Press Releases

    15 December 2004

    In Presidential Statement, Security Council Reaffirms Strong Condemnation of Violence Targeting Civilians in Armed Conflict

    Urges End to Use of Media to Incite Hatred, Violence; Also Stresses Need for Strategy to Address Root Causes of Conflict

    NEW YORK, 14 December (UN Headquarters) -- Gravely concerned at the increased targeting of civilians during armed conflict, the Security Council this afternoon reaffirmed its strong condemnation of all acts of violence targeting civilians or other persons protected under international law, following a biennial briefing and subsequent day-long debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Through a statement read out by its President for December, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Foreign Minister of Algeria, the Council also reaffirmed its condemnation of all incitements to violence against civilians in armed conflict, particularly the use of media to incite hatred and violence. It urged all parties to armed conflict, including non-State parties, to put an end to such practices.

    The Council stressed the need to adopt a broad strategy to conflict prevention, which addressed the root causes of the conflict in a comprehensive manner, in order to enhance civilians’ protection on a long-term basis. The Council, moreover, recognized the needs of civilians under foreign occupation and stressed further, in that regard, the responsibilities of the occupying Power.

    Caught in the political cross-fire amid the progressively shrinking space of humanitarian action, humanitarian organizations needed military and political leaders to maintain the distinction between impartial, neutral humanitarian action and political and military activities, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told the Council. 

    Asserting that humanitarian access to civilians in need lay at the heart of the protection response, Mr. Egeland said that the status quo could no longer be accepted. It was time to move to action in creating a culture of protection that addressed the real needs of civilians trapped by conflict. It was also necessary to show that the United Nations, its MemberStates and its humanitarian and regional partners could safeguard the well-being and rights of men, women and children around the world whose lives were being shattered by armed conflict.

    There was broad agreement in the debate that followed the briefing that the protection of civilians was at the very centre of the Council’s mandate to ensure international peace and security, and that humanitarian access and the protection of relief workers lay at the heart of the protection response. Despite the fact that the primary protection responsibility rested with governments, several speakers pointed to the need to make non-State actors responsible, as well, for ensuring that the basic needs of civilian populations were met. Separating armed elements from civilians in refugee camps was also deemed crucial.

    Emphasizing that the inability to deliver humanitarian relief to the victims of conflict was directly the business of the Security Council, the United Kingdom’s representative urged a strengthening of the overall response capacity of the humanitarian community by reducing financing delays. Donors must do better and disburse funds more quickly, including upon request, to regional organizations, which played an important part in protecting civilians. The situation in Darfur, Sudan, had underlined the failure to protect civilians. Unless the parties there abided by their commitments, halted the hostilities immediately, and agreed to a political solution, the Security Council would have to take more decisive action.

    Progress in the protection of civilians should not mask the many remaining shortcomings in the legal protection of civilians caught in the grips of war, Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, said in his national capacity. That task was long term, given the complex nature of crises and aggravating factors contributing to the deliberate targeting of non-combatants. The international community had shown its determination often to react swiftly to emerging crises by providing peacekeeping operations with stronger mandates. Regional approaches to the protection of civilians, through the provision of adequate resources, would help to preserve those gains, he said.

    Statements in the debate were also made by Council members from the following countries:  Russian Federation, Spain, Chile, Pakistan, France, China, Philippines, Germany, United States, Romania, Benin, Brazil, and Angola.

    Representatives of the following countries also spoke:  Japan, Canada, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Peru, Nigeria, Kenya, Honduras, Liechtenstein, Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire, New Zealand, and Colombia.

    Mr. Egeland took the floor a second time to respond to the debate.

    The meeting was called to order at 10:17 a.m. and suspended at 1 p.m., resumed at 3:10 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:55 p.m.

    Presidential Statement

    Following is the complete text of presidential statement S/PRST/2004/46:

    “The Security Council has considered the matter of protection of civilians in armed conflict. The Council recalls all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolutions 1265(1999) of 17 September 1999 and 1296(2000) of 19 April 2000 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, as well as statements by its presidents and reiterates its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on civilians.

    “The Security Council reaffirms its strong condemnation of all acts of violence targeting civilians or other protected persons under international law. The Council is gravely concerned that civilians are increasingly targeted by combatants and armed elements during armed conflict, in particular women, children and other vulnerable groups, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and recognizes the negative impact this will have on durable peace and national reconciliation. The Council also reaffirms its condemnation of all incitements to violence against civilians in situations of armed conflict, in particular the use of media to incite hatred and violence.  The Security Council urges all parties to armed conflict, including non-State parties, to put an end to such practices.

    “The Security Council reiterates its call to all parties to armed conflict, including non-State parties, to comply fully with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and with rules and principles of international law, in particular, international humanitarian law, and as applicable, human rights and refugee law, and to implement fully the relevant decisions of the Security Council.  The Security Council recalls the obligations of all States to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, including the four Geneva conventions, and emphasizes the responsibility of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of humanitarian law. It further calls on all States which have not already done so to consider ratifying or acceding to major instruments of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, and to take appropriate measures to implement them.

    “The Security Council underlines the importance of safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and assistance to civilians in armed conflict in accordance with international law. The Security Council reiterates its call to all parties to armed conflict, including non-State parties, to take all necessary measures to ensure security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of humanitarian organizations. The Security Council condemns all attacks targeting United Nations personnel and other humanitarian workers, and underlines that the perpetrators of such attacks must be held accountable as outlined in its resolution 1502(2003) of 26 August 2003. The Security Council underscores the importance for humanitarian organizations to uphold the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity of their humanitarian activities and independence of their objectives.

    “The Security Council recognizes the importance of a comprehensive, coherent and action oriented approach, including in early planning, of protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict.  It stresses, in this regard, the need to adopt a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance the protection of civilians on a long term basis, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights. It encourages further cooperation and coordination between memberStates and the United Nations system. The Council, moreover, recognizes the needs of civilians under foreign occupation and stresses further, in this regard, the responsibilities of the occupying Power.

    “The Security Council, recognizing the regional dimensions of certain armed conflict, stresses the need for regional cooperation in order to address cross-border issues such as disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation, cross-border movement of refugees and combatants, human trafficking, illicit flow of small arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources and post-conflict situations. It encourages regional and subregional organizations to develop, as appropriate, a regional protection strategy and provide for a coherent and strong framework for addressing protection issues.  The Council welcomes the steps taken by regional organizations in this regard and requests the United Nations system and other international organizations to provide them with the necessary support, and to consider means for the reinforcement of national capacities. The Council takes into account, in this regard, the Secretary-General’s recommendation regarding the establishment of a framework within which the United Nations could engage with regional organizations more systematically on humanitarian issues related to protection and access and better address those issues at the regional intergovernmental level.

    “The Security Council strongly condemns the increased use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war, as well as the recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to armed conflict in violation of international obligations applicable to them. The Security Council underlines the vulnerability of women and children in situations of armed conflict, bearing in mind in this regard its resolutions 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security and 1539(2004), as well as all other resolutions on children and armed conflict, and recognizes their special needs, in particular those of the girl-child.  It stresses the importance of developing strategies aimed at preventing and responding to sexual and gender based-violence, through the improvement in the design of peacekeeping and assessment missions by, inter alia, the inclusion of gender and child protection advisers. It stresses also the importance for women and children subject to exploitation and sexual violence to receive adequate assistance and support.

    “Mindful of the particular vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons, the Council reaffirms the primary responsibility of States to ensure their protection, in particular, by preserving the civilian character of camps of refugees and internally displaced persons and to take effective measures to protect them from infiltration by armed groups, abduction and forced military recruitment.

    “Reaffirms its readiness to ensure that peacekeeping missions are given suitable mandates and adequate resources so as to enable them to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical danger, including by strengthening the ability of the United Nations to plan and rapidly deploy peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel, utilizing the United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System, as appropriate.

    “The Council considers that a coherent and integrated approach to disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants, which takes into account the special needs of child soldiers and women combatants, is of crucial importance for a sustained peace and stability.  The Council reaffirms the need for the inclusion of these activities in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and emphasizes the importance of resources being made available for such activities.

    “The Security Council is concerned by the growing problem of humanitarian emergency situations while funding and resources do not match requirements.  It urges the international community to ensure adequate and timely funding in response to humanitarian need across crises so as to provide sufficient humanitarian assistance in alleviating the suffering of civilian populations, in particular those in areas affected by armed conflict or emerging from a situation of conflict.

    “The Security Council expresses its appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations agencies, regional organizations, international humanitarian organizations and other relevant actors aimed at raising international awareness of the suffering of civilians in armed conflicts, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and considers such efforts as a key element for the promotion of a culture of protection and for the building of international solidarity with the victims of armed conflict.

