UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON INITIATIVES TO IMPROVE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT
NEW YORK, 21 November (UN Headquarters) -- While the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians in armed conflict rested with governments, it was important to reach beyond traditional lines, create synergies among a wide range of actors, and require the commitment and cooperation of Member States, regional organizations, international and domestic non-governmental organizations, the media, the private sector and academia, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima, told the Council this morning.
In a briefing to Council members, he said the situation in Afghanistan highlighted many of the issues addressed by the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. He outlined initiatives under way to implement Secretariat recommendations on the issue, including a "road map" that would reorganize those recommendations into different themes and identify institutions for their implementation. To assist in the preparation of the road map, his Office had organized a series of workshops for interested Member States, the Secretariat, agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), non-governmental organizations and pertinent experts.
He also described an aide-mémoire process which would serve as a checklist to ensure that the issues regarding the protection of civilians were systematically taken into consideration in establishing, changing or closing peacekeeping mandates. A third initiative involved steps to ensure closer coordination between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Following Mr. Oshima’s statement, questions were posed by the representatives of Ukraine, Singapore, Norway, Colombia, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Bangladesh, Mali, Mauritius and Tunisia.
The President of the Council, Mignonette Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), also made a statement.
The meeting, which began at 10:50 a.m., was adjourned at 12:10 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to discuss the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The Council last met on the issue on 23 April 2001, when it was addressed by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette and briefed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. (See Press Release SC/7050 of that date.)
Statement by Under-Secretary-General
KENZO OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that despite the growing attention paid to the fate of civilians caught in armed conflict, the realities faced by millions of civilians around the world was grim. The situation in Afghanistan highlighted many of the issues and challenges addressed in the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Those issues included: humanitarian access to vulnerable populations; special protection needs of women and children; the safety, protection and security of internally displaced persons camps; the use of media information; and engagement of armed groups for access negotiations.
The Secretary-General had made a number of recommendations with respect to those issues and the President of the Council had suggested several initiatives to move those recommendations into action. They included: a "road map" for the recommendations, with the aim of reorganizing the Secretary-General’s recommendations into different themes; identifying responsible institutions for implementation; and defining the necessary steps for cooperation and coordination. His Office was in the process of creating a matrix or an implementation chart to elaborate needed action for the implementation of the recommendations. To assist in the preparation of the road map, his Office had organized a series of three brainstorming workshops, with the participation of interested Member States, the Secretariat, agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relevant experts.
He said participants in the workshops called for greater specificity with regard to State obligations under international humanitarian, refugee and human rights law. It was suggested that Member States could exchange their "best practices", to provide guidance for other States and to reinforce success of initiatives. On the issue of internally displaced persons, participants stressed the importance of making the guiding principles on internally displaced persons operational through training, mainstreaming and assistance programmes. On peacekeeping, the workshops noted that, so far, peacekeeping mandates did not include the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Many cited insufficient political will as one of the reasons.
In another of the Council President’s initiatives, the Secretariat was asked to draft an aide-mémoire to facilitate consideration by the Council of issues pertaining to protection of civilians in the design and planning of peacekeeping mandates. The aide-mémoire process was meant to be a checklist to ensure that the issues of protection of civilians were systematically taken into consideration in establishing, changing or closing peacekeeping mandates. His Office had prepared a list of key issues to bye considered by the Council. He proposed that a half-day expert-level discussion with members of the Council be organized to review the aide-mémoire.
The third initiative involved steps to ensure closer coordination between the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He said the Secretary-General welcomed the opportunity to develop a cross-cutting team composed of representatives from each agency to facilitate consideration of issues related to the protection of civilians in the design, planning and implementation of peacekeeping operations. His Office was developing a strategic paper, which should be brought to the attention of the members of the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for further development and action.
He said that, while the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians rested with governments, it was important to reach beyond traditional lines and create synergies among a wide range of actors. That would require the commitment and cooperation of Member States, regional organizations, international and domestic NGOs, the media, the private sector and academia.
