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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
Security Council
22 June 2007


Security Council
SC/9057

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council
5703rd Meeting (AM) /...


Background

The Security Council met this morning to discuss the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and was expected to be briefed by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JOHN HOLMES, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, ...

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He said “protection” meant different things.  To most people, it meant what it said: physical protection of innocent people from those trying to harm them.  “We must not lose sight of this primary meaning,” he said, but added that the protection of civilians in armed conflict also had particular significance in the work of humanitarian organizations and in the context of the Security Council’s responsibilities.  For the Council, it represented a series of primary objectives aimed to transform the security, political, legal and moral environment in which all concerned operated.  Those objectives included, among others, security for displaced persons and host communities, ensuring access to those in need and a secure environment for relief workers, strengthening the rule of law, protection of women and girls, preventing recruitment of child soldiers and action on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and mine action.

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Also, civilian casualties from the indiscriminate use of force had characterized fighting in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, whether from Israeli military operations or violence between Palestinian factions, as well as indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel itself, he said.  ...

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Statements

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BONGIWE QWABE ( South Africa) said the Council should avoid the politicization of humanitarian assistance.  He urged the international community not to ignore Gaza.  He supported the call by the Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the reopening of Karni, the main commercial crossing point into Gaza.  In March, South Africa had introduced an open debate in the Council for greater cooperation and coordination with regional organizations, particularly the African Union, to help better protect civilians and offer humanitarian assistance.  Regional organizations were closer to the areas of concern and their role should be strengthened to act more effectively when future conflicts arose.

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VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) ...

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The same could be said in light of the renewed violence in the Palestinian Occupied Territory and in Afghanistan.   Russia was particularly concerned by violence perpetrated against vulnerable populations, such as women and children.  He called for strict compliance by all parties to international humanitarian law, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions. ...

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MEIRAV ELION SHAHR ( Israel) said that a quick0 snapshot of conflicts around the world reminded the international community of the almost daily violence against civilians and the failure of Member States to protect their civilians from such immediate threats to life and security, triggered by forces of extremism and instability.  Sadly, civilians were caught in the crossfire and bore the tragic toll.  They were also often exploited by their own insurgents, who intentionally and cynically chose to operate from densely populated areas in blatant violation of the basic principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.  She also stressed that the safety and access of humanitarian personnel and journalists, who worked as professional independents, must be ensured.  Additionally, the masquerading of terrorists and militants in journalists’ vehicles must also be forcefully condemned.

She said that, when sovereign States failed to govern responsibly, terrorist and other non-State actors sought to take advantage of the void.  That was a deeply troubling phenomenon that had been witnessed too many times in the Middle East.  Just this past weekend, “in a moment of déjà vu”, Israel had seen rockets again launched directly at civilians in northern Israel by terrorist factions in southern Lebanon.  Moreover, in Lebanon, Hizbullah stored its rockets from positions nestled within the fabric of civilian life and in proximity of places of worship and hospitals.  In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists firing Qassam rockets used similar tactics.  The international community’s vigilance in protecting civilians, particularly in States that were negligent, must not waver.  The choice to deal with such situations could save countless lives, she added, stressing that greater focus should be given to credible preventive measures, as well as actions to ensure that humanitarian agencies could be effective in their work in the field.

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For information media • not an official record

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