Statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Conflict
Speech23 May 2019
United Nations Security Council Open Debate
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Statement on behalf of Ireland
by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason
Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations
23 May 2019
Thank you Mr President,
As we mark 20 years of the Protection of Civilians agenda in the Security Council, and 70 years since the signing of the Geneva Conventions, my country Ireland sincerely welcomes the “Culture of Protection” that has been brought to the work of the Security Council. We also welcome the strides that have been made in increasing adherence to international humanitarian law and importantly, the respect that is shown for that law.
Drawing from your useful concept note, allow me to make four brief points.
First, let’s recognise the threshold issue. We must listen to the voices of civilians themselves. Enabling and listening to local stakeholders ensures the development of strategies that are responsive to local needs. Put simply, such strategies stand the greatest chance of success. We welcome the focus of the Secretary General’s report on the ways in which conflict affects people differently, with specific focus on the protection needs of women, children, persons with disabilities, IDPs and refugees. I am reminded of the powerful words of Nujeen Mustafa when she spoke in this Chamber last month, urging the Council to make “leave no one behind” more than a mere slogan. This is our responsibility, in both language and in law. Let’s get on with that job.
How do we do that? This brings me to my second point.
We must work to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. Importantly, we have to strengthen accountability for all violations. These violations, including attacks by both state and non-state actors against schools, medical facilities and personnel, are utterly unacceptable. The Security Council must step up and step in. Step to play its role in ensuring accountability and referring violations to the ICC. The Council must also work to ensure that any referral is accompanied by ongoing support to the Court, particularly with respect to the execution of arrest warrants and the critical issue of the provision of adequate financial support.
My third point, the humanitarian impact of urban conflict and the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas must be addressed. We welcome the focus of the Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament on this and we are proud to champion Action 14 of that Agenda. We support the EWIPA Talks initiative undertaken by Germany last year and the decision of Austria to host a conference on this important topic in October of this year.
My fourth point relates to the need to ensure that peacekeepers are equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to effectively carry out their mandates. I agree that we have seen great strides in the normative framework for the protection of civilians. We consider however, that the challenges remain in its operationalisation. Collectively we have agreed to a range of principles and codes, including the Kigali Principles. These Principles however very frankly are meaningless if they are not implemented, if they are not delivered on the ground. Mandates must match the realities of the conflict on the ground, while training and resources in turn must match mandates. Concretely, Ireland has provided two training sessions on the protection of civilians in the past six months, bringing together troops from more than a dozen countries.
Like your country, Mr. President, Ireland is a peacekeeper. As a country with over sixty years of continuous participation in peacekeeping, we are aware of our responsibility and we are willing to play our part. We hope to continue to do this, if elected to sit at this table for the term 2021 – 2022.
To conclude, protecting civilians is a complex task requiring collaboration across the political, development, humanitarian and civil society spheres. It demands the involvement of women and men, young and old and it demands collaboration at the local, national and global level. In the long term, the best way to protect civilians is to address the root causes of conflicts, promote human rights and build sustainable peace. Until then, this Council must ensure that parties to armed conflict respect rules that apply even in times of war and seek accountability for their violation. We owe this to the countless innocent victims of conflict.