Norway welcomes this debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict and would like to thank Under-Secretary General John Holmes for his important briefing to the Council.
Resolution 1674 was a watershed in the Council’s work on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Commitment and cooperation by member states and the UN is key in ensuring full implementation of this resolution. The Council must systematically address the issue of protection in the mandates of UN peacekeeping operations. The issue of protection of civilians must be mainstreamed into the work of the United Nations, including in the reporting to the Council.
A major challenge regards protection of civilians is combating sexual and gender based violence. Norway is deeply concerned about the continued use of sexual violence as a weapon of warfare. In DRC, and especially in the Eastern part, sexual and gender based violence seems to have taken on epidemic proportions. It is unacceptable that impunity for these extremely severe crimes seems to be the rule, not the exception. Further, Norway supports the referral of such crimes to the International Criminal Court and to consider sanctions against member states as well as non-states actors that perpetrate these acts of crime.
Norway urges the UN, member states and NGOs to join forces in the DRC, by e.g. expanding the health services for survivors, focusing on transitional justice systems to build capacity to prosecute perpetrators and finding means to prevent sexual violence from being perpetrated, by ensuring that peacekeeping operations make life safe for women and girls. We support the recommendations by the Secretary-General of establishing ad hoc judicial arrangements to address sexual violence in DRC and in other situations where impunity prevails.
The response from the Security Council to sexual and gender based violence in situations of armed conflict must be intensified, including full implementation of resolution 1325. It is totally unacceptable that UN officials should be an inactive witness to such atrocities, or even worse, be part of such acts.
The humanitarian problem caused by the use of cluster munitions has been well documented. In each and every conflict where such weapons have been used, they have caused large numbers of civilian casualties and injuries, both during their use and for many years after conflict has ended. The use of cluster munitions leaves behind large numbers of unexploded ordnance which are highly unstable, and which continue to claim the life and limbs of civilians for years and decades after the conflict has ended.
We therefore look forward to a successful outcome of the ongoing negotiations in Dublin on a comprehensive treaty that establishes a complete ban on cluster munitions causing unacceptable harm to civilians. Such a preventive measure certainly will save lives and limbs.
Safe, timely and unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance is a crucial aspect of the protection of civilians. The Council has an important role to play in addressing this issue systematically. In this regard Norway welcomes OCHA’s initiative of developing a monitoring and reporting mechanism to facilitate more in-depth analysis of the causes and consequences of access constraints.
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