Vienna, 23 December 2009 - Today, the UN Security Council decided to extend its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). In doing so, the mandate of UN soldiers has been considerably extended as regards the protection of civilians. "The resolution for the protection of civilians in armed conflict - adopted in November under Austria’s UN Security Council chair - has thus passed its first practical test," stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. The new Resolution on the Congo mission takes over the essential components of Resolution 1894 for the protection of civilians in armed conflict adopted on 11 November. "The situation for the Congo’s civilian population is still very difficult and dangerous. Therefore, Austria pressed for a clear safeguard of the mission’s protection mandate. Today’s decision is the outcome of successful negotiation - but above all it contributes to improved protection of the Congolese people."
The protection of civilians shall remain the key task in the further deployment of UN soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the provisions of UN Resolution 1894, resources will have to be better coordinated and used in order to achieve this goal. Key elements of the Resolution have been adopted for this very purpose, including the extension of best practice, the call for respective training programmes for soldiers, intensified cooperation with the local population, as well as increased reporting to the UN.
The new mandate also contains the explicit statement that the UN mission will immediately cease cooperation with the Congolese army (FARDC) if international humanitarian law or human rights are violated. In addition, a revision mechanism is to be established in order to ensure that this provision is complied with. "Crimes against civilians shall not be exempt from punishment. If assaults take place, those responsible must be called to account," emphasised Spindelegger. "The new mandate also comprises detailed measures for the protection of women and children. This is a special concern of Austria, and I am glad that these elements have been enshrined in the Resolution."
MONUC is currently the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission. More than 20,000 UN soldiers are being deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rebel troops of the Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) continue to constitute a massive threat to civilians.
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