VALERY P. KUCHINKSY (Ukraine) asked for an update on the development of a manual on best practices for the engagement of armed groups in dialogue. There was no satisfactory solution to that problem at present, especially since a lot of armed groups were motivated not by political, but by criminal, objectives. He wanted to know what had been done by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on that issue. He also asked whether there was any information on the process of identifying armed elements from civilians in refugee and internally displaced persons camps.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said when the Council last met on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in April, the Secretary-General had pointed out that only a few of his recommendations on the issue had been implemented. Had that situation changed? While a great deal had been said on protection, had anything been translated into action? Was there, for example, concrete information on trends? "Are we moving to a situation where there is greater protection for civilians in conflict?" he asked.
In the many discussions on the protection of civilians, common points were repeated, he continued. Could something be done to cluster recommendations so that they did not have to be repeated over and over? Addressing the issue of changing the behaviour of non-State actors, he said the absence of policies that worked perhaps warranted more drastic solutions, such as intervention by force. Was that suggestion taboo in terms of the discussion on humanitarian intervention? How many of the points made today, yesterday and in previous meetings were being applied to existing conflicts?
HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway) said Afghanistan presented a number of challenges with regard to the protection of civilians. To what extent was the United Nations dealing with the situation there and ensuring the framework for the protection of civilians? The aide-mémoire should be short, concise and comprehensive to increase its value to the Council. There were also a number of resolutions on both women and children in conflict. Were the provisions of those resolutions being taken into account in the preparation of the aide-mémoire? he asked.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the Council had made a wise decision to pause, make an assessment and increase the efficiency in the way that it addressed the topic of civilians in armed conflict. How could Council members get an invitation to the workshops described by Mr. Oshima? he asked. The workshops were essential for members of the Council. Also, could Mr. Oshima provide a schedule of the work plan involving the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Secretariat? he asked.
GERARD CORR (Ireland) said the workshops were a useful idea and he hoped Council members could participate. He also hoped that the Under-Secretary General could come back to the Council with information on the progress of the matrix. Regarding the aide-mémoire, he said the proposal for a half-day discussion seemed a good one and he supported it. The value of the aide-mémoire should be its simplicity, and he supported having it developed very rapidly after the half-day discussion.
He suggested that there be an informal inquiry to take into account OCHA’s operational procedures and the status of how the working groups were developing. He would also be interested in hearing about progress in access to civilians in armed conflict. What was the possibility of a progress report on the implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the element of mass media with regard to peacekeeping operations? he asked.
Mr. OSHIMA, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said there had been a great deal of progress on how to proceed, from now until November 2002, when his next report would be ready. Concerning the preparation of a manual, he said an inter-agency process was initiated to address that issue. Agencies had agreed to produce a manual for United Nations humanitarian field staff, with guidance for practical steps on when and how and on what basis to engage or disengage with armed groups. The endorsement of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee would be sought. Contacts with armed groups should be based on core humanitarian principles of neutrality and humanity, to allow a sustained humanitarian dialogue. The manual would be shared in an appropriate forum with the members of the Council.
Regarding the quick implementation of the Secretary-General's recommendation and appropriate trend lines, he said that was not an easy task, but he would try to reflect them as much as possible in the report due in November 2002, to see how and where there was progress or regression regarding the relevant issues. As for overlap, he said there were issues raised about small arms, conflict prevention and children in armed conflict. There were a number of Secretary-General’s reports that related to those sub-issues separately. Those processes, however, were complementary to each other and demonstrated a convergence of opinion on critical issues. He recognized the need to pull together and develop common threads.
Regarding invitations to the workshop, he said that in the months ahead he hoped that an interface with members of the Council would take place. He would like to be sure that a work plan was developed and made available to all members of he Council. Regarding progress on the matrix, he said it had been looked at by the Secretariat as a tool of the implementation chart to better address the issues in relation to the protection of civilians. More time was needed to complete that work, but he would like to share the progress with the Council.
