[Webcast: Archived Video - Original Language: 3 hours and 51 minutes ]
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Protection of civilians in armed conflict
The President (spoke in French ): ...
At this meeting, the Council will hear a briefing by Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. I now give him the floor.
Mr. Holmes : Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. ...
In many places, however, the picture remains sombre and profoundly worrying. Allow me to highlight three areas of particular concern.
... Civilian casualties resulting from the indiscriminate use of force — whether from Israeli military operations, from violence between Palestinian factions, or from indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel itself — have characterized fighting in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Elsewhere, too, we continue to see deliberate and unacceptable attacks on aid workers. This month alone, we have seen the killing of two staff members of the Lebanese Red Cross at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, the scene of fighting between Lebanese forces and Fatah al-Islam militants; ... .
Mr. Gayama (Congo) (spoke in French ): ...
Massive displacements of populations taken hostage, persecutions for cultural reasons, torture for political reasons or simply horrid crimes, the Janjaweed in Darfur of sinister reputation, Palestine, Somalia — all these have given us many lessons, enough for us to stress what Mr. Holmes said in his message at the start of the briefing.
Mr. Burian (Slovakia): ...
We are also concerned about the increasing number of deliberate attacks against United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian workers providing assistance to civilian populations, as well as attacks against media personnel. In that respect, we strongly condemn acts such as the recent killing of a staff member of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Central African Republic and of two Lebanese Red Cross workers at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, the brutal killing of a Radio Okapi national reporter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and attacks against humanitarian personnel and piracy threatening relief deliveries to Somalia.
We support all necessary steps and actions by the international community to protect humanitarian personnel, to establish safe corridors allowing for full and unhindered humanitarian access and to provide basic security for the work of the media, including through full implementation of last year’s Security Council resolutions 1674 (2006) and 1738 (2006).
Ms. Pierce (United Kingdom): ...
The United Kingdom is also deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The recent violence, as has been stated in this Chamber, has had tragic consequences. The United Kingdom fully supports the statement by the Quartet and efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians. In that regard, we welcome Israel’s decision to facilitate humanitarian access and to ensure the provision of basic services.
In conflict situations, all parties must do their utmost to ensure full, safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian and relief agencies. Let me place on record my country’s appreciation of and respect for those national and international staff who are prepared to work in the most difficult conditions in order to provide humanitarian relief. ...
Ms. Qwabe ...
Despite positive political developments in achieving peace in many conflict areas, our world continues to be ravaged by violent armed conflicts that claim the lives of thousands of civilians and leave even more permanently displaced. The deliberate targeting of civilians in armed conflicts, together with the indiscriminate use of force, gender-based violence, forced displacement and the lack of safety and access of humanitarian personnel all have a detrimental effect on civilians.
We are therefore of the view that finding a common solution for the protection of civilians would need the cooperation of each Member State and all parties involved in a conflict. We recognize the need for a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach by the principal organs of the United Nations, cooperating with one another and within their respective mandates when dealing with the issue of the protection of civilians. General Assembly resolution 46/182, amongst others, highlights the important value that humanitarian assistance should be assigned in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and, consequently, that assistance should not be given on the basis of geopolitical considerations.
We should therefore avoid the politicization of humanitarian assistance and, in that context, we urge the international community not to ignore the occupied Palestinian territory in Gaza. Just yesterday, Mr. David Shearer, the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory, told reporters at the United Nations that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip could worsen unless Israel eases the restrictions and closures at its border crossings with the area. South Africa supports the call by OCHA for the reopening of Karni crossing, the main commercial crossing point into Gaza.
Mr. Churkin ( Russian Federation) ( spoke in Russian ): ...
Today, we cannot ignore the many years of suffering endured by civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The wounds inflicted on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 have yet to heal, and civilian casualties number in the many hundreds.
Humanitarian work is a component of a crisis-settlement strategy and post-conflict reconstruction and requires systemic measures at the international, regional and national levels. The Security Council is fully justified in paying greater attention to the protection of civilians as part of its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.
