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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2013

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

New Zealand Statement: HE Jim McLay, New Zealand Permanent Representative of New Zealand - 19 August 2013

Thank you Madam President -

Today’s briefings from Under-Secretary-General Amos, and from the ICRC, remind us that this agenda item is constantly relevant to the Security Council.  They also remind us of the many conflicts where this Council continues to struggle for leverage, and where the UN as a whole is not delivering what’s expected of it in its Charter.  So no one should be concerned that the Council has already focused on this thematic issue during 2013. 

Indeed - we look forward to the Secretary General’s report later in the year, and to a further debate focused on his recommendations.  

Madam President

It is nonetheless important to record that, since February, when this Council adopted a Presidential Statement under the Republic of Korea’s Presidency, we have seen a number of important and positive developments relating to protection of civilians.

The first was the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty on 2 April 2013. That was a landmark step, with really significant implications for the protection of civilians, who can always be threatened by those possessing conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons. New Zealand was proud to work closely with partners in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific to help achieve that result.

Secondly, we welcome the Council’s decision last week to emphasise the role of regional and sub-regional organisations – bodies with huge potential for improving practical outcomes in the protection of civilians – and this Council must support their efforts. 

Thirdly, we note the new approach to the robust use of force for protection of civilians within MONUSCO, as another marker of the growing commitment to the Protection agenda.

Fourthly, the AU’s welcome decision in July to establish a new peace-keeping mission in the Central African Republic, with a robust protection of civilians mandate, is particularly welcome.  As we heard last week in this chamber from USG Amos, it is now critical that this Council treats the AU’s request for support to AFISM-CAR with urgency. 

Madame President –

This Council must do more than address protection of civilians at the thematic level. It must be more fully engaged in the implementation of this agenda item in practice, in the field in the country-specific situations on its agenda.  It must also do more to lend practical support to the protection efforts of regional organisations. 

The situation in Syria remains a glaring example of where the Council is failing, both to support the approaches advocated by relevant regional organisations, and also to live up to the standards it has set for itself in its own thematic statements. In these circumstances, it is important that each of the 15 Council members be seen to be working in the Council to address the practical protection needs. 

Madame President

Under this agenda item we must also emphasise the on-going importance of ensuring the safety of humanitarian actors and their essential access to alleviate suffering.  We have heard USG Amos’ repeated calls for access to civilians trapped in Aleppo, Homs and other parts of Syria.  Civilians trapped in these conflict areas cannot wait for the successful conclusion of a political process before they receive assistance.  Preventing access by deliberately attacking humanitarian workers is a war crime, and ensuring accountability for such violations is an important role of this Council.  

Finally, on this World Humanitarian Day, it is important that we all pay respect to the many humanitarian workers who have risked - and far too often lost - their lives trying to alleviate the suffering of civilians. They command our utmost respect; and all of us - the Member States of the UN as a whole, the members of this Council and the UN Secretariat – all of us must heed their example, and also be active and equally courageous if we are to make a reality of protection of civilians.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 18 September 2013 15:29 NZST