SC: Joint Nordic Statement on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

The statement was delivered by the Permanent Representative of Denmark, ambassador Christina Markus Lassen on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Thank you,  

On behalf of the Nordic countries, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden – and my own country Denmark, I thank Mozambique for the opportunity to address the Council at this Open Debate during POC-week and I thank the briefers for their interesting perspectives.

Chair, we are seeing an alarming disrespect for the rules of international law, including international humanitarian law. In a number of situations, including in Sudan, the DRC and Sahel we are witnessing a pattern of grave civilian harm. In Gaza, the conflict between Hamas and Israel, following the 7th October terrorist attack, has resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian situation with severe effects on civilians, particularly children, as well as the imminent risk of famine. In Ukraine, continued Russian attacks against civilians and civilian critical infrastructure, including through the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, are causing immense human suffering. In many conflict situations, humanitarian and medical workers continue to be threatened and targeted.

We echo the calls in the Secretary General’s report on the Protection of Civilians for an urgent recommitment to IHL and the UN Charter and to deliver actual protection of civilians on the ground. Let me highlight three important elements in this regard:

First, a comprehensive implementation of IHL is needed. The adaption of military manuals; civil harm mitigation policies; weapons reviews and measures that facilitates and allows safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access during conflict are all important ways to further compliance with IHL.

The strong focus on compliance by duty-bearers should be complemented by a focus on the harm experienced by people in war zones, and efforts to strengthen the self-protection strategies and agency of conflict-affected people. Effective protection of civilians and civilian objects must be made a strategic priority in the planning and conduct of military operations.

The very foundations for development, peace and prosperity are being destroyed in today’s conflicts. Livelihoods, the natural environment and the essentials for human survival are thoughtlessly shattered or maliciously targeted. We cannot ignore how warfare impacts the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, health or education. We therefore welcome this year’s PoC report’s focus on the entirety of international law, including human rights.

Second, the harm inflicted upon civilians when hospitals are bombed or electricity infrastructure destroyed should not be written off as mere unintended consequences of war. We therefore welcome initiatives that give a more nuanced understanding of how patterns and types of harm affect different groups. And we support concrete suggestions and initiatives on how to minimize such harm in an effective way.

The recent EWIPA-declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, as well as the Safe Schools-declaration are examples of such initiatives. We encourage Member States to endorse and implement these instruments.

Third, a reenergized effort to apply IHL anywhere and everywhere is needed. Today is an important opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen our commitment to the basic principles of IHL, and to reaffirm their relevance and applicability. Humanitarian law and human rights law apply for everyone, everywhere - whether in the streets of Sudan or Gaza, the suburbs of Kyiv or in cyber-space.

Chair, this year marks 25 years since the Security Council first recognized the protection of civilians as a matter of international peace and security, and the 75th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Let us use this occasion to mobilise for the full and effective protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Thank you.