Statement by Ambassador Wittig in the Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians
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Germany fully aligns herself with the statement made by the European Union.
Let me thank Under Secretary-General Valerie Amos for her statement on behalf of OCHA today. Let me also extend a warm welcome to Mrs. Pillay, Mr. Le Roy and to Director-General Yves Daccord. The voices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping and the International Committee of the Red Cross are particularly relevant in this debate.
Civilians continue to bear the brunt of violence and abuse in armed conflicts. Women and children are particularly vulnerabel and often directly targeted. The mass rapes in Walikale in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in July of this year - only days after the last open debate on Protection of Civilians in the Security Council - serve as a dire reminder that we must do more to ensure the safety and physical integrity of civilian populations and to enhance full respect by all parties to conflict for applicable international law.
Over the last years, the Security Council has developed a comprehensive normative framework on protection issues. The Security Council has repeatedly made it clear, that the protection of civilians must be a priority for peace keeping missions. There is, however, an ‘implementation gap’ which the Security Council and UN Missions must address, in order to make a tangible difference for the civilian population in zones of conflict.
Protecting civilians from the direct threat of physical violence in zones of conflict is not an easy task. Ressource constraints, difficult terrain, a sometimes tenuous consent of the host country, but also a lack of conceptual clarity and insufficient training and preparedness are challenges to the effective protection of civilians by UN missions.
The UN peacekeeping reform process has acknowledged many of the shortcomings and has taken first steps to address them. In this regard,
we welcome the progress made so far in developing an operational concept for the Protection of Civilians in UN peacekeeping operations, as requested by Security Council resolution 1894 of last November. Military as well as civilian components of the UN Missions in the field must have clear guidelines on their respective role in the protection of civilians from physical violence, and must work together in achieving this. It is also imperative, that UN Missions interact more with the vulnerable communities, which they are tasked to protect, in order to better understand their specific protection needs.
We welcome the most recent report of the Secretary-General on Protection of Civilians and the conclusions and proposed practical steps contained therein.
We agree with the need to develop quality-‘benchmarks’ for the implementation of protection mandates by peacekeeping missions and the need to assess and implement ‘best practices’.
We welcome the development of training modules on protection issues for all peacekeeping personnel and in particular DPKOs cooperation with UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict to develop relevant training materials. Germany is pleased to be associated with DPKO’s important work on developing a specific “UN Police Standardized Training Curriculum on Investigating and Preventing Sexual and Gender-based Violence”.
We also recognize the important role the informal Expert Group of the Security Council on Protection of Civilians can play in incorporating protection issues in the work of the Security Council, especially prior to the renewal of peacekeeping mandates. In this regard we particularly welcome the updated Aide-Mémoire to be endorsed today. Germany looks forward to participating actively in the work of the informal Expert Group during her tenure on the Security Council.
The Security Council has also done important work to enhance the protection agenda on specific thematic issues like children and women in armed conflict.
Let me in this context briefly highlight the ‘Action Plans’ pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1612, in which the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict is engaging non-State parties to conflict. In our view this is yet another practical way to enhance compliance by these groups with applicable international law. Here, as in other UN activities in conflict zones, UN access to non-State parties to conflict is key and we would encourage Member States to grant such access.
To conclude, let me briefly touch upon the need to fight impunity.
The Security Council this summer adopted a Presidential Statement on children and armed conflict, which called for an increased exchange of information on persistent perpetrators between the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed conflict and relevant sanction committees of the Security Council. We believe that such a regular exchange of information could be a step towards ensuring compliance with and accountability for violations of applicable international law.