The Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict was well attended and featured remarks by key figure heads – including the Secretary-General, the USG for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights – and more than 40 countries.
Generally speaking, Member States shared similar messaging and key points. These include: concern over the lack of humanitarian access in areas of conflict; the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians lies with national governments; achieving protection of civilians means engaging in dialogue with both state and non-state actors who are parties to conflict; impunity for perpetrators of violent crimes must end; sexual violence remains widespread, despite efforts to curb it. Additionally, several Member States called for the protection of civilians to encompass the principle of R2P.
Although several Member States briefly addressed the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict, women's needs in general remained on the periphery of the debate. Furthermore, women are consistently referred to as victims throughout the debate; and while it is true that women constitute a vulnerable group, no mention of their ability to participate in their own protection or in the settlement of conflicts is made.
Summary by Maureen Shaw, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security