Security Council Debate on Protection of Civilians

3 Jul

The Security Council’s recent debate on the Protection of Civilians (PoC) in armed conflict boasted much consensus by Security Council members and attending member states regarding the necessity of protecting civilians, the implementation of which continues to be debated.

The briefing came after Secretary General’s report (S/2012/376) where Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon highlighted five core challenges in protection, including enhancing compliance by non-state armed groups; protection of civilians by UN Peacekeeping and other missions; humanitarian access; and accountability.

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon gave opening remarks and discussed the main challenges to protection as well as noted that more must be done to protect women and children and to save innocent lives. Invited speakers to brief the Security Council included Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; Dr. Philip Spoeri, Director for International Law and Cooperation of the International Committee Red Cross; Ivan Simonovic, speaking on behalf of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay; and Mr. Harold Caballeros, Foreign Minister of Guatemala. They all addressed the ongoing conflicts affecting civilian populations; the need to uphold humanitarian laws and the need for prevention mechanisms.

Overall, there seemed to be some agreement on issues like the elimination of the use of explosive weapons in densely populated urban areas; condemning violence and humanitarian violations committed against civilian populations particularly within Syria, South Sudan, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many states also called for civilian monitoring and data collection for effective and reliable information; building and implementing a robust peacekeeping operation and support of peacekeeper training by DPKO with much consensus on the effectiveness of the current training modules.

On the issue of violence against women, while sexual violence was addressed, it focused mostly on the “vulnerable populations” of women and children and again highlighted women as victims without addressing the necessity of their participation in the peace process. Only Canada provided a detailed discussion and analysis regarding the role of women in empowerment and participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. They referenced Security Council Resolution 1325 and strongly expressed that women’s participation will significantly contribute to peace and security.

Disagreement on multiple items also ensued, mainly focused on promoting conversations between non-state armed actors and the UN. Colombia stressed their reservations on this topic, while other States saw coordination with non-state armed actors as being necessary to protect. Similarly, in regards to Security Council Resolution 1973, the role, timing and placement of such international intervention remained debatable with Russia particularly stressing that the role of the international body be secondary to that of the state. Moreover, on Syria, all states agreed that the crimes against civilians were unacceptable yet there was no agreement on how to proceed. Finally, on the Arms Trade Treaty, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Austria and the representative of the European Union spoke in support of a robust, workable Treaty to address arms trade as an essential mechanism to protecting civilians.

In summary, member states stressed that the protection of civilians was essential and agreed that the initial responsibility rested in the hands of the state. The majority agreed that political will and building state capacity was and continues to be essential. The implementation of PoC remains highly deficient and is severely lacking in capacity, support, motivation, effectiveness and most importantly consensus. Increasingly women are a topic of discussion yet further promotion of their role within the peace process is vital.  Overall, future success of PoC depends on finding the intersections that exist within those lenses and properly applying them to differing contexts with multiple actors.

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