National Statement by H.E. Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger
Security Council - Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians
Austrian Foreign Minister
Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians
11 November 2009
Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will now speak in my national capacity.
At the outset, I would like to thank the Secretary-General and all other speakers for their presentations. The numerous challenges in the protection of civilians highlighted today show the urgent need to increase our efforts. The protection of civilians is central to the mandate of the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions. It is of utmost importance that mandates of the Security Council for the protection of civilians are effectively implemented by missions on the ground. This requires that the Council addresses the protection of civilians in its daily work in a systematic manner.
Let me now add a few additional points:
All parties to armed conflict must strictly comply with their obligations to protect civilians under international law. This applies to all parties in any conflict in the world, [be it in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Afghanistan or in Gaza], Austria has reaffirmed its position on several occasions that serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law need to be thoroughly investigated. Accountability for serious crimes must be ensured by taking concrete measures to promote the rule of law, prevent future violations and seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation. This requires action at the national and where necessary at the international level. The Security Council has an important role in ending impunity.
Austria is also greatly concerned about the detrimental effects of small arms and light weapons on civilians. They prolong conflicts, they endanger civilians and they undermine security, peace and stability. Parties to armed conflict need to take all required measures to protect the civilian populations from the effects of landmines and cluster munitions. Victims require enhanced protection and assistance.
Persons with disabilities are particularly affected by armed conflict and have so far not received adequate attention. The UN system has to address more effectively the protection and assistance needs of this vulnerable group.
It is clear that the primary responsibility to protect civilians rests with national governments. This is reaffirmed by the concept of the responsibility to protect civilian populations from war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The UN Security Council as the UN organ with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security has an important role to play. The focus must be on saving lives through timely and decisive action taken at national, regional and international level.
We look forward to continuing this important debate on the protection of civilians and I would like to underscore Austria’s full commitment to work with other Council members and all relevant stakeholders to implement resolution 1894 adopted today in order to ensure the protection of those who are most vulnerable in situations of armed conflict.