On Tuesday, 12 February 2013, the Security Council held an open debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. The debate resulted in a presidential statement [S/PRST/2013/2] in which the Security Council expressed deep concern about the suffering of civilians in the context of armed conflict. Among the resolutions reaffirmed by the presidential statement, there were resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. The day-long debate featured nearly 70 statements. Many speakers, including the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, referred to sexual and gender based violence in the situation of war.
All 15 Security Council's members emphasized the need for missions with protection mandates. Most of them particularly referred to the situation in Syria, Mali and DRC as well as other countries. As Mr. Maes, the Representative of the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg, summarized “We must and we can do better”.
Although “responsibility to protect” is the fundamental obligation of the Security Council, most speakers agreed that primary responsibility to protect civilians lies with states. Accordingly, the international community should only participate in reactive operations. The speakers stressed that the responsibility to protect must never be used as a tool to achieve ones political goals.
Several delegations mentioned that the most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts and therefore, more attention should be paid to early warning mechanisms. Only few speakers, however, referred to the relationship between peace, security and development issues. A strong need for better accountability mechanisms as well as the need to better control arms export (in relation to the upcoming conference on ATT that will be held at the UN Headquarter in March) were also raised by a few members as important factors to the general security of civilians in the context of war.
Protection from sexual and gender based violence was commonly stressed during the debate. Most delegations mentioned that women and children are the target of sexual abuse and torture, but some speakers (including the Secretary-General) also noticed that sexual violence concerns men and boys to an increasing extent. Not one of the nearly 70 speakers emphasized the active role of women in protection efforts despite the increased significance of sexual and gender based violence to the peace and security agenda. The press release from the debate can be accessed here