Posts Tagged ‘the UN Security Council’

Joint NGO-call for UN to protect civilians caught in armed conflict

May 12, 2021

On 12 May 2021 the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and 25 other civil society organizations have issued a joint statement ahead of the May 25th UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. The joint statement calls for the UN Secretary General, UN Security Council, Member States, and armed actors to take urgent and ambitious action to shift mindsets and invest in robust policies, strategies, and practices, to protect civilians caught in armed conflict.

Civil Society Statement on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (2021)

Over the past year, anniversaries of the conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and new outbreaks of violence elsewhere, have served as grim reminders of the international community’s lack of meaningful progress to uphold their commitments to protect civilians in armed conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic has interacted with new, ongoing, and protracted conflicts, exacerbating existing inequalities and protection concerns, and contributing to dramatically escalating humanitarian needs including displacement, famine and food insecurity, and desperate medical shortfalls. Civilians living in conflict-zones continue to experience the devastating impacts of conflict-related environmental damage and an increased vulnerability to climate and environmental risks with wide-ranging effects on health and human suffering.

Meanwhile, States continue to use the pandemic and other pretexts to shrink civic space. Dialogue essential to the development of policies, strategies, and plans for protection of civilians too often fails to be adequately representative and inclusive of civil society, despite their voices being essential. This is especially true for vulnerable or marginalized communities and for human rights defenders.

Parties to conflict continue to be blind to the gendered, age-specific, and intersectional vulnerabilities of civilians. In particular, conflicts continue to undermine the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities and minorities, especially when it comes to participating in decisions that impact their lives and communities. Conflict often leads to the widespread use of gender-based violence, undermining of women’s freedom of movement and access to education, health and livelihoods. The deliberate targeting and collateral impact of conflicts on women and girls continues to result in specific gendered harms that must be redressed, requiring the humanitarian system to ensure that there is gender equity in the decision-making structures at all levels. Attacks on educational institutions and their military use result in death, destruction, and loss of education, creating long-term negative consequences for whole communities.

Moreover, the absence of genuine political will to realize accountability for war crimes and other serious violations has deepened a culture of impunity.  As a result, parties to conflict continue to directly violate international humanitarian law (IHL) or enable violations by others and fail to take meaningful practical steps to minimize and respond to civilian harm in conflict.  Parties, including some States who profess to support the protection of civilians agenda are also fueling protection crises around the world, including through the supply of weapons and other forms of military and security assistance. Rather than enhancing the protection of civilians, millions have been forced to flee bombing and fighting and face hunger, starvation and disease as their access to life-saving humanitarian assistance is denied or otherwise impeded.

At the same time, protecting civilians has too often been understood through the prism of compliance with international humanitarian law. This is an incomplete view: compliance with the law is the bare minimum, but current patterns of harm and long-term effects of hostilities highlight the need for policies and practices to effectively prevent, minimize, and respond to civilian harm. The full protection of civilians must become a strategic imperative across scenarios from direct involvement in hostilities to support provided to parties to conflict, and through the full spectrum of UN and other international and regional peace operations. This should entail prioritizing the health and wellbeing of people, supporting political and social structures that ensure justice and dignity, and protecting the environment, and be understood as a wider goal of conflict prevention and response.

Ambitious action to shift mindsets and invest in robust policies, strategies and practices is urgently required to adequately protect civilians caught in armed conflict:

Member States, the UN System, and the international community must recommit to a United Nations of ‘We the Peoples’, and engage conflict-affected communities and local, national, and international civil society in a direct, robust, inclusive, and sustained dialogue on the protection of civilians and measures to minimize civilian harm. Effective protection of civilians can only be conceived and implemented through safe and inclusive dialogue with conflict-affected communities and civil society at all levels. Additionally, the UN, States, and other stakeholders should support nonviolent and community-based protection mechanisms where possible such as political mediation, early warning/early response activities, and unarmed civilian

The UN Security Council, Member States, and the UN System must fulfill their commitment to the full protection of civilians, including by promoting and implementing the relevant and applicable legal and policy frameworks. Member States should partner with civil society to develop national policy frameworks that include mechanisms to systematically record casualties, track, analyze, prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm from the actions of their own and those of security partners, including the indirect and reverberating effects of hostilities on critical civilian objects, critical infrastructure and essential services, including health and education, and that ensure principled and sustained dialogue with humanitarian organizations in conflict contexts.

The UN Security Council, Member States and all parties to conflict must operate in a manner that preserves and protects space for principled humanitarian action, including by ensuring compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, as a critical aspect of strengthening the protection of civilians. As conflicts are increasingly defined as protection crises, disproportionately affecting women, girls, and boys, and are compounded by the gendered and age-specific impacts of COVID-19, States must take actions to reinforce the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups, and the localization of principled humanitarian response. States and all other parties to conflict must facilitate unhindered access to affected populations, respecting humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence. Sanctions and counterterrorism measures must include effective humanitarian exceptions and not limit principled humanitarian action. All actors must redouble efforts to protect humanitarian, education and health workers, and cease attacks on them, particularly in light of COVID-19’s effects and vaccine rollout.

The UN Secretary-General, the Security Council, and Member States must redouble efforts to ensure accountability for violations, including by publicly condemning actors who violate international humanitarian law, international human rights law and other applicable legal frameworks. The UN Security Council and Member States must strengthen the implementation of accountability mechanisms. The Secretary-General should reinforce transparent mechanisms, including at the field level, to track, analyze, and publicly report on violations caused by parties to armed conflicts, and make practical recommendations to enhance the protection of civilians and prevent further violations. Critical mechanisms established to help strengthen accountability, such as the list of perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights included in the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, must be credible and accurate, free from politicization.

