Remarks by Deputy Permanent Representative, Olivier Nduhungirehe at the UN Security Council open debate on Protection of Civilians

I thank you Madam President, and your delegation for organizing this important debate. I also thank Under Secretary General Valerie Amos; Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous, Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations; High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, and Director General Yves Daccord, for their respective briefings.

Madam President,

As the concept note for this debate highlights, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the Security Council’s engagement on protection of civilians in armed conflict, following the landmark adoption of resolution 1265 (1999). Since then, the international community, and the United Nations in particular, adopted an array of strategies in improving and implementing the protection mandates. Also over the past fifteen years, the Secretary-General has put forward over a hundred (100) recommendations to the Security Council, in his successive reports on the protection of civilians. The Council has taken many steps, both in country-specific decisions and in thematic resolutions, to improve the protection of civilians on the ground.

The combination of the above normative framework and the continuing development of mission-wide protection of civilian strategies have led to significant improvement in the UN’s ability to conceptualize and implement effective protection mandates. However, significant work remains, to ensure effective implementation on the ground.

Challenges faced in the implementation of the UN protection mandates can easily be identified in cases like South Sudan, where the recent relapse into conflict cost thousands of innocent lives. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the UN has been conducting peace operations since 1999 through MONUC/MONUSCO, but violence against civilians by the national army (FARDC) and by dozens of armed groups, including the FDLR, a movement that includes perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, have continued, unabated.

In the case of Syria, more than 130,000 people have been killed while the Security Council has failed to act in protection of innocent people, and has even failed to speak with one voice regarding access to humanitarian assistance. In Central African Republic, where even with clear warnings of imminent danger, people were lynched and killed before our eyes, we hope that, MISCA, the African-led force, supported by French and – soon – the European forces, will succeed in protecting civilians. In any case, all these situations prove that there are still gaps in the UN protection mandate, since the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, twenty years ago.

Madame President,

As the concept paper puts it, the experience of the past fifteen years offers many challenges and opportunities for modern peacekeeping operations with protection of civilian’s mandates. We believe that protection can only be achieved through the concerted efforts of integrated civil, military and police components within peacekeeping operations. These efforts take into consideration special protection necessities of women and children; through the deployment of senior women advisors and children protection advisors.

We believe that the failure to protect civilians on the ground begins at the earliest stages of planning. Failure to match a peacekeeping mission’s mandate, strategies, structures and resources with the situation facing civilians on the ground may not lead to desired results. That is why we think that the success of any peacekeeping operation requires enhanced cooperation and better coordination between the Security Council and other UN bodies and agencies, including the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). This collaboration is even more critical with the host state, which retains the primary responsibility for the protection of their citizens, and with relevant regional and sub-regional organizations, on the basis of their respective comparative advantage.

As one of the major troops and police contributing countries in peacekeeping missions, Rwanda believes that the Security Council and the UN Secretariat should build on the recent positive trend of consultations with troop contributing countries to seek their advice and participation at the beginning of missions’ planning. I will use this moment to again commend TCCs that have provided personnel in difficult and dangerous environments to fulfil protection of civilians’ requirements, in various peacekeeping missions around the World.

Madame President,

The best way to protect civilians is to prevent imminent conflicts, in the first place. Prevention of conflicts requires political will by the international community, particularly the Security Council, which shall renew its commitment to the Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as recalled by resolution 1894 (2009). In the same vein, as Rwanda commemorates this year the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, we urge the five permanent members of this Council to agree on a moral pact of conduct, aiming at refraining from using the veto in situations of genocide and other mass atrocities. And we thank France for its important initiative in this respect.

To conclude, Madam President, Rwanda is grateful of the efforts deployed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in close consultation with the Security Council and relevant UN entities, to develop and update the Aide Memoire on Protection of Civilians. We believe that this document, as recognized by the Presidential Statement that was adopted, is an important tool at the disposal of the Security Council for identifying the key protection of civilians concerns in armed conflicts based on the Council’s own experience.

I thank you.