On Monday, August 19th, 2013, the Security Council held an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict under the presidency of Argentina. The focus of the debate was on enhancing compliance with and violations of humanitarian, human rights and refugee law; humanitarian access reaching necessary populations and areas; and strengthening accountability in regards to violations of international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law. No outcome document was adopted.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the debate and was followed by briefings delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos; the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay (by video-conference); and the International Committee of Red Cross Director for International Law and Cooperation, Philip Spoerri. The meeting was chaired by the legal adviser to the foreign ministry of Argentina, Susana Ruiz Cerutti.
Several Member States, as well as the European Union and representatives from the African Union, also addressed the Security Council.
Although multiple Member States referenced women as a particularly affected group in armed conflict, only a few, such as Colombia, Croatia, and the Republic of Korea, made significant contribution to the areas of protection of women and girls in armed conflict and the role of women in prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.
Several speakers, such as China, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan, Togo, and the United States of America, referenced women and girls being particularly targeted in armed conflict and acts of violence, with some, including France, Rwanda, and the United Kingdom, noting associated sexual gender-based violence (SGBV). However, very few compounded on this statement to include the protection of women and girls during all stages of armed conflict—especially after their rights have been violated and abused—, the strengthening of accountability in regards to SGBV crimes, or the integral role of women in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. The Republic of Korea expressed concern for women, stating that SGBV is a prominent feature of armed conflict and, referencing recently adopted Resolution 2106 (S/RES/2106), stressed that accountability needs to be strengthened and perpetrators penalized. In addition, Colombia emphasized the protection of the rights of those affected by violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, stating that their rights—including women's rights and those affected by sexual violence-- should be included and protected through reparation. Further, Colombia noted its initiative in training relevant officials in the justice and handling of diverse protection cases, including those involving women and sexual violence. Croatia and the Netherlands were the only to directly reference UNSCR 1325 and the integral role of women in conflict resolution.
Overall, despite the focus of strengthening accountability and enhancing compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, all but a few Member States included in these categories any significant connection to the areas of women and girls, SGBV, and protection of victims of such crimes and their rights.
Briefers and Member States alike highlighted that there is still very much a prevailing disrespect for international humanitarian law in conflicts around the world, with multiple statements citing Syria and Sudan as such examples. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that protecting civilians requires timely political action and prevention, for which governments— who hold primary responsibility for protection—need help from all parties and bodies in building capacity to carry out their responsibility to protect. Echoing this statement, a number of Member States, including Denmark, Guatemala, India, and Spain, stressed national capacity-building as integral to the protection of civilians, especially in armed conflict, and as an area of focus for contributions for the Security Council.
Despite the grave concern over international humanitarian law abuses and violations, multiple speakers cited the Arms Trade Treaty as a positive development and step towards the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Deeply concerned about the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, the Republic of Korea stated that the Arms Trade Treaty offered an opportunity to regulate that trade. Further, Hungary said the Arms Trade Treaty supplemented international law on protecting civilians, with Lithuania going further and stating the Arms Trade Treaty can also help in reducing SGBV and crimes against women.
Member States who spoke at the debate included representatives of: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, United Kingdom, and the United States.
UN representatives at the debate included: Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the International Committee of Red Cross Director for International Law and Cooperation, Philip Spoerri. Legal adviser to the foreign ministry of Argentina, Susana Ruiz Cerutti, spoke in her national capacity, in addition to a statement by the representative from the European Union.
*States and representatives who referenced gender are in bold.
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