Opening Statement by H.E. Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger
[Translate to English:] 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,
Ten years ago the Security Council took the unanimous decision to start addressing the protection of civilians in armed conflicts in a systematic manner. Today we are still facing tremendous challenges and civilians more than ever have to pay the price of war: they have to flee their homes, they become victims of violence, armed attacks and rape. In armed conflicts all over the world, United Nations peacekeeping missions and humanitarian organizations do their utmost to alleviate the suffering of civilians, including women and children. But more needs to be done to improve the protection of civilians on the ground.
This is why for Austria the protection of civilians is a key priority. This is why we took the initiative to present a draft resolution on protection of civilians on the occasion of the tenth anniversary. This draft resolution aims to address existing gaps in the protection work of the United Nations and lays out concrete measures to improve the protection of civilians on the ground. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of the Council for their constructive work over the last weeks. We also highly commend the Secretary General for his latest report on protection of civilians.
We – the international community – have to do better. We need to live up to our shared responsibility to effectively respond to situations where the safety and security of civilians is in danger. No conflict justifies breaches of international humanitarian law. No conflict justifies the refusal of access for humanitarian workers to civilians in need. No conflict justifies impunity for those who have committed serious crimes against civilians.
The Security Council has a key role to play. The Council has a broad range of tools at its disposal to ensure compliance by all parties with their obligations under international law to protect civilians, to facilitate access for humanitarian aid, and to ensure accountability for serious crimes against civilians.
The protection of civilians is today at the core of UN peacekeeping. Since 1999, the Council has started to mandate UN peacekeeping missions to protect civilians from attacks. The presence of UN peacekeepers generates global expectations, as well as local aspirations, to protect vulnerable communities. However, we still do not have a common understanding of what peacekeepers can and should do in the implementation of such protection mandates. We believe that an operational concept, mission-wide protection strategies and improved pre-deployment training on the protection of civilians will help to close this gap between Security Council mandates and their implementation. This will also contribute to ensure the credibility of UN peacekeeping missions. There is a need for clear and achievable mandates, based on accurate and reliable information and an assessment of threats to civilians as well as to peacekeepers on the ground. This also requires an ongoing dialogue with troop and police contributing countries throughout the process.
Today’s debate and the draft resolution before us provide an important opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far, and to send a clear signal of our commitment to the protection of civilians. I hope that the discussions will provide further guidance in fulfilling our obligation to better protect those in need.