Statement by Mr. Andreas Riecken Deputy Permanent Representative on the SC Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
SC Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 12 February 2013
Statement by Mr. Andreas Riecken
Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations
Austria aligns itself with the statements made earlier by the EU, the Group of Friends, the Human Security Network and Norway. Austria would like to thank the RoK for organizing today’s important debate. In view of the many situations of armed conflict that urgently require our attention, we regret that the Security Council – in contrast to its established biannual practice – held only one debate on the protection of civilians in 2012. In addition to country-specific discussions, we deem it extremely important for the Council to regularly take up the protection of civilians in a broader and more inclusive manner, allowing for an exchange of views on new trends and obstacles, including in addressing the five core challenges identified by the Secretary-General. We therefore welcome the standing reporting requirement provided for in the Presidential Statement adopted today which we hope will contribute to more predictable discussions in the Council.
We thank the Secretary-General, High Commissioner Pillay and the ICRC Director for their instructive briefings. However, we believe that the humanitarian aspect is equally important for our discussions. We therefore encourage the Secretary-General as well as the Council to continue the practice of inviting the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to brief the Council.
Since the adoption of SC Resolution 1894 (2009) more than three years ago, significant progress has been made in implementing the provisions of this resolution relating to peacekeeping operations with protection mandates and equipping them with the tools necessary to effectively implement their mandates. The elaboration of PoC training modules is one such important step.
In other areas however, the assessment is less positive. In Resolution 1894 the Council not only reaffirmed its strong opposition to impunity, but also underlined its own role in ending it. As for the situation in Syria, the Security Council has not lived up to this commitment. Therefore, Austria, together with over 50 countries in the Swiss letter of 14 January has asked the Council to act upon its responsibility and to urgently refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Austria shares the recommendation by the Secretary-General that explosive weapons with a wide area impact should be avoided in densely populated areas due to the appalling civilian suffering they cause and we believe that more systematic data collection would be important in this respect. On the issue of civilian casualty recording by parties to armed conflict, Austria would like to reiterate the suggestion made in the statement by the Group of Friends last year that the next report of the Secretary-General provides an overview of existing practices.
As announced last year, Austria has developed an interdisciplinary training course on PoC open to national and international participants. This training course was piloted in December last year in Stadtschlaining in Austria with the participation of senior decision-makers of the armed forces, police, civilian administration and other civilian stakeholders and experts. In the light of the successful accomplishment of the pilot course, Austria has decided to run this course on an annual basis, the next to be held in late 2013. Austria will also continue to cooperate closely with the UN Secretariat to support the ongoing shaping of the PoC training landscape for all operational levels.
In concluding, Austria wishes to thank Norway for the initiative on ‘Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law’, which aims at the identification of practical measures and recommendations to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. We are looking forward to the fourth regional workshop of this initiative - organized jointly by Austria and Norway - to take place next week in Vienna.