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Protection of Civilians in Conflict Areas in Africa

Norwegian statement at the AUPSC open session, 22. May 2018

Madame Chair,

Allow me first of all to thank you for addressing this crucial issue, representing a country that knows all too well the devastating effects of conflicts targeting civilians and not respecting international humanitarian law.

I will also at the outset state firmly Norway’s strong support for the six recommendations identified in this meetings concept note, which I will not repeat now. I hope the council agrees and that it can endorse those recommendations at the end of this session.

I also acknowledge everyone’s presence through “all protocols observed”.

Excellencies,

It is a sad but obvious fact that recent developments in armed conflicts have seen state and nonā€state armed groups defying international law by directly targeting civilians and civilian objects. This has led to indescribable acts of violence and brutality, and caused human suffering and carnage on an unprecedented scale.

This is unacceptable. We, the international community, must ensure respect for international law, especially humanitarian law. We must hold those that violate those laws accountable, including through referring cases were states are unwilling or unable to do so to the ICC. We must demand that parties to conflicts allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief. States must fulfill their responsibility to protect children from armed conflicts, including protecting the right to education. We urge all states to join the Safe Schools Declaration, now signed by 74 states, 18 of them African, and endorsed by the AU. Finally, we must recognize the importance of gender equality and women’s participation for peaceful societies, and stop the spread of gender-based violence in conflicts.

Madame Chair,

Norway works actively to promote compliance with the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law that civilians are to be protected from attacks and acts of violence.

Here, we are fully in line with AU policies and principles. Through our Training for Peace Programme, particularly through the work of ACCORD, we have joined forces with the AU to support the development of PoC guidelines, the PoC Aide Memoire, and PoC training standards. Now, we are ready to continue supporting the process of ensuring that these guidelines are operational in Peace Support Operations, that the Aide Memoire is utilised, and that the training standards are available for use – and are being used – in the training centres. I expect this meeting to contribute to accelerate progress towards those targets.

Through the TfP and other engagements, Norway stands ready to cooperate further with the AU to ensure the protection of all civilians – men, women and children – from the menace of armed conflicts both on this continent and beyond. As a member of the “Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts”, we acknowledge the important role African states and the AU can and should have in promoting this issue.

Madame Chair,

As Norway prepares to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2021-22, promoting this issue in collaboration with the AU and African members of the UNSC will be high among our priorities.

Thank you for your attention.