Security Council Report: November 2009: Protection of Civilians
Expected Council Action
In November the Council is expected to hold an open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. (It normally takes up this issue twice a year; the last debate was on 26 June.) The foreign minister of Austria, which holds the Council presidency for the month, is expected to chair the meeting.
The debate will mark the 10th anniversary of the Council’s first thematic decision on protection of civilians. A number of other Council members are likely to be represented at ministerial level. The Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, are expected to speak.
The debate is likely to be preceded by an Arria formula meeting hosted by the UK.
Adoption of a new thematic resolution on protection of civilians is a possibility. At press time a draft was still under negotiation.
For a more detailed analysis of the Council’s recent involvement and action on protection of civilians both thematically and in country-specific situations, please see our Second Cross-Cutting Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which was published on 30 October.
Key Recent Developments
The Council’s last open debate focused on the May report of the Secretary-General. It concluded that despite significant achievements in the normative protection framework resulting from ten years of Council involvement, the situation for civilians had not improved. It identified five key challenges:
- Enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law, in particular in the conduct of hostilities.
- Enhancing compliance by non-state armed groups.
- Making more effective use of UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions in protection of civilians.
- Improving humanitarian access.
- Enhancing accountability for violators of international humanitarian law.
In his briefing, Holmes stressed in particular that much greater efforts were needed to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and accountability for violations of the law, and he called on the Council to act. He said OCHA would consult with member states on how to take the report’s recommendations forward, as well as any additional proposals that members might make, and present the results of these consultations at the forthcoming open debate.
Following the June meeting, there has been a particular focus on issues relating to implementation of protection mandates in UN missions. This is part of a wider debate within the UN system on new peacekeeping challenges resulting from the scale and complexity of current UN operations.
In July conclusions and recommendations of an internal review conducted by the UN department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) entitled “New Horizon” were presented in a non-paper. This provided an assessment of key challenges confronting UN peacekeeping. Protection of civilians was identified as one of three cross-cutting peacekeeping tasks presenting particular challenges. (The other two were robust operations and peacebuilding.)
The non-paper concluded that the UN should take the lead in developing a clear and comprehensive concept, as well as appropriate guidance for the implementation of civilian protection mandates by identifying the required capacities, equipment and training. This work is likely to draw on findings of the independent study on implementation of protection mandates jointly commissioned by DPKO and OCHA which are anticipated at the beginning of November. Expectations are that these findings will provide new insights on how to improve protection.
Following a 5 August open debate on UN peacekeeping, the Council adopted a presidential statement which identified areas where further discussion was needed to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations. It recognised that further work on civilian protection mandates was necessary, including in the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34). Implementation of protection mandates has also been discussed in the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations under the chairmanship of Japan. Discussions have focused on the gap between mission mandates and implementation.
There have also been important developments relevant to protection of civilians under the topics of children and armed conflict and women, peace and security. On 4 August the Council adopted its first thematic resolution since 2005 on children and armed conflict. It expanded the criteria for inclusion on the Secretary-General’s list of violators in his reports on children and armed conflict to include killing and maiming and/or rape and other sexual violence against children. It also included a request for enhanced communication between the Working Group and relevant Council sanctions committees and reaffirmed the Council’s intention to take action against persistent violators.
On 30 September the Council adopted a new resolution on sexual violence as a follow-up to resolution 1820. It requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to provide leadership and strengthen UN coordination of action on sexual violence in armed conflict and to ensure more systematic reporting on sexual violence to the Council. It also affirmed that it would include specific provisions on sexual violence in UN peacekeeping mandates, and requested annual reports on implementation of resolution 1820.
On 5 October the Council adopted a resolution on women, peace and security which strongly condemned violations of international law committed against women and girls both in situations of conflict and post-conflict and reaffirmed resolution 1325 of 2000 (the first resolution to specifically address the impact of conflict on women). It also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that all country reports to the Council provide information on the impact of situations of armed conflict on women and girls.
The informal Council expert group on protection of civilians, which first convened last January, has continued to meet in connection with renewal of UN mandates with a protection dimension. Since June the group has discussed the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). China has not participated in any of the meetings.
**Read the entire forecast on Security Council Report's site.