Un Sicherheitsrat

10. Mai 2011

Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu on the Protection of civilians in Armed conflict

The following is the Statement by Ambassador Baso Sangqu on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict held on May 10th, 2011 at the Security Council of the United Nations.


Mr. President,              

My delegation wishes to express appreciation to you and your delegation for organizing this open debate.

We also wish to thank Ms Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mr Alain Le Roy from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations; and Mr Ivan Simonovic, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights for their briefings.

South Africa is fully committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and continues to support a strengthened normative and legal framework for enhancing these protection measures.

We welcome the concerted efforts by the international community for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  Despite such positive efforts and progressive steps being made, scores of civilians in many regions of the world are still harmed and maimed during armed conflicts. In this regard, we express deep regret that civilians, in particular women and children, continue to account for the vast majority of casualties in armed conflicts.

The last report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians made three important additions to the five core protection challenges identified in his 2009 report. Advances in all of these core protection areas will contribute to the international community's fight against impunity, improve humanitarian access and ensure consistency in the protection of civilians mandates.   This Council has adopted commitments related to the protection of civilians, in particular relating to peacekeeping, humanitarian access, and monitoring, information sharing and reporting.

Mr President,

In spite of a number of well meaning Security Council resolutions, presidential statements and its thematic mechanisms, the grim reality points to the fact that parties engaged in conflict still have a long way to go in fulfilling the responsibility of civilian protection.  It is clear that the lack of political will and complete disregard for the lives of civilians remains a major obstacle to protecting civilians during armed conflict. As the Secretary-General had observed in his previous statement to this Council in November 2010, that "any progress in the protection of civilians has been the result of increased focus by international agencies on the issue, not because armed groups are observing international law."  We, therefore, call upon all relevant parties to conflict to put an end to such practices and recognize that states bear the primary responsibility to protect civilians within their borders. This does not exonerate non-state armed groups to conflicts.  Non-state actors have responsibility under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and they must be held accountable for violations.

Mr President,

The plight of women and children in particular, remains perilous and requires urgent attention.  We cannot afford to allow a situation where women and children continue to be the most vulnerable victims of armed conflict.  South Africa appreciates the efforts, by many governments including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Chad, to combat sexual violence, as  demonstrated by the arrest of senior military officers involved in crimes of conflict related sexual violence.  The increased momentum in the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325, 1612, and 1960, including on monitoring, information sharing and reporting needs to be further accelerated.  

In February, at the initiative of the Brazilian Presidency, the Council held informal consultations to discuss protection-related items on its agenda, i.e. protection of civilians; children and armed conflict and women, peace and security.  South Africa supports this holistic approach whereby these issues are dealt with in a coherent manner. In that regard, actions undertaken by the Secretariat should be mutually reinforcing.

Mr President,

In the last three months, we have witnessed important advances when the Security Council adopted resolutions which give practical expression to our collective desire to ensure civilian protection.  These resolutions had at their core the protection of civilians and South Africa supported these additional measures in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire respectively.

These resolutions have noble intentions focussed on our common desire to protect civilians.  We are however concerned that the implementation of these resolutions appears to go beyond their letter and spirit.  It is important that as the international actors and external organizations provide constructive assistance, they should nonetheless comply with the provisions of the UN Charter, fully respect the will, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country concerned, and refrain from advancing political agenda's that goes beyond the protection of civilian mandates.  Such action will undermine the gains made in this discourse and provide ammunition to those who have always been sceptical of this concept.  The implementation of these resolutions will in the final analysis determine whether our actions have yielded the intended results, to protect civilians.

Mr President,

Our efforts in protecting civilians will also be undermined if our approach to conflict resolution is only limited to addressing the symptoms, while ignoring the root causes.  This will not help in finding a fundamental solution to the protection of civilians, which in the final analysis can only be guaranteed by capable states with strong democratic institutions. In this regard, more focus should be directed on rule of law reforms, democratization reforms, DDR, security sector reforms, post-conflict reconstruction and development underpinned by early peacebuilding programmes. We need to stress the need for the international community to prevent armed conflict and to support actions aimed at addressing the underlying causes in an effective and sustainable manner thereby making the renewal of hostilities less likely.

Progress in advancing protection of civilians will also depend on the consistency with which the Council pursues this goal.  Selectivity gravely limits the credibility of the Council in advancing protection of civilian mandates.  This Council cannot be seen to place the value of some civilians above those of others.  Proactive action that we have witnessed in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire has to be applied also in cases such as Somalia.

I thank you.

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