    “The Security Council invites the Secretary-General to continue to refer to it relevant information and analysis where he believes that such information or analysis could contribute to the improvement of its work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and to continue to include in his written reports to the Council on matters of which it is seized, as appropriate, observations relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  In this context, the Security Council reiterates the importance of the aide-memoire annexed in the statement by its President (S/PRST/2002/6), as well as the road map for the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a practical tool for dealing with protection issues.

    “The Security Council notes the submission of the Secretary-General’s report on protection of civilians in armed conflict of 18 May 2004 (S/2004/431) which examines the ten-point platform and requests him to submit by 28 November 2005 his next report, and to include in this report information on the implementation of Security Council resolutions previously adopted on this subject, as well as any additional recommendations on ways the Council and other organs of the United Nations, acting within their respective spheres of responsibility, could further improve the protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict.”


    The Security Council met this morning for its biennial briefing on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  In a statement by the Council President on 20 December 2002 (document S/PRST/2002/41), the Council welcomed the oral briefings to be given every six months on the topic, including on progress made to further develop the concepts set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 26 November 2002 (document S/2002/1300).  An open debate was expected to follow today’s briefing.  The last formal discussion on the subject was held on 14 June.  (For details, please see Press Release SC/8122.)

    Briefing Summary

    JAN EGELAND, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, provided an update on developments over the past six months in terms of the 10-point platform he had presented to the Council last year, and said he would propose actions to strengthen protection in several areas.  Humanitarian access to civilians in need lay at the heart of the protection response.  In order to ensure a more secure environment for the victims of conflict, access for those who could help must be consistently secured.  Progress had been made in ensuring better access in some countries.

    Notably, he said, there had been incremental improvements in access to the 1.6 million displaced persons in northern Uganda.  The promulgation of the Government of Uganda’s strategy for the internally displaced and an improving security environment had resulted in sustained access to certain areas and opportunities to better address the protection needs of the civilian population.  Humanitarian agencies must now seize the opportunities provided by that improved access by increasing their activities and support.  In Liberia, improved access to border regions had been facilitated by the completion of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration process.

    By contrast, he said, the events of the last six months in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo perpetuated a pattern of intermittent and sporadic access that had led to continued incapacity to deliver essential services such as health and education.  That region, accordingly, had suffered appalling mortality and malnutrition rates.  According to a recent survey by the International Rescue Committee, which was among the largest mortality surveys ever conducted in a conflict zone, more than 1,000 Congolese civilians were dying daily from war-related disease and malnutrition.  In the eastern portion of the country, the mortality rate for children under five was 90 per cent higher than the regional norm.  The recent movements of forces into the east were worrying, as they further destabilized an already volatile environment and could only lead to a further decline in the quality of life for civilians.

    He said that early November’s outbreak of violence in Côte d’Ivoire and the subsequent evacuation of international humanitarian staff had constrained his ability to provide humanitarian assistance and protection.  Although that situation appeared to be stabilizing and humanitarian staff were redeploying, checkpoints remained in place in both the north and in government-held areas.  Similarly, in Afghanistan, insecurity continued to restrict humanitarian access to areas in the south of the country.  Peacekeeping efforts that provided a sustained, secure environment in which humanitarian access could be delivered had never been more important.

    Tragically, many parts of Sudan’s Darfur provinces presented some of the worst obstacles to humanitarian access, he said.  The blatant breaches of the ceasefire agreements by all parties and the escalation of fighting, including rebel attacks and aerial bombardments by government forces, had led to the evacuation of humanitarian staff.  That had dramatically reduced the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance and protection for civilians.  Experience demonstrated that improvements in access were brought about only when there was engagement and common commitment by all actors, and when there was consistency and coherence of approach.  The Security Council should use its authority more energetically, where necessary, to address the issue of access, in order to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection.

    Describing the security of humanitarian workers as his second concern, he said his ability to protect and deliver humanitarian assistance to civilian populations in need was undermined by blatant attacks and threats against unarmed humanitarian staff.  On Sunday, 12 December, two of Save the Children’s staff had been deliberately attacked and killed in South Darfur.  Attacks by any armed group would only serve to paralyse the large and effective humanitarian operations there.  The parties to the conflict -- including the political and military leaders -- should be held individually responsible for those attacks and for the starvation, disease and civilian deaths that would undoubtedly result.

    In Afghanistan, he said, threats to staff continued to restrict the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection.  In Iraq, the brutal execution of Margaret Hassan had brought home starkly the vulnerability of humanitarian personnel and the unacceptable risk to which international agencies operating in Iraq were exposed.  The worsening insecurity in parts of Iraq had prompted several large international non-governmental organizations, renowned for their capacity to continue operating in hostile environments, to withdraw their operations.  Such withdrawals had severe consequences on civilians, particularly those who had been internally displaced, as they lost access to independent and impartial sources of assistance in a climate of growing insecurity.

    He said that in Iraq and Afghanistan, a disturbing new development was hostage-taking, which indicated a merging of commercial and political motives.  Such difficult and substantial challenges required creative solutions that used both humanitarian and political diplomacy.  Towards that end, his office, together with its humanitarian partners, had engaged in dialogue with religious and civil society groups in regions where there was a perceived threat to humanitarian personnel.  More than ever, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs relied on cultural and religious leaders to join in the partnership and to come to the defence of independent humanitarian action in the face of such threats.  He, therefore, called on religious and community leaders to speak out strongly against those who attacked unarmed humanitarian workers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere, in blatant violation of religious and cultural values.  Humanitarian organizations also felt they had been caught in the political crossfire and that the space for humanitarian action was progressively shrinking.  Military and political leaders must do their utmost to maintain the distinction between impartial, neutral humanitarian action and political and military activities.

    The third protection concern was the need to better protect women and children in armed conflict, he said.  A constant and insidious characteristic of armed conflicts was the “barbaric and indiscriminate” use of sexual violence.  Past reports had documented the atrocious use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war in which victims of sexual violence were stripped of dignity and stigmatized.  They were victims many times over -- victims of trauma, victims of HIV/AIDS, victims of social and economic distress, left destitute and outcast long after the fighting had ended.  The use of sexual violence had been widely condemned by national governments, regional organizations, the General Assembly and the Security Council -- most recently, in the review of implementation of resolution 1325 (2000).  Despite those condemnations, however, sexual violence persisted unchecked.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Darfur, sexual violence continued to intimidate and despoil populations.  If sexual violence was so intolerable, why was it so pervasive?  That was an issue about which there could be no impunity.  It was to be hoped the International Criminal Court would use its jurisdiction to demonstrate clearly that crimes of sexual violence would not be tolerated and that perpetrators would be punished.  It was also to be hoped that the Council would also press for accountability.  Surely, the thousands of brutal rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Uganda and Liberia should already have resulted in people being brought to justice.

    The use of children in armed conflict and child abduction remained a key challenge to the United Nations, he said.  In Nepal, children continued to be forcibly recruited into fighting forces.  Throughout the West Africa subregion, children had long been associated with fighting forces, and the pattern was being sustained in the north of Côte d’Ivoire, with some 100,000 children exposed to increased risk of exploitation.  Sustained attention must be given to the needs of children through the delivery of humanitarian support, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes and longer-term initiatives that addressed their special reintegration needs.

    On the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said that while large numbers of refugees had, in recent months, been helped home by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 25 million people remained displaced from their homes by conflict.  The largest internal displacement crises remained the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia and Uganda.  Those four had a displaced population totalling more than 10 million.  Displaced civilians continued to face intolerable hardships and increasing challenges for their protection.  Member States were encouraged to fully recognize the needs and rights of those who were displaced.  Over the past six months, the Governments of Uganda, Liberal and Somalia had developed national internal displacement policies, and the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes region was a welcome development.

    Enhancing compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and combating impunity was the fifth challenge, he said.  Many protection concerns would remain unresolved as long as impunity prevailed, and it was, therefore, critical that those who violated international law be held accountable.  The role of States in that regard was paramount.

    He said that violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territories had worsened the lives and welfare of civilians and had undermined the ability of the humanitarian community to provide much-needed assistance and protection.  The widespread insecurity in Iraq, including intimidation, hostage-taking and indiscriminate attacks on civilians created major protection concerns.  In such volatile circumstances, compliance with international humanitarian law by all sides was critical.  Hate propaganda was a concern in a number of countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, where the media had become a powerful instrument in fuelling hatred.  In general, the Council should consider making greater ruse of targeted sanctions against those individuals responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law or for inciting public hatred and violence.