The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to the representative of Germany.
Mr. Von Ungern-Sternberg (Germany): ...
The EU is deeply concerned about the growing number of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. Right now, we witness yet again the tragedy in the Middle East. The European Union welcomes the approval by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund of nearly $6 million to Palestinian refugees who are fleeing the fighting in and around the Nahr El Bared refugee camp. The EU is also pleased that, through contributions made by the European Commission and some of its Member States in their national capacity, further funds have been made available. Overall, the Flash Appeal for $12.7 million has been met.
The growing number of journalists being killed is also extremely disturbing. Just recently, UNESCO voiced grave concern over the alarming increase in the number of journalists who lost their lives in Iraq in the last month. Security Council resolution 1738 (2006), on the safety and security of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, has become even more relevant. Equally disturbing is the number of humanitarian personnel being killed. We strongly condemn the recent killings of two workers of the Lebanon Red Cross, of two Red Cross workers in Sri Lanka, of two United Nations workers in Gaza, of a member of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Central African Republic, of a member of Caritas International in Darfur and all other killings of humanitarian personnel.
The protection of civilians in armed conflict is a complex task. The EU is fully committed to meeting that challenge. In cooperation with the United Nations, the EU continues its work for the promotion of peace and the prevention of conflict so that, one day in the future, human suffering can end.
Mrs. Eilon Shahar (Israel): ...
When sovereign States fail to govern responsibly according to their duties under international law, terrorists and other non-State actors seek to take advantage of the void. We have witnessed that deeply troubling phenomenon too many times in our region. This past Sunday, in a moment of déjà vu, we saw rockets once again launched directly at civilians in northern Israel by terrorist factions in southern Lebanon.
Moreover, the blatant disregard of terrorists for the sanctity of human life is a brutal maliciousness that we have seen, even among their own populations. The abuse, manipulation and endangerment of civilians are at the heart of terrorist thinking and tactics. In Lebanon, Hizbullah stored its rockets inside homes and launched attacks from positions nestled within the fabric of civilian life and in proximity to places of worship and hospitals. In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists firing Qassam rockets use similar tactics. As we see, terrorists groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas share those tactics.
Additionally, in Gaza we have seen the violence against Israel accompanied by intra-Palestinian violence, with blatant disregard for the rights of civilians caught amid the fighting of warring factions. In this case, civilians are not merely used as shields to mask acts of violence; in actual fact, they are deliberately targeted.
The vigilance of the international community in protecting civilians, particularly in cases where States are not able to do so, must not wane. The international community’s choice to deal with these situations could save the lives of countless civilians.
To this effect, there should be greater focus on timely and credible prevention measures, in addition to restorative actions, in order to ensure that humanitarian agencies can be effective in pursuing protection concerns in the field. Effective action also requires consistent follow-up. The Council must be proactive in monitoring the implementation of these resolutions to avert further crises stemming from State neglect.
Israel recognizes that it is the duty of all States, first and foremost, to protect their civilians from all harm. Equally important is the obligation of all States to ensure that attacks are not launched from their own sovereign territory.
Failure to hold accountable terrorist groups, as well as those States which provide safe haven and refuge for them, will only encourage extremists to increase their abuse and manipulation.
The President (spoke in French ): I give the floor once again to Mr. Holmes to respond to comments made.
Mr. Holmes : ...
Several delegations referred to the current humanitarian issues in Gaza. I fully recognize the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We, together with our representatives on the ground, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and others, are making every effort to ensure that the crossings can be opened as soon as possible. Without full opening of the crossings, in particular the Karni crossing, we face the possibility of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza in a few weeks’ time because of lack of food and lack of medical supplies. Some supplies are getting through at the moment, but they are certainly not sufficient to deal with the problem. We are fully focused on that, and I can assure the Council that we will do our best to make sure that we can resolve those issues quickly.
The meeting rose at 2.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A.