Member States should engage constructively in the process to develop a political declaration that would strengthen the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects. Such a declaration should commit States to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. It should include inclusive humanitarian provisions to assist victims and affected communities including from damage and destruction to infrastructure – including schools and hospitals – and the resulting reverberating effects. This should recognize the particular vulnerability of and specific impacts of explosive weapons on children, the gendered impacts, and particular impacts on persons with disabilities.

The UN Secretary-General must work together with the UN Security Council to ensure protection is at the heart of UN peace operations.  Configurations and operations of UN peace operations must prioritize and be driven by analysis of threats against civilians, including threats of sexual and gender-based violence and threats of grave violations against children. The Secretary-General and Member States should ensure a coherent and adequately resourced approach to the protection of civilians, including that distinct capacities for protection, human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and child protection are defined and provided across the spectrum of peace operations and in UN Country Teams, and sustained throughout transitions. Peacekeeping operations should continue to strengthen implementation of the UN Department of Peace Operations PoC Policy, mitigate potential harm from their presence or operations, and incorporate local perspectives into protection strategies.

As civil society, we believe in the comprehensive protection of civilians: the protection of civilians from conflict, the protection of civilians during conflict, and the protection of civilians in the devastating and often long aftermath of conflict. Over the past year, the pandemic has further forced the world to confront the protection implications of a global health crisis. Especially in the context of conflict, States and the international community must meaningfully advance the protection of civilians, starting with a recommitment to the critical dictum of “do no harm.”

Read the full statement below and click here for the PDF.

Russian resolution on participation of women in activities promoting global peace defeated in Security Council – explanation

November 2, 2020

Yoy may have read in the news that on Friday 30 October 2020 the U.N. Security Council defeated a Russian resolution to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a U.N. measure demanding equal participation for women in activities promoting global peace. The email vote on the resolution was 5-0, with 10 countries abstaining, far less than the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/03/roadmap-to-women-peace-and-security-wps-agenda-2020/]

The Russian draft was supported by Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa. The countries that abstained were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia. The opponents were objecting to its failure to adequately address human rights and the key role of civil society in pushing for gender equality. If you are puzzled by this outcome the attached statement by CARE explains:

https://apnews.com/article/china-germany-europe-russia-united-nations-e67b5b5856a20d5601294dfdcd12252a

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/care-statement-failure-russia-s-draft-resolution-women-peace-and-security

Morocco: military turned HRD sentenced to 6 months, while UN does still not monitor human rights in Western Sahara

April 16, 2015

Easter is over and we resume our human rights defenders coverage with the story of Mbarek Daoudi in Morocco who was sentenced to 6 months. What makes it remarkable is that this human rights defender served loyally for 30 years in the Moroccan army. On 15 April 2015 Frontline posted this update:

On 9 April 2015, Mbarek Daoudi was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by the Court of Appeal in Agadir. The decision came after the Public Prosecutor appealed the initial court decision [3 months imprisonment] against Mbarek Daoudi, and called for the stricter punishment of the human rights defender.

Since retiring from the Moroccan army in 2008, Mbarek Daoudi has peacefully advocated for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. On 21 December 2014, the human rights defender ended a seven-week hunger strike he had began in protest at his conditions of detention and the delays in scheduling his trial.

 

In the meantime the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights came out on the same day with a statement urging the UN to add a human rights monitoring mechanism to the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the only active peacekeeping mission established after 1978 without a human rights monitoring mechanism! The Security Council must vote to extend the mandate by April 30, 2015.

It is shameful that a small group of countries are denying the people of Western Sahara a basic human rights protection mechanism. The reports of abuses are undeniable, and the United Nation’s Security Council needs to respond by expanding MINURSO’s mandate,” said Kerry Kennedy. “The international community must not turn its back on reports of torture in detention, medical negligence towards ailing prisoners, unmonitored landmine blasts, violent dispersal of peaceful protests, and constraints on entry and travel within the region.

In February 2015, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights released a report tracking reported human rights abuse in Western Sahara.

Update: Morocco – Mbarek Daoudi sentenced to six month’s imprisonment | Front Line Defenders.

Less veto in mass atrocities can save lives including those of human rights defenders

September 29, 2014

In an important statement to a Ministerial meeting of the General Assembly on Regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinmade some crucial points. He said that in recent years, the Security Council‘s “inability to take decisive action regarding a number of appalling crises has led to enormous, avoidable, human suffering. It has shaken confidence in our own institutions. It has granted time and space to the perpetrators to commit more violations, and made them far less likely to provide access to UN officials or to respond to their concerns.” Therefore, he added, “From the human rights perspective, the adoption of a code of conduct on use of the veto, in very specific circumstances where well-founded facts demonstrate that international crimes are occurring or about to occur, would demonstrate on the part of the permanent members of the Council that quality of leadership and responsibility which our world so badly needs.

Full text: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15103&LangID=E 

North Korea: the UN report in images

February 20, 2014

There was considerable attention in the media for the new United Nation report that has found that crimes against humanity are occurring in North Korea and calls for an international tribunal to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, but you may have missed the 14-minute video produced by Human Rights Watch on 17 February 2014. The report, by a UN Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013, recommends that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights carry out investigations. The three person commission, which was chaired by Australian jurist Michael Kirby, will formally present its findings to the Human Rights Council on or around March 17, 2014. The council will then consider a resolution to act on the commission’s recommendations.