SC – Open debate on Protection of civilians in armed conflicts
Statement by the Permanent Representative of Austria, Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting
New York, 22 November 2010
Mr. President, let me thank you for organising this debate and for the strong interest and support your country has traditionally given to the topic of today. I would also like to thank you for bringing about a very substantive Presidential Statement that has our full support. We would like to welcome Under-Secretary-Generals Valerie Amos and Alain LeRoy to the Council and thank them for her briefings. Let me assure you of my country’s full support for your work. Let me also thank High Commissioner Pillay for her statement. I think it is very important that she is here with us again today. This is the third time she is with the Council and we very much hope that this tradition will be continued. Finally, let me express my gratitude to Mr. Jakob Kellenberger for his intervention. My country highly values the ICRC’s substantive contribution to improving the lives of people in conflict situations around the globe.
Austria associates herself with the statements to be delivered by the EU Delegation and the Costa Rican Presidency of the HSN later in this debate.
Today’s debate is an important opportunity for my delegation to take stock of our common efforts in an area that has been at the core of my country’s engagement on the Council. The latest Secretary-General’s report provides us with an excellent basis for our discussion.
While we share the Secretary-General’s assessment that more needs to be done to meet the five core challenges, we are also encouraged by the progress made over the last year in implementing resolution 1894 (2009) with a view to strengthening protection on the ground and I would like to thank OCHA and DPKO for their consistent work and support. We particularly welcome the draft operational concept on the protection of civilians as well as the envisaged strategic framework for mission-specific protection strategies as important steps to enhance the understanding of PoC among all relevant actors.
We also strongly support the Secretariat in its endeavour to further improve pre-deployment and in-mission training, including senior leadership training, on the protection of civilians. This initiative needs to be accompanied by national and international efforts to better prepare peacekeeping personnel for effectively carrying out protection tasks. In this regard, Austria is currently engaged in the development and implementation of a pilot training course on PoC in cooperation with African training centres.
Host countries and the Council should come to a common understanding that our decisions to draw down missions or adapt mandates are conditioned upon the achievement of clear benchmarks, including in relation to the protection of civilians. The establishment of a mechanism to measure and report on progress against such benchmarks would be very important. We think that the experience that has been gained in the context of MINURCAT is useful and should be followed-up.
Given the gravity and number of existing allegations, the recent arrests of commanders responsible for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the DRC are but a welcome start. Perpetrators of serious violations against the civilian population and perpetrators of attacks against humanitarian personnel must no longer feel safe from prosecution. The Council must ensure respect for its resolutions and to take vigorous measures against perpetrators including through the establishment of commissions of inquiry, referrals to the International Criminal Court and the imposition of targeted measures. Victims of violations must receive assistance and adequate reparations.
Mass rapes in Kibua in Eastern Congo in July and August this year, have demonstrated the massive challenges we still face in preventing and responding to such atrocious crimes. As the PRST rightly underlines, peacekeeping missions must communicate with the local communities and must be equipped with the necessary capacities to do so. We expect the upcoming report of the Secretary-General on sexual violence to contain bold recommendations for improving our response and hope that the Security Council will be able to adopt a substantive outcome next month.
We share the concern of the Secretary-General over the threat posed to civilians by explosive weapons, particularly when used in densely populated areas, and I am grateful for the very clear words of USG Amos on this subject. The report informed us that in Afghanistan 75% of civilian deaths are attributed to the use of Improvised Explosive Devices alone.[f5] Austria together with OCHA on 16 September hosted a panel discussion on this subject that clearly demonstrated the need for more systematic data and analysis of the human costs of explosive weapons use. We hope that the Council will get actively engaged on this important emerging subject.
In light of the consequences of armed conflicts on displacement and the magnitude of this problem – over 27 million IDPs and over 15 million refugees – we welcome the reference contained in the PRST on the need to find durable solutions on IDP and refugee issues and hope for a more systematic consideration of this issue in relevant Council debates and resolutions.
More systematic and comprehensive reporting on protection issues, including access constraints in the Secretary General’s country-specific reports will enhance the consistency of the Council’s action regarding the protection of civilians. Following the example of resolution 1325, this is another area where we believe that indicators would be useful. They should be developed by the Secretariat. Indicators in relation to the systematic monitoring and reporting on progress to protect civilians in armed conflict to be developed by the Secretariat will allow the Council to assess the effectiveness of its own policies and measures. We are further looking forward to receiving the guidance for peacekeeping and other relevant missions on the reporting on protection of civilians requested in resolution 1894 (2009).
We are encouraged by the fact that the report has noted a change in the way and extent to which protection is addressed in Council resolutions, including in the mandates of peacekeeping operations. We are convinced that the briefings received and our discussions in the Expert Group as well as the use of the Aide Memoire have significantly contributed to this more consistent approach of the Security Council. Let me express my gratitude to OCHA for undertaking the work to update the Aide Memoire, which has been adopted in conjunction with the PRST today, in order to reflect important developments in the past two years. Finally, we do believe that the Council needs to show more flexibility and willingness to address all situations adversely affecting the civilian population in a more consistent manner. Finding the right formats will ask for our creativity and innovation and would benefit people in situations currently ignored.
While our membership on the Council will come to an end next month, let me assure you, that my country will remain strongly committed to the subject of today’s debate. In this context, we are very much encouraged by the continuing strong interest of the membership of the UN on protection of civilian issues as is demonstrated by the broad attendance to this debate. We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with interested Member States and the UN Secretariat to further strengthening the protection of civilians in conflicts around the globe.