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Broaden focus to causes of conflict, Secretary-General urges Security Council, in debate on civi...

Jul 9, 2010 12:20:27 AM- transcurrents.com

Security Council, 6354th Meeting (AM & PM), July 7, 2010:

In Joint Briefing, Humanitarian Chief, High Commissioner For Human Rights Stress Importance of Accountability, Need to End Impunity

Opening a day-long debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that it must broaden its focus to both causative and normative factors in order to address a "huge common challenge", as non-combatants remained targeted around the world.

"While the conduct of hostilities and their immediate consequences must remain a major focus, that alone would mean treating symptoms rather than causes," he said, calling for greater attention to such root causes as lack of good governance, competition for resources and other factors such as ethnicity and an absence of effective security and the rule of law.

He stressed that ensuring accountability for crimes against civilians and negotiating the delicate problem of dialogue with non-State actors were major concerns, as were climate change, desertification and land disputes. "Addressing all those challenges was the best way of bringing about real protection for civilians," he said.

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, then briefed Council members on the current state of civilian vulnerability to armed conflict.

Delivering his last statement to the Council as Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Holmes noted that during his tenure, strides had been made in institutionalizing the protection of civilians. "Nevertheless, I fear all too little has changed for the better on the ground in recent years," he said, pointing out that civilians accounted for most casualties in armed conflict, and that in 2009 alone, there had been thousands of civilian deaths resulting from conflicts in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and elsewhere.

Noting that 2010 did not look much better, he said displacement through conflict was getting worse, adding that in 2009, 6.8 million people had been internally displaced, more than at any point since the mid-1990s. An alarming total of 27.1 million people — the highest ever — had been internally displaced globally at the end of that year last year.

Outlining developments in conflict situations ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia to Gaza, he called for action to ensure humanitarian access to civilians, dialogue with armed groups to prevent the recruitment of children, and continuing action to control explosive devices, among other areas of serious concern.

Ms. Pillay said that, in order to make a real difference on the ground, human rights and humanitarian actors must work together to give effect to the United Nations policy framework. Monitoring human rights conditions could help "sound an alarm bell" when situations were at risk of degenerating into violence. In that context, information gathering by the Office of the High Commissioner and United Nations human rights mechanisms could be helpful to the Council, she added.

Surveying conflict situations of particular concern, she cited the targeted killing of civilians, the looting and destruction of property, displacement and sexual violence in Kyrgyzstan.

Following those presentations, speakers acknowledged the progress made in developing the legal and institutional framework for the protection of civilians, but urged that more be done to improve the situation on the ground. Most speakers also thanked Mr. Holmes for his work of the past three-and-a-half years. Among the key elements necessary for better protection of civilians were clear mandates for peacekeeping operations, and the resources to carry them out. Several speakers underlined the need to ensure civilian protection in drawing down peacekeeping missions in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Some speakers also called for prioritizing cooperation among all actors concerned. In that regard, the Acting Head of the European Union's delegation highlighted the importance of synergies between protection efforts and transitional justice, gender policy and development. Another essential element was fighting impunity, and many speakers welcomed the central role of the International Criminal Court in that regard.

Speakers also welcomed efforts for dialogue involving humanitarian actors with non-State combatants, to ensure compliance with humanitarian law. Colombia's representative said such contacts should be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking fully into account the decisions of democratically-established authorities.

Switzerland's representative called for investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, whatever the context and whoever the alleged perpetrator, affirming the possibility of calling upon the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, created by the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, in that context.

Afghanistan's representative said that more than 6,000 Afghans had been killed or injured as a result of conflict in 2009, and even more this year. He blamed the Taliban and other terrorists for most of the violence, but noted that his Government and its international allies bore "enormous responsibility" to safeguard the security of non-combatants. He welcomed steps to better prevent collateral damage, stressing that every civilian casualty undermined the people's belief in the goodwill of the international community while emboldening the enemy.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Austria, United Kingdom, United States, Lebanon, Russian Federation, Mexico, Gabon, Uganda, Japan, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Brazil, China, Nigeria, Uruguay, Germany, Italy, Canada, South Africa, Liechtenstein, Argentina, India, Israel, Australia, Bangladesh, Peru, Pakistan, Norway, Venezuela, Syria, United Republic of Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka and Armenia.

Lebanon's representative took the floor a second time to respond to a statement by the delegate of Israel.

The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and suspended at 1:10 p.m. before resuming at 3:10 p.m. and ending at 6:10 p.m.

Full Report in PDF [Source: United Nations Security Council]