From left, ICRC president Kellenberger, French Foreign Minister Kouchner and Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre. 
Photo: Norway Mission.From left, ICRC president Kellenberger, French Foreign Minister Kouchner and Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre. Photo: Norway Mission

Reclaiming protection of civilians

9/25/2009 // On Thursday 24 September, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre chaired this year's Trygve Lie Symposium in New York. The aim of this year's symposium was to agree on a way forward to increase respect for international humanitarian law and its rules on protection of civilians.

- Up to 90 per cent of casualties in modern warfare are civilian. They are killed, maimed, raped and abused. We need a broad discussion on how international humanitarian law should be interpreted and applied in the context of modern armed conflicts, so that we ensure the protection for civilians. Those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable, said Foreign Minister Støre.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner took part in the Symposium.

- In too many conflicts, we see the targeting of civilians, not combatants. We need discussions that show the reality of war on the ground, said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
 
Other participants included the Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.
 
The increasing number of attacks against civilians formed the backdrop for the symposium. The discussion showed a broad agreement on the need to reach an agreement on how international humanitarian law should be interpreted in modern conflicts. This in order to ensure the adequate protection of civilians, and to discuss how those responsible for humanitarian law violations can be more effectively held accountable.
 
Participants also agreed to an active follow up, for example through field studies, both on how international humanitarian law is applied on the ground, and on the humanitarian and developmental consequences caused by such conduct. They also agreed to hold a series of regional meetings to discuss how international humanitarian law should be implemented.

This process is intended to provide input to the work on this issue in the Security Council.

 


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