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    For information only - not an official document.
    Press Release No:  UNIS/SC/1217
    Release Date:  20 April 2000
     Security Council Moves to Enhance Protection of Civilians in Conflict

    With Unanimous Adoption of Resolution 1296 (2000),
    Members Extend Concern to Cover Women, Children, Other Vulnerable Groups

     NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this afternoon reaffirmed its readiness to adopt appropriate steps to deal with deliberate attacks on civilian populations and other protected persons, as well as with widespread violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights in conflict situations.

     Unanimously adopting resolution 1296 (2000), the Council noted that such deliberate violations might constitute a threat to international peace and security. It indicated its willingness to consider the appropriateness and feasibility of temporary security and safe corridors for the protection of civilians. It also expressed willingness to consider the delivery of assistance in situations characterized by the threat of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilian populations.

     By other terms of the resolution, the Council reaffirmed the importance of a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, and invited Member States and the Secretary-General to bring to its attention any matter that might threaten international peace and security. It further affirmed its willingness to consider the establishment, in appropriate circumstances, of preventive missions.

     It reiterated its grave concern at the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on civilians, particularly women, children and other vulnerable groups. It reaffirmed the importance of addressing their special protection and assistance needs in drafting the mandates of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations. It expressed its intention, where appropriate, to call upon the parties to a conflict to make special arrangements to meet those protection and assistance requirements.

     Elsewhere in the text, the Council reiterated its call to all parties concerned, including non-State parties, to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of United Nations and associated personnel, as well as personnel of humanitarian organizations.

     It affirmed its intention to ensure, where appropriate and feasible, that peacekeeping missions were given suitable and adequate resources to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical danger. That would also include the strengthening of the United Nations ability to plan and rapidly deploy peacekeeping personnel, civilian police, civil administrators and humanitarian personnel, utilizing the stand-by arrangements as appropriate.
     The Council also affirmed its intention to include in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations, where appropriate and on a case-by-case basis, clear terms for activities related to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. It would also include provisions for child soldiers as well as for the safe and timely disposal of surplus arms and ammunition. The Council emphasized the importance of incorporating such measures in specific peace agreements, where appropriate and with the consent of the parties. It also stressed the importance of adequate resources being made available.

     The Council reiterated the importance of compliance with relevant provision of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, and of providing appropriate training in such law, including child- and gender-related provisions.

     Among those making statements during the day-long debate was Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

     Statements were also made by the representatives of Netherlands, United States, France, Russian Federation, Malaysia, China, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Namibia, Argentine, Jamaica, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Mali, Portugal (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Israel, Republic of Korea, Austria (speaking on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), Singapore, Japan, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan (speaking on behalf of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova). Australia, Colombia, New Zealand and Indonesia also spoke, as did the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Switzerland. The Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy, also spoke.

     The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, briefed the Council.

    Council Work Programme

     The Security Council met this morning to consider the question of civilians in armed conflict. It considered the issue in a two-day debate on 16 and  17 September 1999, for which it had before it a report of the Secretary-General containing some 40 recommendations to protect civilians (document S/1999/957).

     At the conclusion of that debate, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1265 (1999) by which it decided to immediately establish a mechanism to further review the recommendations contained in the report and to consider appropriate steps by April 2000, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter. Today's meeting is a follow-up to that review. The report (document S/1999/957) will also serve as a basis for today's discussion. It primarily seeks to encourage decisive Council actions to address the issue and promote a "climate of confidence". How the Council responds to this challenge is of critical importance, the Secretary-General says.

     In the report, the Secretary-General draws attention to several proposals he believes to be of particular importance. First, that to permanently strengthen the capacity of the Council and the Organization to protect civilians in armed conflict, steps must be taken to strengthen the Organization’s ability to plan and deploy rapidly, which includes enhancing participation in the United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System. Second, the Council should establish a permanent technical review mechanism of United Nations and regional sanctions regimes which can use information provided by Council members, relevant financial institutions, the Secretariat, agencies and other humanitarian actors to ascertain the impact of sanctions on civilians.

     The Secretary-General also draws attention to recommendations that could be employed when the Council receives information that an outbreak of violence aimed at civilians is imminent. First, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council impose arms embargoes and that it urge Member States to enforce those embargoes in their own national jurisdictions. Second, that the Council consider deployment in certain cases of a preventive peacekeeping operation, or of another preventive monitoring presence.

     Third, he recommends that the Council make greater use of targeted sanctions to deter and contain those who commit egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as those parties to conflicts which continually defy Council resolutions. Fourth, the Council should deploy international military observers to monitor the situation in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, and if such elements are found, deploy regional or international military forces that are prepared to take measures to compel disarmament.

     Finally, the Secretary-General makes several recommendations intended to alleviate the suffering of civilians in situations where conflict has already broken out and civilians are being targeted. First, the Council should underscore in its resolutions, at the outset of a conflict, the imperative for civilian populations to have unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance and that failure to comply will result in the imposition of targeted sanctions. Second, the Council should also ensure that, whenever required, peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations are authorized and equipped to control or close down hate media assets. 

     Third, in the face of massive and ongoing abuses, the Council should consider: the scope of the breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law; the inability of local authorities to uphold legal order, or identification of a pattern of complicity by local authorities; the exhaustion of peaceful or consent-based efforts to address the situation; the ability of the Council to monitor actions that are undertaken; and the limited and proportionate use of force, with attention to repercussions on civilian populations and the environment.

     The report paints a stark picture of the realities faced by civilians in contemporary armed conflict and the challenges these present to the international community. The Secretary-General observes that the plight of civilians is no longer something which can be neglected, or made secondary because it complicates political negotiations or interests. It is fundamental to the central mandate of the Organization. The United Nations is the only international organization with the reach and authority to end those practices, the Secretary-General states.
     

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