    In Darfur, the deployment of African Union observers, the establishment of the International Commission of Inquiry and the deployment of human rights observers were important developments, he said.  It was imperative that all parties to the conflict cooperate fully with the Commission.  Those who had caused death and massive suffering among civilians should have no reason to sleep well at night.  In terms of strengthening the legal framework underpinning the protection of civilians, 32 States had taken 114 treaty actions during the “Focus 2004 Treaties Event” in September.  Of particular note was the participation of the National Transition Government of Liberia, which had acted in respect of 18 conventions and protocols, and, separately, had adopted the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

    With regard to the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation, he said he whished to focus on reintegration, which was the single biggest challenge in West Africa, where it was feared that youth had learned that economic gain came from acts of violence.  In northern Uganda, the challenge of reintegration was also immense.  Uganda was currently faced with an historic opportunity for peace and reconciliation, related to which was an urgent need to accelerate reintegration planning efforts to meet the needs of increasing numbers of Lord’s Resistance Army fighters coming out of the bush.  Properly reintegrating children and youth required viable alternatives to violence and sustained support in meeting their long-term needs.  That, in turn, required integrated planning of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes, longer-term community-based recovery initiatives and consistent funding.  In Liberia and elsewhere, reintegration programmes remained precariously under-funded.  Where a conflict had a regional dimension, effective disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation support was all the more critical to prevent the circulation of fighters and small arms from one country to the next.

    Turning to his final challenge, “neglected emergencies”, he said that ongoing crises were often eclipsed by crises of the moment, highlighted through the media lens.  The Sudan and the ongoing violence in Iraq currently commanded most attention, while dire situations persisted in numerous other countries.  The spotlight must be kept on all crises and ensure that there was a balanced and proportional response to all situations of concern.  The humanitarian situation in Somalia, for example, remained one of the most severe, yet overlooked, crises in the world.  With the formation of the Transitional Federal Government, Somalia was now at the crossroads as it faced its best chance in many years of achieving political stability and peace.  The international community must seize the opportunity and support efforts to consolidate peace and stability and to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people.

    Visiting Somalia last week, he said, he had been shocked to learn of mortality rates in parts of the country of two per 10,000 per day, the same as in Darfur.  But for Somalia, the situation had been more protracted.  To meet humanitarian needs, crises must not be left to simmer, devoid of adequate funding and humanitarian response.  Under-funding, premature withdrawal of support and a failure to address the root causes of conflict created ripe conditions for insurgency.  The case of Liberia in the late 1990s or Haiti in recent years illustrated that all too clearly.

    Outlining key points to strengthen the international community’s response to the challenges he had described, he said an area of utmost priority was the need to strengthen the overall response capacity of the humanitarian community to provide both effective and timely humanitarian assistance and protection.  Efforts to improve the response to the Darfur crisis had underscored the need to strengthen the collaborate approach to protection.  A comprehensive, coordinated approach to the protection of civilians had now been put in place to address the protection deficit in Darfur.

    He said he had initiated a system-wide humanitarian response review, which would address the current gaps in the response to humanitarian crises.  A second area of action was the development of a better reporting mechanism.  Work had commenced with agency colleagues to develop a systematic methodology using set criteria and empirical indicators which would allow better comparative analysis and monitoring of protection trends.  Another area of focus was the need to ensure more consistent response to crises and to highlight neglected emergencies.  It was necessary to develop better mechanisms to engage donors and engender the political will to address all humanitarian needs and protection concerns equitably.  Engaging new donors would be critical to ensuring consistency of response.  It was also vital to provide sustained support in post-conflict situations.

    It was essential, he continued, to place greater emphasis on the role of national actors.  In September, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had initiated a systematic consultation with Uganda’s Government to develop a nationally owned strategy for the protection of civilians.  Such initiatives could be broadened to support all Member States that faced protection challenges.  Regarding sanctions, it would be essential to mitigate any potential humanitarian consequences in a more systematic manner.  Recognizing that need, OCHA had developed a rigorous methodology to assess the human impact of sanctions, which the Council should use during its deliberations to enhance the use of sanctions as a tool.

    Concerning the importance of regional organizations in providing protection in armed conflict, he said the crucial role of the African Union in Darfur was an obvious case in point.  It was critical that regional organizations be provided with the support necessary to fulfil their role.  In December, only one third of the promised African Union troops had been deployed and none of the African Union police.  It should be possible for the international community to help increase the Union’s capacity on the ground, without which the civilian population in Darfur could not benefit from effective protection.  The regional dimension of armed conflict was well understood, and the need for a regional approach in responding to the civilian consequences of armed conflict well recognized. 

    He said he had been deeply disturbed by the unacceptable incidence of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel over the past six months.  The Secretary-General had set clear standards of conduct to which all staff must be held accountable, in his Bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.  There was a pressing need to ensure that it was now rigorously enforced.  Member States must give the issue their urgent attention and ensure that appropriate accountability mechanisms were in place.

    The status quo could no longer be accepted, he stressed.  It was time to move to action in creating a culture of protection that addressed the real needs of civilians trapped by conflict.  It was also necessary to show that the United Nations and its humanitarian and regional partners could safeguard the well-being and rights of men, women and children around the world whose lives were being shattered by armed conflict.


    SERGEY KAREV (Russian Federation) said that the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict had been a regular fixture of the United Nations and the Security Council for the past five years.  There was a need for ongoing attention to that matter, to which the high-level panel on threats and challenges had referred.  The panel had urged the Council to ensure full implementation of resolution 1265 on civilians’ protection.  That had raised no doubt, despite the existence of a broad arsenal of human rights instruments and international humanitarian law, and innocent and vulnerable populations, as well as humanitarian personnel, were still suffering massive and flagrant violations.  The perpetrators must not go unpunished.  In that regard, the International Criminal Court had an important role to play.  Indeed, ensuring the protection of civilians required systematic and coordinated measures at all levels. 

    He said that an important component of the Organization’s work was its humanitarian work, particularly as an element of crisis prevention and in post-conflict settlement phases.  Its success largely depended on how that was integrated into the international community’s notions for a political settlement.  The report on the subject had contained a comprehensive, country-specific analysis of reasons for the international humanitarian law violations and had also contained recommendations.  Also very important in preparing the reports was for the Secretariat to adhere strictly to its mandate, particularly with respect to the qualifying legal aspects of each situation.  Hopefully, in preparing the next report, the Secretariat would take fully into account the concerns and statements made in that regard.

    For its part, the Council was making greater use of regional and country approaches, he noted.  Of particular importance was to take into account the economic, social, historic, religious, cultural and other country- and region-specific elements with regard to the nature of conflict, its root causes and ways to settle it.  The fundamental elements of ensuring civilians’ protection were early warning mechanisms, the elimination of wars altogether, and conflict prevention.  Efforts along those lines should be appropriately coordinated so that measures to protect civilians adhered to a strict division of labour under the United Nations Charter and other international legal instruments.

    JUAN ANTONIO YAÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) said that while recent years had seen major strides in the protection of civilians in armed conflict, in most crises today, civilian populations continued to suffer disproportionately from the effects of combat and occupation.  In some 20 conflicts around the world, humanitarian access to people requiring assistance was denied or impeded.  While international pressures in many case had managed to ensure that many of the obstacles were lifted, some practical difficulties needed to be tackled.  The protection of civilian populations was the responsibility of every State and every party to the conflict.  In that regard, international pressure must be maintained.

    Spain was also concerned by the situation of more than 50 million internally displaced persons, he said.  In that regard, he stressed the need to ensure that refugee and displaced persons camps meet minimum sanitary and security standards.  More than 300,000 minors under the age of 18 were directly involved in armed conflicts, while acts of sexual violence continued.  The social and physical consequences of such acts were atrocious, and efforts in that area must be stepped up.  It was also important to end impunity.   Many crimes were being committed with total impunity.  The perpetrators had to be brought to justice as the only way of deterring other possible perpetrators.  Moreover, national criminal systems must be improved.  International judicial bodies had to be in a position to act when national actors could not.  In that regard, he called for the universal adherence to the International Criminal Court, as well as other human rights treaties.

    HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) stressed that it was the belligerents, whether State or non-State actors, who were obligated to protect civilians.  All States parties to the relevant treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols, and others on genocide and torture, must comply scrupulously with their obligations.  Since the Secretary-General had placed the topic of civilians’ protection on the United Nations’ agenda, the subject had become more familiar, as had the norms and recommendations for its proper treatment.  Security Council peacekeeping mandates and resources to fund them had also taken that question into account and ensured that the operations had the capacity to protect civilians.  Particularly positive had been the many disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and reintegration programmes for former combatants, as well as the mechanisms to protect refugees and returnees.  In that framework, he welcomed the trend towards including regional and subregional organizations in such efforts.

    He said progress had also been made in the fight against impunity through the establishment of special courts and tribunals, as well as through the creation of the International Criminal Court.  International tribunals, however, could only operate as a subsidiary of the internal jurisdictions of the States where crimes against civilians had been committed, since States had the primary responsibility to arrest, try and sentence the guilty.  Despite such progress, however, much work remained to be done.  He called for smoother interaction among the competent United Nations agencies and other humanitarian bodies with non-State agents, which was fundamental to preventing or at least mitigating the threat to civilians.  Displaced persons also required special attention, as did the recruitment of child soldiers, which warranted firm condemnation.  Neglected emergencies must also not be overlooked.  The Under-Secretary-General’s 10-point plan submitted to the Council last December contained key elements for moving forward.  Ways should also be found to ensure sustained development, poverty eradication, as well as the promotion of national reconciliation, democracy and good governance.

