I thank you for organizing this open debate on protection of civilians. I also thank Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ms. Helen Durham, Director for International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Ms. Iwad Elman, from the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, for their respective briefings earlier this morning.
As the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, we recall that our Organization was founded by we the peoples determined “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person”. Since the creation of the UN, the Security Council adopted a number of resolutions and strategies to protect civilians in conflict, including the landmark resolution 1265 (1999). Nonetheless, while the international community, and the United Nations in particular, has adopted an array of strategies to improve and implement protection of civilians mandates, we are extremely concerned by the increasing number of conflicts around the world and the frequent targeting of civilians, including women and children.
Over the years, the world has witnessed armed conflicts marked by systematic violence and mass atrocities against civilians. And while the Protection of Civilians agenda has evolved to become the core mandate of UN peacekeeping operations, the increasing violence against civilians has tested the fundamental principles and capabilities of those operations and demonstrated that much remained to be done. Experience on the ground however, has demonstrated that peacekeeping operations that are ill-prepared, with no adequate means to address large-scale violence directed against civilians, will falter and may even collapse.
Often there exists a gap between the expectations of civilian protection and the actual military capabilities of peacekeepers. We believe that threats to civilians and way of addressing them should inform mission mandates, strategies, structures, and resources allocation. In this respect, as a follow-up to the high-level summit on peacekeeping operations, held last September in the margins of the general debate of the General Assembly, Rwanda will organize, on 28-29 May in Kigali, an international conference on protection of civilians in armed conflicts, to further reflect on how to better implement the protection mandates of peacekeeping missions.
Today, peacekeepers and other key actors who are supposed to provide protection to civilians in armed conflicts often struggle to deliver on the promise of protection of civilians, embodied in the very heart of the UN Charter. In the Great Lakes for example, we are unfortunately still facing roaming predators against civilians, mainly the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Indeed, this genocidaire movement continues to use civilians as human shield, to forcefully recruit children and to rape and sexually abuse women and girls. Given this dark picture, MONUSCO and the DRC government need to show more commitment in the neutralization of the FDLR, in accordance with relevant decisions of the region and relevant resolutions of this Council. Four weeks after the expiration of the deadline given to the FDLR to peacefully disarm, we believe that time for announcements, communication and tough talks has passed. This is time for action.
The conflict in South Sudan also raises serious protection gaps that require immediate attention. The situation in Syria and Iraq went from bad to worse, with terrorist activities by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which commits the worst human rights violations against civilians, including journalists and humanitarian workers. As difficult as the situation might be, we believe that the international community still has a responsibility to use all leverage, and save those population in dire need. In this regard, we commend the role played by the international coalition against ISIL, led by the United States, which is in line of our collective responsibility to protect.
On women and peace and security, the Government of Rwanda considers any violence against women and girls to be an assault to human dignity. We call for, and support the full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and 1960 (2010) which insist that all peacekeeping mandates incorporate provisions that specifically identity steps to address sexual violence. This should include the clear identification of women’s protection advisers alongside gender advisers and human rights protection units; as well as a clearly defined role of women in post-conflict recovery. We also call for improved monitoring of sexual violence, and for more effective identification of good practices and challenges.
To conclude, Mr. President, let me emphasize, as we did in the past two years of membership in the Security Council, that the best way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts in the first place. And we call on the Security Council, the wider UN system, and regional and sub-regional organisations to ensure that addressing the root causes of conflicts remain on top of our collective agenda.
I thank you.