and the protection of civilians including humanitarian workers.

President,

When humanitarian workers are attacked, less people are protected and assisted.  Accountability is necessary to reverse this trend. Allegations of violations of IHL must be thoroughly, impartially, and effectively investigated. And accountability for violations must be ensured through credible national or international criminal justice mechanisms.

In this regard, we emphasise that the mission, and mandate, of the ICC is as crucial today as ever.

President,

Turning now to counter terrorism measures and sanctions- which are vital tools to address threats to international peace and security. Sanctions directed at those who violate IHL can serve as a deterrence, and help safeguard the humanitarian space. However, concerns raised by humanitarians about unintended negative impact of CT-measures and sanctions must be taken into consideration. Legal frameworks should include necessary safeguards and exemptions, to ensure that sanctions and CT measures do not impede the ability of humanitarian organisations to operate in line with their humanitarian mandate and IHL.

In this regard, Norway welcomes the recently adopted resolution 2582, on the sanctions regime regarding the DRC. We hope the strengthened text translates into much needed protection of humanitarian workers in the field.

President,

Tangible improvements on the ground require continuous action and commitment. We encourage all to increase their financial and political support to principled humanitarian action and to safeguarding the humanitarian space.

Thank you.