    Direct attacks against United Nations personnel showed that humanitarian workers were exposed to greater vulnerability, he said.  In that respect, he agreed with the Secretary-General that legal measures should be adopted to complement the scope of the 1994 Convention on the security of United Nations personnel and related staff.  Perhaps an ad hoc group could be established to make recommendations in that regard and follow up Security Council discussions.  The protection of civilians in armed conflict was a major challenge for the Organization, whose credibility depended on its ability to offer civilians a life of dignity without fear.

    MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the United Nations had begun about five years ago to systematically approach the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  While important advances had been made, stark and disturbing evidence made clear that civilians continued to bear the brunt of armed conflict and remained the prime victims in such situations.  In situations of foreign occupation, human rights organizations had documented the incidence of harassment, extortion, abduction and extrajudicial killings.  Rape had frequently been used as an instrument of war, to dehumanize women and humiliate the communities they belonged to.

    A careful glance at the conflict situations revealed that the vast majority occurred in least developed countries, he said.  Such conflicts had security, political, diplomatic, economic, social and humanitarian dimensions.  Situations of armed conflict inevitably led to violation of international humanitarian law, human rights violations, mass displacement of people and a serious dearth of food and medicine.  Unfortunately, disproportionate use of force, excessive rule of engagement, and indiscriminate deployment of high-yield weapons and ill-treatment of prisoners had rendered such injunctions largely meaningless.  Resolute action on the part of the international community was required to reverse those unacceptable trends.  While international humanitarian law had been devised to regulate the conduct of disciplined and organized forces, the greater incidence of irregular and asymmetric warfare had rendered the protection of civilians ever more difficult.

    Emerging conflicts and new dimensions of old conflicts posed unprecedented challenges, demanding innovative approaches and better standards of international conduct and action.  Several points he wished to underline included the critical need for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to civilians in all conflict situations.  Occupying forces and organized armies must fulfil their responsibilities in all circumstances, and attacks against humanitarian and United Nations personnel were unacceptable.  Sexual violence and other abuses against women and children were inexcusable.  Regular monitoring and consistent reporting must be ensured with a view to encouraging the international community’s necessary response.  There should be neither any “forgotten emergencies” nor any ignored conflicts.

    Strengthening the framework for the protection of civilians in conflict situations was not an easy undertaking, he said.  The Council would need to remain focused and keep the individual civilian victims at the centre of its attention.  But that must also be done within a larger framework that put equal premium on conflict prevention, conflict resolution, addressing the root causes and providing long-term assistance to tackle the development and reconstruction challenges of States affected by conflict.

    JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that the protection of civilians in armed conflict had become a major issue for peace and international security.  It was important for the matter to be treated, at least in part, from the standpoint of collective security and the use of force.  According to the report of the high-level panel, there was a collective obligation to protect at a time when States, which had the primary responsibility for protecting their populations, were no longer in a position to do so or no longer had the will to do so.  The question of civilian protection, therefore, must remain on the Security Council’s agenda.  It had been for five years, but it was high time for the Council to fine tune its analysis and strategy regarding its responsibility in that regard.  Civilian protection was already part of most of the mandates of peace operations.  Perhaps the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Mr. Egeland’s office could better define relations between the military and humanitarian components of a mission.

    He said that the idea behind the panel’s recommendations, which had determined that military interventions were a last resort, was for the Council to deal directly with massive violations of international humanitarian law, for which it had a range of options.  In the most dramatic situations, military intervention might be the only option to avoid or stop substantial loss of human life, but that could not be used without prejudice to other actions that the Council could engage beforehand, such as preventive diplomacy or deployment of a prevention force, whether civilian or military.  Several United Nations bodies had the mandate of protection, including the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the Human Rights Commission.  The agencies, which were often among the first responders on the ground in humanitarian emergencies, should also have such a mandate.  The recent experience in Darfur showed the need for a comprehensive strategy to allow for better coordination, as proper coordination on the ground would guarantee the effectiveness of the protection.

    Effective action by the Council in the sphere of protection also depended on the availability of tools and information, he said.  Excellent work had been done along those lines, including the submission of the 10-point action plan, which would allow the Council to take up all aspects related to civilian protection.  Among his suggestions was to submit a report of the Secretary-General on that question annually, instead of every 18 months.  A better job could also be done systemizing those elements constituting protection crises, and a list of especially grave situations could be included.  Today’s briefing had been bleak.  The right to humanitarian access was a logical extension of civilians’ right to protection.  It was not legally correct to contest those rights.  Equally intolerable was the targeting of humanitarian personnel providing assistance on the ground.  When a crisis of access emerged, the Council often needed specific information, for which sending a fact-finding mission might be useful or even necessary to specifically identify the causes and scope of the problem.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict had gained increased international attention and concern.  United Nations agencies had made great efforts, playing a positive role of alleviating the situation of civilians in armed conflict.  In many cases, however, the plight of civilians had not been effectively addressed, and much remained to be done by the international community in ensuring that the basic needs of civilian populations were met.  In that regard, he stressed the need for all parties to a conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and fulfil their obligations regarding the protection of civilians.  The relevant United Nations agencies and peacekeeping operations should increase advocacy and raise awareness on the part of the parties to conflict of their responsibilities for the protection of civilians.

    Humanitarian relief workers and organizations should abide by the principles of justice, impartiality and objectivity and refrain from involvement with any party to the conflict, he continued.  Military means did not provide a solution to conflicts.  In many cases, it could only complicate the matter.  Focusing on prevention and addressing the root causes of conflict could find a settlement to conflict and protection.  The international community should help countries to formulate integrated prevention strategies, promote national integration and reconciliation and to obtain sustainable development. Coordination and cooperation should be strengthened within the United Nations system.

    The attainment of the Millennium Development Goals would contribute to the international community’s efforts for conflict prevention.  He paid tribute to humanitarian workers for their selfless contributions regardless of their safety.  He condemned all attacks against humanitarian workers and appealed to all countries to consider a session on the protection of United Nations and associated personnel.

    LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said his delegation was pleased to note that the Council had recognized the link between security and human rights, and the growing consciousness within the United Nations about the crucial importance of a coherent and system-wide response to assist war-affected civilians.  No single United Nations agency or organ had a monopoly on formulating and mounting such a response, therefore, the Council’s efforts should integrate the relevant activities taking place in the wider Organization, particularly the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the specialized agencies.

    To that end, the Philippines would stress the importance of the “Road Map for the Protection of Civilians” -- which laid out the responsibilities of all relevant United Nations entities.  He called for a periodic assessment, possibly led by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, of the progress made in their mandated areas of responsibility.  In addition, he said the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change had pointed out that the Council needed to be less reactive and more proactive.  The Philippines believed that that recommendation was relevant to all aspects of the Council’s work, including its efforts to ensure the protection of civilians.

    Indeed, the greater part of the Organization’s work in that particular area were “after the fact” operations –- mainly reactive responses to crises.  There should be more effort to protect civilians in the face of imminent conflict, which would save more lives and reduce vulnerabilities.  Specific strategies would entail a more systematic incorporation of protection issues in the planning of all peace support operations to include procedures, among other things, to detect and prevent sexual and gender-based violence, mitigate the negative consequences of displacement, and curb the use of small arms to perpetuate conflict.

    Of course, the key here was perhaps the overall prevention of conflict, he said, stressing that more astute monitoring of hot spots and ensuring broad socio-economic development would constitute a proactive strategy for protection.  He went on to say that a culture of protection could not be imposed on any society –- there should be genuine domestic ownership of such a culture.  Still, the international community needed to engage in emergency conflict situations where there was a lack of willingness or capacity on the part of the concerned State authorities.  He added that United Nations country teams and peace missions could also play a role in facilitating the devolution of a culture of protection from national to local levels.

    EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said that humanitarian access lay at the heart of the protection response.  Inability to deliver humanitarian relief to the victims of conflict was directly the business of the Security Council.  So, he concurred with Mr. Egeland that the Council should use its authority, where necessary, to facilitate assistance and protection.  The overall response capacity of the humanitarian community should be strengthened by reducing delays in financing.  Donors must do better in that regard and disburse funds more quickly, including upon request, to regional organizations, which also played an important part in protecting civilians.  The need for a quick response to individual crises should not be delayed by tardiness in responding to a special dedicated appeal.  The collaborative approach to protection should also be strengthened, especially at the field level.  A serious lack of results-based reporting on protection objectives in humanitarian programmes was another concern.  Perhaps that could be considered along with the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a mechanism to provide better facts and statistics on protection.

