Thank you Mr. President,
I join earlier speakers in warmly welcoming you to the Council. I also thank the Secretary-General and the President of ICRC for their respective presentations.
2. On this note, I greatly appreciate and value the participation of His Excellency Mr. Touadera, President of the Central African Republic and for his briefing which my delegation has followed with much interest.
3. Excellency Touadera, your presence here today signifies to us the commitment of the Government and people of the Central African Republic to move forward and leave behind the troubling days of the past.
4. The presence of so many high-level dignitaries among us today, clearly manifests the importance of the topic of our discussion which we thank the French presidency for bringing it into sharper focus by organising this debate.
5. In aligning with statements to be delivered later by Thailand and Iran on behalf of ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement respectively, and with a view to engage on the questions posed in the concept note, I wish to highlight the following points:
6. The Secretary-General’s latest POC report underscores the grim reality that overwhelmingly, civilians and non-combatants continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict, at all stages. The staggering numbers are horrifying.
7. In 2015 alone, hundreds of thousands perished during, and even while fleeing conflict. These survivors after enduring perilous journey ended up in appalling condition where the majority eke out a miserable existence as refugees and displaced persons desperately in need of food, shelter and medicine. Others who are not lucky face death and the destruction of their villages and homes. The horrors of conflict became even more gruesome when women and girls became targets of terror groups like Da'esh and Boko Haram and sold into sexual slavery or objects for recruitments and ransom.
8. In many instances we followed their stories with a sense of haplessness, strengthening our resolve that the perpetrators must be held accountable. We were briefed on how emboldened the perpetrators are, continuously committing heinous crimes with a sense of impunity. In today's world we are no longer remotely detached from the battlefields and conflict zones. Our conscience bleeds at the savagery and brutality inflicted on the innocent ones trapped in conflict zones. Humanity have seen so many killing fields. We must do more to stop these carnage. Where we can make a difference, we should make a difference. In conflict zones where we conduct UN peace operations, we must ensure that the hopes that we bring to the people must not be dashed. We need to invest more efforts to translate civilian protection norms and standards into action that ultimately saves lives.
9. The hard lessons learnt in Bosnia, Rwanda and others on the role of the United Nations, particularly with respect to the efficacy of peacekeeping operations have been instructive in spurring our collective efforts to prioritise the protection of civilians.
10. This Council has since sought to address the gaps and challenges exposed during the UN’s handling of those tragic situations. A paradigm shift occurred with the introduction of “multidimensional” mandates - a core component of which is civilian protection.
11. In addition to prioritising protection for the most vulnerable segments in conflict situations, we established clear normative standards prohibiting harm against humanitarian personnel including medical and health personnel, even journalists. The call for protection also extends to civilian infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals.
12. The civilian protection agenda has also benefitted from further mainstreaming during the course of the 3 review exercises last year, in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the recently concluded World Humanitarian Summit.
13. In light of these recent positive developments and far reaching commitments by states, it would seem that the civilian protection agenda is firmly entrenched and fully implemented. Unfortunately, much more spade works are needed.
14. Among the key questions which we must collectively address – and on which the HIPPO and the SG implementation reports have provided relevant commentary and recommendations – relates to the tensions between the first principles of UN peacekeeping and POC imperatives. In this connection, we are of the view that the Council should remain open to reviewing mandates, if or when the situation warrants.
15. Furthermore, given that the UN peace operations today are deployed in increasingly complex and challenging environments – sometimes even in theatres where there is hardly peace to keep – mandates should be realistic and implementable.
16. While closer triangular cooperation and coordination is central particularly during mandate design phase, similar emphasis should be placed on engaging with the host states including on the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) and States of Forces Agreement (SOFA) arrangements, with a view to ensuring smooth deployment of troops and assets.
17. In this context, we welcome the proactive steps taken by DPKO to conclude so called “compacts” with host states including the CAR, which aim to enhance understanding on those arrangements so as to facilitate their full and effective implementation.
18. While we believe that TCCs for any given peace operation maintain their sovereign rights including on prescribing caveats for their troops and personnel, we are of the view that to the extent possible, such caveats should accommodate civilian protection mandates. Hence, we encourage and support DPKO’s ongoing efforts to engage and sensitise TCCs on the need to minimise or rescind caveats, particularly those that may impair the POC mandate.
19. In terms of prevention, the SG’s “Human Rights Up Front” initiative is a concrete example of the operationalisation of the conflict prevention imperative. This and other relevant recommendations by the HIPPO panel should enjoy our full support to ensure that UN peacekeeping remains relevant and effective.
20. Effective partnership is equally crucial for UN peace operations to effectively implement POC mandates. As mentioned earlier, while cooperation of host states is key; at the same time, collaboration and cooperation with UN system and other actors on the ground is equally important.
21. Additionally, cooperation with regional organisations, particularly the African Union on early mobilisation of peacekeeping presence could be further explored. The possibility of inter-mission cooperation should also be left open.
22. I wish to stress that we have alarmingly witnessed the plights of innocent civilians in conflict zones and why we need to do more to help them. We saw too many deaths and those numbers presented to us are our fellow human beings. The human faces which we must not ignore. The only way to conclude is to reaffirm our commitment and resolve to help those who beg us to intervene and save their lives.
I thank you, Mr. President.