Photo: UNPhoto/Eskinder Debebe.Photo: UNPhoto/Eskinder Debebe

SC: Open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict

2/13/2013 // Joint statement by Argentina, Austria, Indonesia and Norway on protection of civilians in armed conflict. Held by Deputy Permanent Representative Ms. Tine Mørch Smith in the Security Council on February 12.

Mr. President,

I have the honor to make this statement on behalf of Argentina, Austria, Indonesia and my own country, Norway.

  • The tremendous human suffering inflicted on civilians in armed conflicts across the globe is unacceptable. Much more can – and must - be done to protect the civilian population.
  • It is broadly agreed that international humanitarian law affords civilians significant protection from the effects of military operations provided that they are faithfully implemented. This said, the complexities of today’s armed conflicts raise a number of new challenges.
  • For this reason, we believe it is necessary to engage all relevant actors – including the military, humanitarian organizations and civil society - in a discussion on how implementation of IHL can and should be strengthened in practice.
  • This is why our countries together have joined in an initiative that called “Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law”.
  • The aim is not to negotiate new legislation, but to agree on practical measures that will effectively improve the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. We believe that full compliance with international humanitarian law is essential. And it is possible.
  • In order to identify practical measures and recommendations to effectively address the humanitarian challenges at hand, we believe it is necessary to build our discussions on experience from the field in the different regions.
  • To this end, seminars have taken place in Jakarta, Buenos Aires and Kampala. Vienna will be the venue for the fourth regional seminar on February 21 and 22.
  • Contributions from individuals and organisations with first-hand experience from dealing with protection of civilians in armed conflicts have been an essential aspect of the seminars. Participants from the military, as well as the UN, the ICRC and other humanitarian organisations working in the field have provided highly useful input.

Mr. President,

  • The discussions in the regional seminars conducted so far have identified a number of possible recommendations. A few of these are mentioned below:
  • In order to fully implement IHL, including its rules of distinction and proportionality, there is a need to focus on how, in practical terms, military operations may be conducted with lesser risk for the civilian populations concerned. Furthermore, it is essential that practical and scenario-based training in IHL is promoted at all levels within the military.
  • Second, there is a need for increased engagement and dialogue with non-state armed groups to increase the respect of IHL among such actors. IHL is binding to all parties to armed conflict, whether they are state actors or non-state armed groups. Ensuring respect for IHL among all actors remains a key measure to improve the protection of civilians.
  • Third, in complex conflict situations, States should strive to apply all applicable law, including IHL and human rights law, in a manner that affords the best possible protection for the civilians.
  • Fourth, it is essential to ensure proper documentation of the conduct of military operations, and to strive for increased transparency, both during and after an armed conflict. It is necessary in order to prevent further violations, to protect civilians and to promote accountability in post conflict situations.

Mr. President,

  • Our initiative will culminate in a global conference in Oslo on May 23 and 24 this year. All States, as well as the UN, ICRC and civil society, will be invited to this conference. Our aim is to agree on strong and concrete recommendations on how IHL should be understood and implemented in order to address the pressing humanitarian concerns at hand. We hope you will join us in this urgent task which requires our continued and concerted efforts.

Thank you.


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