    He stressed that threats to humanitarian staff risked the viability of humanitarian operations.  Creative ways should be found to address that problem.  The relationship between humanitarian action and the objectives of political and military activity was perhaps more complicated than the Under-Secretary-General had suggested.  In Iraq, the recent abduction of Margaret Hassan had been a chilling reminder of the dangers faced by humanitarian personnel in the field.  He paid tribute to Ms. Hassan’s tireless efforts to help those in need.  Sexual and gender-based violence should also be address more systematically, perhaps through the International Criminal Court.  There could be no impunity for such acts, and the Council must press for accountability.  That must apply particularly to the behaviour of personnel working in the field under the United Nations flag.  Everyone had the absolute obligation to ensure strict adherence to the standards of conflict set out in the Secretary-General’s bulletin. 

    The wide-ranging debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict had demonstrated the Council’s interest and competence in the subject, but a more practical stance was needed, he said.  Mr. Egeland had suggested some areas of follow-up, but there were more, including the need to look at a situation where difficult access portended potential conflict.  A stronger Security Council role throughout the conflict spectrum was overdue.  The Council should engage more directly in the commitment to prevent, as well as in its responsibility to protect.  Follow-up to the High-Level Panel’s report would provide an opportunity to move that agenda forward.  The situation in Darfur exemplified why those points were important.  Six months ago, in his last briefing, Mr. Egeland had expressed deep concern about the attacks in Darfur.  That situation had improved little, underlining the failure to protect civilians in Darfur.  Unless all of the parties there abided by their commitments, halted hostilities immediately, and agreed a political solution to the conflict, then the international community, including the Security Council, would need to take more decisive action.

    GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said that 2005 would present the opportunity for a major stocktaking on progress towards achieving of the Millennium Development Goals, and that protection of civilians in armed conflict was one of the Millennium Declaration’s priorities.  Thus, the Council had ample reason to continue and intensify its consideration of that cross-cutting issue in the months to come.  Protection must go beyond short-term humanitarian engagement to include cooperation and coordination with all actors responsible for security, crisis prevention, disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation, law enforcement, capacity-building, reconstruction and development, among other relevant components.  Moreover, the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons must be tackled in parallel with demobilization and disarmament.

    He cited three crucial elements of protection in which the need for progress remained urgent:  ending impunity; better addressing the issue of humanitarian access; and ending the use of sexual violence as a weapon of conflict.  If impunity for violations of international humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law was not brought to an end, there would be no deterrent for perpetrators.  Combatants violating the principles of humanitarian law must know that their acts would come under the close scrutiny of the International Criminal Court or a regional tribunal.

    Regarding humanitarian access, he said there was an evident need for improved coordination of protection measures at the field level.  To date, no single United Nations agency had the overall competence to deal with protection, and the Council should study additional ways to reach a more comprehensive level of protection.  Finally, Germany stressed the importance of reversing the cycle of violence against women and children during and after conflict.  Special efforts must be undertaken to study the intentional and systematic use of sexual or gender violence as a weapon of warfare.  Germany concurred fully with the High-Level Panel’s recommendations to give the human rights components of peacekeeping operations explicit mandates and sufficient resources to investigate and report on human rights violations against women.

    STUART W. HOLLIDAY (United States) said the Secretary-General’s report painted a disturbing picture, but also highlighted ongoing work to safeguard civilians from armed conflict.  A useful status report had been provided.  Much depended, not on what the Council said, but on what governments did to protect their own people or allow others to help.  The lessons of the past were clear.  The enjoyment of human rights helped to promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, and prevent humanitarian crises.  The best guarantor of security was the protection of human rights through good governance.

    The United States continued to be gravely concerned about Darfur, especially the impacts of the conflict on the civilian population.  Up to some 70,000 people had died.  The situation in Darfur illustrated the urgent role of States to safeguard civilians, including internally displaced persons.  When States failed to do so, the United Nations must help address the crisis.  Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia had emerged from long-standing armed conflicts into delicate transition phases.  United Nations peacekeeping and assistance missions must help to ensure that civilians were not denied the dividends of peace.  He was encouraged that the Council had been addressing the regional dimensions of civilian protection.

    On a related note, he said several colleagues had addressed the need to deal with impunity.  The United States was committed to international accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The issue of impunity must be addressed.  The United States position regarding the International Criminal Court was well known.  It was his understanding that the presidential statement did not deal with questions of the ICC’s jurisdiction.  He reiterated his country’s support for United Nations efforts to help protect civilians from the dangers arising from armed conflicts around the world.  He encouraged key actors to continue the dialogue on how United Nations bodies could better work together to present country specific recommendations for the Council’s consideration.

    MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) noted that, although the Council had already acted in respect to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, it must adjust the ways it addressed the ever-changing nature of the conflicts facing the international community today.  Civilians were no longer just incidental victims of armed conflict, but had increasingly become targets and even tools of warfare.  Women and children were especially vulnerable in situations of armed conflict.  New threats to civilian populations were constantly being defined.  Each conflict was a milestone in the effort and presented a different lesson.  The Council must ensure that parties to conflicts were pressured to comply fully with the Charter’s provisions and with the rules of international law.  He also stressed the need to step up efforts to ensure that all States lived up to their commitments to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of humanitarian law.

    Special attention must still be given to the humanitarian crises in Darfur, northern Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.  The Council must also ensure that the security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel was guaranteed by all parties engaged in armed conflict.  He stressed the need to adopt a more strategic approach to the issue of prevention, one that would address the root causes of armed conflict.  The international community must provide the necessary incentives for parties to engage in a meaningful process of political reconciliation.  The establishment of democratic institutions and the respect of human rights were equally important.

    He welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation regarding the establishment of a framework by which the United Nations could engage with regional organizations in a more systematic manner.  It was essential to improve the capacity of the United Nations system to give appropriate response to crises, by providing peacekeeping missions with appropriate mandate and adequate resources.

    JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) said that the briefing had underscored the enormity of the challenges in protecting civilians, for which States bore the major responsibility.  That obligation implied that appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the security of a people and property on the territory controlled by a State.  That was often flouted by non-State groups, however, which attacked civilians and committed atrocities against them, impeding States’ ability to meet their governmental responsibility.  The Council had adopted many resolutions on the subject, and civilian protection was no longer a secondary concern of the Council but was seen as part and parcel of its mandate.  The Council, in December 2003 and again in June of this year, had paid due attention to the aide-memoire and the 10-point platform, or humanitarian road map.  To be effective, those instruments must be regularly updated.  He had been pleased to see that women, children, the elderly and displaced persons had been included in the overall efforts to protect civilians.  In addition, he said that camps for displaced persons should be set up far from the border to enhance their civilian nature.

    To increase the effectiveness of the international community’s response, he recommended a number of suggestions, including the prevention of human rights violations and gross abuses, noting that the Council had further reaffirmed the need to prevent excesses against civilians wherever they were threatened.  The Council must be up to the task of taking the necessary measures to ensure that protection.  Peacekeeping operations should be able to intervene to stop massive human rights violations, and the parties to a conflict must be urged to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.  The Council could take measures to enhance the cost of misconduct in that regard, and deterrence could be in the form of targeted sanctions.  Everything possible must be done to end impunity, as the authors of massive human rights violations and heinous crimes, in many cases, were still free to commit those atrocities.  The perpetrators should be brought to justice, including before the International Criminal Court.

    He said that peacekeepers could be given the authority by a united Council to defer to international jurisdictions those who committed crimes in their jurisdictions.  He welcomed the measures being taken to address the issue of United Nations staff engaged in terrible conduct in peace operations.  He believed that the Organization’s staff should be above reproach.  The Council should pay more attention to conflict prevention and to ensuring that peace building efforts recognized the key role of civil society and women.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the protection of civilian was one of the most challenging tasks facing the international community.  It had been a year since the 10-point platform had been presented.  Today’s debate was a welcomed opportunity to focus on concrete steps forward, as problems relating to protection had reached distressing dimensions.  In many civil wars, combatants targeted civilians and relief workers with impunity, and, in some wars, civilians seemed to be the preferred targets.  Also, the work of humanitarian actors had been hindered or prevented by poor security conditions and a lack of resources.  The Council had achieved much in pushing forward the protection agenda, but the time had come to agree on action-oriented approaches.

    Stressing the need to make more effective use of existing laws, he said the primary responsibility to abide by the law lay with belligerents.  In contemporary conflicts, humanitarian law was often deliberately breached or neglected.  One possibility was that of establishing a framework within which the United Nations could engage with regional organizations on humanitarian issues related to protection and access.  In that respect, he focused on the need for mechanisms to provide better statistics on protection.  The Council had an important role to play in the fight against impunity, and, by bringing perpetrators to justice, the International Criminal Court would be able to provide long-term deterrents.  In discussing peacekeeping mandates, the Council had included provisions for the protection of civilians on a case-by-case basis.  Progress in that regard must continue.  While peacekeeping operations had been broadened, they had not been provided with adequate resources for the protection of civilians.

