To better ensure the protection of civilians [fr]
Protection of the civilians - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 22 May 2018
I would like to begin by thanking the Polish presidency of the Security Council for taking the initiative to organize today’s very important debate on the protection of civilians, presided over by Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would also like to thank the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr. Yves Daccord, and Ms. Hanaa Edwar for their inspiring briefings. Lastly, I would like to thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations for his uncompromising briefing.
From Afghanistan to Yemen, in Iraq, Somalia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he painted a very dire picture of threats to mandates for the protection of civilians. International humanitarian law, which is designed to save civilians from the effects of hostilities, is being defied. It is the duty of all States to respect and enforce respect for international humanitarian law.
I would like to underscore the Council’s achievements before addressing the progress that we still need to make in response to the Secretary-General’s recommendations.
First, I would like to highlight the commitment and achievements of the Security Council with regard to the protection of civilians. We are not starting with a blank slate. The Council has improved the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations mandates. In addition, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, analysis of threats considers both the military and civilian components of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in order to determine what their integrated response should be, including by deploying uniformed personnel, if necessary. The protection of civilians is essential during elections and the demonstrations that go on around them.
In the Central African Republic, we have strengthened the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic. Efforts are under way to provide it with increased resources and flexibility for protecting civilians, as the Amoussou report has requested. The attacks on peacekeeping operations related to protection are especially intense. Whether the components are military or civilian, they must have sufficient resources to meet their objectives, and that goes especially for human rights personnel, whose early-warning role is vital to the protection of civilians. But peacekeeping operations’ operational performance is also essential. If they are to be able to protect civilians properly, they must be able to protect themselves with proper training, preparation and equipment. As the Secretary-General said, both aspects are inextricably linked.
We have also continued and stepped up our efforts to protect women and children. Thanks to the efforts of special representatives, force commanders and dedicated advisers in the various missions, genuine progress has been made. Child protection advisers, as is the case with MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, play a decisive role every day in liberating children. Their functions must be maintained.
The Security Council has been innovative through its establishment under resolution 2391 (2017) of the human rights compliance framework for the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel), whose implementation has been one a factor in the Joint Force’s success. We commend the commitment in that regard of the G-5 Sahel countries, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the relevant civil-society stakeholders. Tools such as these, which enable us to prevent civilian casualties and ascertain how they have been harmed can serve as an example and be used in other situations.
Beyond these, what are the efforts that must be made to improve the protection of civilians? First, the Council must continue to work to ensure that all parties in all zones of armed conflict respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. That is key. The Council could also strengthen its efforts to protect civilians in three specific areas. The first is the protection of medical missions and humanitarian personnel. In the light of ongoing attacks on medical personnel, on 31 October 2017 France put forward a declaration aimed at committing its signatories to taking concrete steps to implement resolution 2286 (2016). We welcome Germany, which has just endorsed the declaration, and urge all States to join our initiative. We must strengthen our action to protect all humanitarian workers, especially local actors, who are often on the front lines of violence The second area is the protection of journalists.
Attacks on media personnel continue and should not be tolerated. Protecting them is a priority for France and deeply ingrained in our DNA. We welcome the designation of a focal-point network for United Nations agencies to enable them to ensure the protection of journalists in situations of armed conflict, in line with resolutions 1786 (2007) and 2222 (2015). The Security Council must continue to monitor the issue with special vigilance.
France, in line with President Macron’s statement to the General Assembly (see A/72/PV.4), calls for giving the Secretary-General a specific mandate in that regard.
With regard to the third area, the Security Council should take the situation of detainees and missing persons into account. The International Committee of the Red Cross must be able to exercise its mission to protect such vulnerable people. France would like to recall its commitment concerning enforced disappearances and urges Member States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Ultimately, the effective protection of civilians depends on exemplary efforts by those doing the protecting and on effective support for the fight against impunity. It is essential that the people who implement protection set an example. Sexual violence, like human rights violations, cannot be tolerated. The credibility of military and civilian personnel, humanitarian actors and United Nations staff is at stake. We must ensure that they too are protected, and it is the Security Council’s job to ensure that attacks on them are investigated and prosecuted.
The Council’s contribution to the fight against
impunity must also be effective. We have a responsibility to support national and international efforts in that regard. The Council must call for cooperation with fact-finding missions, commissions of inquiry and international criminal justice instruments, first among which, where the most serious crimes are concerned, is the International Criminal Court.
Lastly, the Security Council must make every effort to put an end to violations, without hesitating to resort to sanctions. It is in that spirit that we and our partners have proposed sanctions on those responsible for trafficking in human beings within the framework of the sanctions regime in Libya. We hope to arrive at a speedy consensus that will enable us to deal with acts that as disgusting as they are destabilizing.
The protection of civilians is primarily the responsibility of States. But owing to States’ shortcomings, it is the Council’s responsibility to work tirelessly on this issue. This is not just a moral imperative; it is also about enabling peoples to survive, preventing the escalation of violence, opening up spaces for political dialogue, and recreating the conditions for lasting peace.
I urge the Security Council to come together around this shared objective and translate it into action.