SC: Joint statement on the Protection of Civilians

The statement was delivered by Permanent Representative Ambassador Merete Fjeld Brattested on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians. [1]

Mr President,

I am honoured to take the floor on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, a cross regional network of 27 Member States.

We thank Mozambique for organizing this important debate, and also the distinguished briefers for their presentations.

This meeting commemorates the 25th anniversary of resolution 1265, which introduced Protection of Civilians on the Council’s agenda, and the 75th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. As we mark these significant milestones, we are keenly aware that the outlook is dire.

Across continents we witness armed conflicts with killings and maiming of civilians, on an alarming scale. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is causing civilian harm in multiple ongoing armed conflicts. Schools, hospitals, homes and places of worship and cultural heritage are reduced to rubble.

The numbers of missing and forcibly displaced people are increasing to record levels. Women and girls especially, but also men and boys, are exposed to conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence. Children are being abducted, recruited and used by armed forces and armed groups.

The conduct of hostilities and the denial of humanitarian access are contributing to unprecedented levels of hunger and acute food insecurity. Climate change and natural disasters further aggravate the plight of civilians in armed conflict.

The Group of Friends has three messages today:

First; More than ever, we as a global community must defend, protect and galvanize support for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). IHL is the fundamental legal framework for protecting civilians from the horrors of warfare during armed conflict.

All parties to armed conflicts must fully comply with their obligations under IHL, in all circumstances. Perpetrators of violations of IHL must be held accountable. Member States must put an end to impunity.

Second; More must be done to implement IHL, protect civilians against dangers arising from military operations and prevent civilian harm during armed conflict. Effective protection of civilians and civilian objects must be made a strategic priority in the planning and conduct of military operations. Towards this end practical tools that ensure that protection is real and effective, are very valuable.

On this point we welcome the recent EWIPA-declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Area, as well as the Safe Schools-declaration. We encourage Member States to consider to endorse these instruments.  

Third; The parties to armed conflicts must allow and facilitate for principled humanitarian action. Humanitarian personnel need safe, rapid, unimpeded, effective and sustained access to all persons in need. The Group of Friends is shocked by the many killings of humanitarian personnel and medical workers. They are protected and must not be a target.


The most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent and put an end to armed conflicts. Clearly, this task falls primarily to the parties to conflicts.

But this Council has also a responsibility to maintain international peace and security. It cannot stand idle when facing outbreak of conflict and use of force in violation of the UN Charter, and remain a credible custodian of world peace and order. A comprehensive approach to sustaining peace is important. And the Council cannot omit to act as mass atrocities unfold or parties to conflict commit serious violations of IHL.

The Security Council must use its full toolbox to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. This includes strong protection of civilians components, as appropriate, in mandates for UN peacekeeping operations.

I thank you.

[1] Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uruguay and Switzerland.