    Noting that disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation (DDRR) programmes remained continuously under-resourced, he said the core components of DDRR programmes must be funded from the assessed peacekeeping budget.  The lack of support for forgotten emergencies must also be properly addressed.  Humanitarian aid, moreover, must be awarded on the basis of need, and not political preferences.  The Council had to work to adopt concrete measures to alleviate the suffering of civilians, and implementation in the field should be the most urgent task ahead.

    JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said that the protection of civilians was at the core of the Council’s mandate to ensure international peace and security.  Humanitarian access lay at the heart of the protection response.  Today’s meeting signalled that the issue was at the centre of international concerns and that further progress must be made to strengthen the international community’s ability to protect civilians in armed conflict.  The Council should assign to early-warning and conflict-prevention mechanisms a more relevant role.  The international community should be equipped with the necessary instruments, political will, strategic vision and operational readiness to decisively address any threats to peace and prevent crisis situations from spinning out of control.  In addition, the Council, in concert with regional and subregional organizations, should further develop conflict-prevention strategies.  Regional groups were well suited to working with the Council and provided suitable early warning and early access to tragic situations, often engaging with first-hand knowledge of local idiosyncrasies.  It was crucially important to provide them with the necessary support.

    He called for strengthening of the legal regime relating to international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, and for non-State actors to comply with their provisions.  Governments must not interpret those binding rules as relative norms, which could be set aside if they were not convenient.  The United Nations system should be entrusted with the particular responsibility of taking appropriate and comprehensive action.  Moreover, the international community should deploy renewed resolve in the fight against impunity and ensure the rule of law, justice and reconciliation, through the establishment of effective and fair justice systems, which ensured accountability for the injustices and atrocities against civilians.  Despite the fact that the primary protection responsibility rested with governments, non-State actors should also be accountable to ensuring that the basic needs of civilian populations were met.  He recalled the Council’s commitment in resolution 1265 to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians were being directly targeted or where humanitarian assistance was being deliberately denied.

    Also deserving of special attention was the trafficking in and widespread use of small arms and light weapons, and anti-personnel mines.  Particularly welcome would be efforts to separate armed elements from civilians in refugee camps, ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and their unhindered access to civilians in need.  He abhorred sexual exploitation and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises and conflict situations, as well as the commercial exploitation of natural resources and the involvement and role of terrorists in armed conflict.  Equally important was the provision of security and law and order in post-conflict situations; the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation of former fighters; and human rights training of peacekeepers.

    ABDELAZIZ BELKHADEM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, speaking on his national capacity, said that despite shortcomings, major strides had been made in the area of protection.  It was timely to assess those achievements in the wake of the Millennium Declaration and the major projects to adapt the Organization’s response to new challenges, and the Secretary-General’s first report had provided the structure for the discussion.  The main concerns in the area of protection were systematically highlighted in the Council’s resolutions, as peacekeeping mandates made reference to sexual violence, humanitarian access and the DDRR process.

    Progress, however, should not mask the many remaining shortcomings in the legal protection of civilians caught in the grips of war, he said.  It remained a long-term task.  The complex nature of crises and aggravating factors had all contributed to the deliberate targeting of non combatants.  The international community had shown on many occasion its determination to react swiftly to an emerging crisis with the appropriate means, by providing peacekeeping operations with stronger mandates.  Preserving the gains would be possible through regional approaches to the protection of civilians through the provision of adequate resources.  Regarding United Nations peacekeeping forces, he said their behaviour vis-à-vis civilians must meet the highest standards.  Indications of certain reprehensible behaviours called for greater firmness in that regard.

    The first line of defence in international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions was to be found in the occupied territories, he said.  In occupied Palestine, there were situations that constituted a trigger because of the massive violations of humanitarian law and humanitarian principles.  Those abuses were committed by clearly identified State actors, towards whom the Council had not shown its usual firmness.  The international community was being sorely tested by the double standard that benefited Israel.  The current debate offered the Council a new opportunity to carry out the adjustments necessary.  A new effort was needed to take into account the operation of regular armies in populated areas.

    As the meeting resumed in the afternoon, KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said the High-Level Panel’s report had revealed an alarming trend:  while inter-State conflicts had decreased, internal armed conflicts were breaking out with greater frequency, and more and more civilians were suffering.  Civil wars sparked by ethnic or religious differences almost invariably intensified hatred between parties, and civilians were often subjected to relentless attacks.  He pointed out that humanitarian aid was a vital tool to help governments fulfil their responsibility to ensure the well-being of their citizens.  Such aid minimized suffering and kept people alive, so that when conflicts ended, there would be a basis from which a shattered society could be promptly rebuilt

    In deciding on appropriate actions to protect civilians, he said, the Council should be timely and accurately informed about a situation causing concern.  It must also listen to governments concerned about civilian protection, and learn what steps they had taken.  In the case of the Rwandan genocide, when the Council failed to take effective action, information was available that massive killings were occurring.  The Council had the responsibility to respond to situations posing threats to international peace and security by applying international norms.

    He added that regional organizations could play an enormous role in addressing civilian protection and assistance by helping to improve security conditions and ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel.  The United Nations should promote cooperation with regional organizations so that they could fulfil their mandates.  It was also vital that the safety of humanitarian personnel be ensured so they could respond effectively to the protection and assistance needs of civilians.  In addition, special attention should be paid to protecting vulnerable groups such as women and children.

    ALLAN ROCK (Canada) said a significant gap remained between what the Council said in its resolutions and its actions to protect civilians in armed conflict.  Its responses remained ad hoc and were often not timely or proactive.  Long-term political engagement and effective and timely recourse to the full range of measures available to the Council were essential to ensuring more effective protection of civilians.  In addition, the Council must be consistent in the messages it sent in response to war crimes and crimes against humanity, monitoring the measures it imposed, such as arms and other embargoes, and not tolerating failure by parties to conflict to comply with its resolutions.

    If the Council was to adopt credible and timely preventative measures, he said, it must identify countries at risk of potential threats to peace that were not yet on its agenda.  A more defined trigger mechanism for Council action was needed to ensure it responded immediately when civilians were directly targeted, humanitarian aid was deliberately obstructed, and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law occurred with impunity.  In implementing sanctions, the Council must continue to strengthen its enforcement and monitoring mechanisms for arms embargoes and other targeted sanctions.

    The link between the illicit exploitation of natural resources and the intensity and persistence of armed conflicts was clear, he said, as were the horrific implications for civilian safety.  The Council should adopt a systematic approach to address the range of natural resources known to be linked to armed conflict, formalize the “expert panel” mechanism, and press for the genuine enforcement of targeted sanctions regimes, including through national enforcement mechanisms.  Finally, the capacity of United Nations country teams to lead and coordinate on protection issues must be strengthened if the Council was to succeed in enhancing the rights and well-being of conflict-affected civilians on a daily basis.

    ARJAN PAUL HAMBURGER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the Union remained committed to enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and to the Secretary-General’s 10-point Platform for Action.  Noting that among civilians the principal victims of armed conflict were refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), he said they continued to require the international community’s special attention.  While the High Commissioner for Refugees remained responsible for protecting refugees, there had been no such clear definition of roles in the case of IDPs.  While the Union welcomed the Organization’s collaborative approach to supporting and protecting IDPs, it underscored that its implementation in the worst current crisis -- Darfur -- had been far from perfect.

    Moreover, he continued, the European Union remained particularly concerned by the vulnerable position of women and children in armed conflict, and condemned all practices of violence against women and girls as weapons of war -- including rape and sexual slavery.  The Council’s recommendations on protection of women, contained in its resolution 1325 (2000), must be fully implemented.  There was also a need to pay special attention to the position and needs of children in peace negotiations, mandates of peace support operations and DDRR programmes.

    Also welcoming the appointment of a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on prevention of genocide, he underlined the importance of mechanisms to identify potential instability and prevent great human suffering.  And, in conclusion, he stressed that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes.  The fight against impunity in post-conflict societies with scarce capacity for the administration of justice could only be won with international support.  The Union, therefore, welcomed the International Criminal Court’s determination that a rational basis to investigate crimes allegedly committed in the territories of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda existed, as well as the relationship agreement concluded between the United Nations and the Court.

    AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that the Council’s engagement with the issue of the protection of civilians had reflected recognition by the United Nations that the performance of the international community in that area still required unswerving commitment, political will and collective action.  Discussion of the issue had coincided with the recent release of the report of the High-Level Panel, which dealt with the issue of civilian protection from the perspective that humanitarian operations were the cornerstone role of the Organization within the framework of collective security.

    In recent years, the Council had defined, through the adoption of several texts, the requirements for dealing with civilian protection in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law, he said.  Yet, the “hotbeds of conflicts” in the world today had raised increasing concerns about numerous violations against civilians and displaced persons and the plundering of natural resources and artefacts.  All of that had reflected the continuing failure of the international community to effectively and decisively confront those violations banned by international humanitarian law.

