SC: Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Statement on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway by Ambassador Mari Skåre in the Open Debate on Protection of civilians in armed conflict, 23 May 2019.

| Security Council

Mr. President,

I take the floor on behalf of the Nordic countries, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

20 years after the first Security Council Debate on Protection of Civilians, civilians are still in the line of fire in armed conflicts across the world, not least due to the rise in urban conflict, the proliferation of non-state armed groups and asymmetric warfare.

I thank you, President, for convening this open debate on an issue that regrettably must continue to be of great concern to the Council.

Let me state the obvious. The civilian population is not a legitimate target. Attacks directed against civilian objects such as schools and hospitals must end and schools and hospitals must not be used for military purposes.

We are exasperated at the inadequate respect for international humanitarian law, international human rights law and humanitarian principles shown by many parties to conflicts around the world. And yet, we can and must take heed of the multiple ways in which we have progressed over the last 20 years.

The resolution 2286 of this Council and the following recommendations by the Secretary General are examples of concrete progress on how to enhance protection of civilians. We welcome the report by the Secretary General to this Council with further practical measures.

Sexual and gender based violence in conflict has received due attention as the heinous crime that it is – in the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, in landmark convictions by the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda as well as in multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, recently through the new resolution 2467. The Special Representative of the Secretary General monitors, reports and raises awareness of sexual violence in conflict.

Protection of civilians has become firmly embedded in mandates and activities of UN peacekeeping operations.

Despite this, it is an underreported crime, there is lack of support to victims and perpetrators go unpunished.

Norway, Iraq, Somalia, UAE, ICRC and OCHA are hosting a conference today and tomorrow precisely to improve coordination and mobilize greater resources in the humanitarian response to sexual and gender-based violence. In these efforts, we must listen to those affected. Persons with disabilities are particularly at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Women’s participation and rights must be a priority.

The developments mentioned are no small feats. Still, they are not sufficient. We can and must do better.

First and most obviously, we must increase the UN’s capacity to prevent and solve conflicts. We must continue to strengthen the UN´s mediation efforts and support UN’s broader political and peacebuilding efforts as well as the situational awareness of peacekeeping operations. In this regard, we welcome the DPO´s revised peacekeeping intelligence policy.

Second, we need to enhance respect for international humanitarian law, international human rights law and humanitarian principles. For example, those responsible for violations and abuses of international law against the rohingya in Myanmar must be held accountable.

We must support national efforts and capacity to pursue justice and reparations in the wake of armed conflict. Innovative initiatives such as the Safe Schools Declaration plays an important role in strengthening the protection of civilians and civilian objects. The Safe Schools Declaration has now been signed by 89 countries, and we appreciate Spain hosting the third safe schools conference next week.

Third, the Security Council needs to maintain the issue of medical care on its agenda and strongly underline the seriousness of attacks on medical care and denial of access, as suggested by the recommendations from the Arria-meeting on Protecting Medical Care in armed conflict held in December last year. 

The Council should, to a greater degree, consider issues relating to the protection of medical care in country resolutions and mission mandates.

We must constantly stand up and say that medical care as well as civilians is not a target.

Once more, I would like to pay tribute to the leadership of Indonesia in organizing this debate, which serves to strengthen the Council’s resolve in safeguarding civilians in armed conflict.

Thank you!