As for the separation of combatants from civilians in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, he said it was a problem that was witnessed often and was currently happening in Afghanistan, where there were some indications of militarization of internally displaced persons in Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat. There was intimidation of Pashtuns by the Northern Alliance, which led to elements of militants in the camps, particularly near the Pakistan border. To assist the people in those areas was risky and dangerous. In all cases, the humanitarian agencies tried to address each case on its own merits to see what practical arrangements could be made to facilitate access. Sometimes, they were successful and sometimes not, but they involved difficult negotiations in each case.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said he had participated in one of the workshops mentioned today and said it would be a shame if the outcome of those gatherings were distorted, since they served as a useful melting pot for ideas. He endorsed the points made earlier by Singapore's representative, and said there was need for a robust normative framework to help guide the work of the United Nations system vis-à-vis the protection of children, women and civilians in conflict. It made sense to integrate the various strands of work in those areas into one coherent whole. At the same time, he said he must warn against drowning in bureaucracy. Matters that made practical sense should be pursued.
As Singapore had suggested, if there were another progress report it should give practical examples of initiatives that had made a real difference to the protection of civilians in conflict situations. The proposed road map was a good idea, but to be effective it had to be clear, concise, well set out and not overly complex.
He asked whether there would any provisions in the proposed road map for benchmarking. He said no indication had been given of the role to be played by the Department of Political Affairs and other entities in protection initiatives. He asked where other parts of the United System, besides OCHA and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, would fit in, since the approach had to be holistic.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said it might be useful to think of cooperation with the Department of Political Affairs, particularly in relation to Afghanistan where there was no mandate for peacekeeping and where there were serious problems for civilians. The cooperation between OCHA and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should be restructured. He also understood that Mr. Oshima (Emergency Relief Coordinator) was engaged in dialogue on the aide-mémoire and restructuring. France was interested in being involved in those discussions, as well as participating in future workshops.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) asked whether a report on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan could be expedited due to the urgency of the situation there. In that light he suggested issuing an interim document.
SEKOU KASSÉ (Mali) asked how regional organizations addressing the protection of civilians could be more become involved in the mechanisms that were being decided on now. He also asked Mr. Oshima for written recommendations and conclusions from the various workshops.
JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) said his country wished to be part of the seminars and workshops on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. While it was important for there to be coordination among the United Nations agencies, it was equally important to have coordination between the Organization's system and regional bodies. He also shared Singapore's concern about the lack of implementation of the recommendations of the Secretary-General, particularly in the area of a rapid deployment force to protect civilians.
The Secretary-General had spoken about the possibility of setting up such a force, and that point had also been reiterated during the Millennium summit. There had been talk of a high-readiness brigade involving the participation of 80-plus countries, which had also been funded. Had that brigade been deployed? And if so, what had been its impact on the protection of civilians?
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said today’s meeting should strengthen dialogue between the Secretariat and the Security Council, and translate into specific action to improve and change the experiences of civilians in armed conflict. It was clear that there was progress in the Secretariat. He supported consultations at the expert level and recommended that they be as broad-based and open as possible. Was there a timetable for finalizing the initiatives proposed, he asked?
Mr. OSHIMA said he welcomed the interest shown by Council members regarding the possibility of an interim report before the Final Report. His Office would be prepared to submit an interim report so that members could look at it and make suggestions. Regarding the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he said his Office had no reservations about engaging other departments of the Secretariat.
He said he would welcome the involvement of interested parties in workshops and similar exercises. He would make sure that written reports of the workshops already held would be made available to all who were interested. It was possible to have some form of benchmarking, to record progress on the Secretary-General’s recommendations, but it depended on the issue, since some lent themselves to benchmarking and others did not.
He said a high-readiness brigade was a mechanism put in place in response to the Secretary-General’s call for a rapid response force. It comprised units from several countries trained for deployment under the standards of Chapter VI. As far as he knew, there had been no case in which a brigade had been employed.
The President of the Council, MIGNONETTE PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), said that the recent Council meetings facilitated seeing the relation between protection of civilians and the maintenance of international peace and security. These were not thematic issues, but were intended for the assistance of the Secretariat in assuring a better life for the victims of armed conflict.
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