    He cited as examples the situations in Palestine, Iraq, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burundi, and Guinea-Bissau, among others.  The international community’s response had not been commensurate with the human suffering flowing from those conflicts.  The serious problem today was the absence of a “collective international determination”, which should be manifested by the United Nations in dealing with the most seriously affected parts of the world.  The media emphasis accompanying the tragedy in Darfur had not matched the repeated calls of the United Nations to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of victims.  Indeed, humanitarian concerns should take precedence over political expediency.  Despite some improvements in expanding the scope of peace operations to include protection of civilians, safeguarding access to humanitarian assistance varied in effectiveness from one case to the next.  The Council, therefore, should give the necessary attention to the means of implementing the 10-point plan and to defining a strategy to deal with humanitarian crises, which redressed the ongoing shortcomings.

    PETER MAURER (Switzerland) welcomed the Secretary-General’s determination to strengthening international action in the 10 priority areas.  Switzerland advocated a strategy to protect civilians in armed conflict that was based on respect for international law.  Existing rules of law, in particular the Geneva Conventions, must be respected in all circumstances, as they formed an adequate basis to face most current challenges.  In that context, the importance of fighting impunity, both at the national and international levels was crucial.  As long as impunity remained endemic, the protection of civilians would be impossible.  Switzerland invited the Council to use the authority it had under the Rome Statute to refer cases to the International Criminal Court.

    Sanctions were an essential tool for responding to certain threats to international peace and security, he said.  In recent years, while significant progress had been achieved in defining more targeted sanctions, further efforts were required.  Switzerland and Canada had contributed to the development of a methodology developed by OCHA to evaluate the humanitarian impact of sanctions.  Internally displaced persons were particularly exposed to the horrors of war, and their protection must be a priority.  Persuading armed non-State actors to respect international humanitarian law was currently one of the great challenges.  In developing a comprehensive strategy, the private sector’s role in conflicts should be taken into account. While goodwill and self-regulation had had positive effects over the years, clear rules regarding the private sector’s responsibilities should nevertheless be established.

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago had “shaken our conscience; it had reminded us of our obligation towards civilian victims of armed conflict”.  Regrettably, civilians continued to be subjected to extreme violence.  They were also denied access to essential humanitarian assistance.  The erosion of the social support structure and the prevailing culture of impunity had led to the spread of violence, particularly against women and children.  Sexual violence against them was being used as a means of warfare in some conflicts.  The regional dimensions of some conflicts were also creating new dynamics requiring the adoption of a regional and comprehensive approach.  In that regard, the increasing role of regional organizations, particularly the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was welcome.

    He cited the emerging broad consensus to strengthen the processes of DDRR, and called for a regional approach to those programmes in view of the cross-border movements of refugees, combatants and small arms.  Recent events in Côte d’Ivoire had once again brought to the fore the need for clearer and more robust peacekeeping mandates.  He was also concerned at the worsening of security constraints on humanitarian assistance for 3.5 million civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories, following the construction of a barrier through the West Bank.

    The international community must remain engaged in ensuring that civilians caught in armed conflicts were physically protected, that humanitarian assistance reached them unimpeded, and that, once peace was achieved, civilians were not deprived of its dividends.  He said the peace process, itself, must address concerns about civilian protection and should include a commitment by all parties to the conflict to:  cease attacks on civilians; facilitate humanitarian access; create conditions conducive to safe and sustainable refugee returns; ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel; and actively participate in “DDRR” programmes.

    MARIA ELENA CHASSOUL (Costa Rica) said the protection of civilians was the very reason for the Organization’s existence.  The Council had to take more determined action to prevent armed conflict.  In that connection, she stressed the need for the Secretariat to set up an effective early warning system.  It was also necessary for the Council and the United Nations to implement the plan of action outlined one year ago. The United Nations must urge the parties to conflict to grant humanitarian workers access.  It was also necessary to set up machinery to ensure that forgotten crises remained on the international agenda. The international community must more effectively respond to the needs of refugees and IDPs, including their security.  Refugee camps must not be infiltrated by armed groups seeking to politicize and militarize refugees.

    Particular attention must be given to child victims of armed conflict, she said.  The reintegration of minors was, in the long term, the best way to break the cycle of violence.  At the same time, it was important to respect the impartiality and independence of humanitarian personnel.  Impunity must be ended, she added; criminal acts must be punished; and the International Criminal Court could play a constructive role in that regard.  She also stressed the need to eliminate trafficking in small and light weapons and expressed concern about the allegations of sexual exploitation by peacekeeping personnel.  If true, the United Nations was losing its capability to protect and serve societies affected by war, and such acts called for immediate action.  The Secretary-General must pursue and expand the investigations under way, as the Organization had to set the example.  Should there be evidence of criminal conduct, staff must be immediately separated from service.

    OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said that any international law violation should receive an immediate and strong response from the Security Council.  He supported the recommendations of the High-Level Panel, which stated that, to protect civilians, all Member States of the United Nations must adhere to and implement all humanitarian-related conventions, particularly the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Genocide.  If human rights were not seen as being defended by those treaties, then the ethical norms upon which civilized life was founded would lose all legitimacy.  The humanitarian conventions intended to protect civilians were useless if the peacekeeping capacity was weakened by the recruitment constraints or a lack of capabilities and efficiency on the part of the recruited troops.  That was why the Council must endorse the Panel’s recommendations, which called on the countries with the greatest military capabilities to make available autonomous, stand-by battalions, highly trained and self-sufficient and perhaps as big as a brigade.  Those must be made available to the United Nations.

    He said that, if the quantity and quality of United Nations troops was not improved, it would be impossible to protect civilians, unless the Organization was ready to go to the “absurd degree” of contracting private military businesses with no obligations under international humanitarian law and, which today, provided a mercenary-type alternative to the armed forces from States.  Moreover, the protection of civilians was considered casually in some strategic circles to be part of the scope of the concept of collateral damage.  In many cases, the latter phrase was a euphemism used to refer to the many civilians who were going to die or who had already died, with a view to justifying the targeting of military installations.  If the United Nations did not react to that concept of collateral damage, it would be following the military logic of the belligerents who accepted that fact that there would be collateral damage, by necessity and as a principle.  If the United Nations’ expressed intention to protect civilians was real, then it could not accept that reasoning.  A primary task of the Security Council was to investigate loss of civilian life, thereby determining whether or not belligerents had complied with humanitarian conventions.

    AMINU B. WALI (Nigeria) said the African continent had the unenviable record of playing host to the highest number of conflicts today.  Those conflicts, many of them internal, had adversely affected the social, cultural and economic lives of millions of people who were neither combatants nor parties to the conflict.  The impunity of parties to conflict to mete out collective punishments on harmless populations continued to be of serious concern to Nigeria.  Civilians were all too often caught up in the struggle for power and control of resources, becoming pawns in a deadly game that had neither rules nor respect for the dignity of persons.

    The first step in protecting civilians in armed conflict was the prevention of conflicts, he said.  In that regard, Nigeria had intensified efforts to find lasting solutions to conflict situations in the West African subregion in particular, and across Africa in general, including the Great Lakes region and the Sudan.  No meaningful development could take place in an atmosphere of insecurity and chaos.  For that reason, he called on the international community to redouble its efforts towards the resolution of the diverse conflicts now raging in Africa and to assist countries emerging from conflict to rebuild their shattered economies and infrastructure.

    On its part, the African Union had increased its capacity to resolve armed conflicts and to protect civilians in armed conflict through its Peace and Security Council, he said.  The international community’s firm commitment was crucial in that regard, in particular through the provision of crucial logistical support.  An essential aspect of prevention must include the strengthening of the rule of law.  The international community must rise with one voice against the perpetrators of those despicable acts against innocent civilians.

    Nigeria called for a two-pronged approach to the issue of protection, he said.  The first was to encourage the spirit of compromise and even-handed development that would greatly reduce or remove the need for war.  The second was to stand firm against violators of the rights of civilians in armed conflicts, through the strengthening of legal frameworks and mechanisms for monitoring and reporting attacks against civilians, by State and non-State actors.

    JUDITH BAHEMUKA (Kenya), suggesting that the nature of conflict itself had changed, said it was common now to find situations where civilians had taken up arms against established governments.  Combatants now survived on the support of civilian non-combatants.  That presented a complex scenario for the parties to a conflict.  Armed groups that did not have standard command and control functions did not operate with standard military rules of procedure, and often involved child soldiers, who were either abducted to fight or were on drugs.  Notwithstanding those complexities, the onus was still on the international community to uphold and enforce international humanitarian law to stop the suffering of civilians during conflicts.  The question of impunity should be addressed, and all actors -- be they government or rebels -- must be made to understand that the international community would hold them responsible for any violations of international humanitarian law.

