For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2548
Release Date:  20 April 2000
 Secretary-General, Addressing Security Council on Protection of Civilians
In Conflict, Reviews Past Progress, Recommends Future Approaches

  NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:

 I am pleased to join you today for this important debate dedicated to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  I wish to welcome the Foreign Minister of Canada and to express my appreciation for his commitment to making this issue a priority for the entire United Nations system.  

 I also wish to welcome the new President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, to this meeting.  The first debate on civilians in armed conflict last year laid the groundwork for today’s vital effort to transform our words of commitment into a better, safer reality for the most vulnerable of our world. 

 I am pleased to say that both the Security Council and the General Assembly followed up last year’s debate with concrete steps.  

 The General Assembly has focused its efforts on strengthening legal protections:  the adoption of a text by the working group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the expansion of efforts to strengthen and extend the Protocol to the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel. 

 The Security Council has also taken action to provide enhanced protection for civilians.  These efforts have found most concrete expression in the establishment of the peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, East Timor and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

 The mandates of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) made specific provision for the protection of civilians, and the mandates of UNAMSIL and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic bRepublic of the Congo (MONUC) provided for support for the protection of children through the deployment of Child Protection Advisers.

 The efforts within the Council and the General Assembly have been supported in a variety of ways by the Secretariat and United Nations agencies,  as well as by our non-governmental partners.  We have sought to strengthen the protection of internally displaced persons, most recently in February of this year when my Representative on Internal Displacement undertook a mission to Burundi to urge the Government to dismantle the regroupment camps.  

 Elsewhere in Africa, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is implementing programmes for prevention and response to sexual violence in Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. And, working with my Representatives in the field, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and my Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict have negotiated “Days of Tranquility” arrangements in Angola, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka in order to permit immunization and vaccination campaigns. 

 My report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict contained a number of recommendations.  Today I wish to draw particular attention to three of them, and urge the Council to give greater consideration to their implementation.

 Perhaps the most far-reaching of the recommendations related to the creation of a rapid deployment force.  During the very same week that I urged this step, events in East Timor offered the clearest evidence of the need for such a capacity.  In that case, thankfully, the Australian Government, supported by other Council members, stepped in to fill the vacuum.  

 Nevertheless, the crisis underscored the importance of having a more systematic rapid-reaction capacity in the United Nations.  I urge you to support these efforts, and to consider taking further steps towards this fundamental strengthening of the Organization’s ability to protect civilians in armed conflict.

 The second recommendation I wish to mention relates to cases where there has been sufficient warning of impending attacks or an escalation of conflict, and where the Council has in some instances made use of preventive deployments.  

 In February of this year, we successfully concluded such a mission in the Central African Republic.  The positive impact of preventive measures continues to be proved also by the role of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP) as a stabilizing force in the Prevlaka peninsula.  I welcome the Council’s willingness to consider the future establishment of preventive missions, including the dispatch of monitors and fact-finding missions, when we know that they can truly make the difference between peaceful disputes and violent conflict.

 Where a conflict has already led to a mass exodus of a civilian population, a critical element in enhancing their protection lies in improving the security of camps for refugees. This was the focus of the third recommendation I wish to note today.  Since the introduction of my report, the UNHCR and others have taken a number of initiatives in relation to the security, civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements.  Such efforts have included the provision of material support to local security services in Kenya and Tanzania, and an arrangement in the refugee camps in Macedonia that enabled Swedish police officers to work in partnership with the local police.  

 Efforts have also been made to relocate a number of refugees away from the borders in Albania, Guinea, Liberia, Chad, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And in Zambia, on the border with Angola, the UNHCR cooperates closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to move refugees to other locations either through airlifts or by road. 

 In future conflict situations, it may be necessary to consider temporary security zones and safe corridors for the protection of civilians, and I welcome the Council’s readiness to consider the feasibility of such measures.  

 However, I must emphasize that in situations where the consent of the parties is not forthcoming, such security zones require the presence of a credible force.

 This open debate of the Security Council bears vivid testimony to a growing recognition that our first duty in any conflict is to protect the innocent civilians -- who have no part in the fighting, who have nothing to gain from its persistence, and who have no choice but to rely on the international community to help them in their most desperate hour of need.  

 To answer their call is our most important obligation under the Charter, and it is my hope that this debate will give further impetus to our efforts to do so.

* * * * *