United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict - New Zealand statement
Statement delivered by Craig J. Hawke, Permanent Representative of the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations, 23 April 2019
As, the Secretary-General’s report notes, it is a sad fact that 20 years since the adoption by this Council of Resolution 1265, the state of the protection of civilians is tragically similar to that time.
Members speaking today will no doubt express their outrage at this state of affairs, but yet we continue to see the erosion of respect for the basic principles of international humanitarian law.
As we reach the 20th anniversary of resolution 1265, and also of resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, it is important that we reflect on what is working and what isn’t.
We recognise the importance of monitoring, including of human rights, and call for the continued inclusion of monitoring within peacekeeping and political mandates.
Monitoring is crucial for evidence gathering for two reasons:
Firstly, evidence gathering for accountability. We reiterate our support for domestic mechanisms as the primary method of accountability.
But where domestic mechanisms fail, or countries are unwilling to investigate, the international community has a responsibility to act.
We must be prepared to call out breaches of international humanitarian law where we see them, by states and non-state actors.
We must be prepared to support international mechanisms, like the Syria International Impartial and Independent Mechanism, to reinforce that breaches of international humanitarian law are not without consequence.
Secondly, evidence gathering for improvements. We are collectively grappling with the changing nature of conflicts. Urbanised, asymmetric conflicts pose an increased risk to civilians.
This must be factored into the assessments required by the law of armed conflict before engagement.
Such assessments must include the means and methods of attack - and notably, therefore, must review the choice of weapon to be used in any conflict.
Specifically with regard to this issue, I note that the Secretary-General’s report usefully draws attention to the direct and indirect humanitarian harm, which can be caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA).
Reflecting our own strong concern about the need to better protect civilians from the use of EWIPA, New Zealand warmly welcomes the initiative taken by the Government of Austria to host a conference in October this year to help chart a way forward on this important topic.
The Secretary-General’s report notes the wide range of causes of insecurity which can affect the safety and wellbeing of civilians. Our international responses must consider the entire conflict cycle in a holistic fashion.
This includes the provision of humanitarian assistance.
We have heard today of the continued and pervasive humanitarian access constraints which we urge all parties to address.
Bureaucracy should never be an impediment to saving lives.
To ensure a holistic approach to ending conflict, there is a need for greater focus on parts of the population that are disproportionately impacted by armed conflict. This necessarily includes women, children, and persons with disabilities.
New Zealand deplores the ongoing attacks and violations being committed against healthcare facilities and healthcare workers.
All parties to conflicts, states or otherwise, must abide by the principles of international humanitarian law, and their obligations to protect civilians.
We must do better.
Thank you, Mr President