    She called on the Security Council to develop strategies to engage more consistently with conflicts to help protect civilians in neglected cases.  All possible tools must be made available, including intense diplomacy, support for the negotiation of access of humanitarian aid and, in extreme cases, the contribution of troops to United Nations-led peace operations with strong mandates to protect civilians.  Both governments and the United Nations should implement new systematic procedures to assess how best to protect vulnerable civilians in crises.  The independent and impartial provision of basic needs to a population was meant to be a key part of the international community’s commitment to protect it.  Every civilian in armed conflict had the right to receive food, water, shelter and medical assistance.  The international community had a responsibility to provide funding and to apply political pressure on the warring parties to ensure that, despite the conflict, vital supplies reached the most vulnerable.

    MARCO A. SUAZO (Honduras) said the best guarantee of security for civilian populations was the absence of war.  Humanitarian crises had particularly devastating consequences for women, children and the elderly.  The use of violence against them as a strategy of war was totally unacceptable.  A resounding response must be given to such practices.  The Council had to implement the resolutions it had already adopted on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  In a statement to the Council, the Secretary-General had said that United Nations staff were serving in a dangerous environment because Member States had decided their work was necessary.

    Providing humanitarian assistance was essential for helping civilian populations, he said.  Political steps would not suffice.  In that regard, he recommended the establishment of a liaison office between the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in order to effectively safeguard populations at risk.  He hoped the Secretary-General’s next report would put forward recommendations for immediate action.  All combatants must comply with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, and, for their part, States must ratify treaties on the protection of civilians, such as the Rome Statute.  Council members should heed the fact that it was necessary to consider socio-economic factors when establishing peacekeeping operations.

    CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that prevention was the key aspect in the protection of civilians.  It must be made clear that abuses against civilian populations, often carried out against the most vulnerable members, were violations of international law that would not go unpunished.  An unequivocal and credible message that there would be no impunity in any situation for crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, would be a strong deterrent and serve as a very useful tool of prevention.  The Council had the authority, under the Rome Statute, to refer situations to the International Criminal Court, even in situations where the State concerned had not subscribed to the Statute.  Hopefully, adoption of the relationship agreement between the United Nations and the Court earlier this year would lead to effective and practical cooperation between the two bodies.  He welcomed the appointment of a Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, which would serve as an early-warning instrument.

    He said that the concept of the responsibility to protect had been endorsed by the High-Level Panel as an “emerging norm” in the area of collective international responsibility.  He welcomed that emphasis on the concept, which had rightfully been playing an increasing role in international discourse.  The protection and well-being of civilian populations must remain the primary responsibility of the State concerned, as the inability or unwillingness of States in that regard had led to massive and large-scale violations of international humanitarian and human rights law with all their devastating human, social and economic consequences.  The Council must become active, in order to live up to its responsibility under the United Nations Charter.  Abuse of civilians was particularly reprehensible when committed by those entrusted with ensuring their protection.  Reports of abuses committed by peacekeeping personnel, therefore, were most disturbing and should be thoroughly investigated.  Such incidents gravely jeopardized the United Nations’ work in that area and in general.  Thus, the necessary steps must be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

    ALBERTO PEDRO D’ALOTTO (Argentina) stressed that no security issues could precede the primary obligation of States to comply with the norms of international humanitarian law contained in the Geneva Conventions.  The fight against terrorism, an international priority, should be carried out with full respect for the international law of human rights.  The obligation to respect the civilian population within the framework of international humanitarian law also extended to other non-State actors.  In a significant number of conflict situations humanitarian personnel continued to face obstacles in fulfilling their tasks.  The safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel, including locally recruited personnel, to civilians in armed conflicts was essential.  States affected by conflicts, as well as neighbouring States, should cooperate with the United Nations to facilitate such access.  He supported the United Nations efforts to improve the practical aspects of the security of personnel.

    Specific actions for the protection of civilians could be taken regionally, including actions regarding refugees, the illegal trade in natural resources and disarmament, he said.  In that regard, he supported the establishment of a framework within which the United Nations could engage in a more systematic manner with regional organizations on humanitarian issues, such as protection and access.

    PHILIPPE DJANGONÉ-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the United Nations had demonstrated a welcome vigour in the area of civilian protection, particularly since 1999, and a long time after the world was a silent witness to the genocide in Rwanda.  Since then, the Council had taken a number of important decisions to protect civilians, and the Secretary-General had put that aspect into the 10-point platform.  Missions on the ground and cooperation with regional groups had further demonstrated the importance the Secretary-General accorded that question.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations had been able to deploy peacekeeping forces to avoid immediate crises in terms of civilian protection and the re-establishment of order.

    Despite such generous support by the United Nations system, which had been developing a common and clear concept of protection, genuine coordination was lacking.  Protection had been defined as a priority, but the Secretary-General had noted some lingering shortcoming, for which he had suggested some actions he had deemed relevant.  Côte d’Ivoire supported those and echoed his final comments.

    He wished to focus on several points, among them that the United Nations should “drop its hackneyed clichés” born of battles already fought.  It should place the Ivorian situation in its true context, where the media in rebel-held areas had been harnessed to discharge disloyal propaganda to the total silence of the international community.  The Ministry of State of Communication was held by a minister who came from the rebels, and the State media and newspapers in government-held areas were banned in rebel-held territories, while newspapers defining the rebel position circulated freely in Government-held areas.  In addition, all sectors and elements of society should be represented in the peace process to ensure gender equality and a favourable climate for lasting peace.  Peace agreements should include a commitment to disarm, demobilize, repatriate and rehabilitate former fighters, which was part of re-establishing and gradually strengthening mutual trust.

    As with the Ivorian conflict, conflicts today all had regional dimensions, he said.  Thus, the peace agreements should be negotiated in that framework, and their implementation should be following up regionally.  The post-conflict phases should also have a regional dimension.  The international community and the Security Council, above all, should now affirm their dedication to the principles of international law -- international humanitarian and human rights law, founded on justice, respect for human dignity and the dignity of nations, conflict prevention and the peaceful settlements of disputes –- where the force of law was favoured and not the law of force.

    He recalled the request to send an impartial commission of inquiry to investigate recent events in his country since early November, which had given rise to a number of allegations of the shooting of civilians.  There was no doubt that protection of civilians in armed conflict was part of a broader respect for international law and international humanitarian and human rights law, and for combating impunity.  It was incumbent upon the Organization to respect those principles in a non-selective manner; the credibility of the Organization depended on it.

    DON MACKAY (New Zealand), also on behalf of Australia, said there were too many violent and often fatal attacks deliberately targeting humanitarian workers, most of whom were unarmed civilians participating in United Nations missions in the field.  Regrettably, little had changed since the Secretary-General’s fourth report on safeguarding humanitarian personnel.  Of great concern was that those who carried out attacks on both civilians and humanitarian workers did so seemingly with impunity.  The sad reality was that most of those responsible for the atrocities had not been brought to justice.  That high degree of impunity had been allowed to exist because of delays in establishing, or total failure to establish, appropriate criminal tribunals.  Impunity allowed those responsible not to be held to account for their actions, denied justice to their victims and the families of victims, and sent the message that the international community was not prepared to take action even when fundamental human rights were breached.

    As strong supporters of the International Criminal Court, Australia and New Zealand had worked closely with other countries to encourage widespread ratification and implementation, he said.  The crucial role that the Court was now playing in dealing with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity could not be overstated.  The United Nations and its MemberStates must fully commit to establishing a culture of protection for civilians.  He urged all countries that had not yet done to accede to the convention establishing the International Criminal Court and to recognize its jurisdiction.  The scope of the Convention for the Protection of United Nations and Associated Personnel must be widened to cover all situations where those personnel were engaged in peacekeeping, humanitarian, and other assistance-related activities.  Meanwhile, it was vital to the United Nations that the conduct of its peacekeeping and mission personnel be beyond reproach.  The High-Level Panel’s recommendations on internal threats and the responsibility to protect were timely, and he urged the Council and the wider United Nations membership to give them serious consideration.

    MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUELLAR (Colombia) reiterated her country’s commitment to promoting and protecting the civilian population and its belief that the State was responsible for the protection of its population.  In that regard, Colombia’s Government had worked without rest, and concrete achievements had begun to appear.  The displacement rate had declined by some 48 per cent and the amount of resources appropriate for such purposes had grown from some $14 million in 2002 to $120 million for 2005.  The National Plan for Assistance to the Displaced Populations was the first humanitarian plan to involve such active United Nations participation.  The Government was taking measures and promoting policies to benefit the displaced population.

    Colombians understood the suffering produced by conflict and terrorist threats, she said.  As a result, it had taken concrete actions to normalize the civilian population’s living situation.  Colombia welcomed the generous actions of the NGO community, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations system to ease the situation of the displaced population.  In Colombia, the ICRC had unimpeded and secure access to the civilian population, and the United Nations system had a presence throughout the country.  Colombia did not believe, however, that dialogue with illegal armed groups was needed.  Negotiations under the umbrella of a humanitarian cause could be used for political goals.  That was why the Colombian Government was the only actor responsible for negotiating with illegal armed groups.  The Government was entitled to request facilitators when it believed that their work could strengthen the search for peace.

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