Norway welcomes the Report of the Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in armed Conflict, and especially the recommendations on improving humanitarian access, upholding humanitarian law, the safety of humanitarian workers and holding violators of international humanitarian law accountable.
A key issue ahead will be how to translate the recommendations of this report into decisions by the Council and ultimately into results on the ground.
Norway also looks forward to the independent study on protection mandates of peacekeeping operations, to be presented shortly by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. We expect that this study will provide concrete guidelines on protection, which can quickly be effectuated in the field. Here Member States – and not only troop contributing countries – should pull together to provide the necessary and systematic training that is needed, based on the forthcoming guidelines on protection.
Norway would like to take this opportunity to focus on two main issues, namely the need for increased respect for International Humanitarian Law, and the need to effectively combat sexual violence and rape in armed conflict.
The many violations of humanitarian law that we have seen the last few years, in particular with regard to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, is a cause for grave concern. The targeting of civilians have serious humanitarian consequences and represents a threat to peace and security. There is an urgent need to strengthen the respect for international humanitarian law in order to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
A key concern is to secure the access of humanitarian to those in need of assistance. We also need to ensure that those who violate International Humanitarian Law are held accountable. There is a need to strengthen the obligations of States and non-state actors with regard to International Humanitarian Law. Promoting respect for International Humanitarian Law requires engaging non-state actors. We welcome the proposal by the Secretary-General to hold an Aria formula meeting to discuss the experiences of United Nations and non-governmental actors in engaging armed groups.
Women and children are often forced to bear the heaviest burden when it comes to the consequences of armed conflict. Sexual violence and rape occurs every single day in armed conflicts and has tragic consequences, not only for the individual but for the whole community. Sexual violence leaves lasting scars for many generations to come making peace-building extremely difficult. It is crucial that these acts are not viewed as separate individual crimes. In many cases they are calculated tactics of war and should be treated as such. Crimes of rape and sexual violence in armed conflict must be placed higher on the international agenda. The systematic use of rape has rightly been recognized as a crime of war both by this Council and the International Criminal Court.
An important step towards preventing sexual violence in conflict was taken in June last year when the Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 on “Women, peace and security, sexual violence in situations of armed conflict”. The Security Council recognised sexual violence as a security problem – a problem that requires a systematic security response. We are satisfied that the adoption of Resolution 1820 has ended the debate on whether or not sexual violence belongs on the Security Council agenda. We look forward to the Secretary General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1820. We expect the recommendations to be forceful and comprehensive, resulting in a strong response from the Council.
Norway would also like to see the Security Council make use of the most effective measures at its disposal, including targeted sanctions, to make it clear that sexual violence is unacceptable, and that perpetrators will be held accountable. It is unacceptable that impunity for these extremely severe crimes seems to be the rule, not the exception. 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. As Member States it is also our obligation to ensure that violators are brought to justice. It is also our duty to ensure that the whole UN family – funds and programs, and peacekeeping missions – strengthen its focus and allocate resources in order to protect women and girls.
Protection of civilians is a comprehensive issue which requires comprehensive analysis and concerted international response. This implies improving the respect for international humanitarian law. It also implies providing UN peacekeeping operations with strong mandates, as well as the resources required to fulfil their mandates. Combating impunity and holding perpetrators accountable is key to protecting civilians in armed conflict and ending sexual violence.