Healthcare in armed conflict is one of our top priorities
Protecting and Caring for the Wounded and Sick in Armed Conflict
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Side event - 23 mai 2018
Thank you so much Mariusz - it is a true pleasure for me but also for my outstanding team behind me, Marie-Laure Charrier and Béatrice Lederlé, to be here with you this morning.
I would like to thank the co-organizers of this very important event, and I’m sorry I cannot stay long as I wanted to because I have to join my colleagues at the Security Council.
Dear Mark (Lowcock), I agree with each and every word that you just said and I commend you also for your exemplary commitment, you and your team at OCHA (...).
As you know, promoting international humanitarian law is very much part of France’s DNA. And together with many others of course, we are driven by the imperative that Resolution 2286 be implemented. And again, it is not easy, it is a daily fight.
French Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, took the initiative on the issue of the protection of medical personnel during our Presidency of the Security Council last October, and this led to the adoption of an ambitious political declaration.
Healthcare in armed conflict is one of our top priorities because the figures are alarming. According to WHO, 322 attacks on medical personnel and health infrastructure occurred in 20 countries in conflict situations in 2017, killing 242 people. Staff and hospitals were deliberately targeted in two thirds (62%) of these attacks. The information that comes to us from OCHA, from the ICRC and actors in the field is particularly worrying. For instance, Médecins sans frontières (Doctors without Borders) and the infrastructures it supports were repeatedly targeted in Syria, in the Central African Republic and in Yemen in 2017. And this targeted attacks are perfectly well-documented.
Given the persistence of acts of violence against humanitarian and health personnel and many other obstacles to access to medical care, it is our collective responsibility to find concrete solutions to strengthen their protection, in line with the recommendations of Mark, in line with the recommendations made by the Secretary General.
To be efficient, it is a key part of my message this morning, the protection of medical care in conflict must be taken into account in the planning and conduct of military operations as well as the training and support of personnel. It is the only way it can work and lead to real progress. We must act on all levels. And to be a bit more specific about it, let me give you three very concrete examples, and very short examples:
First example, before each planned strike from our forces, health structures and medical evacuation vehicles are systematically listed and operations are developed in conjunction with the ICRC. Moreover, with regard to the use of explosive weapons in urban areas, our very strict rules of engagement make it possible to prevent the humanitarian consequences of our operations, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Second example: the training of troops, both our own and those with whom we cooperate. In Gao, Mali, for example, Barkhane - you know the French operation Barkhane in the Sahel region - Barkhane legal advisers raise awareness of the Malian forces on the protection of medical services, as part of regular training. This is part of their assignment on a day-to-day basis so that our Malian colleagues are aware of these rules of engagement, share them and implement them.
Third example: exemplary protection for the injured, whoever they may be. Any member of belligerent forces who have been wounded and taken in by the French forces is treated by the French military health services until their wounds have been stabilized. French forces, when deployed in difficult environments, also provide medical care to civilians. This is part of our engagement.
All these measures, among many others, benefit both health personnel and the military, minimizing disruption to health services and preserving patients’ right to care. Above all, they enable medical personnel to provide such care while respecting the legitimate security concerns of the armed forces.
The French political declaration of last October on the protection of Medical Personnel gives Member States the opportunity to adopt some of those concrete measures, including :
• examination of national legislation on the protection of personnel and medical infrastructures to take account of this need for protection and to ensure impartial and unimpeded care for all injured;
• the need to investigate and document incidents - this is absolutely crucial ;
• ensuring that our military doctrines, procedures and practices take into account this imperative of protecting the wounded, the sick and medical personnel in conflict zones, and that good practices are shared.
To date, 15 countries, (it is not enough, but it is a good start), including France of course, have subscribed to this declaration, and I invite all interested States to join this initiative. This is mon “message du jour”, my message of the day, and I’m sure that with the strong and concrete commitment of all of you we can make it and we can transform these 15 countries into an ocean of countries here at the UN and therefore truly make a difference on the ground, which is of course the ultimate goal.
My warmer thanks to each and every one of you.