The challenges posed by today’s conflicts have become increasingly complex. They include the targeting of and restricted access for humanitarian personnel – leaving thousands in the most dire circumstances with no assistance and no international monitoring; the prevalence of sexual violence and abhorrent human rights abuses against women and children; the recruitment of children; as well as the lack of efficient separation of civilians and combatants in refugee camps and of safe and efficient disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation of combatants.
The fact that the challenges are so comprehensive, however, must not stop us from acting. On the contrary, we must make sure that our response is equally comprehensive, by mainstreaming the many issues covered by the “protection-of-civilians umbrella” into all efforts made by the Security Council to alleviate this situation, and ensure effective implementation on the ground.
UN peacekeeping operations must be given strong mandates and enough resources to protect civilians. The Security Council must systematically take account of the current resolutions on protection of civilians in armed conflict when reviewing existing mandates and adopting new resolutions. This applies especially to Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and conflict, and to resolution 1539 on children and armed conflict. Furthermore, we are eager to see the adoption buy the Security Council of a new resolution on children and armed conflict. A Security Council resolution establishing a robust mechanism for monitoring and reporting on serious international crimes against children in armed conflicts, as well as provisions for effective implementation of already existing Security Council resolutions on the protection of children, is strongly needed.
While mandates are essential, the ability to carry them out is equally important. Although much progress has been made in recent years, our experience of the deployment of the United Nations Mission in Sudan indicates that we still have a long way to go in ensuring the effectiveness of integrated missions.
The current reform process is an opportunity to create a more effective United Nations. We must seize this opportunity.
An integrated approach to the protection of civilians in armed conflict must be implemented in close conjunction with the mainstreaming of human rights protection into the whole UN system. The protection and promotion of human rights is one of the three core functions of the UN. Norway fully supports the efforts to increase the focus on human rights throughout the UN system, and we support the idea of upgrading the Commission of Human Rights to a standing Human Rights Council. This will reflect at the institutional level the central position of human rights in the UN system, alongside security and development. The Human Rights Council should have a strong mandate to address urgent human rights situations and the necessary resources so that it can respond to imminent human right violations.
The importance of placing human rights at the core of policies for addressing conflicts was most recently underlined in the plan of action adopted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Norway supports the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her efforts to strengthen the operational response capacity of the OHCHR in conflict-prone zones.
We welcome the Secretary-General’s proposals for a more consistent approach to peacebuilding and to establishing an interlocking system of peacekeeping capacities between the UN and regional organisations. The setting up of a new Peacebuilding Commission could prove crucial in extending the period of political attention at the international level to post-conflict recovery. Time and again we are reminded of the risk of post-conflict situations relapsing into conflict situations. This means it is vital to establish systems that will facilitate long-term commitment and continuous vigilance by the international community – even after peace agreements have been concluded.
Adopting and applying the regulatory framework for protection of civilians is primarily the responsibility of states. The international community cannot, however, stand back and leave it to the state in question to close the accountability gap when gross atrocities are perpetrated. Norway endorses the Secretary-General’s appeal to embrace the principle of “responsibility to protect” as a norm for collective action in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In situations of mass atrocity, and when all other means are exhausted, the Security Council has the responsibility to act: without hesitation, with authority, and in an effective way. We agree with the recommendation that the Security Council should adopt a resolution setting out principles for the use of force that are built on international law – and expressing its intention to be guided by them.